Who dares to command God?

“HEAR OUR PRAYER, O LORD!!!”

Who dares to issue demands to God? Who dares command God to do a miracle? Not I, mister, I know my place: God is my King: he gives orders, I’m supposed to follow them. And God is my Father: when I need something, even a miracle, I ask him for help, sometimes over and over – as the Lord Jesus said was proper, in fact, commendable – and trust him to take care of me. But I won’t be issuing any orders to my King or to my Father any time soon.

Not everyone agrees. On more than one occasion (Matt 12:38 and Luke 11:29; Matt 16:1 and Mark 8:11) the religious leaders insisted: Jesus, show us a sign that proves without a doubt that you are God’s Son! Jesus refused to grant their demand, for they were testing God, coercing God to do a miracle in their presence in order to satisfy their own needs.

There are plenty of examples of this in the Old Testament: in the wilderness alone Israel tested Jehovah ten times (Num 14:22):

Men test God by behaviour which constitutes in effect a defiant challenge to him to prove the truth of his words and the goodness and justice of his ways…to goad God betrays extreme irreverence, and God himself forbids it.[1]

In the same way Satan demanded that Jesus prove himself by leaping off the temple, forcing God to catch him before he splattered on the pavement (4:5-7). Jesus replied, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test,” quoting Deut 6:16.

Blind Bartimaeus provides us with a positive example. He called out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” and would not let the crowd shut him up (see Luke 18:38). Jesus commended him for his faith: the man trusted that God would heal him through Jesus, and so he did not stop until Jesus had heard him.

How might we fall into this sin of testing God?

Demand of God a miracle. It is one thing to ask God in faith to intervene with a healing or a miracle. Nevertheless, faith by definition is humble dependence. Yet how terrible to hear people dress up “testing God” as if it were genuine faith: You have the right to a miracle; God told you that he would heal you and he cannot break his word; so you just march up to the throne and tell God what you want, when you want it, and don’t take No for an answer! God will not diminish his glory by refusing you! We think we have God trapped in a corner and that he cannot fail to give us what we require of him. True faith, on the other hand, says that God will not fail us because of who he is, not because we have gained the upper hand with him.

This is no hypothetical teaching, but one I hear almost weekly. Here’s an example, plucked at random from the web:

Any time He hears the voice of faith, [Jesus] stops. When anyone speaks words of faith, it’s like calling Him to attention. He must stop, because He is under divine orders. The voice of faith places a demand on His power. So once we make that demand on God’s power, and once Jesus stops…His power submits to our faith.[2]

I can find at least – let’s see – six things wrong with that brief statement. And here’s another flavor of “testing God”:

Tell God, “Do this or I won’t obey.” We must be very cautious about the whole practice of “putting out a fleece” to determine God’s will, as did Gideon in Judges 6. Read the chapter with care and you will see that Gideon’s experience was an example of God’s patience and grace with his weakness, not a formula that we should imitate. After all, Gideon knew from the start by divine revelation what was God’s will (Judges 6:14); yet he delayed to obey until God confirmed it again (by the angel waiting until Gideon brought food) and then a second (the sign of a fleece) and a third time (another fleece) and a fourth time (7:13-15). Gideon did not ask for one, but four signs, indicating that he did not fully trust God.

For our part, dare we read God’s commands and then tell God that he must give us some extra sign before we will obey him? What of the woman who is living with a man outside of marriage. She knows that this is wrong; yet she prays, If you want me to move out of this apartment, then you must make my phone ring in the next 30 seconds; or I must see a white cat on the way to work today; or I will win the lottery this week. And then, even if such things do come to pass, she might even shrug them off as coincidences and look for another sign. If they don’t come to pass, she takes that as a No, or begins to wonder if God is listening at all.

God is our creator and redeemer and has every right to command us and to expect us to comply. He is not obligated to show us his credentials on demand. When he is kind to us and shows us a special sign of his love or guidance, we should be grateful, not triumphant that we figured out how to beat his system.

NOTE:

[1]New Bible Dictionary, ed. D. R. W. Wood and I. H. Marshall (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1996), “Temptation,” 1162.

[2] Quoted from “Your Miracle is On the Way,” Leroy Thompson of Kenneth Copeland Ministries http://www.kcm.org/real-help/article/your-miracle-way

“Who dares to issue commands to God?” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Who dares to command God? […]

  2. Gary,

    Gideon I believe did indeed show a ‘lack of faith’ when ‘testing God’.
    BUT!!! He didn’t have the FULL revelation of the ‘Abiding Word of God’ that we Christians do today!!!
    When this is taken into consideration was his faith lacking? Would you or I have displayed greater faith?
    Romans 15.4 declares that the OT writings were for ‘our learning’.
    This ‘Word Faith’ movement is true wickedness in my humble opinion.
    God owes us NOTHING.
    We owe God EVERYTHING.

    Jesus IS LORD.

    • Hi Colin, I do agree that it’s hard for me to claim that I would have done better than Gideon – but doesn’t that prove the opposite of your point? That I, with the full Bible in hand, still might have found myself second-guessing God’s assignment.

      The Lord seems to expect that people in both Testaments will obey him, and immediately – for example, Num 13-14.

      • Gary,
        Thanks indeed for reminding me about those great chapters. I have just read them, and I can see that Gideon, if he had read and BELIEVED this portion of God’s Word, (Surely he would have been familiar with them!?) may well have acted with greater faith.
        All this beside, Gideon’s name is recorded in Hebrews 11…..

        • Thanks, Colin. Yes, Gideon, also Lot, Noah, David and others are heroes of the faith, despite their failings.


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