Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God . . . throw yourself down. For it is written: ”He will command his angels . . . and they will lift you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Matt. 4:1-7)
. . . there was no water . . . So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you put the Lord to the test?” . . . And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not? (Exod. 17:1-2, 7)
Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. . . . (Deut. 6:16)
We should not test Christ, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes . . . These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us . . . So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Cor 10:9, 11-12)
It’s the taunt Satan used when he tested Jesus in the wilderness: If you’re God’s Son, prove it by turning stones into bread. If you’re God’s Son, prove it by throwing yourself off the roof of the temple.
It’s the same strategy Satan used centuries before as the Israelites were going through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. Unlike Jesus, they bit on the apple. If God were really among them, they said, He should prove it be giving them water.
They still hadn’t learned the lesson when they were on their way to the Red Sea. They demanded to know why God had led them to a place with no water and no bread except the miserable manna they detested. (Num. 21: 4-5) Here, the serpent in the garden multiplied to a slew of poisonous snakes, and many of the people died.
The command is clear. When it comes to testing between God and humans, God is the one who does the testing. He sets the parameters. God is under no obligation whatsoever to comply with anything we might set as a test for Him. He has nothing to prove to us. If I decide to run out in front of a transport truck and challenge God to prove His love by snatching me away from the collision, the only thing that will be proved is that I don’t understand God or His Word.
In an area of rural villages not far from here, we’re seeing the impact of what can happen when we try to test God. In at least three churches, the people have been encouraged to “test their faith” by not wearing masks, social distancing, or getting vaccinated in this fourth wave of the Covid pandemic. The intention may have been to honor God and witness to His power. Whatever the intent, it ignored Scripture and Jesus’ example. It wasn’t a test of faith, but setting this test for God: “Lord, we’re going to something reckless and unnecessary that will put our lives and health at risk, and we expect You to keep us infection-free so we can prove our faith in You.”
Not much different than Satan urging Jesus to throw Himself off the roof of the temple, is it?
As a result, the most serious Covid-19 variant has found a ready home in this area, affecting the church memberships and the surrounding communities. Far from being a positive witness, these churches are seen as irresponsible and not caring about their neighbors. I’m sure they do care. But caring doesn’t ensure we won’t follow misguided advice or opinions from spiritual leaders and others we respect. No human being is infallible. We need to emulate the Bereans, who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)
Let’s be careful that any testing we do is testing everything in the light of God’s Word, and the whole of that Word. Cherry-picking snippets of Scripture out of context, as Satan did in his effort to justify his challenge to Jesus, can be misleading. We know God best by taking His revelation as a whole, and relying on His Holy Spirit to enlighten our understanding.