Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 24:10-14

10 And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.

11 And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.

12 And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.

13 Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:

14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

Abraham’s servant takes an impressive show of wealth with him, including ten camels and, as we will find out later, precious gifts and jewelry. He travels to Nahor, which was both the name of Abraham’s brother and his grandfather. So perhaps this city is named after one of these individuals. Perhaps the brother, given that his son Bethuel and grand-daughter Rebekah now live there.

And when the servant arrives at the outskirts of the city he comes up with a test. He petitions God, asking that the first woman to follow a certain procedure will also be the one who is meant to marry Isaac. The procedure is not random, though, it is a way meant to identify a good and worthy woman.

For starters he is looking for a woman who is diligently serving the needs of her household, coming down to the well to draw water. Then he is looking for one who is kind, willing to give water to him when he asks. Finally he is looking for one who is generous and industrious, who goes the extra mile by offering to also draw water for each of his camels. And while I’m not an expert on camels, it said that he brought ten of them, which sounds like an exorbitant amount of large animals to be drawing water for!

A woman who has each of these qualities would make a wonderful companion indeed, but then there would be the matter of whether she was an eligible member of Abraham’s kin. The servant’s prayer is that she would be.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Daniel 1:11-16

Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

COMMENTARY

I have previously discussed the impasse between Daniel and the prince of the eunuchs in this story, but also the devoted relationship that existed between them. Today I will consider the test that Daniel proposed to resolve their disagreement.

And as thou seest, deal with thy servants
I want to begin with the very tail end of Daniel’s proposal. This statement, ‘as thou seest, deal with thy servants’ is extremely submissive. If the prince allows for this test to run its course, then Daniel will abide by whatever decision that man makes, even if it is to not honor Daniel’s diet. No more argument from Daniel on the matter, no rebellion, the prince will have whatever he thinks is best.
And this shows that Daniel truly cares for the prince’s priorities, too. His reason for recommending a clean diet is not only because it is Daniel’s own preference, but also because it will fit the prince’s own interests better than the meat and wine. Daniel genuinely believes that the Lord’s law of health is the better solution for both of them.
So yes, Daniel is being submissive, but also extremely confident. The two are not mutually exclusive. Daniel can afford to be submissive because of his enormous confidence that God’s wisdom will be better than any prescription of man.

Prove thy servants, and give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat
Because at the end of the day, Daniel knows that he is in the right. Not just the right for being a good Hebrew, but the right for being the best and healthiest person that he can be, even in the qualities that the prince of the eunuchs is valuing.
It is important for us to recognize that when we are in the moral right it will be self-evident. Truth is self-proving. When we are established on true principles, then we do not have to argue to convince anyone of it. The only argument necessary is to have the other look at us, and it will be written into our faces, written into our demeanor, written into every part of who we are and what we do.

Calloused Hearts- Enos 1:2-5

And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.
Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.

COMMENTARY

And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God
My soul hungered
I cried unto him in mighty prayer
All the day long did I cry unto him
I did raise my voice high that it reached the heavens

Look at what powerful earnestness is in these verses from Enos. Look at how much he wanted this absolution from sin. Look at how long he worked before finding the voice of the Lord.
And he put in this much effort because that was how much effort it took. He didn’t put in only an hour, because he hadn’t found God yet after an hour. And he didn’t call it quits after a half day, because he hadn’t found God in half a day. He kept with it until he found his way through. And I am inclined to believe that God was not simply waiting for some arbitrary amount of time to elapse before reaching out, but rather He was simply waiting on Enos to be ready to receive Him. God spoke after a day because after a day Enos was in the right place.
So, too, when my own heart feels covered in moss and disconnected from God. If I want that connection restored I have to ask myself whether I am willing to pursue that connection for as far as it has to be pursued. Am I willing to ask for what I need to ask? Am I willing to give up what I need to give up? Am I willing to become what I need to become? And if the answers to any of those is “not yet,” then am I willing to keep wrestling with it until I am willing?

The Virtue of Remembering- Judges 6:12, 14, 17, 21-22, 25, 27

And the angel of the Lord appeared unto Gideon, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
And Gideon said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
Then the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight.
And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.

And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto Gideon, Throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:
Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night.

