What Is It About “No” That You Don’t Understand?

Don’t mind me. I’m just over here still plugging through Jeremiah!

It’s no surprise that I’m a bit behind in my reading, as I just got back from spending a week with three grandchildren under the age of five. You go to bed exhausted mentally and physically and the kids are already up when you are.

Watching your adult children parent their kids is a good visual for the lessons in Jeremiah. And it’s not just my grandchildren who provide such vivid illustrations; all kids in all families are the same, challenging their parents as they navigate learning to listen and obey.

During one particularly frustrating parenting moment with her (very strong-willed) three-year-old (who happens to be a lot like her mama), I heard my daughter express the same attitude God does throughout Jeremiah. Gathering her up for some one-on-one time out, she exclaimed, “What is it about ‘no’ that you don’t understand?!”

Our family relationships imitate our spiritual relationship with our Heavenly Father. Throughout Jeremiah, we see God’s disappointment and frustration with His disobedient children, as He says words like this: “I spoke to them but they did not listen, and I have called them, but they did not answer” (Jeremiah 35:17b), and “They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction” (Jeremiah 32:33), and “You have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear” (Jeremiah 25:4b).

Our granddaughter suffered consequences because of her choice not to listen to her mama, whom God provided as an authority and source of wisdom in her life.

Israel suffered consequences because of their choice not to listen to the prophets that God sent as an authority and source of wisdom for them.

Today, we have God’s completed Word as our source of authority and wisdom, as well as the conviction of His Holy Spirit, and if we choose not to listen, we too will suffer the consequences.

In this particular time period of their history and relationship with God, Israel went into Babylonian captivity for seventy years. Their temple was destroyed. They lost their homes. Many were killed. Many starved. They suffered greatly because they stubbornly chose to worship the false gods of the ungodly culture that surrounded them and disregarded the commandments of the God who had made them a great nation to glorify His name.

That’s why Jeremiah is called the “weeping prophet” … because his people refused to heed God’s warnings and it broke his heart.

God would have relented, if they had repented.

They didn’t, so all the things Jeremiah prophesied eventually came true and they found themselves living in a land that despised them, far removed from the joy and blessing that God intended them to have.

Thankfully, discipline is only for a time if we learn our lessons. Once Israel repents, God will bring them back. And the same is true for us.

Hebrews 12:4-11 – You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

All of us at times find ourselves either in the role of disciplining or being disciplined. As a parent of young children, it can seem like all you do is say “no” and that your kid will never learn. The human heart is born with the inclination to rebel, and it takes years to teach children the joy and blessing that comes from a surrendered will. I encourage you to keep on disciplining in love, trusting that God is working the peaceful fruit of righteousness in them.

And as adults, we must set the pace ourselves as we ourselves faithfully model listening to and obeying God. As we submit to His commands…as we learn from the consequences of our disobedience and quickly repent…as we speak and act and talk with honor and reverence and respect for God and His Word…our children will learn from our example. As we dwell in the land of intentional obedience, enjoying the blessings of God’s presence and favor and grace and mercy, they’ll want to live there too!

Jeremiah is a long book, but its message is pretty simple. Listen and obey and things will go well for you. Turn away in disobedience and rebellion and the firm and loving hand of God’s discipline will be employed to our spiritual backside.

Which will you choose?

What is it about “no” that you don’t understand?

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