“. . . 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 16:4b).
The tests and exams don’t stop after school.
If you’re out of school you know this. Those still in school may know it, but aren’t ready to believe it. Even after we earn that final degree, life has a way of giving us the “third degree.” We’d like to think that someday the tests will end. But they don’t; professional certifications tests, annual reviews with a supervisor, blood tests and eye exams as we age. Every test bumps our anxiety up a notch. At every stage of life, in every setting, the same old question lingers. Did I pass?
Tested in Blessing
We associate testing with struggle, even pain. The exertion of sustained mental energy involved in study, the mixture of affirmation with blunt feedback about our work – tests are generally unpleasant. And when it’s God testing us, we assume this means suffering. God tested Job and we know what happened to him.
But God surprises us as we join the Israelites and make the wilderness journey out of Egypt. There in the desert God tested his people by “raining” blessing upon them. Literally. God told Moses “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.” Part of the surprise, as we’ve already seen, is that God responds this way to a crowd of grumbling malcontents. But even more surprising is the fact that this shower of blessing is given not simply to ease their hunger; it is more than a cause of joy and relief and celebration. It’s a test.
Sometimes God tests us with blessing. Sometimes God tests us not by inflicting pain, but by providing for our comfort. Sometimes we are tested not by loss and deprivation, but by the abundance we receive. So it was in the desert. God rained down bread for his people. “In this way I will test them.”
The Real Question
Every good gift that God gives us brings with it a test. With every blessing something is at stake. The test is basically this: will we treasure God more than we treasure God’s gifts? Sounds simple, but this test isn’t easy. In fact, most of us will fail it a time or two, maybe more. Our hearts have a hard time with this test, the same way our minds might have a hard time with organic chemistry.
This test isn’t asking us about our thoughts or our beliefs or our worldview – it’s asking about our hearts and what we truly love. Do we love God or do we love what God gives us? Will we honor God by being obedient to his word, or will we simply rush out and cram our tents full of food so we won’t get hungry again?
God tested his people with bread in the desert. When your stomach is growling, shriveled and empty, that’s a hard test to pass. Will the bread simply be a way for me to sate my hunger? Will the bread move me to love and worship God, the bread maker, the bread giver?
We give you thanks, Gracious God, for the abundance of blessing that you rain down on us. Your gifts speak to us of your goodness and the depths of your love. May our love for you grow with every blessing we receive. Guard our hearts from becoming attached to the comforts of this life – as if you owe us these things or as if we deserve them. Make us a people who treasure you and worship you above all earthly gifts, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.