Does God Test His People? Part 2

Part 1 examined God’s testing of the Israelites in the wilderness. He used their hunger and His provision of manna as tests of obedience and faith. Some passed. Some failed. But the test came from The LORD, and God’s people had to choose whether to obey.

Fast-forward about 1500 years to the time of Christ. Just like the Israelites, Jesus was also tested in the wilderness. It is no coincidence that the story of Jesus’ temptation parallels the story of the Manna and Quail in many ways. And Jesus was obviously aware of these similarities, because He quotes a passage straight from that story when resisting the devil. 

The first important similarity is that in both stories, scripture states that God was the one behind the test:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. Exodus 16:4

Why is this important? This is to dispel any notion that Satan was behind the temptation of Christ; God simply allowed him to administer the test. So what? Well if you know that the test is from God, then you can be confident that you can pass. As 1 Corinthians 10:13 states:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The NIV footnotes for this passage state that the word tempted and temptation can be interchanged with tested and testing. In this way, the passage reads as follows:

No testing has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

True, this passage had not yet been written at the time of either of these tests by God. But there are two truths that make this fact immaterial. Fact one: God does not change. Fact two: All scripture is God-breathed. Fact two assures the authenticity of Paul’s words in Corinthians, and Fact one shows that if it was true at the time it was written, it is true now and was true prior to being written.

So for those who ascribe to predestination and say that the Israelites who disobeyed had to disobey, I disagree. This passage proves that the Israelites who did not listen to God’s commands—those who did not pass God’s test—had the ability and the choice to obey.

Similar to the Israelites, Jesus also was hungry. But I’m going to guess he was a little hungrier than the Israelites were. He had fasted for forty days prior to his temptation. So the idea of turning stones into bread must have sounded pretty good. But Jesus wisely responded to Satan’s test with scripture:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   Matthew 4:4

Sound familiar? Jesus recalled this scripture which depicts the testing of the Israelites in the wilderness regarding their hunger while being tested in the wilderness in regards to His hunger. If there was ever a doubt as to the importance of studying and memorizing scripture look no further than this passage. Jesus used God’s word as a weapon against his temptation. This is why scripture refers to the Bible as our sword. In fact Jesus quoted three separate passages in response to Satan’s three tests. This is a part of the “way out” that 1 Corinthians refers to. Jesus spent his life studying God’s word, so when he was tested he could recall it for His defense. David also reflects this philosophy when he said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). And I have found this to be true in my own life as well.

The second part of God’s way out for Jesus was that the angels attended to Him after Satan left (Matthew 4:11). Notice that it was not until after He passed the test that the angels came to attend to Jesus. Jesus was confident that His father would provide a way out so He did not have to turn the stones into bread. He did not have to rely on himself but simply have faith in God.

No doubt this moment had a tremendous impact on Jesus’ life and note that it took place just before his ministry began. God tests each one of us in different ways in order to grow us. He tests our faith and commitment to Him. And sometimes we can learn just as much in failure as success.

There are many more examples throughout the Bible of people who were tested by God, notably Abraham and Job. These are extreme examples that make the Israelites’ test seem simple; Abraham was asked to sacrifice his own son, and Job had his wealth, health and family vanish before his eyes.

But do not fear these tests from the LORD. Instead, invite them. Welcome them. They will not always be easy, but we can be confident that they are from God and that he will provide a way out. We need only faith.

And that’s the point.

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