Jesus famously said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7) To some this assigns a certain arrogance to God, that He is above our questions and that we should not seek any assurance of His existence, work, love, or will because that would require questioning or testing God. In times of personal tragedy we’re upbraided for asking “Why did God let/cause this to happen?” Any doubt that might arise is to go unanswered, because we can only gain answers by asking questions and wrestling with the answer-giver and his reply. “Surely this is insolence?” “Surely this is presumptuousness!” “How dare we invite the wrath of God by asking questions?”
Now, friends, I don’t think asking questions is presumptuous, insolent, or uppity. Really, there are many layers of understanding about attitudes, maturity, and purpose to discuss here. Let me start by mentioning God’s maturity. It’s a sign of immaturity to be unable to tolerate inquiry. God is big enough to handle your questions and your doubts without it calling into question his sense of deity.
What our questioning reveals is really more about our own maturity and willingness to hear those answers for which we’ve asked. Jesus’ statement in Matthew 4 was originally a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not put Jehovah your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” What was particular about the “Testing at Massah” that made it stand out? Exodus 17:1-7 tells us the story of Israel’s testing God. To get to Exodus 17, we have to have gone through the Exodus from Egypt itself, the 10 plagues, the pillars of cloud and fire, and many more accounts of God’s direct work on behalf of and among the Israelites.
Here’s the rub, in Exodus 4:29-31, Aaron and Moses show “signs” (miracles) from God to establish their and God’s credibility with the Israelites. The response from the people? “…the people believed…and worshipped. From then on, God shows sign after sign of his power and loyal love to the Israelites.
Yet, time and time again, Israel ignores previous declarations of belief and disregards prior signs and always asks for a new one—withholding faith that was already given until another sign was wrought (cf. Matt. 12:39; I Co. 1:22).
After God led them out of Egypt, he brought them to the place called Massah. And there they dared ask, “Is Jehovah among us or not?” (17:7)
Ignoring evidence and past answers is inexcusable. How many times must the same fact be proven? How can we ask if God loves us when he’s given us proof in Jesus’ substitutionary death? How can we call into question his existence when creation testifies to its creator?
Friends, I dare say that you and I are not in need of more answers for our many questions. You and I need to have an “ear to hear” the answers he’s already given in the life of the Christ and on the pages of the Bible.- Levi Sisemore, Minister, 37th Street church of Christ, Snyder, Texas