What does it mean to test God? In Matt 4:5-7 when Satan is tempting Jesus he tells Jesus to jump off of the Temple and says that God should protect him. Then Satan quotes Psalms 91:11-12, which says, “It is written: ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responds in verse 7 by saying, “It is also written: ‘You must not test the Lord your God.”
Jesus is referring to Deut 6:16, which in itself is referring to Exodus 17:7:
Exodus 17:7 (NLT) 7 Moses named the place Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord here with us or not?”
They questioned the Lord’s faithfulness. To test God is to make Him prove His faithfulness. God proved himself to the Israelites multiple times with the plagues of Egypt and the defeat of the Pharaoh and even with providing their needs in the wilderness itself, yet they consistently denied his intent and ability to rescue and deliver them into the promised Land. This is why in Numbers chapters 13-14 they are forbidden from going into the promised land until the next generation 40 years later. 12 scouts were sent out and only two of them came back with a report of confidence in God’s ability to have them defeat the enemy. The other 10 complained about the enemies having larger populations, fortified walls, and giants living among them and they told the Israelites they had no chance of winning. This caused everyone to complain and even suggest they were better off going back to Egypt because God has misled them.
The context of Matt 4:5-7 follows the same principle, Jesus wouldn’t put God to the test by “throwing Himself down”, and we, too, shouldn’t put ourselves in situations just to see if God will prove His faithfulness.
This kind of testing is in opposition to trust. Certain denominations handle snakes to test Mark 16:18, which says, believers will be able to handle snakes safely, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed. They say if you get bit and you don’t die, then you actually have the Holy Spirit. The Bible says Paul was protected from a venomous serpent bite in Acts 28:3-5, however in that situation a snake attacked him, Paul didn’t intentionally put himself in danger to test God. Other preachers have done things like walking on water or putting their heads into a lion’s mouth to prove that God is on their side, only to end up dying.
We use the scientific method to test things to see how they work and if they work the way we think they do. The idea here is that we shouldn’t use the scientific method to test our covenant with God. We don’t need to check and make sure that God will keep his end of the covenant, we must simply trust that he will. Daniel didn’t put his head into the lion’s mouth, and the Hebrew boys didn’t walk into a random furnace all by themselves. They were put into those situations by others who wanted them dead. They trusted that God was capable of saving them and he did. They didn’t need to do a test beforehand to make sure his power was absolute. God is not a liar therefore, he does not need to be tested to see if his word is true (Numbers 23:19).