There are those who regard the Bible as a book of prohibitions. They think of all the "shalt nots," as in the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultry, thou shalt not covet. And indeed it is true that much of the instruction given to us in the Word of God is put in terms of what we "shall not" do.
However, there is another way in which the phrase "shall not" is used in Scripture. The phrase is used in many of God's most precious promises. In those cases, it is used to describe not PROHIBITIONS, by PROVISIONS and PROMISES. And this morning we are going to look at some of these POSITIVE uses of the phrase "shall not" in Scripture.
Perhaps the most famous example of a positive use of SHALL NOT is found in the 23rd Psalm: "The LORD is my shepherd: I SHALL NOT want." This speaks of God's gracious provision of our everyday needs. Part of our text this morning expresses the same thought -- Psalm 34:10 -- "they that seek the LORD SHALL NOT want any good thing." These passages tell us that those who trust in the LORD, those who have Him as their Shepherd, those who seek Him, SHALL NOT LACK.
The phrase "SHALL NOT" is also used in connection with God's promise of salvation and everlasting life. In John 5:24, Jesus says: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and SHALL NOT come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
There is also the promise of divine guidance for those who believe. In John 8:12, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me SHALL NOT walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Once we become Christians, we do not remain in the realm of evil and ignorance because we have Christ as our light and salvation. Now that doesn't mean that we become PERFECT when we're Christians, but we have the light of life -- evil and ignorance lose their grip on us.
Scripture also uses the phrase "SHALL NOT" in passages related to assurance. In Psalm 16:8, we read, "I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I SHALL NOT be moved." And in Psalm 37:23-24, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he SHALL NOT be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand." The LORD helps and sustains us. We SHALL NOT be moved, we SHALL NOT be utterly cast down.
The "SHALL NOT" phrase is also used in promising us that God's purposes will be fulfilled. In Matthew 24:35, Jesus says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words SHALL NOT pass away." What God says will happen, WILL happen. And in Matthew 16:18 he says, "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell (or hades) SHALL NOT prevail against it." Now this expression, "the gates of hades," is probably a reference to death. Death SHALL NOT prevail against the church. Since the church is made up of all believers in Christ, this verse is teaching us that death SHALL NOT prevail against Christians. For the believer, physical death is just that point at which our spirits go to be with the Lord.
The last "SHALL NOT" we'll consider this morning is found in Romans 6:14, where we read, "For sin SHALL NOT have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Sin SHALL NOT have dominion over Christians. Again, while becoming a Christian does not make us perfect, it DOES deliver us not only from sin's PENALTY, but also from its POWER.
We SHALL NOT want. We SHALL NOT come into condemnation. We SHALL NOT walk in darkness. We SHALL NOT be moved. Jesus' words SHALL NOT pass away, and sin SHALL NOT have dominion over us. So you see, SOME of the SHALL NOTS of Scripture are not really negatives.....they're positives.