Limiting God

Our text for today comes from the book of Psalms, where the Bible says:

They turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

Psalms 78:41

This verse is part of a larger psalm that recounts the history of Israel, highlighting both their rebellion and God’s faithfulness. In this specific verse, the psalmist is addressing the times when the Israelites turned away from God and tested His patience.

The Hebrew word for “tempted” in this verse is “nissah,” which means “to test, put to the proof, or try.” In this context, it implies that the Israelites were putting God to the test by doubting His power and providence. They were questioning His ability to provide for them and protect them, and in doing so, they were limiting the Holy One of Israel.

The phrase “Holy One of Israel” is a title for God that emphasizes His holiness and uniqueness. It is a reminder of God’s sovereignty and power, and it contrasts with the human limitations and shortcomings that the Israelites exhibited in their rebellion.

Overall, Psalm 78:41 serves as a warning against the dangers of testing God and doubting His power. It reminds us of the importance of trusting in God’s faithfulness and relying on His strength, even in times of difficulty.

Limiting God

Limiting God means just what it says. We, as humans, can restrict the ability of the omnipotent God to lead us, bless us, and fight for us.

Even though Psalms Chapter 78 comes from a long time ago, we can still limit God.

God can do amazing things for us and our world. Through observation, however, we conclude God does not do everything we want (or need) Him to do. The question is “Why?” Perhaps we are limiting God.

What is “limiting God”?

The root of the underlying word rendered “limit” comes from a word that means “scraping to pieces.” That action seems aggressive and intentional.

Can you imagine taking God, the Holy One of Israel, and scraping Him to pieces? That makes him a bunch of fragments, rather than a unified whole. Of course this occurs only from the perspective of God’s relationship with His people, not from the perspective of God Himself.

The Outline of Biblical Usage defines this word, “limit,” as “to pain, wound, trouble, cause pain.” Did you know that you can do these things to God?

Strong adds to these definitions by telling us that to “limit” God means to cause Him grief.

How to limit God

If we stay in Psalms 78 and look in some other portions of this scripture, we can find several examples for how to limit God.


Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:

Psalms 78:22

When we don’t believe in God and His salvation, we limit Him. Anytime we doubt God or trust in ourselves or some other power, we limit God, so He can’t act on our behalf.

Turn back

Israelites in the wilderness limited God, in our text, by turning back and tempting God.

The people regretted their deliverance and decided they wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt.

They said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

Numbers 14:4

If you decide to go back to your former life – to the ways of the world – you limit God.


They sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

Psalms 78: 17

This verse tells us that the sin of the people increased, creating a reaction of anger from God.

I mean to tell you from this verse that sin can limit God. I mean, how much good do you think God will do for you when He’s angry with you?

We find this principle elsewhere in the Bible. Jeremiah makes it particularly clear:

Your sins have withholden good [things] from you.

Jeremiah 5:25

Yes, your sin can prevent God from doing His work.

What should you do about this sin problem?

The Bible says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

Doubting God’s ability

Very similar to disbelief, doubting God’s ability can limit God. Let’s go back to Psalms Chapter 78, where Verse 19 tells us that the people doubted that God could feed them:

Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

Psalms 78:19

Of course, God can furnish a table in the wilderness. He did that before, but the people doubted that God would do it again.

Discounting God

Let’s leave our text for a moment and see how discounting God can limit Him. In this case, we’re talking about God in the form of Jesus. He went to His hometown and here’s what the people said:

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. …And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed [them].

Mark 6:3,5

If you discount God and consider Him as an ordinary person, you discount His power and limit what He can do.


The Bible teaches that limiting God not only withholds good things from us, but limiting God can cause us great harm. Let’s look in the Book of Romans:

Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

Romans 13:2

Quenching the Spirit

Apostle Paul puts this as succinctly as possible:

Quench not the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:19

We can extinguish the Spirit. The Spirit wants to move in us, though us, and among us, but we can suppress or stifle Him, limiting Him from doing great and mighty things.

Grieving the Spirit

Elsewhere, in the Book of Ephesians, Apostle Paul admonishes us saying,

[Eph 4:30 KJV] 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

With this verse, we’ve come full circle. We limit God by grieving Him, just as the Israelites limited God in the wilderness.

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