Yes or No?

Or something else?

Exodus 31:1-11 (ESV)

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

This is a new twist. Instead of just telling people what to do, God gave gifts to people so that they can do it themselves. This is a magnificent foretaste of the spiritual gifts he gives to us.

But there’s an implication here that every Christian should think hard about. If God has specifically given Bezalel and Oholiab the ability to devise artistic designs, then what’s going to happen if they pray to Him and say, “O LORD, please tell us what this piece is supposed to look like.”?

His answer should be something like, “I gave you the skills. You decide.”

This is an important category of answered prayer – one we often don’t think about.

For example, consider prayers for guidance that are “yes/no” questions. There can be three answers: “yes,” “no,” and “You need to decide this on your own.” God may want you to face a tough decision without Him bailing you out. (Note: one exception is when you’re looking for a confirming sign.)

And the stark truth is that His plan may include you making the wrong decision so that you can learn and grow. The process of sanctification can be brutal, especially when big progress is being made.

So, when you pray for guidance, consider allowing for all three possibilities. For example, you usually shouldn’t want to flip a coin so that heads means you do something, and tails you don’t. That leaves out the third possibility and forces a yes or no answer. Would you really expect God to honor that?

Do not test the LORD your God, as you did at Massah. – Deuteronomy 6:16 (NIV)

Of course, you may not be able to put this into practice today; prayers for guidance only happen when you’re facing a big decision. But when the time arrives, think about how you could pray about this wrong. Get clear on what prayers would fence God in. Then figure out how to pray properly, and do that.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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