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

This psalm contains many instances of this. It is a painful thing to see even a bird or beast, made for freedom and longing after it, caged or chained or otherwise kept in captivity. Yet more is it distressing to see a man of noble aspiration, of lofty capacity, of patriotic spirit, and intent on doing good, get "cribbed, cabined, and confined" by petty prejudices, mean jealousies, base motives, and vile conduct, on the part of those around him; and often such a sight has been seen. And the cry of a soul awfully limited and bound down is heard in Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me," etc.? What barrier in the way of blessing do such limitings set up? But what must it be to limit God? How much more sad and deplorable that must be! Now -


1. But this may be questioned. It should seem impossible when we think of the greatness and power of God, of his universal sway, of his infinite wisdom, of the hurt and harm that must come of such conduct. All such considerations seem to render impossible the limiting of God.

2. But undoubtedly man can do this. For else he would be a mere machine, not a man; he would have no more volition than a tree or a bird. If he is to be able to say "Yes" to God, he must be able also to say "No." And he can and does. Scripture asserts it - see this whole psalm. God stood ready to bless, but Israel would have none of his counsel, and set at nought all his reproof. Reason asserts it, for it steadily affirms that we are free, and can will and choose as we please. Experience asserts it. Concerning nations, Churches, individuals, has not God again and again said, as Jesus did when he wept over Jerusalem, "How often would I have gathered thee... but ye would not!"? We read how in some places Christ could do no mighty works there because of their unbelief.


1. Very often in their prayers and desires. They insist too much upon definite blessings being given. They ask some temporal blessing - rain, or health, or the sparing of life, or it may be a spiritual blessing; but they limit God to definite time, manner, and means. And such prayers come to nothing, for they have asked amiss. And then men make a mock at prayer. We need to remember our Lord's words in Gethsemane, "Father, not my will, but," etc.

2. Yet more do we limit God in our thoughts. (See vers. 19, 20.) And all anxious care and foreboding is really a limiting of God. Hence Christ so forbade it (see Matthew 6.). How Jacob limited God when he cried, "All these things are against me"! We shall get help against this by heeding Paul's counsel (Philippians 4.), "Be careful for nothing, but," etc. But if foreboding care is guilty of this, yet more is despair, whether for ourselves or for others.

3. But most of all, and worst, our sins limit God. The Church at Laodicea kept the Lord outside her door. And how often we stand in our children's way, when God would bless them, by our worldliness and unbelief! We will not let God bless us or them. God would, but we would not. May the Lord pardon us every one, and save us from this sin! - S.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

WEB: They turned again and tempted God, and provoked the Holy One of Israel.

Limiting God
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