Testing God

Is it ever okay to test God?

The obvious answer to this question is “No.” And there are several examples throughout Scripture when readers are told not to, the most famous being when Jesus found himself being led up to the pinnacle of the temple by Satan.

“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6).

Satan, literally, is tempting God to tempt God. Jesus, who is God-in-a-Bod, is encouraged by the devil, to tempt God, the Father of Jesus, by intentionally putting Himself in a position that seeks to force His hand.

How does Jesus respond?

He quotes Deuteronomy to the devil.

“It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16).

And while this is true, it seems there are times in Scripture when God lifts this ban. Where He seems to imply that we are to test Him. To put His feet to the fire. To try Him. To gamble.

In all my study of Scripture, I have only found two exceptions to the rule.

The first is a famous one –in His emphatic discourse on tithing, God challenges His people to “Test me in this!”

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” He tells them, “that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10).

It’s like He so badly wants them to discover how much He means this, how much He will provide, that He actually wants them to test Him.

The other is a bit more nuanced.

In the book of Daniel, readers find the nation of Israel being overtaken by Babylon. And Nebuchadnezzar proves himself to be a brilliant strategist and ruler.

Babylon would besiege a country and then, instead of marching off the inhabitants or killing them or making examples out of them, they would court them and win their hearts’ affections. They would identify the popular, beautiful influencers of society, usually young people, teenagers. They would put this beautiful, popular, athletic in-crowd in a three year training program in which they would eat only the best food, drink only the best win, stay in only the best quarters, wear only the beat clothes, enjoy only the best art that the empire had to offer, and so on.

At the end of three years, these young people would be so high on Babylon that the king could rest assured they’d never try to organize a rebellion or a mutiny.

He’d then take them, dressed to the nines, built, stacked, full of life and intelligence, and drop them back off where he got them from. They would tell the people how great Babylon was, and the people themselves would see the effects of Babylon upon them, and no one would challenge Babylon.

Babylon would be dearly regarded.

The strategy is actually quite brilliant.

And in Daniel 1, the book’s central protagonist, Daniel, finds himself in a bind because obedience to the king means disobedience to his God.

Daniel is one of these popular kids. An influential teen. The in crowd. And as such he is part of this three year training program, and there are foods that the king wants him to eat. These foods though go against his religion. He believes partaking will offend his God.

So he calls over Ashpenaz, chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s court officials, and says “We can’t eat that. Can we just eat what we’re allowed to eat?”

Ashpenaz responds, “Daniel, what you’re allowed to eat versus what we have here pretty much leaves you lettuce and water. You’re going to get skinny and die, and then the king will kill me for letting that happen, so no way.”

And then here’s the central verse of the book of Daniel:

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself…” (Daniel 1:8).

How many times does culture bait us towards defiling ourselves?

More, if this is a story about young people, teenagers, with status, looks, intelligence, cool clothes and nice cars and athletics, how much does culture bait them towards defilement?

I had lunch recently with someone in ministry who told me some of his teens are proud of themselves for devising a method of going to parties, taking one drink, and not actually drinking it, but just holding it, to give the impression of participation.

I’m sorry and I know this is judgmental, but I shook my head.

When did the bar get that low?

Taking a stand, choosing not to defile oneself, Daniel put his life on the line. Ashpenaz could have had him arrested, imprisoned, even killed.

Pretending to drink to escape “persecution” in the party scene is a great first step, but it’s only a step.

(Sorry.)

Choosing not to go, that’s a step.

Daniel calls Ashpenaz over, and here is where I think God is okay with us testing Him, the same way He is in Malachi:

“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see” (Daniel 1:12-13).

Daniel’s challenge here to Ashpenaz is not banking on himself or his abilities. He is banking on God. He is not claiming to have a digestive system that turns lettuce and water into protein. He is putting his life on the line not because he trusts his body’s ability, but because he trusts God.

When I read this, I hear faintly in the background the old familiar words of Malachi 3:

“Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

“Choose me,” says God. “See what I can do with that kind of reckless obedience.”

“Take a stand. See what happens.”

“Test Me in this.”

It’s Jesus’ words of Matthew 10:

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (32).

Did you ever notice the passage and the teaching and the sentences that precede this ominous declaration?

We love those verses too. It’s just that we normally do not quote them all together:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (30-31).

To ask the question another way– your Dad loves you- and He gives you permission to test Him in this –What are you afraid of?

Back up one more verse:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (29).

Leave it to Jesus to reframe and reorient us around what truly matters.

Oh, almost forgot the ending of the story in Daniel –

“At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel… In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned him, he found him ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (Daniel 1).

Test Him in this.

It’s a safe bet, a sure investment, a worthwhile gamble.

What have you got to lose?

God, help our young people choose you. Give them the courage to hedge their bets on You. You’re not really a gamble. You’re always faithful. Amen.

1Comment
  • Pastor D
    Posted at 18:10h, 26 September Reply

    AWESOME WORD! Thank you for not Compromising the Gospel, but preaching truth!

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