Jump Start # 2665
Matthew 4:7 “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Our passage today comes from the temptation of Jesus. Alone in the wilderness for more than a month, Satan tries to get Jesus to stumble. He thinks that the Lord is weak. He thinks the Lord will cave in. I find it interesting that the Lord even responded to Satan. There is nothing good that Satan ever accomplishes. He is wicked, lying and evil through and through.
Satan, in the previous verse quotes Scripture. He misapplies it. But he knows Bible. He likely can quote it better than most of us. The temptation is plain. Jump from the temple and the angles will carry you. Quoting the verse from Psalms, gave a bit more legitimacy to Satan’s words. God’s going to take care of you. The Bible says so. Go ahead, jump.
The Lord replied by saying that one should not test God. And, with this comes a powerful contrast in the Scriptures. It’s hard to figure out and often we may not see much difference. Two expressions: Test the Lord and Trust the Lord. We are not to test the Lord, but we are to trust the Lord. It seems that Satan was switching ideas and definitions here. Jump and “trust” the Lord. His Scriptures teach that He will not allow harm to come to you. Just trust.
Jesus understood that this wasn’t about trusting but testing. The words are close but they are not the same. To test God is to challenge God. It is to expect God to do something that He has not promised. And, the passage that Satan misused has nothing to do with jumping off of buildings.
And, for us, getting that difference between trusting and testing is vital. For instance:
- One can say, “I know God loves me and He’s ok with me doing this.” Be careful. He’s ok with you doing something if His word approves of it. Stepping in the dark and thinking God’s love is a blanket that will cover all things, sure seems like testing.
- One can say, especially in this season of a global pandemic, “God will take care of us.” No masks. No social distancing. No washing of hands. No sanitizing anything. It’ll be ok. God won’t allow anything bad to happen to us. That sure seems like testing. God allowed His apostles to be beaten, stoned, tossed in prisons and killed. During the time of the Babylonians, the temple was ransacked, robbed and destroyed. During the period of the Greeks, the Jews were slaughtered, an altar to Zeus was placed in temple compound, and a pig was offered as a sacrifice. There has always been Red Seas, fiery furnaces, lion’s dens and times of famines, storms and hardships. Babies were slaughtered by the Egyptians and later by Herod. How many families cried the night away because of the slaughter of the innocent. In out times, God’s people have been killed in car accidents, tornados, floods, fires and yes, pandemics.
- One can say, “I just know that things will work out.” This can be said to a couple as they head to the court house to get a divorce. This can be said as a man loads a cardboard box of his possessions because he has just lost his job. This can be said of a family anxiously sitting in a surgery waiting room, while their loved one faces hours of surgery. Truth be said, “You hope things work out.” “You want things to work out.” “You’ll do what you can to help things.” But, you actually do not know that things will work out.
So, what is the difference between trusting God and testing God? That would sure make a great study for a Sunday evening. The difference may be hard to see in some places. But here is what I see:
First, trusting God is built upon what He has said and revealed in His word. For Jesus to jump off the temple, there was no evidence or proof that God would send angels to rescue Him. This would all be in His mind. This may be what He wanted, but it would not be supported by Biblical evidence. Satan must have known that. This is why he supplied a passage. The passage would have been the evidence, however he misused that passage.
Years ago, there was a religious sect that would not allow sick members to go to the doctor. No medicine. No surgeries. Just prayer and only prayer. They felt it was a faith and trust issue. That group found themselves in the national spotlight when child after child died. Simple and common medicines would have saved those children but they refused. Contrast that with what Paul told Timothy. The young preacher was told to drink wine for his stomach problems. The wine would serve as a medicine. Paul did not tell Timothy to merely “trust the Lord.” Paul did not say, “I know it’ll get better.” He said take some medicine. In that case, drink wine. Is that much different than wear a mask, wash your hands and stand six feet apart?
Second, testing God is when we expect God to do something positive for us when there is no scriptural foundation or support. Jump and God will take care of you. Where do you get that idea that God will take care of you? Lay down on a highway and I know God won’t allow you to be hurt? Really? Sometimes what we want, what we wish and what we pray about, we come to believe that God wants the same thing. If I want it, then God wants it. But without any revealed support, all of that becomes simply an empty wish. All we know that God likes is in the Bible. This has been one of the justifications folks have used for instrumental music in worship. They like it. They want it. And, the assumption is, God likes it too. You only know what God likes, if it is in the Bible.
I had a heartfelt talk with a little six year old granddaughter the other day. Her little kitten died. He had all kinds of problems. She wanted God to do one more miracle to bring her kitten back. Boy, it’s tough to deal with the tears of a sweet, sweet six year old. I had to tell her that God won’t do that. That broke my heart.
Trusting and testing—one is good and the other gets you into trouble. One is based upon what God says. The other isn’t. And, when we don’t see the difference in these two, we can sure make a mess of things.