We continue with the temptation of Jesus by the devil in Matthew 4. The devil tells Jesus if He’s the Son of God to throw Himself off the temple and then quotes scripture. Yes, did you catch that? The devil quotes scripture – of course – with a twisted meaning, out of context … sound familiar? Might be worth taking note of for all of us.
“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]” (NIV)
Here again Jesus is quoting from what we know as the OT, Deuteronomy 6:16:
“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.
A lot could be brought to mind for someone who was raised studying the sacred scriptures. Here’s what we see when we take this quote in context.
First, we can look back at what happened at Massah. The Message version captures the drama of the scene:
4 Moses cried out in prayer to God, “What can I do with these people? Any minute now they’ll kill me!”
5-6 God said to Moses, “Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I’m going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink.”
6-7 Moses did what he said, with the elders of Israel right there watching. He named the place Massah (Testing-Place) and Meribah (Quarreling) because of the quarreling of the Israelites and because of their testing of God when they said, “Is God here with us, or not?”
To some, this story may sound familiar, later on down the road Moses will play out a similar scene but this time get’s him in a whole lot of trouble.
6 Moses and Aaron walked from the assembled congregation to the Tent of Meeting and threw themselves facedown on the ground. And they saw the Glory of God.
7-8 God spoke to Moses: “Take the staff. Assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron. Speak to that rock that’s right in front of them and it will give water. You will bring water out of the rock for them; congregation and cattle will both drink.”
9-10 Moses took the staff away from God’s presence, as commanded. He and Aaron rounded up the whole congregation in front of the rock. Moses spoke: “Listen, rebels! Do we have to bring water out of this rock for you?”
11 With that Moses raised his arm and slammed his staff against the rock—once, twice. Water poured out. Congregation and cattle drank.
12 God said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you didn’t trust me, didn’t treat me with holy reverence in front of the People of Israel, you two aren’t going to lead this company into the land that I am giving them.”
13 These were the Waters of Meribah (Bickering) where the People of Israel bickered with God, and he revealed himself as holy. (Number 6:13)
So we have people complaining, Moses goes to God, God answers. But the underlying theme is not trusting God, questioning if He’s there.
Even as we finish reading the context in Deuteronomy we see the theme of trust:
16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised. (ESV)
If all this was brought to Jesus’s mind, He knew as long as He kept the commandments, did what was right and good in the sight of the Lord, it would go well with Him, all He had to do was trust God. He also knew, God would take care of his enemies, including the devil. God did not command Jesus to jump, so He wasn’t about to.
It may be worth thinking about this as we make decisions in our lives. Not only do we need to trust, but we need to make sure it’s God speaking. We need to make sure we aren’t plucking scripture out of context and applying it to our lives.
I have heard even this very scripture used out of context time and time again. Oh, which one, … well, all of them a time or two.
There’s a lot to be learned from, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Question is, will we learn it and remember it?