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Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham! Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. …….Do not lay a hand on the boy Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son……and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”  Genesis 22:1,2,18

“The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him.”  Matthew 4:1

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him…” Matthew 22:35

There are some who are reading this they may actually enjoy being tested.  Some enjoy it because they love the thrill of the challenge and thrive under pressure.  Some enjoy testing because they are supremely confident in the outcome and look forward to the reward and adulation of a high achieving score.  I fall into to neither of those categories or any other rationale that would find tests enjoyable.  In some instances I would say that I go as far as to get text anxiety.

There is a school of thought that says, we as Christians, will never face testing, at least not from God.  I can’t say that I am one that follows that particular theology.  I do believe that it is plainly written that God, Himself will not bring about temptations to sin.  Those temptations come from the enemy.  Yet temptation and tests are not the same thing.

It is not that I am speaking for God (heaven forbid); but simply referring to God’s own revealed Word in the bible.  It is plainly stated that God tested Abraham in Genesis.  It was Satan who tempted Jesus in the wilderness, but the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to face the test of temptation.  Then there are the worldly tests that we throw at each other and even sometimes at God, which is what a lawyer did to Christ.

Let’s look at the context of Abraham’s testing.  God had promised Abraham, he would be a father of nations.  God was leading Abraham to the promised land.  While, Abraham did not have an heir by his wife, he had prospered in many different ways.  Finally, in a miraculous event; Sarah, Abraham’s wife conceived and bore Abraham a son and heir when she was older than 90 years old; Isaac.  Thus now Abraham had all the blessings he had been promised by God and was exceedingly successful.  Plus, God still planned to keep His covenant with Abraham to be the father of the chosen people of Israel.  But, would Abraham stay true to the covenant?  God knew the hearts of men and knew that often, once exceedingly successful, men will turn from God to follow their own ways and seek their own glory.  Would Abraham turn?  God tested Abraham and Abraham passed.

It appears obvious that God, in His spiritual form can not be tempted.  Yet God did not stay in a purely spiritual form as He allowed Himself to be begotten of a mortal woman and be born of true flesh and blood as Jesus Christ; God’s Son.  Hence, God being flesh, experienced things like hunger, exhaustion, human emotions and yes, so that He could truly experience the human condition, temptation.  The only difference is Jesus Christ overcame all temptation which can not be said for any solely or souly human.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that we have an advocate who is not unfamiliar or has not been tempted.  What a grace filled plan that God would allow Himself to be in a situation where He would be tempted by Satan, just to have the human experience of it.

Finally in the third referenced test above; it is solely human in nature.  Humans test for many reasons; most of which are justifiable in nature, such as to measure a person’s understanding or level of mastery.  Yet we can also test for illegitimate, nefarious reasons, hoping and even planning for the test taker to fail so we can unleash a harsh judgmental punishment.  That is what the lawyer attempted to do to Jesus and was abruptly and completely silenced.

So we have the how’s and whys of testing; let’s talk briefly about taking the tests.  Again starting with Abraham, notice that he did not have the answer to the test within him.  He knew God promised him a child and Isaac was that child.  God had said that Abraham was going to be the father of a great nation but how could that be if Abraham had to sacrifice his only child?  Was this some clever riddle to be solved?  If so, Abraham possessed not the wits to solve it.  Even when Isaac pointed out, as they started their trek, that they had no animal for the sacrifice, Abraham’s only answer was “God will provide”. Not only was that the only answer it was the right answer as well.  Abraham didn’t try to bargain with God or runaway from God with Isaac, he didn’t try to substitute some other young man hoping God wouldn’t notice.  Abraham relied completely in God in faith and passed the test and was rewarded with the continuing covenant.

In Jesus’ case, remember He was God and human.  Jesus had the power of God and would often times use that power to overcome demons. Yet, to thwart the temptation of the devil, Jesus didn’t use His own words, but the words of His Father; “man does not live by bread alone”, “you shall worship God only” and “do not put the Lord your God to the test”. The great power in these replies is that we have access to those same exact words.  Those words weren’t just for Jesus but for all of us.  God, through His immeasurable grace, has given us the same tools that His Son used to defeat the devil.

However, we are not God on earth.  What that means is that, unlike Jesus Christ, we will fail a test or tests at some point.  All human beings are fallen except Christ.  So we fail, we don’t faithfully wait on God; we are not only tempted but give into the temptation and sin, now what?  Once we have failed we are open to and will rightly receive the full judgement and wrath from our Just Heavenly Father! Is that right?

