While reading through Deuteronomy last week, I came across a fairly familiar warning: “Never test the LORD your God as you did at Massah” (6:16). It shows up in Deuteronomy and a few other places in Scripture.
Test God? Who, me? I’d never do such a thing. Surely not! I kept on reading because I didn’t think it applied to me.
Are you sure? that still small Voice asked.
“Well, I think I’m sure,” I replied. After all, I wasn’t planning to do something reckless and then expect God to protect me. I wasn’t going to jump off any cliffs or towers, and wasn’t that what testing God boiled down to? (See Matthew 4:5-7).
God wasn’t ready to dismiss the subject as quickly as I was. He led me to do a bit of Bible study. Just what happened at Massah, anyhow? He probed.
My review showed that Massah was one of the places where a few million thirsty Israelites grumbled at God during their 40 year trek in the wilderness. They needed water, and God wasn’t providing it as fast as they thought they needed it. Which led them to think He wouldn’t provide it at all. So they tested Him. They said, irritably, “Is the LORD here with us or not?” (Exodus 17:7, NLT).
When God didn’t meet them on their timetable, they doubted His care. Some of them seemed even to have doubted His existence. This was their pattern throughout their entire wilderness journey. When God came through, they worshiped, celebrated, and recommitted themselves to His leadership. But when He didn’t show up in exactly the way and time they thought He should, they doubted. They complained. They tested. They turned to idols. They did 180s and headed back toward Egypt.
“But God, I don’t do that! I’ve never turned my back on You!”
In the absolute sense, that’s true. I sensed Him saying to my heart. But there have been some rather long, silent stretches in our relationship. There’ve been times when you haven’t shared your needs and longings with Me because you thought I would disappoint you. Sometimes you pull away in a futile effort to protect your heart.
Child, don’t do that. That’s an enemy trap! Just when you need Me most, he tries to get you to think I’m holding out on you. He tries to draw you into his snare of doubt. Don’t go there. Draw near to Me! Whether you see Me or not, draw near. Whether you feel me, or not, draw near. Even if I seem to tarry, draw near!
I knew what God meant. My prayers tend to be most faith-filled and passionate when I first start praying about something. Then, as time passes, the passion dwindles, the faith fades. Eventually I may stop praying about that subject entirely. Or I pray about it in a perfunctory way, without heart or hope. And I had to admit—that’s not very far away from saying “Is the LORD here with us or not?”
“I hear You, Lord. I’m so sorry that I let doubts creep in when your answers seem to be slow in coming. Keep my faith fresh. Energize my hope. Renew my passion. Help me to stay in there with You, not doubting, not complaining, not testing, until You come through.”