Limiting God

“Yes, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” Psalm 78:41

Asaph described the actions of the Israelites in Psalm 78 as “limiting the Holy One of Israel”.  What does it mean to “limit God”?   Are there limits to what God can do?

God is limited to His character.  He cannot sin.  He cannot lie.  And God has imposed certain limits on Himself, requiring certain actions from His creation before He will allow Himself to act.1 In this sense, we limit God through our actions, according to the limits He sets for Himself.

How then do we limit God? As we read the epistles, we find certain patterns and norms highlighting what God has made possible for a Christian in this life and in this world. To the extent that we are not living up to these standards, we are limiting God as to what He can do in our lives. And tragically, we limit the world’s perception of the God we profess by our shortcomings in these areas.

The first standard is the assurance of salvation, the confidence that our sins are forgiven.  Do we know God and feel His presence in an intimate and real sense? Are we absolutely certain of His love for us, and that we are joint heirs with Christ?  If there is uncertainty about the marks of this assurance of our salvation, then we are limiting God.

Second, we are meant to be a rejoicing people. Do we rejoice in tribulation, even in the very midst of trials?  Can we proclaim these words, as did the prophet Habakkuk:

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”  ?  (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

If we are miserable Christians and are still turning back to the world for our happiness, then we are limiting God and all the glorious possibilities He holds out before us.

Third, we are to delight in God and His commandments.  His commandments are not grievous (I John 5:4), because they are light and life to us, where the alternative is only darkness.  Filled with grumbling and complaining, the Israelites in the wilderness envied other nations and murmured against God and His commands. But God meant for us to enjoy His Word and His laws.  The psalmist declared his love for God’s law, and yet we as Christians are in a superior position than the psalmist because we share in the fullness of Christ. Do we find God’s commandments grievous?  If we consider our Christianity as merely a matter of duty, then we are limiting God.

Fourth, we are to enjoy the peace of God.  The Israelites were unhappy, restless and confused, not allowing God to give them His comfort and peace.  If we are in a true, loving relationship with God, we can know this peace that cannot be disturbed.  Not knowing this peace as a reality is to put a limit to what God has made available to us.

Finally, we are to rest in Him and in His all-sufficiency.  The apostle Paul learned in whatsoever state he was, to be content.  Is this our experience? Do we know Christ to be our all-sufficiency, that we can do all things through Him?  Do we know something about days of heaven upon earth, how it feels to have God in our midst?  If not, then we are limiting His power and His grace to have full reign in our lives.

All of these things are available and made possible for us through Christ. If we have come short of any of these ideals, we need to repent and run back to God the soonest we can:  to open our hearts, believe His promises,  to ask and expect great things from Him, for the enrichment of our souls, and for His glory.

*** 1 Martin G. Collins, Sermon: Limiting the Holy One of Israel Part 1: Examining Ourselves by God’s Standards

*** Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Sermon: Limiting God

*** Photograph: Stairs to the Sea by Queralt  jqmj @Flickr cc

28 thoughts on “Limiting God

  1. This post was wonderful! So very clear and so well written! Surely you were a sweet, sweet fragrance to the Lord God today. I know He wants us to give Him free reign. I can not believe how many years I wasted in locking Him in a closet! But He says He will restore the years the locusts ate. I am counting on that. I have also asked Him to make sure that all those people He brought into my path that I did NOT share His Good News with heard it from someone else. Because most of my life I spent falling down on the job. I thank Him for His incredible patience with me and His loving kindness and compassion in bringing me to the relationship and understand that I have today-which is not even half of what it will be next year or the next if He delays His coming!
    To think that we only have to reach out and there is God-waiting on us to just reach out! Blows my mind! Oh how I want to take all those I have spoken with who did not make a decision for the Lord and shake ’em up good and put their noses in the Word. But like Mama said you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. So true!
    Blessed be.

  2. Dee, I love this. God is love, and the minute we try to define either, we limit both! We lessen ourselves when we attempt to fit either into our simple human perspectives. Thank you for yet another gracious reminder of truth! ~ Love, Bobbie

  3. A fruitful teaching! I am so grateful for this reminder. We are human and God knows…we can wander off tractk. So I thank God for YOU and God bless you in every way today. Tthank you for this wonderful reminder of who we are in Him — a saved, rejoicing, trusting, obedient, and peace-filled and 100% blessed family! Amen to this tremendous exhortation

    • yea Susan! I just loved your praise to Him! If I could just sit at my computer and read praises and praise blogs all day, I think I would be in heaven! But God has work for me to do, so I can’t, but this word from you has certainly pumped me up when I have a couple more hours of work. I am sure that whoever God brings to me to speak with is going to be blessed because of it…cause I was dragging!
      thank you, Susan.

