The Lord your God is testing you

“The Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3).

If we know how God has tested man through the ages, we can better understand how He tests us now.

One of the major tests is the obedience test. Under penalty of death, Adam and Eve were told not to eat or even touch the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden (Genesis 3:2). Toil, pain and death were brought into God's good creation through their disobedience. But would we have done better?

God gave the Sabbath command to test Israel after He lead them out of Egypt. “Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not'” (Exodus 16:4). They were to gather manna on six days, but not on the seventh.

God did not choose the easiest route to the promised land. It is now a seven-hour road trip from Cairo to Gaza. Why did God lead His people through the depths of the sea and through the rigors of the desert? He was testing them.

“You shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3).

Going through the Red Sea prefigured our baptism (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2). Entering the promised land prefigured our final rest (Hebrews 4:8). God tests us during our wanderings through the wilderness of this life.

To test his people, God allowed some false prophets to perform miracles: “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' -- which you have not known -- 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

People are now tested the same way. Jesus warned: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22). Paul explained: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).

Certain denominations and movements use apparitions, wonders and signs to deceive people.

A girl of 14 in Lourdes claimed that Mary had appeared to her in a cave. This is now used to have people worship an image, which is contrary to God's word (Exodus 20:4; 1 Corinthians 10:14).

There are people who claim to speak in tongues, yet women lead in their assemblies, something forbidden by God (1 Corinthians 14:34).

By signs and wonders people are tested to see if they want to obey God or follow their emotions.

God allowed the surrounding heathen nations to test Israel. God said: “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not” (Judges 2:20-22).

In our time God allows the many denominations with their confusing, contradictory and unscriptural doctrines to test our faith. Will we serve God simply as Christians, members of the one body, the church of Christ? Or do we want to become something else or to join something else?

God sometimes withdraws His protection to test His servants. About Hezekiah, one of the most faithful kings of Judah, we read: “However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31). Hezekiah showed them all his treasures. God said the time was coming when all that he had showed them would be taken to Babylon.

Do you sometimes feel that God has forsaken you? He may be testing your faith and love. When Job's wealth was stolen and his body was covered with sores, his faithfulness was confirmed. Job's understanding of God increased and he was rewarded for his perseverance.

David prayed: “I know also, my God, that You test the heart” (1 Chronicles 29:17).

He also wrote:
“The Lord is in His holy temple,
The Lord's throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
The Lord tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates”
(Psalm 11:4, 5).

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God explains:
“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings”
(Jeremiah 17:9, 10).

It was predicted that the Messiah would purge His people and that only a remnant would be saved.
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
Against the Man who is My Companion,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered;
Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.
And it shall come to pass in all the land,”
Says the Lord,
That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die,
But one-third shall be left in it:
I will bring the one-third through the fire,
Will refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, 'This is My people';
And each one will say, 'The Lord is my God.'”
(Zechariah 13:7-9).

John the Baptist spoke of this purge: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:7-12).

God tests our love by testing our obedience. Our fruit is also inspected.

Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:1-6).

Notice that all branches are cut. The fruitless are chopped off; the fruitful are pruned.

Our work is also tested. Paul writes: “For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).

How we preach the gospel and how we organize our worship services can determine the type of people we attract and whether we build with straw or with precious stones.

Apostate churches use worldly means to entice people: imposing buildings, pageantry with colorful costumes, and instrumental music.

Some congregations build with straw by enticing people using worldly means, for example with what they call a “contemporary service” with loud instrumental music. One young woman who had attended such a service said, “It was great! We were up dancing on the tables!” Some use allurements of this world to attract people with the idea that after they come, it might be possible to turn their attention to spiritual things. But how spiritual is this approach? Can we imagine Jesus or Paul doing such a thing?

Jesus said: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). Paul declared: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

They who resort to worldly attractions have little faith in the attractive power of Christ and the gospel.

We must be careful how we build. Entertainment attracts straw. Gold, silver and precious stones are harder to obtain, but they can withstand the fire. These people are attracted when we exalt Christ and give them what they cannot find elsewhere, the word of God.

We are also tested by division. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “First of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:18, 19).

Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-23) but not for unity at any cost. He prayed for unity based on God's word, “I have given them Your word” (John 17:14); “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). When division comes -- caused by people who depart from the truth -- this 'parting of the ways' purges and purifies the church. The unfaithful are chopped off, the faithful are pruned, and those who are approved are recognized.

God is testing us. We should also test ourselves: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

“The Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3). God tests our obedience to know whether we love Him. He allows some false teachers to perform signs to see if we have respect for His word. He allows denominationalism to see if we want to walk in His ways. He tests our fruit. Our work must withstand the fire test. We are tested by division. Will we remain faithful or will we go astray?

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive