Why Did they Want a Sign? (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 3)

Today’s study shifts focus onto our why questions, the first off being, why did the Pharisees & Sadducees want a sign from Jesus?

After doing the study on these men we can begin to draw up some conclusions…but while it is important for us to understand who these men where when asking why we are going to start by finding keywords in the text itself to draw out their motive in the moment. In the following scriptures I will bold italicize the keywords:

Matthew 16: 1-4:
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.2He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. (ESV)

Mark 8:11-13:
11The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. (ESV)

Well there we go, the reason why the Pharisees & Sadducees were asking Jesus for a sign was out of an argumentative spirit and in order to test him. This confirms what we learned from our profile study on these men.

Testing God
It is common to hear that we should not test God and we know that Jesus was God in the flesh so what the Pharisees and Sadducees were doing was wrong…but what does that mean, to test God? Let’s find out so we can better understand this sin and be able to recognize any markers of it in our own life! Again, let’s turn to the concordance and look up the word “test”. This takes us all the way back to Exodus!

Exodus 17:2-7:
All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (ESV)

Amplified Bible Comparison
Exodus 17:2:
Therefore, the people contended with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said to them, Why do you find fault with me? Why do you tempt the Lord and try His patience?

Exodus 17:7
He called the place Massah [proof ] and Meribah [contention] because of the faultfinding of the Israelites and because they tempted and tried the patience of the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not?

Well here is the first record of people testing God, they did not trust Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will Provide) for their provision of water even though he had just miraculously provided manna from heaven for them in chapter 16! Instead of humbly seeking His provision and trusting him they broke out in fights with Moses, contending with him, ready to even stone him and most seriously they questioned God.

Key “take aways” the Israelites testing of God was accompanied by:

  • a lack of reverence
  • a lack of humility
  • a lack of trust in God as their provider
  • a lack of faith in God to provide
These heart issues led to them:
  • complaining/grumbling
  • quarreling/contention/faultfinding
    – quarreling: have an angry argument or disagreement
    – contention: a heated disagreement
  • questioning God

Pause and meditate on that, are there any areas in your life where any of these characteristics show up?

As we continue diving into scripture we find our selves in the book of Deuteronomy, one of my favorite books of the Bible! Deuteronomy is an account of Moses reminding the Israelites about their history after leaving Egypt and telling the Israelites God’s law before he dies and the Israelites pass into the Promise Land with Joshua. He warns them to carefully heed God’s law and to not add to it or to diminish it. When we get to chapter 6 something familiar pops up having just read the first part of Exodus chapter 17.

Deuteronomy 6:16
You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

Pretty black and white huh. Take a moment to read all of Deuteronomy 6 and jot down some take aways from this chapter as well. Isn’t it beautiful?

Some key “take aways” for learning what we should do (opposites from what we just saw in Exodus 2:2-7):

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Keep God’s Word on your heart.
  • Teach God’s Word diligently to your children and talk about His Word all the time and meditate on It.
  • Fear the Lord your God.
  • Serve only Him, no other gods.
  • Diligently keep God’s commandments and do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.

Oh and remember from part two of the Matthew 16:1-4 study we learned how we can truly worship and obey God keeping His Word at the forefront of our heart and minds in Romans 12-13 and Galatians 5!

Our last stop in studying what it means to test God brings us to a treasure in the book of Psalms. This chapter provides great descriptors and keywords which confirm and further specify for us the nature of a heart that tests the Lord.

Psalm 78:15-22
15He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16He made streams come out of the rock
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

17Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
19They spoke against God, saying,
Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?

21Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
22because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.

Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Israelites were eye witnesses to the manifestation of God’s glory and power in the forms of miracles here on earth. The Israelites saw the plagues in Egypt, they walked on dry land through the parted Red Sea, God fed them manna from heaven yet they still questioned God, “rebelling against the Most High in the desert”. Sad as it is, humanity is capable of witness signs and miracles and still lack faith and reverence towards God. We are capable of this, that is why it should be a habit to ask God to reveal to us our own faults, to recognize the seedlings and sprouts of sin and to be cleansed the power of His Word and Spirit on a daily basis!

From this chapter we can see from verse 22 that the underlying heart issue causing them to test God in their hearts was that they did not believe in God and did not trust in his saving power. This resulted in them rebelling against God, questioning His provision and His power, questioning Him. Speaking out against Him, demanding from God instead of humbly seeking Him as Jehovah Jireh. Again, we see  the Pharisees and Sadducees rejecting Christ (not believing in God) and his saving power. The religious leaders then questioned Christ by demanding from Him a sign instead of humbly repenting and trusting Jesus to be the Messiah.

Well we can clearly see this sin in the lives of the Old Testament Israelites in the lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but remember Christs’s warning to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees…let’s end today with a prayer:

dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your mercy and thank you for your provision. You are Jehovah Jireh – the self existing one – the Lord will provide. Please forgive us heavenly Father for when we do not trust in your provision or lack faith in You. Lord please create a desire in our hearts to meditate on your word and please open our eyes to recognize any lack of belief, any irreverence or rebellion that exists in our heart. Please convict us when we are tempted to demand instead of trusting in You. Heavenly Father please burden our hearts in any areas that we need to surrender to you. Lord thank you for Your truth. Thank You that you are the Light and that You illuminate our hearts and minds. Please transform us by the entire renewal of our minds and please help us to give up, to crucify the desires of our flesh today as a spiritual act of worship. Saturate us with your Spirit and humble us before you and before others.
in Jesus’ Name we pray amen

Next Time: Why did Jesus say No Except for the Sign of Jonah?

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