    • Thank you for considering me for this nomination! Please allow me some time to put this up. Catching up with me — I also have a couple of others I still have not attended to! God bless you richly and indeed it is an honor to be considered for this blog award.

      • you deserve the award. your posts whether poem or prose are always so beautiful, so uplifting!
        We ALL need that! Susan gave me the uplift from her response to you earlier. It is all of us coming together to praise the Lord God. You know if there were a way that we who share and follow could all come together at one time and at once praise God/Jesus Christ His Son/and the Holy Spirit Who was and IS and IS to Come-Can you imagine what might happen all over the world? I think this is a totally neat and God idea! because I never have good ideas! so all you techies out there let’s talk about how we could accomplish this and spread the word that we want to do something like this. Lets build excitement and anticipation over an event like this that could literally change the world! Because HE alone is worthy to be praised. And I will praised Him thought He slay me. I will praise Him in the mountain tops and in the valleys. Praise Him , Praise Him, Praise. Him.

        there are so many out there that would join with all of us!! let us know what you think!!!!!!

        • Thank you so much, Cindy. Yes, I think what you shared is a great idea, but will need a lot of support from techies, requires tremendous planning, and of course, to be carried out as the Holy Spirit leads. It’s exciting, though, just to think about it!

  4. Wonderful post, Dee. However, I have to admit that reading this reminds me that I am a work-in-progress, as I fail too often in all five areas. Probably the toughest is having the outlook shown by Habbakkuk, not that is something to truly aspire to!

    • As I shared these five areas from the sermons referenced below, I felt very much the same way, as you, Ken, that I often fail in all of these ideals that are available to us as Christians. I was reading the book of Job yesterday and marveled at his attitude towards God in spite of the devastations he experienced in life. But praise God for Jesus Christ who died for us in our weaknesses, and that it is no longer us, but Christ lives in us, and it is He who overcomes.

      • Dee, if you don’t mind, I am going to put my 2 cents worth in as you brought up Job. I often get asked if I read that book regularly and do I feel like Job? What I have been learning is that God is only concerned with our growing in Him. That requires Him to be constantly pruning, weeding out, refining us through the fire to make us like Him. This is a very painful process and He uses whatever is necessary to take a person through it. I am rather stubborn and blind too, so instead of a light touch or a feather, He had to strip me down naked. I had to just about lose everything including my life to understand what He was about. I kept asking when am I going to get out of this desert I am in…but I have found I will not be completed-that is the work He began in me-until I see Him. So I am learning to be content in the desert or wherever I am, doing whatever He has for me to do. It is amazing, but it is an easier way to live!

        • That is absolutely beautiful, how you describe how your experience with the Lord. Indeed, we are all “works-in-progress” and we will not be perfected until we see Him face-to-face. He is the author and finisher of our faith! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Cindy! It is such a blessing!

          • thanks for allowing my input. sometimes it is just so clear how someone’s question could be answered by my life and what I have learned. Better for me to share and hope they are open to learning that way vs going through it themselves!! I wish I had listened to my mom a lot more!

  5. Thank you for your time today. My spirit resonates fully with your post here. The Lord has shown me that our hearts can never be broken, only discovered -which can hurt like hell.
    Grace and Peace to you Today.

    • Likewise, thank you for visiting my blog and for your time. I am glad that the post speaks to your spirit, and your spirit resonates with it. That is a new insight you are sharing with me — that our hearts can never be broken, only discovered. In spite of the pain of discovery, this truth indeed sets us free. Blessings and Peace be unto you.

  6. Dee, This is beautiful! God is also a gentleman and limits Himself to our wishes as well. In that we are limiting ourselves as the Israelites limited their blessings by not possessing the promised land to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. I need to ask myself how I am limiting God. Thank you for this striking post. Grace, peace and joy to you and your family. Karen

  7. Pingback: Limiting God « lilies, sparrows and grass « sharin' His love

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