Well maybe that is what would seem to be the right outcome to have.  Maybe that’s how we would want to handle other people’s failures for tests we implement.  Yet the one who was tested and did not fail, freely took upon Himself every single one of our failures.  Jesus Christ, takes upon Himself all our test failures and washes them away, erases them by the blood of His Perfect Sacrifice.  Grade book closed.

The enemy would have us believe we are tested because God hates us and wants to judge and condemn us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God wants us to learn.  God wants us to rely on Him and see how through faith in Him we can overcome any test.  The enemy wants us to believe that when we fail, we are separated from God for all time to come.  The risen Jesus Christ testifies to us that we are eternally cleansed and forgiven for all failures and He stands ready to bring us through any test we may face.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father help us to understand that it is in Your wisdom that we are tested to allow us to learn how to rely on You and Your Word in all tests.  Forgive us when we lack the faith to turn to You and try to pass the tests on our own or worse yet are perfectly content and/or relish in our failures.  We praise the name of our Savior, Your Son, Jesus Christ, that He freely takes upon Himself our sins, that our failures are wiped clean by the blood of His sacrifice.  That in the testing we may grow ever stronger and prosperous, living lives that bring glory and praise to Your Most Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

 

“…I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor, if there is dew on the fleece only and it is dry on the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand”  Judges 6:37

“And it was so.” Judges 6:38

…Do not be angry with me but let me speak just once more:  Let me test I pray……” Judges 6:39

You have to love the way we use the English language (unless you are a very young person or a person from another country trying to learn it).  We use idioms which are words or phrases in which the meaning is not crystal clear by its use.  I grew up with words like:  groovy, bad (meaning good) and phrases like “far out”.  And we continue to come up with them constantly.  Most of the latest ones I have no clue about.  I recently told a story that I thought was good (or cool in my vernacular) and the person responded that it was “sick.”  I apologized, much to the listener’s confusion (he was trying to tell me it was a good story).  So why start out like this?  Because a word we are using now to convey a sense of disbelief, a sense that no person would actually do or say something, that their actions are beyond defense; is the word really.  It is used in the form of a one word question.  Really? (normally accompanied by a facial expression of disapproval and body language of frustration).  Really?  Tell me you did not just say that I am overweight.  Really?  Tell me you didn’t go out and buy a big new TV when I just sent you out for bread!

So why might we have a sense of disbelief at Gideon in his story in the book of Judges.  Well first an angel of the Lord, physically appeared to him, not in a dream, but actually sitting under a terebinth tree.  He told Gideon to do something and that “the Lord was with him.”  Gideon even then asks for a sign which to which the angel obliges.  Gideon destroys the altar of Baal, the people want to kill him but Gideon is saved.  One might think that is proof enough.  This time the “Spirit of the Lord” comes to Gideon and tells Gideon that he is going to deliver Israel from their oppressors.  Now Gideon is not a soldier by trade and he is a little “ify” on  being the leader to save Israel.  In Gideon’s mind this was astronomically larger than just tearing down an alter.  So he asks for another sign which would be miraculous enough to convince him that the Lord was indeed with him.  Gideon would lay down a wool fleece and overnight dew would come.  It would cover the whole floor, except for the fleece which would stay bone dry.  The Lord fulfills Gideon’s test.  So here is where the “really” comes into play.  The Lord has passed two tests.  He has delivered Gideon once already.  Gideon has previously acknowledged that the Lord is He who saved Israel and led them out of Egypt.  But Gideon requests another test!!!  Gideon knows he’s on thin ice because he starts the request with “do not be angry.”  The test is for the next day, the ground to be bone dry but the fleece only will be drenched with dew.  The next day, Gideon squeezes a bowl full of water out of the fleece while everything else is parched and dry.

To me it’s not necessarily Really Gideon; but Really God?  We humans would have probably handled it quite differently.  We would not have been against the first test when we showed up under the tree.  But once we proved ourselves, we probably would have been annoyed and somewhat perturbed when we showed up again and Gideon wanted to test us.  But, after granting the second test and now Gideon doesn’t trust us enough to follow us and asks for another test, most of us would have kicked him out of our presence and started looking for someone else.

