Can you help me understand the scripture God will not tempt us with evil? I’m only asking because He used evil to temp Ahab in the scripture.
The question here relates to the event in 1 Kings 22, where God uses a lying spirit to deceive Ahab. In contrast, James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” When we look at these two passages, James 1:13 says, “God tempts no one.” But looking at the events in 1 Kings 22, we see that God uses an evil spirit to deceive Ahab. How can we reconcile these two events?
Let us begin by looking at the surrounding passages in the book of James to help us understand the difference. James 1:13-15 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Notice the beginning of temptation is when someone is lured and enticed by his own desire. This desire then gives birth to sin and brings forth death. So first and foremost, temptation and sin can be birthed from one’s wicked desires and thereby become tempted. This is fleshly temptation. On the other hand, we can also be tempted by Satan. Jesus Himself was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1).
In the case of the event in 1 Kings 22 where God uses an evil spirit to deceive king Ahab, we see that it was used as a means of judgment. It is essential to understand that God is never the one who “tempts” someone, but God gives people over to deception as a means of judgment due to the hardness of one’s heart and their continuous rejection of God and His precepts. When God spoke to king Ahab through Miciah, the prophet, Ahab did not listen to the word of God nor obey it. He kept rejecting God’s accurate word, and instead, he fed his ego and continued to listen to the false prophets. He loved the lie rather than the truth.
So God eventually gives Ahab up to judgment fitting his deeds. Psalms 5:10 says, “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.” Because Ahab loved the lie rather than the truth, God “gave him up” to be deceived by a lying spirit. Again, note that “God tempts no one“, but God gives us up to particular circumstances as a form of judgment for our continuous rejection and consequence of those actions.
This type of judgment is repeated throughout scripture because people love the lie rather than the truth. So God gives them up to their desires as judgment. For example, Romans 1:24,28 says, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,”. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Likewise, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 says, “and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
It is also essential to distinguish between testing and temptation in the Bible. Temptation is of the flesh and the devil, whereas “testing” is of God. James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The planned outcome of testing is that we may be perfected, complete, lacking in nothing, and our proven faithfulness. On the other hand, temptation is of Satan with the aim of our failure and destruction.
For a believer in Christ, we need to have a proper perspective of the situation. God uses testing to bring about spiritual growth and faithfulness for the glory of God through the period of testing. Satan can use those testing periods and turn them into temptations to bring us down. A great example of this is the Apostle Peter. Luke 22:31-32 says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
The Apostle Paul encourages believers in 1 Corinthians 10:13, saying, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
In conclusion, God tempts no one but will allow circumstances and situations to take place in one’s life as judgment for their continuous rejection of God and His word, giving them over to their own devices. On the other hand, there is a difference between temptation and testing. God brings circumstances in our lives to test our faithfulness and strengthen and establish us. We need to ensure that the test does not turn into the temptation of Satan. To do so, James 1:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Likewise, Mark 14:38 says, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”