Have you thought about how you are responding to God’s blessings, commands, instructions and provision? Are you even aware of all that He has done for you and continues to do for you daily? If your response to God is anything other than “yes” and “amen” or immediate action to do what He said do, then you are in active disobedience. Though you risk angering God, you will not thwart His plans. More than likely, you will only make your life more difficult as you attempt to avoid God or dissuade Him from His course.
You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? As surely as God is faithful, my word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” He always does what He says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:17-20 NLT
There are many great stories in the Bible of people who tried to tell God “no”. They didn’t come out and say, “No, God, I can’t help you with your plan.” Or “No, God, I’m not interested in what you’re suggesting I do.” Or “No, God, that doesn’t work for me.” No, the savvy people of the Bible didn’t come right out and say that they didn’t want to do what God wanted them to do, just like many readers of the Bible may not consciously say “no” to God. Instead, their “no” takes the form of an excuse, a suggestion that God landed on the wrong person for the proposed assignment. The implication is that if God knew what He was doing He wouldn’t have asked them to do what He asked them to do.
Below we explore popular conversations in the Bible where people have used words and actions to reject God’s plan. After the “naysayers” we explore some “yes, I can’s” – those people who are confident in the word of God.
The Naysayers: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!
Moses said “no” with every excuse he could think of.
Moses come across as the most whiney of the naysayers. Yet he is counted as one of the greatest prophets. Moses walked with God and was able to see His glory. He was a great leader for Israel – he was the man God called to lead Israel out of captivity. Yes, Moses was great, chosen and favored – but he had to overcome his own insecurities and put his trust in God’s ability.
God’s instructions to Moses:
Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9-10)
Moses said “no” in the following ways:
But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” ((Exodus 3:13)
But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?” (Exodus 4:1)
But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” (Exodus 4:10)
But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” (Exodus 4:13)
God answered Moses in the following ways:
God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.” (Exodus 3:12)
God replied to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. Say this to the people of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. (Exodus 3:14-15)
Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2)
Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” (Exodus 4:11-12)
Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. 15 Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. (Exodus 4:14)
Barak made his agreement conditional upon someone else’s agreement.
“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out 10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor. And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.” (Judges 4:6-7)
Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.” (Judges 4:8)
“Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. (Judges 4:9)
Jeremiah was insecure about his age.
God’s instructions to Jeremiah:
The Lord gave me this message: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (Jeremiah 1:6)
God answered Jeremiah:
The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 1:7-8)
Jonah turned his back on God and ran away.
God’s instructions to Jonah:
The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” (Jonah 1:1-2)
[After Jonah spent 3prayer-full days in the mouth of a great fish and being spit out on a beach. God spoke to Jonah again.]
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.” (Jonah 3:1-2)
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish. (Jonah 1:3)
[After Jonah spent 3prayer-full days in the mouth of a great fish and being spit out on a beach. God spoke to Jonah again.]
This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh… (Jonah 3:3)
God’s response to Jonah’s behavior:
But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart. (Jonah 1:4)
Zechariah simply didn’t believe God’s word.
God’s revelation of a blessing for Zechariah:
But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (Luke 1:13-17)
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” (Luke 1:18)
God’s response to Zechariah’s unbelief:
Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” (Luke 1:19-20)
What “Yes” and “Amen” Sound Like…
Noah heard, believed and got to work immediately.
So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!
“Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior. Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Leave an 18-inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper.
“Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during the flood. Pairs of every kind of bird, and every kind of animal, and every kind of small animal that scurries along the ground, will come to you to be kept alive. And be sure to take on board enough food for your family and for all the animals.”
So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him. (Genesis 6:13-22)
When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous. Take with you seven pairs—male and female—of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice, and take one pair of each of the others. Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird. There must be a male and a female in each pair to ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood. Seven days from now I will make the rains pour down on the earth. And it will rain for forty days and forty nights, until I have wiped from the earth all the living things I have created.”
So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him. (Genesis 7:1-5)
Isaiah enthusiastically volunteered himself for assignment.
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Joseph woke up and did as instructed in his dream.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. (Matthew 1:20-24)
Mary asked one clarifying question, declared herself the Lord’s servant and asked that His will be done in her life.
Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (1:28-38)
John knew his purpose and recognized the moment he was created for.
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.” (John 1:29-34)
Jesus knew where He came from, where He was going and why He was sent. He was obedient to the Father in all things.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:9-13)