Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Last week we looked at several scripture passages that referenced nations as well as individuals being “tested” by God. The benefit of such being the development of resolve, perseverance and confidence in God’s provision and our ability to succeed in life in and through him. (The scripture used in the above title referencing “the time of testing (when some) fall away.”)
No incident in scripture is more enigmatic than that of 2 Chronicles 32:31, where God is said to have “left (Hezekiah) to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.” That doesn’t seem quite fair. Hezekiah was at a crucial point in relations with Babylon. The previous verse had stated that Hezekiah had “succeeded in everything he undertook.” Had he not actually done enough? Did not God already know what was in his heart? Or was it that Hezekiah needed to practice making right responses without the “feeling” of God’s presence; our emotions often leading us astray. If we know what is right or wrong, we must choose to respond appropriately regardless of how we feel.
2Kings 20 gives further details of these incidents, and as is often the case when we allow scripture to further interpret scripture, we get a fuller understanding of what is being done and said. There was apparently a measure of personal pride in Hezekiah’s dealing with the Babylonian envoys that may have irritated God a bit. (See 2 Chronicles 32:36) The point being that God wasn’t trying to trip Hezekiah up or callously abandon him in a time of need, but was allowing – even forcing – Hezekiah to rely on past teachings and revelations he knew to be effective and pleasing to God and respond appropriately whether he felt the presence of God in that moment or not. And, as was noted before, Hezekiah may actually have initiated God’s pull-back by pushing him away in his pride of self-sufficiency.
And then there’s Job, whose blessed life became collateral damage in a spirited disagreement between God and Satan. The verdict being, “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing.” Job 1:22 Job admitting that he was having trouble sensing God in it all, but that he knew, “…God knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:8-10 Still, he couldn’t help but wonder, “What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment.?” Job 7:17,18
The short answer being: He loves us. So much so that he will indeed use “unorthodox” means to develop and mature our faith; up to and including discipline/punishment or “calamitous circumstances” to prod us to follow his way when we respond contrary to his will. (See Romans 12:5-11) Even so, the Psalmist encouraged his readers to, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name: make his praise glorious! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” Psalm 66:1-3 And then went on to remind them of some of those awesome deeds, including, “…God tested us; (and in doing so) you refine us like silver.” Psalm 66:10 (See also Is. 48:10) A theme Paul picked up on when he wrote, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation…”, of faith in Jesus Christ. “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is,… it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” 1 Corinthians 3:10,12 & 13
All of which can instill in us a desire to be tested, affording us then an opportunity to “prove” to ourselves as well as God that we are up to the challenges of life. Echoing David’s sentiments when he called on God to, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23
James encourages us to – in a reversal of the world’s priorities – “Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance… (which) must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James1:2,3 (Echoed by Paul in Romans 5:3,4) For, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
Peter listing a number of qualities we all should develop in our lives, allowing us to “…participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world…” Starting with faith, he added goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:4-8
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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