The Bible gives us examples of acceptable and unacceptable ways of testing God. However, the acceptability of testing God is far more limited than the unacceptability. Many times, we test God because we doubt Him. A test rooted in unbelief is unacceptable.
What does the Bible say about testing God? What does it mean to test God?
The only time specifically mentioned in the Bible in which God invites people to test Him is in the area of tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:10 says: "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need." Bachan is the Hebrew word translated as "test" in this verse, and it means "to examine, scrutinize, or prove (as in gold, persons, or the heart)." As putting gold in a fire tests its quality, God invites the Israelites to test Him by giving their tithes and offerings. In return, He proved His faithfulness to them.
There is another Hebrew word used for "test" in the Bible and it is nacah, which means "to put to the test, try, or tempt." This word is used in Deuteronomy 6:16, a verse in which God commands the Israelites not to test Him.
In general, people test God when they do not have faith in Him or trust Him. The Israelites did this in Massah, while en route to the Promised Land. When they set up camp in Massah there was no water and the Israelites grumbled to Moses: "Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.' And Moses said to them, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?' But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?'" (Exodus 17:2–3). Exodus 17:7 says, "And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, 'Is the LORD among us or not?'" This story shows us that grumbling and complaining tests the Lord, as does questioning Him whether He is with us. Both of these things count as testing Him because they show our own unbelief and mistrust. They show that we do not trust Him because He is not providing for us in the way we think we need.
When Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, the Devil came to tempt Him (Matthew 4:1–11). The Devil proposed that Jesus "prove" that God's promises were true by doing something that would force God to move on His behalf. If Jesus were to put Himself in danger, God would have no choice but to save Him. Jesus refused to fall prey to this trap, and He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 as a combat to the enemy's temptation (Matthew 4:7–10). Just as Jesus quoted Scripture to come against the Devil, so can we. God is faithful to keep His promises when we are in need, but if we try to test God and make Him move on our behalf by the manipulation of our situations, it becomes evil. This is an unacceptable way of testing God.
Notice that the Israelites of Malachi's day were allowed to test God in an area in which they had complete trust in His faithfulness to them. Testing God is unacceptable in most cases, because it tends to be rooted in our own doubt of God's faithfulness. We may be tempted to doubt God when times get hard, but a true Christian walk always requires faith; without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:1–3, 6). When you are tempted to complain or test God, instead ask Him to increase your faith and trust in Him.
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