When God Says "NO"
One of the things I remember clearly from my childhood is my immense dislike for the word "NO"! When my mother and father said "NO" to one of my requests and desires, I felt they were mean and non-understanding of my wants and needs. How could they so quickly come to use that word "NO", which I believe nobody wants to hear? We all have a fallen nature that we are all born with thanks to Adam's and Eve's fall in the garden. We are all born with an insatiable desire to have our own way because we are all born self-absorbed! We want things to go our way and do not want anyone to come in and say "NO" to our desires no matter how foolish those desires may be.
When I became a parent, I was now using the "NO" word to my children. I learned that there are times when the word "NO" is a very necessary and important word. It is used to prevent harm and to shape character! The parent has experienced and seen things that their children cannot see or understand. Godly wisdom from the Holy Spirit and Scriptures can use this word "NO" for God's purpose and glory. "NO" is a particularly important word when it comes from God to keep us from danger; lead us to important life changes; prevent harm; shape character; and benefit others!
We the true church of God (truly regenerated souls) have been given the ability to come to God's throne of grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We can seek our great high priest, Jesus Christ, who is interceding for us day and night. We can pray and fast and ask Him to move on our behalf. He can answer several ways -- but He always answers! He can say "Yes"; "Not now", or "NO". No matter which way He answers us, His answers are always holy, righteous, wise, and just, because He is holy, righteous, wise, and just. We may not like the answer; but we can be sure that God has a purpose for His "NO" and "Not Now" answers.
The last year has provided some personal insight. One example is our own nation – America -- that went through a very trying time in the year 2020 with COVID 19, riots, burning cities, and charges of election fraud -- months rocked with much turmoil. Many Christians spent a lot of time in prayer and fasting for the country -- and many did not receive the answers they expected or wanted. Many are upset and despondent and wondering why God did not respond positively to their requests to Him in prayer. Many even prophesied about the elections; and they turned out to be false prophets! Why did God say "NO"? Is America under God's judgment? Is God trying to get the church's attention to sin in the camp? What does the Bible say? God's people are looking for answers.
Another example is my own personal battle with Stage IV Metastasized Melanoma – typically a death sentence. God, in His mercy, chose to heal my cancer through immunotherapy. While I have now been free of cancer for 16 months, I now suffer with severe side effect diseases caused by the immunotherapy treatments. One in particular gives me non-stop, chronic, off-the-charts full body itching which can also cause blistering of the skin. I have asked the Lord to heal this particular side effect (though there are still others), and so far, His answer has been "NO". Why does God not answer my prayer?
The Bible tells us that God's Word is written for our instruction – so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4). We also know that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness and for the equipping of God's people (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So, let us turn to both Old and New Testament examples to examine some of God's purposes and why He sometimes says "NO".
Moses in the wilderness disobeyed God's command to speak to the rock to get water from it. Instead, Moses in his anger struck the rock twice, and God judged him for it. Numbers 20:11-12
"Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Since you did not trust in Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, for that reason you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them." Because Moses did not treat God as holy in the sight of His people, God said "NO" to Moses entering the promised land. Later on, we see in Deuteronomy 32:48-50- "Now the Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, "Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel as a possession. Then you are to die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel." God said "NO" to Moses because God is showing us how important it is to be obedient to His instructions, to always treat and honor Him as holy, and to never take credit for what He alone does. God shares His glory with no one. Moses in his sin had surrendered to his anger towards the people and it cost him. It will cost us also. Why was this account written for our instruction? Because God is holy, and He is to be treated as holy. God said "NO" to teach us that He is HOLY, and we are to treat and honor Him as holy which is evidenced by our obedience to Him and His commands!
King David sinned against God when he blatantly broke God's law by coveting Uriah's wife-Bathsheba, committing adultery with her, carrying out the pre-meditated murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite, and then lying and covering up his sin. 2 Samuel 11:3-5- "So David sent servants and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers and had her brought, and when she came to him, he slept with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. But the woman conceived; so, she sent word and informed David, and said, "I am pregnant." 2 Samuel 11:14-15- "So, in the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. He had written in the letter the following: "Station Uriah on the front line of the fiercest battle and pull back from him, so that he may be struck and killed."
