Being tempted describes an act with negative connotations and as such, tends to lead a person to regret such actions and it also describes the coaxing or inducing a person into committing such an act. Over forty years ago, NBC aired the Flip Wilson Show. Wilson was most famous for creating the role of Geraldine Jones, a sassy, modern woman who had a boyfriend named Killer. Wilson popularized such catchphrases as “What You See is What You Get” and the “Devil made me do it.” While many Christians believe that the Devil is a powerful supernatural entity that causes humans to be tempted to sin or commit evil deeds, is there any Biblical evidence where God temped His people?
James 1:13 tells us that, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.” It is important to understand that the word tempt has a twofold significance in Scripture, though it is not always easy to determine which of the two applies in a particular passage: (1) to try (the strength of), to put to the test; and (2) to entice to do evil. When it is said that “God did tempt Abraham” (Genesis. 22:1), it means that He tried him, putting to the test his faith and fidelity. But when we read that Satan tempted Christ, it signifies that Satan sought to bring about His downfall, morally impossible though it was. To tempt is to make trial of a person, in order to find out what he is and what he will do. We may tempt God in a legitimate and good way by putting Him to the test in a way of duty, as when we await the fulfillment of His promises. But, as is recorded for our admonition in Psalm 78:41, Israel tempted God in a way of sin, acting in such a manner as to provoke His displeasure.
How does God lead us into temptation? First, He does so objectively when His providences, though good in themselves, offer occasions for sin. When we manifest self-righteousness, He may lead us into circumstances something like Job experienced. When we are self-confident, He may be pleased to suffer us to be tempted as Peter was. When we are self-complacent, He may bring us into a situation similar to the one Hezekiah encountered (2 Chronicles. 32:27-31). God leads many into poverty, which though a sore trial is yet, under His blessing, often enriching to the soul. God leads some into prosperity, which is a great snare to many. Yet if sanctified by Him, prosperity enlarges ones capacity for usefulness. Second, God tempts permissively when He does not restrain Satan. Sometimes God suffers him to sift us as wheat, just as a strong wind snaps off dead boughs from living trees. Third, God tempts some men judicially, punishing their sins by allowing the Devil to lead them into further sin, to the ultimate destruction of their souls.
But why does God tempt His people, either objectively by His providences, or subjectively and permissively by Satan? He does so for various reasons. First, He tries us in order to reveal to us our weakness and our deep need of His grace. God withdrew His sustaining arm from Hezekiah in order “that he might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles. 32:31). When God leaves us to ourselves, it is a most painful and humiliating discovery that we make. Yet it is needful if we are to pray from the heart, “Hold Thou me up, and I shall be safe” (Psalm. 119:117). Second, He tests us in order to teach us the need of watchfulness and prayer. Most of us are so unbelieving that we learn only in the hard school of experience, and even its lessons have to be knocked into us. Little by little we discover how dearly we have to pay for rashness, carelessness, and presumption. Third, our Father subjects us to trials in order to cure our slothfulness. God calls out, “Awake thou that sleepest” (Ephesians. 5:14), but we heed Him not; and therefore He often employs rough servants to rudely arouse us. Fourth, God puts us to the test in order to reveal to us the importance and value of the armor He has appointed (Ephesians. 6:11-18). If we heedlessly go forth to battle without our spiritual panoply, then we must not be surprised at the wounds we receive; but they shall have the salutary effect of making us more careful for the future!
PART II TOMORROW
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