The psalmist writes of Israel’s sin, “They tempted God in their heart” (Psalm 78:18). The Hebrew meaning of this phrase indicates that the Israelites were “tested beyond endurance.” This means they had no human means left to provide for themselves. When they came to this place, they believed God had abandoned them and was remaining silent and out of sight.
In short, this is what it means to tempt God. It happens when His chosen, blessed ones are placed in the fires of testing and their crisis keeps growing more intense until fear grips their hearts, and they cry out, “Lord, where are You? Where is my deliverance? Why aren’t You on the scene? Are You with me or not?"
It is impossible for an unsaved person to tempt the Lord since such a person does not acknowledge God in any area of his life. To him, everything that happens is either good luck or bad luck. Only those who are closest to the Lord can tempt Him, those who have seen His power, tasted His mercy and grace, and been called to walk by faith.
Even the righteous John the Baptist faced the kind of trial that can lead to tempting God. As he sat in prison, he must have wondered where God was in his situation. Word had come back to him of all the wonderful things Jesus was doing—healing people, performing miracles, drawing crowds who had once flocked to him. And now here he sat alone, awaiting execution.
John had known that he had to decrease so Christ could increase. But now the thought crossed his mind, “Decrease, yes, but death? Why do I have to die if Jesus is truly God? If He is performing all these wonders for others, why can’t He deliver me? Lord, this is all too much to endure.” (Remember, Christ had not yet removed the sting of death.)
The last words Jesus sent to John were incredibly significant: “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:6). Christ was telling this godly servant, “Don't be offended at me, John. You know I only do what I see and hear from the Father. He has a plan in all this, and He is worthy to be trusted. If He wanted Me to come and release you, you know I would be there in a moment. You can rest assured that whatever comes of this, it will be to His glory. And it will mean eternal glory for you!
“You are enduring your final test, John. Don’t let doubt rob you of your faith. Instead, rest in the Father’s love and faithfulness to you. You’re not being judged. On the contrary, you are greatly honored in His eyes. Just hold steady!”
I believe John did endure. When he was finally beheaded by Herod, he went home to glory full of faith and honor!