They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Health & Wealth: The Test We Never Pass

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.

— Deuteronomy 8:10-19

Of all the tests that God gave the Israelites, and of all our tests in life, the one we have the toughest time with here in w:st=”on”America is what is said in Deut 8:10-19. When you get there and you have all you want, you’ll forget me for sure, is what God is saying.

In the West we always assume that pain and suffering are the only tests. Our test is affluence! We live this wonderful lifestyle where we have so much food in the cupboard that we have to decide which style or flavor that we want tonight (Chinese, Italian, Mexican.) Not exactly a manna type situation is it? We have 2 cars in the garage, which if you have one you are richer than 80% of people in the world, with 2, richer than 99% of world. A lot of us not only have our own home but a vacation home, or at least we think we are entitled to a 2 wk luxury vacation home somewhere.

Tell me, that in our affluence, we don’t forget God. We don’t need Him for our daily sustenance – our power, and the strength of our hand produce it for us, says Deuteronomy.

It hit me as I was thinking about this, what does this say about the “Health and Wealth gospel” that so many churches are promoting. This can be one of the worst things that can happen to you and one of the hardest tests to pass. We are asking God for affluence and that is the very thing that leads to our downfall! The tests in the desert are easier than this because with nothing it is a lot easier to be dependent on God. I was just wondering if you had ever thought of your life style as a test, a test that is just as difficult, just as tough to overcome as some of the other things that we think of as God testing us. Food for thought and no pun intended.

More on the Third Test

Water from the Rock

Water from the Rock

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”
Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

— Exodus 17:1-7

I have previously written two lessons on the test at Rephidim so I will try not to duplicate the thoughts here. But, we learned more and more about this third test, so I wanted to write it down.

The Israelites, led by the cloud and pillar, set out from the wilderness of Sin and traveled from place to place. They camped at Rephidim; means “place of rest,” where I’m sure they expected to find water, but there was none. So, they got mad and grumbled (Kaveched) against Moses and said “Give us water to drink”! They had some pretty strong words against Moses and God, here. They stepped over the line into a much more delicate situation because now they are testing God! Unless you give us water, we want out! We don’t believe you, anymore. Vs. 7 says they said “Is the Lord among us or not?” We saw the cloud, we saw what you did in Egypt and the Red Sea and you said you’d go with us,” but now they are saying, we don’t believe you unless you show us! They are telling God, we won’t do our part unless you do yours and they raised their arm against God.

This obviously doesn’t sit well with God, but surprisingly, He doesn’t hit them with a lightning bolt! He has surprising patience with them, and does an amazing thing for them. He sends Moses on ahead to Mt. Sinai, which was probably at least a day’s walk and tells him to hit the mountain of God with his stick. He did not hit just some ordinary rock, he hit the mountain of God, as if God was saying, I’ll take the blow, I’ll take the hit for this one.” I’ll go ahead and send them water. The water ran down the ravine, a day or day and 1/2; back to the Israelite camp.

Some metaphors to apply to this story are:

  1. Life is moving from test to test
  2. Not every painful situation is a test
  3. In ea. test, seize the opportunity to show God how committed you are to Him. How deep is your commitment? Will you only commit, if he does His part first?
  4. Three times, He put Israel to the Test. Each time, some didn’t match up but for the most part they learned and grew.
  5. Testing has a purpose – like the birth of a child , or like an athlete training for a race or match-no pain, no gain.
  6. God seemed to punish the Hebrews for saying is God among us or not? , because the next story he lets the Amalekites attack them at Rephidim.

Test at Marah

Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. [a] ) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
–Exodus 15:22-27

Oasis Well

Oasis Well

From the mountain top experience at the Red Sea, Moses and the pillar of cloud led the Israelites into the desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. Then they came to Marah, but could not drink the water because it was bitter. This was the first test the Israelites faced after putting their trust in God completely at the Red Sea, Ch 14:31. Here are a few things we learned while studying this wilderness test. First of all, this was a test that God deliberately brought them to. It’s not that they went there by mistake or deliberately went to the wrong place. God brought them to a well that wasn’t fit to drink after giving them no water for three days. In the desert, about two days worth of water is the most a person can carry. So, they were at the end of their rope when they got to this place. God was testing them, so they could have the experiential knowing of what was in their heart .How were they going to do on the test? He wanted them to see in action, what was in their heart; did they have the right attitude or not?

