Hat tip to JewishAnswers.org
Question: In Numbers 14:22 it states our ancestors tested G-d ten times before the incident under discussion. What are those ten tests? Were the people testing G-d or does it mean they were failing His tests?
Answer: There are many lists made of the ten tests. A good place to look is any explanation of Pirkei Avos 5:6.
As to testing G-d, it is actually a prohibition in the Torah, though a rather unusual one. See Deuteronomy 6:16, “Don’t test G-d, as you tested him at Masah.”
This is part of a whole section of the Torah that is focused on our relationship with G-d.
“You should love G-d your Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.”
“These words should be upon your heart.”
“Be careful never to forget G-d [and all the ways He has cared for you].”
“You should go beyond the letter of the law with G-d (literally, do what’s straight and also what’s good), and it’ll be good for you, too…”
Not testing G-d is a part of that focus. When two people, let’s say, have a very close and loving relationship, one of them giving tests to the partner shows a lack of trust. “If you really love me, you’ll…”
It’s hurtful; it can harm the relationship. Two people who love one another are supposed to be focused on giving, not taking; on helping the other, not on making sure that they themselves can count on getting what they need. The same is true of G-d and Israel. It could have harmed our relationship with G-d when in the wilderness we kept saying, “We don’t know if you will give us water, or bread, or meat. We’re not sure if you’re going to help us conquer the land of Canaan. If you’re really our G-d, you need to do [such and such].”
Though it was wrong to test G-d, He did pass all the tests. What Israel did was hurtful, but G-d continued to love and care for them, and always to seek their good. And so He always continues to care for us.