so that by them I may test Israel Judges 2:22
Test – Why doesn’t God just remove temptations? Wouldn’t it be easy for Him to just take away all the seductive opportunities that we face? If He really wants our holy obedience, why doesn’t He just get rid of all those things that could trip us up? A lesson from the history of Israel helps us answer these questions.
When God gave the Promised Land to Israel, He told them to exterminate the idolatrous nations that lived there. No covenant agreements were to be made with any of the defeated nations. Nothing of the fertility cults was to be left behind. But the tribes of Israel did not follow God’s game plan. Once they established their domination in the land, they let some of the previous cultures remain. They didn’t exterminate all those people. A small group remained in the hills, another group in the plains. Some were even allowed to mix in with the tribes. After Joshua died, the Angel of the Lord rebuked Israel, saying “What have you done? Because you did not follow My commandment, I will not drive these people out of the land. They will become your enemies, living among you, and their gods will become a snare to you” (Judges 2:1-3). Israel’s initial disobedience resulted in a permanent struggle for holiness.
The Scriptures tell us that God never intended for His children to deal with the constant presence of idolatry. Had Israel obeyed God in the first place, this threat would have been removed. But once Israel failed to obey, God did not rush to their rescue. He deliberately left the idolatrous cultures in the places Israel refused to eliminate. Why? In order to test Israel’s subsequent obedience. The Hebrew word here is nasa. It is used to describe determining the worth of something by testing it. It’s the same verb used when the Queen of Sheba tests Solomon with questions aimed at determining the quality of his wisdom, as well as the verb used when God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a test of Abraham’s devotion. It does not describe a temptation. Instead, it describes an opportunity to demonstrate quality. This change in perspective is crucial. Too often we think of seductive circumstances and spiritual obstacles as unnecessary hindrances, but now we see from Israel’s history that these are the very things God uses to refine obedience.
Israel’s failure can become our victory. God did not punish Israel by leaving their enemies in place. God allowed the natural results of their original disobedience to become an opportunity for further obedience and refinement. God’s intention was not retribution. It was second-chance restoration. Of course, it would have been much easier to be obedient in the first place. The enemies would have been removed. But God didn’t give up on Israel. He simply found another way to bring them to spiritual maturity. In fact, the entire history of Israel can be summed up in God’s faithfulness in creating alternatives. Every failure produced another way for Israel to become obedient again.
That’s usually what happens to us. Typically, we don’t execute God’s original, perfect plan. We mess up. But God doesn’t give up. He leaves behind what we didn’t take care of and uses it to reshape our chance for obedience. Every past failure becomes an opportunity for future victory. It all depends on how you look at it.