When to Test the Lord

By Adam Elijah Graham

During Christmastime, the prophecy of Isaiah of the Virgin Birth from Isaiah 7:14 is often called to mind. However, this past week, I was struck by the context of the verse.

It was delivered to King Ahaz of Judah. The Bible tells us that Ahaz was a wicked king, but in the first part of Isaiah 7, Ahaz was promised that Judah would be delivered from the hand of the invading Syrian Army. (Isaiah 7:1-9). God even offered Ahaz a rare opportunity which Ahaz declined:

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your[f] God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” (Isaiah 7:10-12) (ESV)

It is in this context that we get Isaiah’s most important prophecy with an annoyed preface:

And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel. (Isaiah 7:13, 14)

I have to admit that, reading the verse a few times, I struggled with what Ahaz had done wrong. After all, the Bible warns against testing God in Deuteronomy 6:16 and Jesus uses this warning to rebuff the devil’s temptation to throw himself off the temple. (Matthew 4:7).

However, God will at times invite us to test him. He does this specifically on the issue of tithing in Malachi 3:10. So should we test God or not?

In reality, it seems there are two types of testing God. In the case of Deuteronomy, it referred back to how the children of the Lord tested the Lord’s patience in the wilderness. This testing of the Lord involved presumptuous sin that showed a lack of reverence and respect for God. Similarly, Satan’s invitation to Christ to throw himself down off the pinnacle of the temple was asking Christ to presumptuously endanger himself.

Rather than presumption, what we see in Isaiah and Malachi is an invitation from God to faith—to a faithless king to trust God with the future and a faithless people to trust God with their money. While Ahaz’s refusal may sound pious on the surface, his refusal to accept God’s invitation was a sign of his faithless character. He knew how he would save Judah, and it would be not by relying on the Lord, but relying on the King of Assyria. (2 Kings 16) As part of this alliance, Ahaz stripped the House of God bare of gold and silver and gave it as a present to the King of Assyria (v. 8) and desecrated the temple. (vs.10-18).

Most of us have a tendency to not trust God when we ought. We want to take the bull by the horns and get a quick solution. I have a tendency to beat my head against walls when I should be waiting for the Lord to open a door. We should never act foolishly or presumptuously but we live with a God who promises us that if we put Him and His Kingdom first everything else will be added to us. (Matthew 6:33) If we really live in that reality, we’ll be faithful to him and not test him presumptuously.

Adam Graham has written five novels including Slime Incorporated and the Adventures of Powerhouse series. He writes for Caffeinated Thoughts whenever the fancy strikes him and has written for PJ Media, Renew America. He is a former candidate for office who has decided to make an honest living instead. Adam walked in four half-marathons in 2014. He lives with his intelligent and beautiful wife Andrea, and reclusive cat Joybell in Boise, Idaho.