COMMENTARY

The Lord is with thee. Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel: have not I sent thee?
Shew me a sign that thou talkest with me
The entire account of Gideon, in Judges chapters 6-8, is well worth studying for how it shows the man moving from one great act to another, in each step being motivated by the remembrance of the last. Today I have shared snippets just from the very foundation of his campaign.
Here we see God calling Gideon to free the Israelites, and Gideon asking for an assurance which is granted. A small miracle occurs, and it is enough to convince Gideon of his holy calling. The memory of that moment will be fundamental for him moving forward.

And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto Gideon, Throw down the altar of Baal
Then did as the Lord had said unto him: and because he feared his father’s household he could not do it by day, that he did it by night
That very same night, when the memory of the holy encounter would still be fresh in Gideon’s mind, the Lord gives Gideon his first test. Gideon is motivated enough to carry out the task, though he is also still weighed by the fear of the people. He performs the deed in the dead of night when none can witness it, but he does do it.
This, I believe is a turning point for Gideon. Now he does not only have the memory of the angelic visitation, he also has the recollection of he, himself, acting for good, even when it was hard to do.
God uses this same pattern numerous times throughout the scriptures. David faces a lion before Goliath, and Goliath before leading a nation. Abraham is commanded to sacrifice the home of his birth before sacrificing his son. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego hold to their principles of diet before holding to their principles in the furnace.
God is very wise in this pattern of initiating us through a small test of faith. It isn’t just about building up our confidence in Him, it is building our confidence in ourselves. When we reach our hardest times we are preserved by two memories:
1) God is good
2) And so am I

Individual Trials- Uniquely Tested

Thus far we have defined trials only by a few categories that are very broad, because any attempt to limit the definition of trials to a few, specific situations is quickly refuted by the examples of the scriptures. Just consider how many different ways mankind has been tested in those records.

Noah was commanded to build a ship, Moses to lead a nation, Zerubbabel to rebuild a temple. Aaron contended with idolatry, Elijah with Baalism, Jesus with overzealous extensions to the law. Adam was commanded not to eat the fruit, Samson to never cut his hair, Lot to not look back at the destruction of a city. Abraham was required to sacrifice his son, Saul (later Paul) his misconception of theology, Joseph his country of origin. Esau chose between pottage and birthright, Solomon between two women that claimed to be a child’s mother, the Israelite mob between Jesus and Barabbas. David stood against a mighty giant, Gideon against a massive army, Jacob literally wrestled with God. Naaman obeyed the instruction to bathe in the river Jordan, the widow at Zarephath to feed the prophet her least meal, Ruth to lay at Boaz’s feet. Esther accepted the role of queen, Peter the leading of the church, Elisha the mantle of the prophet.

These are stories of people being put to the test. And not just any test, in each example the trial would become one of the defining moments in that person’s life, a critical junction that helped them decide who they would ultimately become. God knew just what circumstance they needed to bring out their true identity.

That each of these tests was so unique is a reflection on how unique we all are as well. The trial that is custom-designed to divide me right down the middle might have little effect on you. Or it might overwhelm you.

A friend of mine once said “no one else has had my trials. You weren’t overshadowed as a child by two ‘perfect’ sisters. And if you were, then you didn’t have that trial and lose your father while young. And if you did, then you didn’t have those trials and struggle with an addiction. And if you did have all of those trials, then you still didn’t have them the way that I did.”

Your trials are yours and yours alone, so take ownership of them. No one else has tasted them except for your Savior. You two are the experts here, the only ones that can find in them the person you were born to be.

Individual Trials- Hebrews 5:8-9, 1 Peter 1:7

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

COMMENTARY

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered
If our own Savior required trials to be educated in the ways of righteousness, how could we claim to not need them ourselves? But why did he require them, and why do we? What is the value that makes them essential to our mortal experience?

And being made perfect
The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold, though it be tried with fire
The passage from Hebrews continues to say that Jesus not only learned obedience by his trials, he even attained his perfection through them. Elsewhere, Peter calls to mind the oft-repeated analogy of our trials being like a refiner’s fire, whose purpose is to burn away all of the corrupted dross until only the pure metal remains.
We are all basically good, but that does not mean we are all perfectly good. Each of us is fundamentally flawed in one way or another. Or to put it in other words, our core is Godly, but it is encased in corruption. Each trial we endure, whether one of pain, pleasure, or nature, is an opportunity for us to scorch off a part of the corruption and bring forth the Godly. Each of these test will require a difficult denial of self, each will be a humbling process. But this is the way that the God or Goddess within us rises.

