Separation by trial and testing (Part 3)
Right the way through scripture there is a process that is taking place; separation through trial. In the future God is going to separate the sheep from the goats. The process never ends and is in operation in our lives now. This process of separation is not done randomly. There are tests and trials that are gone through in order to arrive at the point where separation takes place. There is a principal at work I call the T/O principal: God reveals truth ‘T’ and opposition ‘O’ stands against the truth in order to test it. God is in the business of both theoretical and empirical learning. The remnant that emerges is that which has gone through the fire of testing, the hay wood and stubble is burned up and the gold, silver and precious stones remain.
To assay something is to test, access, analyze and examine. Strong’s describes the Hebrew word: Nacah pronounced Naw-saw as a primitive root; in the AV translated as; prove, tempt, assay, adventure and try. He explains:
1) to test, try, prove, tempt, assay, put to the proof or test
1a1) to test, try
1a2) to attempt, assay, try
1a3) to test, try, prove, tempt
Working logically through some of the places where this word occurs in scripture we will come to a clearer understanding of its deeper meaning. (in each case I have underlined the translation of the word ‘Nacah’)
Deuteronomy 4:34 Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? Gods plan for us is that through trials and refining he might take a people for himself from those he has chosen.
Genesis 22:1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. Here again we have God checking out what was in Abraham’s heart by means of a trial. God has often used the means of test or trial to allow him to separate the sheep from the goats. God is not punishing Abraham but is giving him an opportunity to learn: God had told Abraham a number of times that he was going to make a great nation of him through Isaac, now God was going to give Abraham a chance to use the truth that he had received; place his trust and faith in God and move from theoretical faith to empirical faith.
Exodus 15:25 And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, It is as if by allowing difficulties in life and then watching the reaction and the attitude to these that God gains insight into men’s hearts. It is cheap to speak of our faith in God when all is going as planned; when the food is on the table and there is coffee in the pot. It is quite another thing when the good times dry up. This is what happened to Israel a number of times when they left Egypt. This time it was water the most fundamental need in a desert journey. Perhaps you are in a desert and the water has dried up?
Exodus 16:4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. The trial need not be painful or challenging it can even be the provision of the necessities of life. The question is how we will handle the things that God exposes us to.
Exodus 20:20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. No sooner are they told not to collect manna on the Sabbath than there is the trial to see who got the message. Here then is another reason for God allowing the tests that take place: that the fear of God may be before us.
Deuteronomy 8:2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. The reason that the testing takes place is to know what is in your heart. As with everything the action has its source in the heart.
Deuteronomy 13:3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. God allows trials to come in the form of false prophets to know whether we Love the Lord God with all our hearts or whether we just want to hear pleasant words that humour us. The false prophet that lives inside of me, the dreamer of dreams stands in opposition to the truth of the word of God that I have seen.
Judges 2:22 That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not. Another reason for trials is to see whether we will keep to the way that we know is right when circumstances are hard. In the good times it is easy to declare the wonderful goodness of God. However it is far from easy to maintain the same position in the fire of affliction. Again and again Israel is tested and the leaders are tried. The church the spiritual Israel is tried and the leaders are tried.
Judges 3:1 Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; God actually left nations in the Promised Land in order to provide opportunity for Israel to know and to practice the art of warfare. Opposition and trials keep us sharp and honest. It is very easy to pretend to be an overcomer when there is nothing to overcome. Does he allow occupying nations in the land of our hearts for the same reason? Why if we are saved does God not just ‘beam me up Scotty’ why allow the trial of our faith?
1 Samuel 17:39 And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. Here we find the warrior David teaching us a lesson in the art of warfare: Don’t attempt to go to war with unproven armor. God in his mercy allows us to experience trials before we hit the major battles of life and death in order that we can hone our skills in warfare on the lions and the bears before we meet the Goliaths of our world. Grab the opportunity to practice with the weapons that God has given to you while you have the time. God in his power could have kept the lions and the bears from raiding Jessie’s flocks while David looked after them, but then what would have happened to Israel if David had not had the experience of dealing with the force of darkness? To add to this we must remember that God allows trials that are specifically for us, we should not try to press others into the armor that has proved ineffectual for us. The trial of this life is the preparation for the next.
1 Kings 10:1 And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. If God has provided you with an exceptional gift as he had Solomon, you can expect to be proved.
2 Chronicles 32:31. Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart. God will never leave you or forsake you but he may withdraw from you for a while to see what you will do with the messengers of Babylon in your life.
Psalm 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. How many of us have prayed this prayer? How many of us realise what we have asked for? How many have the guts to ask God to try them, to examine them in the light of his truth? This is not a prayer to be taken lightly.
Daniel 1:12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Daniel like David realized that the small tests are vital to the success of the great trial. Eating pulse and water may not seem to have any bearing to being put into the furnace of trials but God knows better. Daniel was tested in the small matters of pulse and water before being allowed to demonstrate God’s faithfulness in the furnace and the lion’s den. David led and protected his sheep in the face of the wild animals before he was allowed to lead and protect Israel. It is often the insignificant trials that are just a bit boring that eventually prove to be the springboards to great trials in our lives. Where we slip up is in thinking that the trial is about the trial; it is for the glory of God that we are subjected to trials, not for our glory.
Ecclesiastes 2:1 I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. We assume that the trial has always to be tough but this is not always the case. For many of us the greatest trial in our Christian lives is found in the retirement to plenty. To be rich and increased and to have need of nothing is more dangerous to our souls than to be on the rack and our knees.
Ecclesiastes 7:23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. Head knowledge is great but we will find that it is very difficult to bridge the gap between what we know we should do and what we actually practice when the trial comes. Solomon knew it all but did not practice the truth and so fell. With Solomon it was the women in his life that led him astray, the pleasure of an harem was his downfall, they replaced the truth. We see this in many instances in the modern church.
Having looked at the occurrence of the word Nacah it is obvious to me that God has used testing in order to establish what is in the heart of man for the purpose of separating, on the basis of practical and empirical choices made. I can see no reason why he should change his ways when moving into New Covenant times, let’s take a look how God operates in the New Testament.