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  • Daniel Botkin

Limiting The Holy One of Israel


“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” (Ps. 78:40f).

Psalm 78 is a lengthy psalm of 72 verses. This psalm summarizes the history of Israel’s failings, with a special focus on the failings of the generation that came out of Egypt. The psalmist sums up the failings of that generation by saying “they limited the Holy One of Israel.”

All these grievous failings of God’s people happened in Moses’ generation. However, the opening words that introduce Psalm 78 show us that this record of miserable failings is recorded for the benefit of future generations.

“Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old” (Ps. 78:1f).


PARABLES AND DARK SAYINGS OF OLD

The events described in Psalm 78 happened in Moses’ generation, but they are more than just ancient history. The psalmist calls this psalm “a parable” and “dark sayings of old.” Parables and dark sayings of old contain lessons for all generations. These lessons will be lost on people who read these words as nothing more than a historical account of events that happened long ago. Yes, they are events that really happened, but these events must be viewed as a warning to us to not make the same mistakes that generation made. The psalmist says that these words are written for “the generation to come,” for “the children which should be born, who should arise and declare them to their children.” The psalmist says that the reason for passing on these stories is so that future generations “might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Ps. 78:6-8).

As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “Now all these things [the people’s failings in the wilderness] happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

Romans 15:4 says: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

The “learning” to which Paul refers is not just learning the historical facts; it is learning the lessons that these historical facts are meant to teach us. And the “hope” to which Paul refers includes the hope that we will not repeat the same mistakes which that generation made when they limited the Holy One of Israel.


LIMITING GOD BY QUESTIONING HIS ABILITY TO PROVIDE

When we read through Psalm 78, we see that the people in the wilderness limited God by questioning His ability to provide their needs. Notice all their questions. “Yea, they spake against God: they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? ... Can He give bread also? Can He provide flesh for His people?”

The psalmist recounts the ways that God took care of that generation in Egypt during the plagues, and at the Red Sea during the Exodus, and in the wilderness during the forty years of wandering. God’s provision for His people in the recent past should have given that generation assurance of God’s provision for their present and their future. If God took care of them in the recent past, why should they doubt His ability and His willingness to take care of them in the present and in the future?


YESHUA’S TEACHING ABOUT GOD’S PROVISION

In the New Testament, Yeshua/Jesus took this idea a step further by pointing out that God provides even for the birds and the plants. The fact that God feeds the fowls of the air and clothes the grass with lilies should give us the assurance that God will feed and clothe us, for surely God cares about us far more than He cares about birds and grass.

“Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:25-33).

I have testified many times about what happened to me the very first time I read those words. Immediately after reading this passage, I said to myself, “This is great! I’ll never again have to worry about money or material goods for the rest of my life!”

I was not even saved yet; I was just starting to count the cost. But even in my unsaved state, I knew I could depend on God to take care of me.

That was in the summer of 1970. Now, over 50 years later, I can still truthfully testify that I have never worried about money or material goods, not even during times when I was homeless and had no more than two or three dollars to my name. My life has been worry- free and carefree for over half a century, thanks to those wonderful words from the Son of God.


A LIBERATING SECRET

Don’t limit the Holy One of Israel by questioning His ability or His willingness to provide your financial and material needs.

“But Daniel, I want to get a new car, but God hasn’t provided the money I need to buy it.”

Let me tell you a secret. If God does not provide you with the money you need to buy a new car, or a new house, or some new toy that you want, you should simply consider that lack of provision as an indication that your heavenly Father does not want you to have that particular car, or house, or new toy, at least not right now. Maybe He will provide you with enough money to buy it later, but for now He does not want you to have it. And your heavenly Father knows what is best for you.

Viewing God’s lack of provision for non-essential material things in this way is very liberating. It frees you from slavery to mammon. It makes you thankful for the things you have, whether you are living in a small hut or in a big mansion. It enables you to do what the Bible says: “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” and “be content with such things as ye have” (1 Tim. 6:8 & Heb. 13:5).


LIMITING GOD BY QUESTIONING HIS ABILITY TO TRANSFORM YOU

The generation that came out of Egypt limited the Holy One of Israel not only by questioning His ability to provide their material needs. They also limited Him after they listened to the ten spies’ evil report of giants in the Promised Land.

“We be not able to go up against the people,” the spies said, “for they are stronger than we... and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Num. 13:31-33).

In response to this news, the people said, “Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Num. 14:4).

In effect they were questioning God’s ability to transform them from a band of defeated slaves into an army of victorious warriors.

In a similar way, you can limit the Holy One of Israel by questioning His ability to transform you from a weak, carnal person into a fruitful disciple.