The Bible says our sins will find us out (Numbers 32:23) and so it happened to David! By doing such blatant evil in the sight of God, David's rebellion showed a complete disrespect for God and disregard for His Word. David wanted what he wanted when he wanted it – no matter what God said. His actions also provided an opportunity for the enemies of God to blaspheme. (2 Samuel 12:9-10, 14). Romans 2:23 tells us that we dishonor God when we blatantly break His law.
So then, Nathan the prophet comes and confronts David and his sin and speaks God's judgment and His grace on David. David immediately acknowledges (repents of) his sin before God, and God shows His amazing grace and mercy in that God will take away David's sin and he will not die for his sin (the penalty of sin is death-Romans 6:23). However, David will still incur consequences for his sin; and he will have judgment on his family and death to the son born from his adultery with Bathsheba. David then seeks God's mercy on this son. He prayed and fasted and lay on the ground all night long and would not eat. On the seventh day the child died, and they were afraid to tell David because they thought he would do harm to himself. David finds out and gets off the floor, goes washes and changes clothes and eats, and his servants could not understand why he changed so quickly! And they confront him. 2 Samuel 12:22-23- "And he (David) said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.' But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I am going to him, but he will not return to me." David prayed and fasted earnestly and sought God's mercy, but God still said "NO" to David's prayer and fasting! David understood that God is holy, righteous, and just and that he could trust God and His decrees. God forgave David of his sin, but in this situation, God did not remove the consequences for David's sin. So, sometimes God's "NO" is a consequence for sin. Remember that God is Holy and will be treated as Holy.
In the New Testament, we see that the Apostle Paul has some type of ailment which he calls "a thorn in his side. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9- "Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me -- to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
What a great example of why God says "NO" sometimes! Remember: This is Paul the great apostle who wrote two thirds of the New Testament! This is Paul who was suffering daily for the Gospel of Christ! He asks God THREE TIMES to remove this "thorn" and God says "NO"! FOUR TIMES Paul tells us that God said "NO" to keep him from exalting himself…to keep him from the egregious sin of PRIDE. Two wonderful gifts would be lost if God said yes to Paul on this subject: The power of Christ dwelling in him (because pride grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit), and unchecked pride (that destroys our witness and service to Christ). Here we see God's "NO" answer keeping Paul from the danger of pride and shaping his character into the image Christ. God was making sure that Paul would be wholly sanctified!
The most famous and important Scriptural "NO" was from God the Father to the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had finished His last Supper with His disciples and had gone to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray to His Father in heaven concerning the cross He was about to suffer. Luke 22:40-42- "Now when He arrived at the place, He said to them, "Pray that you do not come into temptation." And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." Jesus asked His father to remove the suffering – specifically the cup of God's wrath in judgment of man's sin -- that He was about to endure. But in His fervent prayers to His Father, He inserted the especially important "Your will not Mine" caveat! God's will for His Son is to suffer the cross: To have man's sin placed on Himself; To have the full wrath of God against that sin poured out on Himself; To pay the penalty of sin that was on man since Adam's fall; and To free man from the power of sin…so that he might die to sin and live to righteousness. Romans 6:23- "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." If there had been no cup of suffering and wrath, there would be no salvation!!! I am extremely glad that the Father said "NO" and that Jesus said "YES" and surrendered to the Father's "NO" so that those who believe in Him might live to the glory of God! Sometimes God says "NO" so that we can benefit others.
So, we have seen Biblical examples here of God saying "NO" to judge rebellion and sin; to lead us in holy living; to shape us more in the image of Christ; to keep us from pride and all the ways pride can harm our spiritual life and development; and to benefit others.
