Is the Lord Among Us Or Not?

When bad things happen to us. When we find ourselves in the life-sucking desert with no water – is the Lord among us or not?

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. Exodus 16:4 

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Exodus 17:7 

Reading the two verses above together was mind-blowing to me. The Hebrew word translated “test” in each of these verses is the same word. It is nasah (נָסָה) which means to test, assay, prove, tempt, try.  

It seems like there is a lot of testing going on in Exodus, God testing his people and his people testing God. I remembered Jesus, who being tested in the desert by the devil, quoted another verse which uses the word nasah, Deuteronomy 6:16.  

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Matthew 4:5-7  

And, I suddenly had the thought: if God tested the Israelites to see if they would follow his instructions, when we test God are we seeing if he will follow our instructions? Am I trying to hold God hostage to my agenda? 

Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah. Deuteronomy 6:16 

And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Exodus 17:7 

One of the definitions of nasah is to “assay.” According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online, to assay something is “to determine its purity,” and “to judge the worth of.” Think about those meanings when applied to the Holy God. 

When bad things happen to us. When we find ourselves in the life-sucking desert with no water – is the Lord among us or not? Is he the Holy God who cannot lie? Is his promise good? Is he worthy of my trust? 

When the devil “tested” Jesus in the desert he challenged Him to believe God’s promise.  

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”  

The devil must have thought he had Jesus now. If Jesus jumped, he would be playing the devil’s game, giving him power and indirectly, worship. And most likely Jesus would go splat, since jumping off the temple was not the will of God for Jesus. If Jesus didn’t jump, he would be admitting a lack of trust in God’s promise, right? See, the devil was trying to get Jesus, and the Father God, to follow his instructions. But instead of playing the game, Jesus held firm to the instructions he had been given by the Father. 

Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:5-7 

Jesus didn’t have to prove or assay his Father. Jesus had complete confidence in God’s promises and in his will. Jesus didn’t have an agenda. He didn’t have to prove his Lordship or his value or power. He didn’t come to be a big success or to be prosperous. He actually came to be nothing, a humble servant, following and completely fulfilling the instructions given to him by a God whom he knew to be good and loving and faithful all the time, even in the desert times of testing. And even so he wants me to follow after him. His instruction for me is to trust that He is with me here in the dry, deadly places, the impossible, bleak, and heart-gutting places. The places where I see no hope or way out. The times when everything I hoped for is gone, my agenda is shredded and I am reduced to nothing.  

Do you ever wonder what would have happened at Massah and Meribah if the Israelites had trusted God and waited for his salvation instead of despairing and turning against him? What would God have done? What amazing things could he have done? But instead, God let what happened happen for us! Speaking of the Israelites in the desert Paul wrote: 

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.  1 Corinthians 10:11 

Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. Psalm 95:8-9 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will (His instructions) for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

Photo free download from Pexels, Great sand dunes in desert at sundown, by Chris Clark 

Author: wrestlingwordblog

I am a retired librarian and emeriti from Western Michigan University. I am married with three grown children and three grandchildren. I love digging for treasure in the Word.

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