The Doctrine of Testing • Judges 3:1-6
Judges 3:1-2, "Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; only that the generations of the sons of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof." Notice this, especially those who think that the Bible advocates pacifism. God is leaving these nations there so that the sons of Israel might have someone to train their military again. God is not against war. There are just wars and there are unjust wars, God is not a pacifist. God is not against war per se, it is only unjust war that violates His standards. War is necessary at times in order to preserve freedom, and freedom must be preserved in order to have stability and peace so that the gospel can go across international borders for people to be saved. It is in times when there is no freedom that the gospel cannot go forth.
Judges 3:3 lists the nations that are left: " … five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath."
Judges 3:4, "And they were to test Israel by them, to know whether they would listen unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses." This tells us that the purpose for testing is to discover whether or not we are going to apply what we learn.
The doctrine of testing
1) Definition: A test is any situation in life when the believer has the option of choosing between applying doctrine or using his own resources to solve the problem.
a) Any situation in life would include mundane every-day situations in life from how you drive to how you respond to someone at a check-out, a cashier at the local store, some telephone sales person who calls right in the middle of dinner, or responding to how politicians are handling situations, to the extreme disasters and adversities that we face. These can be pleasant situations, and it is the pleasant things that often distract us from taking in doctrine, or it may be an unpleasant situation of adversity. These situations involve people, family members, a spouse, children or parents, business associates, or people we don't even know such as someone else driving on the highway. It may involve system testing, all kinds of systems we work under—political, at work in terms of the structure of office politics, having to deal with a bureaucracy, etc. Thought is another category of testing. What is going on in our thinking? What is our mental attitude? Are we involved in mental attitude sins or are we rehearsing divine viewpoint and promises in our thinking? So any situation in life, then, is defined as any opportunity where you have to make a decision. It can be good, bad, mundane or extreme.
b) The phrase "when the believer has the option of choosing." This emphasizes the issue of volition. God created man with volition. What goes along with volition is personal responsibility. We are responsible for the decisions we make and we are accountable for those decisions and the consequences of those decisions. Volition emphasizes that it is your choice and your responsibility for making that choice, whether good or bad. Principle #1: Our lives are the result of the decisions that we make. We develop all sorts of habits as a result of decisions we make when we are very young, and yet, at that age we are not volitionally conscious, i.e. we are not fully aware that these decisions, habits, mental attitude patterns and practices may be extremely damaging over the long run. We don't understand the consequences and yet we have already made decisions and set a certain course for our lives at a very young age. Our lives are determined by the decisions we make, they are not determined by our environment, by the decisions that other people make, by the good or bad situations or circumstances that we find ourselves in that are beyond our control. Our lives are determined by the decisions we make in response to that environment, in response to the decisions others make that affect us, that are made in response to the good or bad situations that we find ourselves in. Principle # 2: We cannot blame the environment or others for our bad decisions. Principle # 3: We are always accountable for our decisions, even when we are not aware of all of the negative consequences of those decisions. Ignorance is no excuse.
c) The phrase "between applying doctrine or using our own resources." Principle #1: In any decision-making circumstance you are either operating in the sphere of divine viewpoint or the sphere of human viewpoint. All of Scripture presents one unified perspective on life which we call divine viewpoint. This presents God's values, criterion, God's way of thinking about everything. In 1 Corinthians 2:16 the Bible is called the mind of the thinking of Jesus Christ. This is divine viewpoint. In contrast to that there is human viewpoint which has another technical term called paganism. Paganism is not a pejorative term, it simply refers to those cultures, societies and thought forms that are not biblical. You either think biblically or you don't think biblically. Principle #2: From birth on the only options presented to us (before salvation) come from our sin nature. The only way you have to respond to life situations comes from your sin nature, either as human good or as personal sin. Because you are devoid of the Holy Spirit, because you are not regenerate, because you do not have any way to understand spiritual things and doctrine, then you cannot do anything other than that which is produced by your sin nature. Therefore it is all human good and all human viewpoint. The result of that is even though these solutions might work they are ultimately self-destructive. Proverbs says, "There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death [self-destructive]." The issue is not "does it work?" If you are a believer the goal is not to make ourselves functional, the goal is to become spiritually mature and to glorify God. We need to realize that the only way to make life a success in the long term, which means eternity, is to solve problems God's way. So the issue is not "does it work? does it make me functional? does it alleviate the pain? does it make me happy or feel good? The issue is, does it have eternal spiritual value? In some cases choosing the biblical option means that you are going to stay in a difficult situation and endure suffering and hardship. Choosing the human viewpoint solution means that you escape the problem temporarily but eventually it will come back to haunt you. Principle #3: Our "own resources" means that mankind has developed many different techniques to handle problems. Many of them work, many of them temporarily alleviate the problem and make us feel better, but they do not ultimately solve the problem. The issue in testing is whether we are going to rely on human resources or on divine resources which are the ten problem-solving devices (stress-busters) which we have discussed, and whether or not we are going to rely on God's solution which is the only solution.