‘O Jehovah, Put Me to the Test’
“JEHOVAH is the examiner of hearts.” (Proverbs 17:3) That should be extremely reassuring for all of us. Why? Because unlike humans, who judge merely by what appears to the eyes, our heavenly Father “sees what the heart is.”—1 Samuel 16:7.
Actually, even we ourselves are not the best evaluators of our own deepest motives and innermost inclinations. Why? Because our “heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” Well, God knows it, for he declares: “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, examining the kidneys.” (Jeremiah 17:9, 10) Yes, Jehovah understands “the heart”—including our inner motivations—as well as “the kidneys,” our deepest thoughts and emotions.
It is little wonder, then, that King David of old said to God: “Examine me, O Jehovah, and put me to the test; refine my kidneys and my heart.” (Psalm 26:2) Was David completely clean in action and in speech, so that he had nothing to fear if Jehovah put him to the test? Of course not! David, like all of us, was imperfect and unable to measure up perfectly to God’s standards. Because of his weaknesses, David committed several serious wrongs, but he nevertheless ‘walked with integrity of heart.’ (1 Kings 9:4) How? By accepting reproof and correcting his way. He thereby showed that he genuinely loved Jehovah. His devotion to God was complete.
What about us today? Jehovah knows that we are imperfect and that we may sin in speech and deed. He does not, however, determine our course of life by using his ability to foreknow our future. He has created us as free moral agents, and he respects our free will—a gift that he has graciously given us.
Still, at times Jehovah does in a sense test our inner person, including our motives. He may do this by allowing us opportunities to reveal our heart condition. He may also allow various circumstances or challenges to reveal our innermost inclinations. This gives us the opportunity to show Jehovah how devoted and loyal we are. Such tests allowed by Jehovah may prove the quality of our faith, whether we are “complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”—James 1:2-4.
An Ancient Test of Faith
Tests of faith and motives are not new for Jehovah’s servants. Consider the patriarch Abraham. “The true God put Abraham to the test.” (Genesis 22:1) When those words were spoken, Abraham’s faith in God had already been tested. Decades before, Jehovah had asked Abraham to move with his family from the flourishing city of Ur to an unknown land. (Genesis 11:31; Acts 7:2-4) Abraham, who may have been a homeowner in Ur, did not purchase any permanent residence in Canaan, where he lived for decades. (Hebrews 11:9) Abraham’s status as a nomad put him and his family in some danger from famine, armed bands, and pagan rulers of the area. Through all of this, Abraham’s faith proved to be of the highest quality.
Then Jehovah put Abraham to a greater test. “Take, please, your son, your only son whom you so love, Isaac, and . . . offer him up as a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:2) For Abraham, Isaac was not just any son. He was the only child of Abraham and his wife, Sarah. Isaac was the son of the promise, Abraham’s only hope that his “seed” would inherit the land of Canaan and be a blessing to many, according to God’s promise. After all, Isaac was the son whom Abraham was expected to have and who was born after a miracle from God!—Genesis 15:2-4, 7.
You can imagine how hard it must have been for Abraham to understand this command. Would Jehovah require a human sacrifice? Why would Jehovah let Abraham taste the sweet joy of having a son at the sunset of his life, only to ask him to sacrifice this same son?*
Without having clear answers to these questions, Abraham promptly obeyed. It took him three days to reach the selected mountain. There he built an altar and placed firewood on top. Now came the climax of the test. Abraham took hold of the slaughtering knife, but as he was about to kill his son, Jehovah through an angel stopped him and said: “Now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.” (Genesis 22:3, 11, 12) Think how richly Abraham was rewarded by hearing that! Jehovah’s prior estimation of his faith was correct. (Genesis 15:5, 6) Thereupon, Abraham sacrificed a ram that replaced Isaac. Then Jehovah confirmed the covenant promises about Abraham’s seed. Understandably, Abraham became known as Jehovah’s friend.—Genesis 22:13-18; James 2:21-23.
Our Faith Is Also Tested
We all realize that God’s servants today cannot escape tests. In our case, however, the test may be more in what Jehovah allows to happen than in what he tells us to do.
The apostle Paul wrote: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Such persecution may come from schoolmates, friends, relatives, neighbors, or misinformed governmental authorities. It may include verbal and physical abuse as well as interference with a Christian’s making a living. True Christians also experience the problems common to mankind—sickness, disappointments, and injustices. All such trials test a person’s faith.
The apostle Peter called attention to positive aspects of having one’s faith tested: “You have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6, 7) Yes, the effects of tests are compared to the refining of gold by fire. The refining process reveals what is pure and removes impurities. Something similar takes place in connection with our faith when we experience tests.
For example, an accident or a natural disaster may result in hardships. Still, those with genuine faith do not give way to undue anxiety. They find comfort in Jehovah’s reassurance: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) They continue to give priority to spiritual things, confident that Jehovah God will bless their efforts to procure what they really need. Their faith sustains them through difficult times and prevents them from further complicating their situation by needless worry.
The fact that tests may reveal weaknesses in our faith can also be beneficial if we thus see the need to take corrective measures. A person does well to ask himself: ‘How can I strengthen my faith? Do I need to spend more time in prayerful consideration of and meditation on God’s Word? Have I taken full advantage of the provisions to attend meetings with fellow believers? Do I rely on myself when I should prayerfully commit my concerns to Jehovah God?’ Such self-examination, however, is only the beginning.
Strengthening one’s faith may require improving one’s spiritual appetite, showing “a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-14) We should strive to be like the man the psalmist described: “His delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.”—Psalm 1:2.
This calls for more than reading the Bible. It is important that we think about what God’s Word is telling us and apply the admonition given. (James 1:22-25) As a result, our love for God will grow, our prayers will be more specific and personal, and our faith in him will become stronger.
The Value of a Tested Faith
The realization that faith is an absolute essential in our gaining God’s approval is a powerful incentive to strengthen it. The Bible reminds us: “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Hence, we should feel like the man who implored Jesus: “Help me out where I need faith!”—Mark 9:24.
Tests of our faith can also help others. For instance, when a Christian loses a loved one in death, his strong faith in God’s promise of a resurrection sustains him. He mourns, yet he does “not sorrow just as the rest also do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14) Others who observe the sustaining power of a Christian’s faith may come to appreciate that he possesses something truly valuable. This may stir in their hearts a desire to have similar faith, moving them to learn about God’s Word and to become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jehovah knows that a tested faith has great value. In addition, tests of faith enable us to see whether our faith has real sustaining power. We are helped to detect weaknesses in our faith, putting us in a better position to correct matters. Finally, our passing through tests successfully may help others to become Jesus’ disciples. So may we do our utmost to maintain strong faith—faith that after it has been subjected to one test after another “may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Peter 1:7.
As to the symbolic significance of the “sacrifice” of Isaac, see The Watchtower, July 1, 1989, page 22.
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Abraham’s works of faith made him Jehovah’s friend
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Tests can prove that our faith has real sustaining power
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From the Illustrated Edition of the Holy Scriptures, by Cassell, Petter, & Galpin