I asked you to research three questions about God and temptation over the last few days. While the response was underwhelming, I hope you took time to do the work. Today we’re going to consider some answers to those questions.
How did people tempt God when God can’t be tempted?
James said, “God cannot be tempted.” That was the reason he gave in support of the fact that God does not tempt. but here are some verses that talk about God being tempted:
Num. 14:22 Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice;
Psa. 95:8-9 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (9) When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
One of the foibles of language is that the context in which a word appears can change its meaning. You know, for example, that a cool breeze is different from a cool person. The word cool means something different in each context. Jesse hit the nail on the head with his comment:
“When two Bible passages seem to contradict each other, the context and translation should be examined carefully. Some would be tempted to draw a false preception from John 6:6 and James 1:13, but studies in the history of the word, however, prove that it is a word simply referring to the act of assessing through questioning or testing. The context of the word is the determining factor in proper translation.”
The Hebrew word used in Numbers 14:22 and Psalm 95:9 is:
H5254 naw-saw’ A primitive root; to test; by implication to attempt: – adventure, assay, prove, tempt, try. (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries)
These people were not trying to get God to sin. Their goal wasn’t to entice Him to do wrong, but their attitudes and actions certainly tested God’s patience. That’s the meaning of the word in context.
He knows everything and can do anything. He can create the fulfillment of any desire He might have. He knows the ultimate outcome of all actions, theoretical or real, so sin can deceive Him like it deceives us. Therefore, sin doesn’t entice God.
How could Jesus be tempted if He was God?
As a corollary to the previous question, how do you explain the temptation of Christ? We believe Christ was God. We believe God can’t be tempted. Christ was tempted. How do you align these truths?
Mat. 4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Did the Spirit tempt Jesus? No, the devil did the tempting. “Still,” you say, “the Spirit led Him into the place of temptation.” That’s true. An illustration or two might be in order here.
What is a teacher’s goal in testing students? It’s not to make them fail. It isn’t to get them to cheat. The teacher has given the student the information they need to pass the test and time to get ready. Then the teacher tests them so that they can show what they know.
A manager sets his boxer up with a fight. He does it because he is confident that his fighter can win. Now the opponent and his manager have a different reason for taking the fight. They want to defeat first boxer. Their goal is just the opposite in the same match. So the same situation is an opportunity for victory and defeat.
The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to win a great battle. He knew His Fighter would win. The enemy certainly didn’t enter the ring with that outcome in mind. His goal was to triumph over Jesus. By the way, the Father has promised never to put you in the ring with an opponent you can’t defeat:
1Co. 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Was the devil trying to get Jesus to sin? Yes. Jesus was God, though, so the enticement didn’t appeal to Him. He didn’t have to say, “Give me a day or two to think it over, Satan.” It was a temptation because it was an enticement to sin. It was not a temptation because the enticement didn’t find a matching internal lust to mate with and conceive sin. I though Heather’s comment was right on target here, “The Bible says God can’t be tempted, but it doesn’t say that people won’t try.”
Why does the Bible say that God tempted Abraham?
James told us that God doesn’t tempt any man. The Bible also tells us that God tempted Abraham:
Gen. 22:1-2 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. (2) And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
It’s important to remember the distinction between testing and temptation. The goal of the tester is for the one tested to pass the test. The goal of temptation is for the one being tempted to do evil. Here’s a concise explanation:
God did tempt Abraham – not incite to sin (Jam_1:13), but try, prove – give occasion for the development of his faith (1Pe_1:7).
It’s never God’s goal or desire for anyone to sin. God didn’t want Abraham to sin. God wanted Abraham to trust, and he did.
Read James 1:17-21 in preparation for Monday’s study and look for answers to these questions:
- What does it mean to be “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures?”
- In what way are the actions of verse 19 a proper response to the truths of verses 17 and 18?
- What kind of changes is God expecting of us based on verse 21?