“He’s testing you.” Grandparents often say this. When parents set rules, children push the limits. Strong-willed children especially seem bent on testing boundaries. New parents must learn this lesson. Raising children is not as simple as programming a computer. They have a will.
Grownups are no different. God gives commandments. He warns what will happen if we disobey, but mankind tests God. The Bible from beginning to end shows this trait. God told Adam and Eve not to eat of one tree in the garden. He plainly warned them that they would surely die if they disobeyed (Gen. 2:17). With the help of Satan they crossed the line that God had drawn, and we’ve been living with the consequences ever since.
God told Aaron and his sons not to offer different incense to God (Exod. 30:9). Two of those sons were Nadab and Abihu. They tested God’s law. “Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (Lev. 10:1). They found out the hard way that God means what He says. “So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Lev. 10:2).
The Israelites often tested God as they wandered in the wilderness forty years.The Lord said they “tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work” (Psalm 95:9). At one point “they tested God in their heart by asking for the food of their fancy. Yes, they spoke against God: They said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?’” (Psalm 78:18-19). God told them that He would provide for them, but they didn’t believe even after seeing breathtaking miracles. Again, their story did not end well. And lest we apply this lesson only to dead Jews, let us remember that this warning in Psalms is quoted in the New Testament and applied to stubborn Christians (Heb. 3:7-4:11).
Consider how some Gentiles tested God: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind” (Rom. 1:28). These people knew that God was the Creator. Nature showed that to them and there was (and is) no excuse for not believing in God (Rom. 1:18-20). But “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God” (Rom. 1:21). They didn’t want the kind of God that He is. They resented His moral laws. They even rebelled against the way He created them and nature around them. Does this sound familiar? They “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image” which means they made idols (Rom. 1:23). They didn’t like the nature of God or the nature He made. “Even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful” (Rom. 1:26-27). The words “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge” in verse 28 mean that they tried and tested the idea of the true God but they rejected it. That God had standards and laws they hated, so they created their own gods. They even resented the nature of His creation, especially the line between males and females. This is why homosexuals and transgender people are full of rage. They are rebelling against the Creator and His creation and they know it! God gave these people over to a “debased mind” (v. 28). This is a stinging play on words in Greek. The word “debased” means something that has been tested and rejected! These people tested the idea of God and decided that He was not the kind of God they wanted. To them, He wasn’t fit for their advanced minds. In return, God gave them over to a morally worthless mind, a mind that is not fit to make moral judgments. They tested God and rejected Him, so God tested their hearts and rejected them!
Like children who challenge their parents in a battle of wills, sinners today will lose. The difference is that they will pay a far more painful penalty.