The word “trial”, when used for a trouble or difficulty that we may face, is not a word that we just coincidentally also use for a judgment assembly. From God’s perspective, there is a real sense of discovery of our true hearts and whose side we are ultimately on, when we encounter trial — He tells us so in our reading today.
But before I comment on that, I wanted to point something out that I think is important for anyone who is trying to follow the Lord — we mustn’t grow weary of the struggle. In chapter 7 Moses reminds them of God’s mighty deeds at the Exodus, because he knows that when they face the giants of Canaan, they might be shocked and fall back in fear again. No one will successfully withstand their advance! But there’s a caveat (v.22), they would not be able to put an end to the Canaanites quickly; God would give them complete conquest little by little, lest the beasts grow too numerous for them. The problem was that over time the Israelites became weary of war and preferred “peaceful coexistence”, which led to tolerance of and ultimately participation in the idolatry and sinfulness of the Canaanites.
There is a lesson here for modern Christians, especially in a day when tolerance is a keyword and disbelief in ultimate truth is the spirit of the times. We must not grow weary of the struggle against the spirit of the world. Sadly, some seem to be ready to fly the flag of truce; the harsh words of “being out of step with the rest of the world” has wounded them deeply; they’re irresistibly lured to become their “authentic selves”, rather than what God calls them to be; and they’re convinced by the “wisdom” that you’ve got to go along to get along. But true soldiers of the cross mustn’t get weary of the battle; they must continue to stand up and speak up for truth and for righteousness and for their Savior.
But back to the trial idea — God interestingly gave them the rationale for the wilderness wanderings. It wasn’t just about punishment!
“”You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:2, 3, NAS95.
The whole thing was a test, a trial, “to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not”. It was all about the questions, “Do you trust Me? Will you obey Me?” You will probably remember the phrase, “…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Jesus quoted this to Satan in Matthew 4, when Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread that He could eat. Jesus understood this temptation to be a test of His trust in the Father, just like Israel was tested — and Jesus passed. Do we? What do our trials say about us? Whose side are we really on? God’s? Satan’s? Our own? Only one answer is the right one. Are we growing stronger through the trials, like Joshua? Or are we growing weaker like those that died in the desert? What’s really in our hearts?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.