Continuing now with Christ’s additional teachings, one of which is ‘Do not tempt God’. Previous blogs have covered the top ten teachings of Christ (seen on page 133 of the download ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’).
Playing the ‘if’ game
I’m sure many of us have played the ‘if’ game with God. ‘God, if you give me that car, then I’ll use it to take people to church’, ‘God, if you let me have that job, then I’ll give 10% of my income to You’.. the ‘if’ game is a familiar one. We presume that we can put conditions on God. That we can force His hand. We foolishly believe that in offering something back to Him, it will persuade Him in some way and we’ll hear Him say ‘Oh go on then!’ I know I’ve been guilty. Do not tempt God
Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, the devil was trying every trick in the book to get Jesus to forfeit God’s plan for His life. He tried Him first with food then with power. Then he tried to get Him to verify He was the Son of God by telling Him to throw Himself off the tip of the Temple to prove that angels would catch Him. Finally Jesus replied, ‘it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’, Matt 4:7.
He is who He is
The Strongs here denotes tempting as – To put to the test, make trial of, tempt, try, to test thoroughly. Who are we to think we can make a trial of God? He is who He is. As He says, ‘I AM that I AM’.
Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah’. The children of Israel had seen awesome miraculous provision in being delivered from the hand of the slave-task-master-Pharaoh of Egypt. They were now heading to the Promised land. But first they had to go through severe testing to examine what was really in their hearts. They had arrived at a place called Rephidim but there was no water to drink. The whole company of them began to ‘complain’ and ‘contend’ and ‘argue’ with Moses, so Moses cried out to God. The strife was so bad that they actually named the place ‘Massah’ meaning ‘contention’ because they tempted the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’.
How sad to think that they had witnessed more of God’s power than we can imagine. They had been well provided for in every respect. Had they approached Moses or the Lord directly in humility asking for water I’m sure, ‘our Provider’ would have readily supplied. And maybe this is why there was a slight delay – to test their attitude.
The tempter brings temptations
The Devil, our enemy, is known as the ‘tempter’ and he brings many temptations before us. Therefore let us not be like him and tempt our God. For to ask Him to prove Himself is to be in doubt of who He is and what His Word says. And who are we to command God to do anything?
Henry says – The tempter came to Jesus. The Devil as tempter is an adversary. Those are our worst enemies, that entice us to sin. They are Satan’s agents doing his work. He is called emphatically ‘the tempter’, because he was this to our first parents, and still is so, and all other tempters work by him. The tempter came to Christ in a visible appearance, not terrible and frightening, as he did in His agony in the garden. But he transformed himself into an angel of light, pretending to be a good genius, a guardian angel.
Christ overcame with ‘It is written’
Christ overcame this temptation with, ‘It is written’. The devil’s abusing of scripture did not prevent Christ from using it. He urges, Deut. 6:16; Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Not ‘do not tempt Me, but ‘do not tempt my Father’. When we hear and receive general promises as speaking to us in particular then we are likely to get good by the word of God. God is one, and His Word one, and He is one mind.
If Christ should cast Himself down, it would be the tempting of God. As it would be requiring a further confirmation of what has already been well confirmed. Christ was abundantly satisfied that God was already His Father, and took care of him, and gave His angels charge concerning him. To put it under a new experiment, would be to tempt Him, as the Pharisees tempted Christ. They had had so many signs on earth, yet they demanded a special sign from heaven.
Do not tempt God
This is restricting the Holy One of Israel. It would be requiring extra evidence of Him, which He had no call to do. If we expect that because God promised to supply our wants, therefore He should humour us, and please our fancies. That because He has promised to keep us, we may wilfully thrust ourselves into danger, this is presumption, this is tempting God. He is the Lord our God and it is an abuse of the privilege we enjoy, in having Him for our God. He has thereby encouraged us to trust Him, but we are very ungrateful, if therefore we tempt him. We must never promise ourselves any more than God has promised us.
Exod. 17:3 – The Israelites thirsted for water. Not only did they want water and felt the inconvenience of that want, but that their passion sharpened their appetites and they were violent and impatient in their desire. Natural desires, and those that are most craving, have need to be kept under the check and control by our faith and reason. They challenged Moses to supply them demanding it as a debt, and strongly suspecting that he was not able to give it.
One favour leads to another
Because they were supplied with bread, they insisted that they must be supplied with water too. Indeed those that by faith and prayer live a life of dependence upon God one favour leads to another and may be humbly pleaded. But the unthankful and unbelieving have reason to think that the abuse of former favours forfeits them of further favours. ‘Let not them think that they shall receive anything’ (James. 1:7).
They quarrelled with him for bringing them out of Egypt to such a degree their malice against Moses rose that they were almost ready to stone him. Ungoverned passions, provoked by the crossing of unbridled appetites, sometimes make men guilty of the greatest absurdities and act like madmen.
They tempted the Lord
They began to question whether God were with them or not. Tempting Him. Questioning His essential presence—whether there was a God or not. And whether He would be as good as His word to them.
This is called their tempting God, which signifies, not only a distrust of God in general, but a distrust of the confirmation of His promise. It is a great provocation to God for us to question His presence, providence, or promise.
God only could do it
Moses begs of God to direct him what he should do, for he was utterly at a loss. He could not of himself either supply their want or pacify their tumult. God only could do it. He orders Moses to take his rod with him, not (as God might justly have ordered) to summon some plague or other to chastise them for their distrust and murmuring, but to fetch water for their supply. O the wonderful patience and forbearance of God towards provoking sinners!
He loads those with benefits that are at war with Him and thus He teaches us, if our enemy hunger, to feed him, and if he thirst, as Israel did now, to give him drink. Matt. 5:44-45 But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him]. Will He fail those that trust Him, when He was so liberal even to those that tempted Him?
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
I am the Alpha and Omega It is God who made the design It is He who pulls the strings. He will bring it to completion He is the Alpha, the initiator of all things. When the heavens and earth were created It was God who purposed it all. All things had their origin in Him Every creature no matter how large or small. But at the same time, He is the Omega Men can and will fail. They may have good intentions and make promises But always their fulfilment will pale. He will never let any part of His purpose For mankind go unfulfilled. Do you doubt? Do you consider for a moment That there are bridges He cannot build? If the day should come when you feel That His work cannot possibly succeed. Listen to Him again as He affirms ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the supplier of every need.’ By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, forgive me for ever tempting You. For trying to prove You. You are who You are. You are who Your Word says You are. May I ever trust You implicitly and teach others to do the same. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.