Praise be to Our Heavenly Father who has infinite patience and mercy.  Here’s the thing for us.  Our spiritual enemy would tell us we are never to doubt God.  That we are totally worthless to God if we even think of trying to test Him.  The enemy tries to convince us that God is so judgemental that only the perfect should try to connect with Him in any way.  For the rest of us, we need to turn away and flee from His presence and trust only ourselves.  Am I trying to say what Gideon did was correct?  No.  I know that Jesus in His temptation said that “we are not to put God to a test.”  Though I also know that God knows, we are not Jesus Christ.  God knows that our faith is not perfect.  We will come into His presence trembling.  Not just trembling because the awesomeness of God, but because we are uncertain that God can and will do what we ask or fulfill our needs.  And I will freely and humbly admit that I have longed for a dry fleece or the sun to actually turn back one hour in the sky.  I have prayed the bargain prayer:  “God if you will do this, I will believe and do that…”  I will tell you the response most often is not the bargain I was trying to make, but the response is also not one of judgement or anger.  We have the bible for the very reason to show us, not only God’s capabilities, but God’s wonderful love.  Jesus Christ embodies the all-encompassing capability in His Life, His Death and His Resurrection.  No test we can devise could ever prove more than that.  This story plus those of Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul and so many others show how far God is willing to go for us; when we come to Him, even with our doubts.  Really God, You’d Love even me, just as I am?  Really?  Yes comes His reply.  Really!

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly confess that we lack the perfect faith that we should have in You.  We do repent of trying to put You to the test to prove You are with us.  We thank and praise You, most Merciful and Patient God, that you have given us Your Word to show how faithfully You have dealt with Your Children and the promise to always do so.  Pour out Your Spirit on us, Wonderful Father, that we might come closer to the true faith and relationship so perfectly shown by Your Son Jesus Christ.  That our lives would show to the world, lives of praise and adoration.  In Jesus Christ’s Name we pray.  Amen

Do not test the Lord Your God Deuteronomy 6:16

Satan chides Jesus:  if you are the Son of God throw yourself off the temple and God will send His angels to protect you less you bruise even your heel.

Jesus replies quoting the scripture from Deuteronomy. 

Why do we put people to a test?  Is it so we can see if they can really do what they promise?  Is it to see if they have the knowledge that we think they should have?  Is it to put them under some sort of stress to see how they will perform?  As someone who has been a trainer for more than 30 years with some of those in the military and I can answer yes to all those questions for why we put people to a test.    It always in some way shape or form comes down to the test taker’s ability to perform.  And we who are giving the test are then put in the position of judging the level of performance to see if the grade is passing.

And therein lies the rub when we put God to the test.  God you said you loved me and promised me and said all I have to do is knock and it will be answered; seek and I will find, ask and it will be granted unto me; so I tell you what, here is what I’m asking for, seeking to get and the door I want you to open when I knock.  And I’ll decide if you came through or not.  Do we not at times trying to put ourselves into the judgement seat, throwing out a challenge to God and demanding that He fulfill our wishes to our standard?

Jesus knew (knows) God better than any other living creature in existence.  He absolutely knows God’s faithfulness to His promises and knew that should he have jumped off that temple, God would not have let any part of him be injured in the slightest.  So why not answer Satan’s challenge and show Satan just how powerful God is?  Quite simply because if we truly believe with unquestioning faith that God will do what He promises, then there is no need for a demonstration. 

And finally, who is there who can adequately score the test that we would give God:  God the one and only creator of the universe?  God I know you created the heavens and those galaxies are amazing feats of creation but I’m only going to give you a B+ on meeting  the prayer and the steps that I laid out for you.  You were a little late.  I would hope that we can all see the absurdity in that! 

Our enemy Satan loves the phrase: If You really _______ then You’ll___________  how ever you fill in the blank.  God sighs.  For it is the height of arrogance for us the created to believe we have the wisdom to judge the actions of the Creator.  That we can give to Our Heavenly Father a grade concerning His plan for us.

It was and is right and true that Jesus Christ was called Teacher.  In fact, the greatest teacher of all time.  Our Heavenly Father also gave Jesus the title of “Grader”, that is judge of this world.  So let us learn from our teacher’s example.  Let us not put God to the test, rather let us strive to be the pupils that we should be; learning love, humility, mercy and worship.  That in the end we would hear the wonderful praise that bestows upon us the wonderful graduation:  well done you good and faithful servant.

Amen

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