Ever entreat God to "prove" Himself to you? Kinda like Gideon and the fleece? It goes like this: "Lord, I have had the most trying week! What on earth is going on? If you really see me and understand my momentary woes, if you really love me, won't you please send me a yellow bird?"
A yellow bird? you might wonder. These beautiful American goldfinches that dot Kentucky fields and neighborhood yards remind me of my grandmother. She used to hang a nylon sock stuffed with thistle seed in her front yard to attract them. Sometimes she had so many yellow birds clinging to her feeder that she thought it might collapse. Grandma was one of my biggest life cheerleaders. Seemed I needed a bit of cheering, and to see the yellow bird (a symbol of assurance) on my deck, well, it would just thrill my heart.
My feeder has been outside for at least two months, but I have yet to spot a single yellow bird though I have repeatedly asked my Heavenly Father to send me one. Just one. I have asked the Lord to bless me with a yellow bird as a sign of His favor and love for me (things I feel like He may be withholding from me at present).
Is it okay to make an "if" statement with the Lord? Let's consider Gideon. He needed a sign that it was really the angel of the Lord speaking to him (Jdg. 6:17). Gideon also needed confirmation that God would deliver Israel as He had promised, and he tested God by throwing out the fleece (Jdg. 6:36-40). Though Gideon tested God twice with favorable results both times, what perhaps were his motives? Gideon needed proof that it was God speaking to him, and He needed proof that God would keep His promise about saving Israel. Gideon was testing God as a means to guide himself and make sure he was proceeding in the direction God had ordained for him.
By asking for a yellow bird, what were my motives? I needed proof that God cared for me as He has promised to never leave or forsake me, and I sought evidence that God was omnipresent and intimately and ultimately concerned for my well-being.
Gideon's desires dealt with situations and predicaments and his own tentative acceptance that God was truly guiding Him. Some would even say that Gideon wisely tested God as he wanted to make sure God was leading Him into what seemed a rather precarious situation (to defeat the Midianites).
My motives, on the other hand, dealt with the very character and power of God. And testing God's character and power is a pretty big no-no. Do you remember that Jesus rebuked Satan by declaring, "Do not put your Lord God to the test" (Mat. 4:7). He was referring to the Old Testament passage where Moses reminded the Israelites about their transgression of having tested the Lord at Meribah (Deu. 6:16) as they wondered, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exo. 17:7).
Sometimes I am guilty of thinking and believing that the Lord's favor and provision are equal to His love for me. When He doesn't show favor or provision then I reason that He doesn't love me. Read Psalm 91 (the passage to which Satan so cleverly pointed Jesus). This passage calls into question one of the biggest diametrically opposed Christian "rubs" we will find: Do bad things happen to devoted Christians? Christians do get cancer; Christians lose loved ones to premature death; Christians are ridiculed and insulted; Christians are battered by daily living; and Christians lose hope sometimes. And how exactly do we fit any of these "issues" into Psalm 91?
When bad things happen to you and to me or when we trip and stumble, do we question who God is? Do we question His very nature or His power? And if we do, then it might just mean that God is testing us and wooing us to look for Him afresh.
Why would God test us? We might infer the answers from Deuteronomy: "to humble and test [us] in order to know what was in [our] heart, whether or not [we] would keep his commands (8:2) or "The LORD [our] God is testing [us] to find out whether [we] love him with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul" (13:3). He so loves us that even in the midst of trials and slammed-shut doors, He is there to teach and mold us into a greater likeness of His image.
I still really want to see a yellow bird on my deck, but if He doesn't send one, I will trust that He has something even better in store for me as I wait. May I shudder to take the bait of Satan and ever question God's very character and His power. He is Jehovah Ra'ah, the God who sees, and His banner over me is Love.
"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
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