When God Says No to Our Dreams
|2 Samuel 7:1-17|
It's a wonderful thing to dream of doing something to honor God. Now for the first time since ascending the throne David was in a position to do something that had probably been in his heart for a long time. He was established in his new house and secure from his Philistine enemies. What should David do for God in this interlude of calm and peace?
Often people come to this place in their lives and become bored and restless. Rather than using their stability as a base from which to do good, they focus on themselves in an effort to become more secure or find more pleasure. David, though, wanted to use his time, resources, and knowledge to honor God. I have known a score of Christians who have come to a place in their lives where they wanted to do something special for God.
Let's look and learn from David's noble attempt to do something, extravagant, something extraordinary for the God who had in his time established him.
A Concern for God's House, 1-3.
With time to think David began to consider what was the most important thing, the most important undertaking he could do for God and his people. Verse 1: "After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him,"
David was very conscious of God's presence in his life. After David had become well settled in Jerusalem and was enjoying a period of peace, his thoughts turned to the idea of building a more permanent structure in which the Lord could reside among his people.
So he calls his friend and confidant, the prophet Nathan, to discuss the project with him in verse 2. "he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent."
One of the factors that caused him to declare his interest and intention to Nathan was the contrast between the house in which he now lived and the tent that he had provided for the ark of God David felt the tent was no longer suitable, especially in comparison with his own elaborate palace of cedar.
Not everyone is bothered by the contrast between their opulent lifestyle and the neglect of the church. David's attitude would have thrilled the prophet Haggai who, five hundred years later, would rail against God's people because they built for themselves "paneled houses" while the temple lay in ruins (Hag. 1:2–4).
It isn't hard to see why Nathan was impressed by David's desire and gave his blessing to the project in verse 3. “Nathan replied to the king, ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.’”
That's a good friend. Good friends encourage you and vice versa. He knew that David want to serve and please God. So, the prophet Nathan encouraged him to do what was on his heart.
A Heaven-Sent Correction, 4-7.
Nathan is sure that it's the right thing to do. Except for one thing. It isn't! Nathan has jumped in too soon. He's made the mistake that many of us make of assuming that just because something sounds like a good thing it must be what God wants without first asking God what he thinks. Nathan hasn't asked God what he thinks. He hasn't prayed about it. He just thinks it's a good idea and wants to encourage his friend. This doesn't mean Nathan is a false prophet. It simply means there needs to be evaluation and confirmation regarding any dream or plan we have.
So, Nathan gets a shock when that night the word of the Lord comes to him to tell him that, no, he doesn't want David to build him a house. Let's look at what God has to say to David in verses 4-7.
"But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: ‘Go and tell my servant David, “This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling, Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’”
God did not intend for David to build an earthly temple and communicated that fact through Nathan. The Hebrew word that is translated "house" is used in this passage two different ways. When it is used in verse 5, "Would you build a house for me to dwell in," it means "structure, home," or in this case, temple. Later in the passage we will see the other meaning for house which is descendants or a dynasty that carries on your name.
The main reason given here for not building the temple was that it wasn't necessary. [In 1 Chr. 22:8 God forbade it because David had "shed much blood and have made great wars."] God's argument reaches back into the history of his relationship with Israel. When the tribes came out of Egypt the ark was housed in a tent and moved when the people did (vv. 6–7). The virtue of the tent sanctuary was its mobility. They went where it went. This wilderness tradition was significant for God didn't want them to lose the earthly pilgrimage aspect of their religious heritage. If that earthly pilgrimage dynamic were lost, there would be the danger of thinking that God could be captured in a building, or a creed or a program, that life was all about the here and now, instead of living for the there and then.
David's desire to build God a house was biblical, for in Deuteronomy 12, God declared that there would come a time when He himself would choose a spot in the Land of Promise where people could seek him continually.
Like David, we can have visions, ideas, and dreams that are biblical, spiritual, and noble, but that are not right for us. And, like Nathan, we can say to others, "That's a great idea! Go for it!" without seeking the Lord.
How important it is that we be those who say, "Lord, I've got lots of ideas, plans, and dreams. I've got all kinds of thoughts to accomplish big things for Your glory—but only if they're part of Your plan. God's servants must learn to accept the disappointments of life, for as one preacher used to say, "Disappointments are God's appointments."
A Prophecy to Consider, 8-11b.
To illustrate God reminded David in verses 8–11 that the lack of a permanent place hadn't hindered God from calling him and from blessing Israel. In verse 8 God tells David that He had called him to be a shepherd, not to be a builder. "Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel.’”
God is not saying David is being sinful. He is simply redirecting David's plan so that it would be in accordance with his purpose for him. God says, You're a shepherd, David. That's why I called you. That's what I saw in you. That's what a want you to be doing. You're not a builder of buildings, you're a herder of sheep. You cared for them, you went after them, you had a heart for them. That's who you are. That's where I found you. That's why I called you."
There is no inference that the temple should never be built. David was allowed to make many of the preparations—choosing the site, gathering materials, finding skilled craftsmen, and clearing the way with other officials. David's spirit is revealed in the fact that he was willing to do the ground work on which others would enable others to have the privilege of building.
