Judges 2:1-3 NLT:
The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said to the Israelites, “I brought you out of Egypt into this land that I swore to give your ancestors, and I said I would never break my covenant with you. For your part, you were not to make any covenants with the people living in this land; instead, you were to destroy their altars. But you disobeyed my command. Why did you do this? So now I declare that I will no longer drive out the people living in your land. They will be thorns in your sides, and their gods will be a constant temptation to you.”
Over the past year, I have been working out with a trainer. Her name is Kim and I pay her to help me kick my body into shape. Recently, as I was sucking wind during a break in a painful workout, I asked her a question I had been pondering based on studying the passage above.
I said, “Kim, why do you do what you do?”
She responded, and I’m paraphrasing, “I want to help people realize what they can do if they work hard. But to do that, I have to push them past comfortable. But I never push a person harder than I think they can handle.”
Kim has a lot of credibility in this area. Not only is she a certified personal trainer, she has lost a lot of weight herself. We talk about the struggles of getting in shape and when I look at the changes she has accomplished, I know what can be done with hard work.
Let’s shift gears for a moment. I love Star Wars. I especially love Yoda. The little green Jedi master is tougher than he looks and one of the most formidable warriors in the universe.
In The Empire Strikes Back, he begins a mentoring process with young Luke Skywalker. And if you remember the movie, he puts Luke through a myriad of tests to help him learn to use the force, to work through his emotional struggles, and also to push Luke past what Luke believes he can do. And after much training, Luke is able to levitate his X-Wing fighter out of the swamp using only the Force. The learning, however, is not over.
The question that prompted my conversation with Kim, and my thoughts about Yoda, is this: Why did God intentionally leave people in the Promise Land to test the Israelites? Was it so that the people would prove themselves to God?
I’ve always struggled with this notion of God testing us, because it seems a bit cruel.
So, who was the testing for? Is it for God to see if we have the moxie to live the Christian life?
What if we see the word testing (temptation in the NLT) as “testing to reveal.” It’s a testing to reveal to us, his people, where we are and what we could be if we trusted in the one who has gone before us.
It’s a testing to reveal our ignorance, our inability to control, and our dependence. It is to reveal the brokenness in our lives, not to see if God can trust you or me in some endeavor.
Remember, God will not put on you any more than you can bear!