The Shepherd

The Shepherd

Also, it’s important to talk about the shepherd – sheep relationship here. “Like a flock”, He leads us. Sheep don’t have fanny packs on where they can be self-sufficient. They are counting on the shepherd to take them to the right spot, until He says, this is where you can graze; this is what you should eat. At times, God may want you to get hungrier and hungrier and not complain. The were counting on God to lead them and he did, just not in the way that they thought or wanted.

Another point to make was that the Israelites expected the water at Marah to be good water. They had walked for three days without water and finally found one well. There were hundreds of thousands of people wanting a drink, badly, and then the first person gets a drink and you can’t drink it. How many times in life are we in the same situation? We’re in a tough spot and we finally think something good is going to happen and then we are thrown back down again and we are forced to continue waiting. This is another opportunity to show God what’s in our heart.

The word “mara” is much more than what we have been taught. It is not just grumbling. It is a defiant, disobedient, deliberate, shout to God , shaking your fist at him- “No way! How can you do this to me??” The same word “mara” is used in Deut 21:18-20 – If you have a son who is “mara” (stubborn rebellious), take him to the city gate and stone him. In Ruth Ch. 1, Naomi changes her name to “Mara” and it’s more than just, “I’m sad”. She is defiant against God, she’s mad at him. So when the Israelites were “mara” they were defiant against God. They can’t believe God has put them in this situation.

When we are tested do we get defiant and mad at God or do we show God what’s in our heart? This test was their first learning experience and in a way they didn’t pass- they failed, miserably. But they also must have learned from their experience, because in the next story God leads them to Elim where there are twelve springs and 70 palms. 12 and 70 are numbers of completeness and community. This time they must have handled it the right way.

A p.s. to the Marah story is that in vs. 25-27, it says” He made a law and a decree with them there” and then they went to Elim. It doesn’t say what the law and decree was, so we are left to guess. Perhaps it had to do with community because of the 12 and 70 that they received at Elim.


A lot of the Israelite’s Exodus experience was one of testing. God used trials and testing to get Egypt out of the children of Israel. We talked a lot about testing during the time we spent in the Sinai wilderness on our trip. I learned several things from the trip that I thought might stimulate your thinking on testing.

  1. Should we pray to be tested or not? My first thought was always, No! I was always afraid if I got too serious about religion, God or the devil, one would start testing me. I didn’t want to willingly be asking to put myself in the wringer. I had a wrong concept of testing in the first place.The purpose of testing is to teach obedience. We should pray for obedience – “Lord help me to become more obedient,” and not worry about the rest. If we are serious about becoming a kingdom of priests, whatever God needs to do to accomplish our obedience to him, then let Him do it. Did the test he put me through show me where I need more work? Pain and suffering are not punishment; it is just part of the process of training. We have to change the concept in our mind to not think, “If I get serious, God is going to start testing me.”In conclusion, I am not saying we should pray to be tested, but pray that God would teach us to be obedient. God will do what He will as far as the testing is concerned.
  2. Are the tests we go through pass or fail tests? We may pass or fail, but that is not the important question. It is “How far along in the process are you”? How much progress have we made since we left the Red Sea? Testing is like training an athlete – “No pain, No gain.” When the Hebrew children came to Marah and they complained, did the pass or fail the test? They passed because they learned from the test. That’s testing, not pass or fail, but did you learn? We are to be like an athlete who has been in training in practice and wants to get on the field to see how far we has progressed.
  3. Why did Jesus have to be tested? Was his testing a pass or fail situation? Jesus was pushed to the limit to see if he was ready to go all the way with what God had for Him to accomplish. Heb 5:8 says that Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered. Just like Jesus, we are supposed to learn to be obedient through the tests he puts us through.

To summarize, testing puts you in a position to see how far you will go! The situations we are put in are often illogical, irrational and even unnecessary from our perspective, just to see how far we will go; to see if our heart is in it 100%. God is asking,”Are you ready to go to the wall for me or not”? God walked the Israelites till they were ready to die of thirst and then gave them bitter water. He had them so hungry that they didn’t think they could go any farther, then gave them a subsistence diet of manna – just enough for ever day. He tests our commitment. Are we ready to follow him all the way, even if it’s on a subsistence basis? My question to myself and to you is,” How are you doing on the tests”?