The world has too many people who won't plant trees unless they are going to be around to eat the apples. The church needs more people who are planning and praying with the future needs of the church in mind. There are many things we would like to do and can't, but all of us can be a part of laying the ground work for God's future building of our children and our church.
A Divine Covenant, 11c-17.
When God says no to our dream of accomplishing certain things for him, he often connects our disappointments to wonderful blessings, greater than any we could have anticipated or expected. In verse 11 God says to Nathan, "Tell David he can't build Me a house. Instead, tell him I'm going to build him a house."
God's purpose was larger than David could have imagined. David simply wanted to build a house for the ark of the Lord, but God had a bigger purpose. God's purpose involved something larger. David's plan involved building a temple. The temple was a temporary structure. When Solomon did wind up building the temple, it would eventually be destroyed. It became a ruin.
God's plan involved something much more lasting than a stone structure. It involved the plan of salvation for the world. Verse 12 says,
"When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.”
"I will raise up your offspring.” The immediate fulfillment of this prophecy is Solomon, the son of David, who would build the temple. The greater fulfillment of this promise took a thousand years, and David's greater Son did come. The Messiah came through the descendants of David. Jesus is referred to, among other things, as the "Son of David."
God's greater purpose in the plan for David's life involved the Savior of the world. The temple that Solomon built is long gone. Jesus is still on the throne.
David's plan was good and noble, but God's plan was bigger and better.
The Scripture indicates that God blesses not just the things we do but the things we would like to do. God blesses our intentions. When the temple had been built and the ark was being brought to its new home, Solomon made a speech in which he told how God had blessed his father David because it was in his heart "to build a temple for my Name." (1 Kgs 8:18). This is an early reminder that God's interest is not just in our actions but in the interests of our hearts. The kingdom needs scores of people who fill their minds with things they would like to do for God.
Here begins the heart of the great Davidic Covenant. God promises in verse 13 that there is a descendant of David's who will build and eternally establish a house for God's name. "He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish his throne forever.”
Who is this? It's the Seed of David, or the Son of David, Jesus Christ. "David," God said through Nathan, "there will come one long after you're dead who will build a house for My name, and I will establish his kingdom forever."
Now Solomon's kingdom didn't last forever. Even the line of David as earthly kings ended. David's heirs reigned for four hundred years (until 586 BC). Since Christ came from David's lineage, the "forever" is fulfilled only in Him. Every born again believer participates in the fulfillment of God's promise to David.
To his mother Mary, the angel Gabriel confirmed the Davidic Promise:
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33).
Hebrews 3:6 says,
“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”
While David's proposal is turned aside, it is not denied. Nathan's message to David is a reminder that God's larger purpose isn't always tied to our particular dreams. Sometimes we try to make happen things that seem right but which do not reflect God's priority. We are all too bound by the present time and fail to realize that with us, as with David, God's purposes for our lives reach into eternity. This portion of chapter 7 gives us a beautiful picture of God's inverting the proposal. David had a dream of something big he wanted to do for God, but God had a much larger dream of something He wanted to do for David.
Verse 14 promises a divine Son who would suffer correction. "I will be his Father, and he will be my son." The author of Hebrews applies this sentence to Jesus (1:5).
There is mystery in the second part of verse 14, "When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands.” In the immediate context, it refers to Solomon, who began well but later was led astray into idolatry by his many wives. But ultimately, it also refers to Jesus.
You say, “But Jesus never did wrong. He was sinless.” Yes, but “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
he was pierced for our
Jesus was beaten when he bore our sin. He suffered for us, for our sin. Through the shed blood of Jesus, a new covenant has been established.
Verses 16 promise that God will build a spiritual house for David that will last throughout all eternity, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
God's going to build a house for you, David, that you won't believe. From your seed will come One whose "kingdom will be established forever." Somehow, David understood this. Somehow, by the Spirit, David got it. He knew somehow that Nathan was talking to him about something that was bigger than anything he dreamed of or could have imagined.
When God is promising to establish David's house (v. 16), it means "dynasty." God’s message to David was "I will not let you build for me a house, but I will build your house." This is so characteristic of God's dealings with us, where our desire to do things for him are constantly outstripped by his plans to bless us. A willing spirit is not only accepted but eternally rewarded.
God refused David's request only to grant him one far above all that he could ask or think. How often does he do this! How often when we are worrying and perplexed about our prayers not being answered God is answering them in a far greater way! We see occasional glimpses, but the full revelation of it remains for the future. We need a faith that continues to do what God has asked us to do even when we have asked to do greater things for him.
On this side of the Incarnation we celebrate the coming of Jesus, the descendant of David, as the Savior of the World. God's plan was to offer salvation to all mankind. God made a covenant with David that the Messiah would come through his offspring. God offers to us that covenant relationship through Jesus so that we might be saved from our sins.
The spiritual blessings of God's kingdom are offered today in Jesus Christ to all who will trust him.