I used the example of 2020/America/COVID/elections and God's response to prayer concerning the election. For countless people, God said "NO". Why? Is America under God's judgment? Does God judge nations? Is there corporate judgment: In Deuteronomy 28:15-22 we see God judging the nation of Israel for abandoning Him and for not obeying Him. "However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees, I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking Him. The Lord will plague you with diseases until He has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish." You should read all of Deuteronomy 28 and you will see that these curses (judgments) are already on America and the nations of the world who are in all out rebellion against God. America has murdered over 60 million innocent babies in their mother's womb. America has openly flaunted all kinds of sexual perversion and has passed many laws contrary to God's holy laws -- many that legalize unrighteousness and criminalize righteousness. America's leaders speak blasphemy against the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He could destroy America completely today and be a holy and righteous God in so doing! There seems to be mounting evidence showing that America is under judgment from God for her open rebellion and sin that completely disrespects Him and disregards His Word.
God in His sovereignty and judgment can also say "NO" because He wants the church to wake up from her slumber and slothfulness. This presents the question, does God judge the church? The Bible states that judgment starts with the household of the Lord. 1 Peter 4:17- "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? Well, we can know that judgment will come on the "professing" church of our day. I say "professing" because many profess to be in Christ, but there is little to no evidence of the life and character of Christ in their lives. They do not proclaim or obey the one true God, His Word and His Gospel concerning His Son, Jesus. Many denominations have turned their back on Scripture and now preach a different God; a different Jesus; and teach heretical beliefs that they try to pass off as true doctrine. Many sins are often overlooked or even given hearty approval such as gossip, gluttony, covetousness, discontentment, unforgiveness, fornication, cohabitation, divorce (higher in the church that in the world), homosexuality, and abortion. Unrepentant sin in in the professing church is rampant in our day.
In addition, there is a "non-biblical gospel and Jesus" in the United States known as the "American Gospel". It is being spread like a cancer across the Christian churches in America. Galatians 1:6-8 "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Paul called this turning away from the one true God and His Word the great apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3). We see in Matthew 7 that MANY in the church will call Jesus Lord but are not truly saved and will be cast into hell. Matthew 7:21-23- "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. MANY will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" Sometimes God says "NO" because of Apostasy and His Name being blasphemed and also because of rebellious, blatant, unrepentant sin…including sin in his unrepentant "church" leaders. In the Old Testament, God started His judgement on Israel with His house (the Temple) and the elders. Ezekiel 9:6- "Utterly kill old men, young men, female virgins, little children, and women, but do not touch any person on whom is the mark; and you shall start from my sanctuary. So, they started with the elders who were before the temple. Sometimes God says "NO" because of unrepentant sin in His leaders!
So, we can see through the Scriptures that there are many reasons for God's "NO", but they all are based on God teaching His people that He is Holy, and He has called His people to be Holy. He says "NO" sometimes because of rebellion and sin which brings judgment. But in His great wisdom, grace and mercy, God also brings judgment to His people for repentance, cleansing and refreshing (Acts 3:19). God also says "NO" in order to move us along in our sanctification process – leading us to holy living and Christlike character. God sometimes says "NO" to humble us and to keep us from exalting ourselves! And as we gaze at the glory of our Savior, God also says "NO" in order to save souls and to be used by God to minister to others!
Truly, we do not know ALL the reasons for God's "NO" answers. I have learned so much through the physical sufferings brought on by cancer. Suffering draws us closer to God. When we have nowhere else to go but Him, His perfect love and skillful hands can bring us into a deeper relationship with Himself – one of greater trust…one where we acknowledge our weaknesses and rely on His infinite strength…one where He transforms us from the inside out into the image of His holy and beloved Son. Suffering also draws us closer to others. We have more compassion and care; we pray more; we listen more; we love God and others more.
The promise for those who love God – for those who have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus – is that ALL THINGS work together for good – for our eternal good. (Romans 8:28) WHAT A PROMISE! No matter the depth of the hurt and pain, we can trust and know that God is providentially working ALL THINGS together for His eternal, infinite good.
God's answers are "Yes", "Not Now" or "No"; but we can trust that His answers are always holy, righteous, wise, and just because He Himself is Holy, Righteous, Wise, and Just – and for these reasons, we can trust Him! Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen! (1 Timothy 1:17)