Meditating on the Will of God: 21: God who says, “No!”
Deut 32:50-52 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”
In a previous meditation we pointed out that the Bible declares that God is perfect, i.e. could not be improved upon, and His wisdom is perfect and therefore nothing He ever says or does can be improved upon. We have also observed that as the Creator He designed all things to work to their very best, and it was only the Fall, brought about by Sin to have effect on the whole of creation, that changed that – yet God still does what is best for us and for Creation.
What this suggests is that when, particularly in the Old Testament, we come across difficult things happening, we need to remember what we have just said about God’s perfection and ask for wisdom and understanding, to be able to see what is happening, what is behind the surface actions.
In our verses above, Moses is reminding the Israelites what has happened to them thus far – and that includes what has happened to him, and what effects or consequences the past will have on the future. For him (see Num 20:6-13) there had been a time when the Lord had instructed him to provide water from a rock for the grumbling people and instead of gracefully getting on with it, he spoke harshly to the people and acted out of anger as he brought the water. For this, the Lord had said he would die before he entered the Promised Land.
So let’s look more widely at this. Moses by now was 120. That is a good age! He must be approaching the time when it is time to go to heaven anyway. Heaven is going to be his destiny anyway, so he is not losing anything except perhaps a few years. He has a younger protégé, Joshua, who is able to lead the people and Moses, at his age, is not the best person to be an army General. But the big issue, and you cannot avoid it, is that Moses got it wrong before the Lord and yet he was in a most unique position that had such high demands upon it – he was to represent God. Throughout the Old Testament it is clear that Israel’s role was to represent the Lord, to reveal Him to the world, to be a light to the Gentiles (Isa 42:6, 49:6). In this they failed again and again and were disciplined. The most important thing for Moses was that he accurately represented the Lord. By taking him home early the Lord is making an example of him and creating a warning – there is no room for misrepresentation in ministry. No, you will not enter the land.
This is what is at the heart of the beginning of the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Ex 20:2-5) He had revealed Himself to Israel in a most amazing way in delivering them out of Egypt. He had shown Himself to be the One Almighty, all-powerful Lord of all. An idol could not possibly represent him and no other of the world’s idols or ‘gods’ could possibly compare with Him. The all-important thing is for the world to see Him and know Him as He truly is. No, you will not misrepresent me by making ‘things’ to represent me!
Of course we find negative commands all over the place and the Ten Commandments were full of them – you shall NOT misuse the name of the Lord, work on the Sabbath, murder, commit adultery, steal; give false testimony or covet. These are all behaviours that run contrary to the way God has designed us and we ignore them at our peril. For the Christian the formula “you shall not” is replaced by “put to death” (e.g. Col 3:5) and similar language, but there are still things that should not be in our lives and which are contrary to God’s will for us.
But the biggest challenge for us is how we represent God. One has to say on the basis of the way the media so often portray vicars, we do not represent God well at all. Perhaps if we conveyed to the world a people full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control; (Gal 5:22,23) it might be different. If we bought the revelation and power of God perhaps it would be different.
We find a similar ‘no, restriction’ being imposed upon king David. He had a palace and felt settled and wanted to build a temple for the Lord but the Lord said, No: “David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. But this word of the LORD came to me: `You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name.” (1 Chon 22:7-10) David’s heart had been good but he was tainted with blood from the past and so it fell to Solomon to build the Temple. There are times when our past disqualifies us (even as Christians) from certain things for the future. Our destiny in heaven will not be affected but sometimes I believe, as with David, there are things from the past which still impact us in the present and thus the Lord has to say no. But if that is so, it is because He knows that this will not be the best for us – or for His name.
So remember, “No,” is part of God’s vocabulary and when He says it is always for the best, both to bless us and to glorify His name in some way that may not be clear to us at the present. Remember this also, from the above examples, if the Lord does say no to something then He will also give a reason for it. More often than not he will say yes, but when He does say no, it is always for a good reason. And to close, I believe there are times when the Lord says no to us because in His love and foreknowledge He knows that we would not be able to handle the thing we are asking for and it could have disastrous effects in our lives, and He loves us too much to let it happen. That needs pondering on.