Sometimes God says “No”


February 14, 2022

This week’s reading is Deuteronomy 1-10. As Chapter 1:1 says, “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the desert east of the Jordan-that is, in the Arabah-opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab.”

During these first chapters, Moses reviews the Israelite’s time spent in the desert wandering. He also goes over the laws given by God. Moses is giving speeches to his people prior to entering into the promised land of Canaan, even though he would not be joining them. Moses had sinned against God in Numbers 20:9-13; 27:12-14, and God told him he would not be able to go into the promised land with the people.

During part of the Israelite’s travel, they were in the desert without water, and they were complaining. “Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

When I first looked at this passage, it did not seem like Moses did anything that would warrant such a stiff penalty. I mean, this is Moses, the man of great faith. God thought differently. Moses responded wrongly in 4 ways.

  1. Moses was angry with the people of Israel and called them rebels.
  2. Moses gave himself a lot of glory by making it look like he was involved in bringing water out of the rock, when it was all God. He said, “…must we bring you water out of this rock?” Moses was normally meek, but here he was trying to get the credit for something God was going to do.
  3. Moses disobeyed God. Instead of speaking to the rock to get the water to flow as God instructed, he struck the rock twice with his staff.
  4. Moses did not trust God. In verse 12 God said, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy…”

Because of the reasons above, God told Moses he could not enter the promised land. Moses prayed and pleaded with God. God said “no.” Moses said in Deuteronomy 3:23-26 says, “At that time I pleaded with the Lord: 24 “Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

26 But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

You see, even a great man of faith that was written about in the Bible got a “no” answer to prayer. There were other great men who heard a “no” when they prayed as well.

  1. David, who prayed for his child to live, but God said “no” (2 Samuel 12:14-17).
  2. Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his side multiple times and God said “no” (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
  3. Jesus’ disciples James and John asked Jesus if they could sit with him in his glory, one on the right and the other on the left. Jesus said, “no” (Mark 10:35-40).
  4. Jesus asked God, the night before he was crucified, to take away the cup he was to endure by hanging on a cross could be removed, but not by Jesus’ will but by God’s will. God said “no” (Matthew 26:39).

What about the scripture that says God will answer prayer? God always answers prayer. He may answer with “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” It can be difficult when we get the answer no or wait. But why would he say no or wait to a well-meaning prayer? There are many reasons, but here are a few of the reasons.

  1. God has greater plans or purpose. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” We cannot see the big picture but God can. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” We need to trust that God sees and knows everything and knows what is best for our lives. He may have something bigger or better in store for us in the future. Had Jesus not died on the cross for our sins, he would not be sitting a the right had of God, and we would not have the ability to live in eternity with God.
  2. God wants to increase your faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
  3. God wants us to glorify Him through humility. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says of the thorn in the flesh, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

These are just three reasons why our prayers are not answered. There are many. However, we may never know the reason. Ecclesiastes 11:5 says, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed[a] in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”

How do we handle God’s answer of “no.”

  1. We need to trust that everything God does is out love and goodness. Psalm 25:10 says, “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful…” and in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”
  2. We need to remember that God is sovereign. Isaiah 46:9-11 says, “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”

When God says “no” to our prayers, it can be painful. It can lead us to question God’s love for us. Even David stated in Psalm 77:9, “Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

We need to remember that God wants what is best for us and only he knows that. Matthew 7:9-11 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Are you praying right now for something and God is saying “no” or “wait”? I pray these principles will help you as you wait upon the Lord. Please let me know if you need prayer. It would be a privilege.

Next week’s reading is Deuteronomy 11-20.

References from sermons:

Rick Warren, Anitha Jabastion, article by Garrett Kell

2 thoughts on “Sometimes God says “No”

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