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We were minutes away from leaving to take my wife, Laurie, to work at 6:00 a.m. She said she had found something she wanted to read to me. I was half-awake and half-dead, unsure what even my own thoughts were, much less someone else’s. What can I tell you? The woman wakes up singing. However, I had learnt the wise and strategic lesson imprinted by years of marriage, to pause and listen. This is not only because this woman thinks of things in the natural world that would never cross my mind, but also because the Lord often opens truths up to her. As she spoke, I, in spite of my deplorable mental condition, was able by God’s grace to hear the beauty of the Lord’s truth. She was reading from a section of Barnes’ Notes on the first chapter of James. So, let’s give credit to the only one to whom credit is due: The Lord, since, by His grace, He was the one who inspired Mr. Barnes to write, Laurie to read, and, on that early, dark February morning, me to hear.

Barnes was dealing with this passage: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).1 Barnes pointed out in his comments that the Lord has no evil desires that must be satisfied. If He tempted someone to do evil, He would need to have such longings.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

Unlike you and me, God has no evil wishes or cravings. Evil does not exist in the Lord. It doesn’t have a presence there, not even a foothold. He doesn’t have needs that require fulfilment, as if He lacked something. The Christian God lacks nothing. He is perfectly whole and good in and of Himself. The Lord is the eternal plumb line in the universe for all that is just, and good and loving.

Perfectly.

When Christians doubt that He is good (and thus evil at worst, uncaring or impotent at best), they are being tempted to unbelief. The Lord does not tempt, but He does test. And that test of faith concerns the very truth we are considering here. Is He good? Can we trust Him? The deep answer is that we must take an eternal view of life to find rest in such trials that try our faith.

Accompanying this reality of God’s testing is the acknowledgement that we humans just simply do not and cannot know the full reality of the difficult circumstances which face us. Why does God allow arduous trials? We will not know until we are with Him in eternity, when all things will become known. In the meantime, we believe the simple truth that God is good.

Was Israel thirsty in the wilderness? Yes. God caused that thirst. He was testing them. They failed. Were they hungry? Yes. God caused them to experience that hunger. He was testing them. Israel failed that test. Was King Saul in danger from the gathering Philistines? Yes. Their enemy had 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and “troops like the sand on the seashore” (1 Samuel 13:5). From his faithless point of view, Saul could no longer wait for the prophet Samuel as he had been told to do. He had to act. He had to offer the sacrifice immediately. But that faithless deed doomed his reign. Did God know the Philistines were threatening as well as the number of their soldiers? Of course. But that number meant nothing to Him. Saul was being tested. He was tempted to take action in disobedient faithlessness. He failed.

In each of these cases cited, God had no “evil passion to be gratified,” as Barnes wrote. He was not seeking to rejoice in the failures of Israel and King Saul, the way we humans sometimes take joy in the disastrous failures of others. He has no selfish or malicious needs to be satiated. He expects this from us: to know, love, and trust Him. “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD’” (Jeremiah 9:23–24).

Did you see that? The Lord delights in steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. It should not surprise us that He expects us to believe that. He will test us, in love, so we will understand and know Him. This is the highest aspiration of humankind.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

 

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