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 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 God. Deuteronomy 8:2-3
To humble and to test – those are key words in this week’s Torah reading.
Humility is vastly underrated and misunderstood in our contemporary society. A quick Google search of “improving confidence” came up with 9,580,000 results. Another search for “improving humility” only got 499,000 results. That speaks volumes.
Pride first appears in the Bible in Genesis 3, where the serpent, in a simple but deadly approach, uses pride as the avenue by which to seduce our first parents. He arrogantly contradicted what God had said to Eve about eating the forbidden fruit and charged God with lying. For the first time since she was created, Eve was introduced to the possibility of unbelief. By challenging what God had said, he aroused doubt in her mind about the integrity of God Himself. Seeing that she paused to consider his words, the serpent drew her into deeper deception by suggesting that God’s reason for ‘lying’ was to keep her from enjoying all the possibilities inherent in being Godlike.
The inclination to exalt ourselves and our opinions above our true state as God’s creatures lies at the heart of pride. Confusion produced deception and Eve began to look at the forbidden fruit in a new light. From there it was an easy step to rationalization and the erosion of her will to resist the serpent’s seduction. Weakened by doubt, seduced by pride, she opted for ‘independence’ and disobeyed God’s single command to her and Adam.
It was a test which she failed miserably with long lasting consequences.
We often fail to understand why God tests us. Most of the time tests come, not because of sin, but because of opportunity. God is looking to bless us but like a good Father, He looks for evidence that we are ready to handle whatever advancement He is wanting to give us. So the test is administered, much like a student who has been diligent in his studies is required to pass a test at the end of each course. How utterly foolish would it be for a college student to spend months in a particular course of study and to refuse to be tested at the end of it?
Life is God’s University of Holiness. As we make this journey through the days He allots to each of us, there are ‘tests’ along the way. They are carefully designed by our Father in heaven to be stepping-stones to a higher spiritual level, to a deeper relationship with Him. Each ‘test’ is uniquely crafted to address an attitude, an opinion or a pattern of behavior that is detrimental to our growth towards the ideal He set before us: ‘You shall be holy for I, the Lord your God, am holy.’ Leviticus 19:2 Each test is an opportunity to be reminded that we are not as ‘in control’ as we sometimes think; that there is a God in the heavens and He alone is Supreme and we are privileged to be His children.
There is no holiness without humility; there is no humility without testing.
Learning to handle the testings that come our way is at once simple but at the same time complex. The way was succinctly summarized by the prophet Isaiah:
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 How often is our mind ‘fixed’ more on worry and anxiety than on Him?
All of us have met people who seem to be pillars of inner serenity when faced with heart-wrenching tragedy. We admire them and marvel at what we consider their ‘strength’. More often than not, what we call their ‘strength’, is rather the evidence of their deep faith, a faith established in a humble spirit that acknowledges at all times the goodness of God and the righteousness of His ways, regardless of what is happening around them. These are the kind of people that inspire the rest of us.
The same prophet, Isaiah, also wrote: For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
To paraphrase, God dwells in the heaven of heavens and also with those who are of a humble spirit.
In Tune with Torah this week = tests are a part of life. We cannot escape them. The issue is how we react to them. Do we get angry or resentful towards God when difficult situations arise? As if to say ‘how dare God allow this to happen to me‘? That is the response of an ugly pride, of an attitude that thinks more highly of oneself than one should. We did not create ourselves and we live ‘by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’. My life – your life – day by day depends on Him. Let us be thankful for the gift of each day and walk through this life the way the prophet Micah instructed us: He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8