God seeks proof of genuine love, faith and growth in the lives of his people. To this end, he tests them in various ways. However, when people test him, it is often a symptom of lack of trust.

Reasons for God’s testing of Israel

To refine them

Zec 13:8–9

Zechariah 13:8–9 (RSV) — 8 In the whole land, says the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. 9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ”

See also Ps 66:10–12; Pr 17:3; Is 48:10; Je 6:27–30; Je 9:7

Psalm 66:10–12 (RSV) — 10 For thou, O God, hast tested us; thou hast tried us as silver is tried. 11 Thou didst bring us into the net; thou didst lay affliction on our loins; 12 thou didst let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet thou hast brought us forth to a spacious place.

Proverbs 17:3 (RSV) — 3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tries hearts.

Isaiah 48:10 (RSV) — 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

Jeremiah 6:27–30 (RSV) — 27 “I have made you an assayer and tester among my people, that you may know and assay their ways. 28 They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron, all of them act corruptly. 29 The bellows blow fiercely, the lead is consumed by the fire; in vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed. 30 Refuse silver they are called, for the Lord has rejected them.”

Jeremiah 9:7 (RSV) — 7 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people?

To prove their obedience

Ex 16:4

Exodus 16:4 (RSV) — 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

See also Ex 15:25–26; Dt 8:2–5; Dt 8:15–16; Jdg 2:22; Jdg 3:1–4; 1 Ch 29:17

Exodus 15:25–26 (RSV) — 25 And he cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he proved them, 26 saying, “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord, your healer.”

Deuteronomy 8:2–5 (RSV) — 2 And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. 4Your clothing did not wear out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.

Deuteronomy 8:15–16 (RSV) — 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.

Judges 2:22 (RSV) — 22 that by them I may test Israel, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.”

Judges 3:1–4 (RSV) — 1 Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan; 2 it was only that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, that he might teach war to such at least as had not known it before. 3 These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as the entrance of Hamath. 4 They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by Moses.

1 Chronicles 29:17 (RSV) — 17 I know, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness; in the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen thy people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to thee.

To prove their love for him

Dt 13:1–3

Deuteronomy 13:1–3 (RSV) — 1 “If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to 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.

God tests individuals

1 Pe 1:6–7

1 Peter 1:6–7 (RSV) — 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

See also Ge 22:1–18 Abraham; Job 23:10 Job; 2 Ch 32:31 Hezekiah; Jn 6:5–6 Philip; Jas 1:2–3; Jas 1:12

Genesis 22:1–18 (RSV) — 1 After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the ass; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place The Lord will provide; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” 15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Job 23:10 (RSV) — 10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

2 Chronicles 32:31 (RSV) — 31 And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to try him and to know all that was in his heart.

John 6:5–6 (RSV) — 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, “How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

James 1:2–3 (RSV) — 2 Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

James 1:12 (RSV) — 12 Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.

Those who test God are usually motivated by lack of trust

Ps 78:18–22

Psalm 78:18–22 (RSV) — 18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. 19 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? 20 He smote the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread, or provide meat for his people?” 21 Therefore, when the Lordheard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, his anger mounted against Israel; 22 because they had no faith in God, and did not trust his saving power.

See also Ex 17:1–7; Nu 14:22–23; Dt 6:16; Ps 78:40–44; Ps 78:56–57; Ps 106:13–15; 1 Co 10:9; Heb 3:7–11; Ps 95:7–11

Exodus 17:1–7 (RSV) — 1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put the Lord to the proof?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel, and because they put the Lord to the proof by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Numbers 14:22–23 (RSV) — 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs which I wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the proof these ten times and have not hearkened to my voice, 23 shall see the land which I swore to give to their fathers; and none of those who despised me shall see it.

Deuteronomy 6:16 (RSV) — 16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

Psalm 78:40–44 (RSV) — 40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! 41 They tested him again and again, and provoked the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not keep in mind his power, or the day when he redeemed them from the foe; 43 when he wrought his signs in Egypt, and his miracles in the fields of Zoan. 44 He turned their rivers to blood, so that they could not drink of their streams.

Psalm 78:56–57 (RSV) — 56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God, and did not observe his testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow.

Psalm 106:13–15 (RSV) — 13 But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. 14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; 15 he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.

1 Corinthians 10:9 (RSV) — 9 We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents;

Hebrews 3:7–11 (RSV) — 7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, when you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”

Psalm 95:7–11 (RSV) — 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice! 8 Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who err in heart, and they do not regard my ways.” 11Therefore I swore in my anger that they should not enter my rest.

God may invite certain people to test him

Mal 3:10

Malachi 3:10 (RSV) — 10 Bring the full tithes 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 an overflowing blessing.

See also Is 7:10–14

Isaiah 7:10–14 (RSV) — 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu-el.

God’s people are to seek proof through testing in certain areas

Believers are to test themselves

2 Co 13:5

2 Corinthians 13:5 (RSV) — 5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

See also Ga 6:4

Galatians 6:4 (RSV) — 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.

Believers are to test what they hear

1 Th 5:21

1 Thessalonians 5:21 (RSV) — 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good,

See also 1 Co 14:29; 1 Jn 4:1–3

1 Corinthians 14:29 (RSV) — 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.

1 John 4:1–3 (RSV) — 1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.