Don’t believe the devil’s lie that you are destined to be a loser, destined to remain carnal, destined to remain bound to some sinful habit. Shake off those lies of Satan like Paul shook off that snake that attached itself to his hand when he was putting wood on a fire. Shake off the lies of Satan and let them fall into the fire and be consumed. Then let God begin to transform you by the renewing of your mind. This will happen as you continually focus on the Lord and prayerfully meditate on the Scriptures.


LIMITING GOD BY QUESTIONING HIS ABILITY TO TRANSFORM OTHERS

We can limit the Holy One of Israel not only by questioning His ability to transform us, but also by questioning His ability to transform others.

It is true that some people will never change. Some people are so rebellious and stubborn and apathetic about their spiritual state that they will remain spiritually barren their entire lives. They will never be transformed.

However, that is not due to God’s inability to transform them. God is able and willing to transform anyone who surrenders to His will. And we do not always know by external appearance who may or may not someday surrender their will to God. That is the reason we are not to judge people by what merely appears to be true.


JUDGING RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT

“Judge not according to the appearance,” Yeshua said, “but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

Judging people by only the outward appearance is easy to do. Even a true prophet can do this, as Samuel did when he erroneously assumed that Jesse’s eldest son was the one whom God had chosen to be anointed as king.

“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

Carnal Christians glom onto this verse and quote it in an effort to justify things like dressing immodestly, or getting tattoos or other forms of bodily mutilation. But God’s statement to Samuel has absolutely nothing to do with such things. In context, the point God was making could be summarized and paraphrased this way:

When judging who God is going to choose and use, do not base your judgment on what you see on the outside. Do not assume that God is always going to choose and use the person who is tall, good-looking, talented, well-educated, and dressed in fancy garments. God might reject that man, and use the guy who is short, fat, bald, untalented, uneducated, and dressed in plain clothing, because God looks at the heart when He decides who to choose and use for His glory.


JUDGING BY OUTWARD APPEARANCE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Some people in the New Testament were judged by their appearance. Some people looked at Simon Peter and saw a crude, impulsive fisherman who by his own admission was “a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). But Yeshua looked at Peter and saw a man who had the potential to be transformed into a fisher of men and an Apostle to whom the keys of the kingdom would be given.

Some people looked at Matthew and saw one of the hated tax collectors, Jews who worked for Rome, the enemy of Israel. But Yeshua looked at Matthew and saw a man who had the potential to be transformed into an Apostle who would write an account of the Gospel story.

Some people looked at Mary Magdalene and saw a woman who was possessed by seven devils. But Yeshua looked at her and saw a woman who had the potential to be transformed into a disciple who would be the first witness of the Resurrection and the first to tell the good news of the Resurrection.

Some people looked at the Samaritan woman at the well and saw a woman who had been married five times and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. But Yeshua looked at her and saw a woman who had the potential to be transformed into an evangelist to her people.

Those who misjudged these people limited the Holy One of Israel by judging according to the appearance. Yeshua did not judge by outward appearance. He judged righteous judgment because “He knew all men” and “He knew what was in man” (John 2:24f).


JUDGING BY OUTWARD APPEARANCE IN MODERN TIMES

It has always been easy to misjudge people by outward appearance. Now social media has made it even easier. Some people’s careers have been ruined by just one single careless Facebook post or tweet, even if it was posted years earlier, when they were young and foolish.

Even without social media it is easy to misjudge people by appearance - not just by how they are dressed, but by what appears to be true. For example:

Suppose you see a young man. He gets arrested for underage drinking and disorderly conduct at a party and is taken to the police station and locked in a jail cell. Later you see him buying, selling, and smoking marijuana. A year or so later you see him arrested again, this time for illegal use of a weapon. He is handcuffed, taken to the police station, and fingerprinted. Later you see him at a bar. The bartender refuses to sell him beer, so he loudly and crudely cusses out the bartender and shocks all the patrons at the bar.

If you judged this young man by the appearance of things, you might say, “It appears that this young man is bad news! It appears that he is far from God!”

There would be an element of truth in that judgment, but you would be looking only at the surface, only at what appears to be true. It is possible that things are happening in that young man’s life that you do not see. It is possible this young man is not as far away from God as he appears to be. It is possible he has been reading the Bible, praying to God, and has even done some fasting in an effort to draw near to God. It is possible he has been slowly but surely falling in love with Jesus and is soon going to give his heart to the Lord, and will eventually get into ministry work, go to Israel and study Hebrew, plant and lead a congregation, and travel and teach at Messianic gatherings. In this case, it is not only possible, it is true. That young man I just described was me.

Do not limit the Holy One of Israel by questioning His ability to provide, or His ability to transform saints into sinners and carnal Christians into fruitful disciples. Expect God to do great things in your life and in the lives of others, and He will do great things. He may not do everything exactly the way you expect, but He will do great things because He is a great God.


| DB

 

Image: Psalm 78 by Daniel Botkin from his Psurrealistic Psalms Gallery. Visit DanielBotkin.com to see this and all of Daniel’s artwork.

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