Individual Trials- Deuteronomy 30:19, Joshua 24:15

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

COMMENTARY

I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life
Choose you this day whom ye will serve
Yesterday we observed how the most common trial God places before us is the trial of our own nature. But the war with ourselves is certainly not some singular event, rather it is broken up into many skirmishes spread throughout each day. Therefore the trial of our nature is further divided into the trials of our individual choices.
Some daily decisions are made easily, but even if we dismiss all of these, there yet remain numerous times where we want one thing, but our conscience wants another. Each one of those is a trial. They might seem like small ones, but each one is a question from God that asks “will you choose Me, or will you choose you?”
That realization has aided me greatly when my small, daily trials come to bear. It is so much harder to deny God when I consciously know that that’s what I’m doing.

Individual Trials- Exodus 32:1, 7-8, 21-22

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.

COMMENTARY

They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them
Thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief
We have previously examined that God tests His people with afflictions, but also with blessings. This is not all, though. Of all the ways that we are tested, perhaps the most prominent method is that of being tested by our own nature. Each one of us has our predisposition for sin. Some of us are drawn towards the bottle. Others are firm teetotalers, but then are drawn towards pride. Others are well able to remain humble, but fall prey to their lust. Doesn’t matter what it is, we all have our Achilles’ heel.
Throughout the scriptures we see people that are called to become something more than what they were, but are then tempted to slip back into their old nature. As we see in these passages from Exodus 32, the newly-freed Israelites struggled to cleave to God. Many times they turned back to their idols. In Numbers 22-24 Balaam was convinced by God to pronounce a blessing upon the Israelites, but then in Numbers 31 we learn that he went back and taught the Midianites how to corrupt the Israelites. In John 21 Peter returned to the provincial life of fishing, rather than answer the call to lead the church.
Yes we do have extraneous forces that tempt and try us, but by and large the old adage is true: we are our own worst enemy. The path to exaltation is attained less by powering through intense moments of adversity and blessing, and more by consistently looking ourselves in the mirror and choosing the better part.

Individual Trials- 1 Kings 3:13-14, 11:9-11

And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,
And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded.
Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.

COMMENTARY

And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour
If thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments
Many of us think of trials as being forms of adversity in our lives. But as seen with the story of Solomon, they can also come in the blessings that are given to us. God gave Solomon great blessings: wisdom, riches, and honor. These were given to him with a charge, that he remain ever faithful.
At first Solomon performed the Lord’s will, and prospered greatly because of it. The initial blessings increased, and he became a most powerful sovereign.

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God
But of course, in time Solomon’s heart turned. His great wealth and influence introduced him to strange wives, and they seduced him into idolatry. His very blessings proved to be his own undoing, and thus we see how those blessings were the trial of his soul.
Perhaps we wish that we could be tempted with riches and power like Solomon, instead of with pain and loss. But in the end, the outcome is the same. Either we are saved by our trials or we are broken by them. Either our soul is exalted, or it is lost. Whether we achieved that culmination by worldly pain or pleasure makes little difference in the eternal perspective.

Individual Trials- Question

A word that we commonly use in Christianity is “trials.” By this we mean the times that we are tested to see if we will remain faithful or not. This word typically has a negative connotation, being used to express an unpleasant, yet necessary process.

Trials are different from consequences, in that they are actively put on us by another, not because we did something wrong and are just reaping the natural result of that. Usually those that mention trials are discussing some form of illness, persecution, doubt, or even death.

But I do believe that the tests we are subjected to in Earth life are much broader than just that one category of “affliction.” Trials can take the form of inherent weaknesses and personality traits. Trials can take the form of being given a choice, where we are tempted by that which is easy but wrong. Trials can even take the form of receiving a blessing.

I would like to examine all these different ways of experiencing a trial, how each tests us in its own manner, and how each is meant to help us develop into the person we were born to be. In the meantime I am curious to hear how you have been able to gain a healthy appreciation for trials in your own life. In what ways have they reassured you that your life is following a plan? In what ways have you come to know yourself better through them?