Who doesn’t want God’s best? Understanding the example of Israel in the wilderness regarding seeking and walking in the will of God is vital to having a truly blessed and eternally rewarding life in the Lord.
Two companion verses dealing with the same experience of God’s children in the wilderness were brought to my attention recently. They illustrate two (2) very specific reasons why many, if not most, Christians do not enjoy the full assurance and blessing of having God’s leading, i.e., His directive will, for their life.
1. They “limit” God.
“How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.”
Psalm 78:40, 41
When they reached points in the journey God had laid out for them that didn’t suit them, God’s children complained, murmured and invariably challenged the Lord’s wisdom and rule over their life. Their lack of faith, contentment and submission to His greater wisdom was manifested in their “limiting” God’s work on their behalf, i.e., dictating to Him rather than following His lead. Consequently, He couldn’t do for them what He desired to do for them. In seeking what they thought would be best for them, they actually rejected God’s perfect leading with its attendant blessings, i.e., what was truly best for them.
The word translated “limited” in the King James Version is derived from a Hebrew word that means to “mark out” or “imprint.” John Gill in his 19th century commentary elaborates:
“limited the Holy One of Israel; or "signed" him; signed him with a sign … they tempted him by asking a sign of him … insisting that a miracle be wrought, by which it might be known whether the Lord was among them or not, … or they set bounds to his power and goodness, saying, this he could do, and the other he could not; … so men limit the Lord when they fix on a blessing they would have, even that, and not another; and the measure of it, to what degree it should be bestowed on them, as well as set the time when they would have it; whereas the blessing itself, and the degree of it, and the time of giving it, should be all left with the Lord; who knows which and what of it is most convenient for us, and when is the best time to bestow it on us.”
Have you limited God? Do you fixate on a certain blessing, something that you think would be “just perfect” for your life when, in fact, only the Lord truly knows what is best for you? Do you limit Him by saying, consciously or unconsciously, “This must be the Lord’s will” or “That couldn’t possibly be the Lord’s will”? When you fail to truly submit to His sovereignty in your life, fail to truly say “Thy will, not mine, be done,” you limit what God can do for you. You limit your own blessing.
2. They do not truly seek and wait for His counsel, i.e., for His will to be revealed to them.
“They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:13-15
Again I will let Gill elaborate:
“They waited not for his counsel; they did not ask counsel of God, though it belongs to him, and he is wonderful in it, and does all things after the counsel of his own will; nor would they take it when given by Moses and Joshua; they did not choose to wait his time and way of working; they were for limiting the Holy One of Israel to their time and way; they were for being in the land of Canaan before his time; and were for eating flesh, when it was his counsel to feed on manna he provided for them every day.”
How often the Christian prays, “Lord, give me your will….” then straightway sets off to seek his own. It seems that, to some, seeking the direction of the Lord, the counsel of Omniscience, is more form than substance. It’s as if including the words “the Lord’s will” or “the will of God” in a prayer is sufficient. However, actually waiting patiently for Him to reveal just what His will is seems to be a foreign concept to most.
Why so? Perhaps because the Christian doesn’t truly believe that the Lord has a directive, a specific will for his life. How sad to believe that the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Creator of all submits His perfect wisdom to the fallible wisdom of the creature. How sad to believe that our Lord, our Shepherd does not have a plan in which His glory is best served. That is, after all, what we are saved for, isn’t it, to glorify Him in ALL things?
Or perhaps it is because the Christian does believe that the Lord has a specific will for his life, but he’s afraid, consciously or unconsciously, that it may not be what he truly desires. Consequently, why wait for God’s specific direction when he knows what he wants, what he desires, what he deems is best for him? After all, God gave him a brain, right? Why not depend on it? Oh yes,
“…lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
Well, God gave him experience, right? Why not lean on this? Oh yes,
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25)
Well, the Lord gave him a heart, right? Why not trust it? Oh yes,
“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool:….” (Proverbs 28:26)
God’s word is very powerful when we don’t use it to justify our own thinking, when we let it speak for itself, isn’t it?
For their spiritual education, and according to His divine providence, God often allows His children to have what they desire. In this case Israel didn’t want the heavenly manna the Lord was graciously providing for them. They wanted meat of their own choosing instead, so He gave them their own will. I’m sure that at that moment they thought that “their prayers were answered.” However, appearance is not always reality.
“He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea: And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations. So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; they were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel. For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.” Psalm 78:27-32
This is but one instance of God’s children’s lustful rebellion against the leading of their Lord, but it is not the exception. Rather, it is the rule. It clearly illustrates the true nature of man. He, that is to say, we, want our own way in our own time, and that often with very little consideration given to the ultimate cost.
God is not mocked. He demands and deserves all glory and obedience. He is longsuffering with us, but, ultimately, His will will be done!
The soul that is not truly in subjection to his Lord may go through the motions of seeking his Master’s direction for his life, but, all too often, it is mere form: lip service. On the other hand, the sincere saint who has an intimate relationship with his Lord in which he has learned that the Lord does “all things well” (Mark 7:37), indeed, that He “only doeth wondrous things” (Psalm 72:18), is perfectly content to both specifically seek His direction and then wait patiently for His specific leading for his life. In other words, he does not limit His omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving Heavenly Father.
Should anything less be expected of living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), purchased possessions (Ephesians 1:14), and spiritual sheep (Psalm 23:1, 2; John 10:3, 4)?
“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
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