1 Samuel 7:1-14a
We’re heading to the Old Testament for the first of a two part series on What God Wants: What I Want.
In today’s text, King David is riding a big high. He has been named the King of all of Israel. He’s just achieved a huge military victory: he and his army have defeated the Philistines and brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel. He is thinking that there is nothing he can’t do.
So how is he going to top all of this? He sets a new goal of building a house for God. “I am living in a house of Cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” He didn’t think it was right that he was living in a house while the ark – the symbol of God’s presence on earth was shoved in a tent.
Now certainly this is an honorable goal. None of us would want to think of God living in worse conditions than we are. The prophet – and David’s friend – Nathan tells David he thinks it’s a good idea before he consults with God. And why would he need to? This just seems like a win-win situation for everyone.
The problem is that God says “No.” He says that he’s going to continue to bless David but David wasn’t going to be the one allowed to build God’s temple. We, of course, know that David’s son Solomon would be the one to do that. But why didn’t God allow David to do it.
There are a couple of different reasons. One could be that by Solomon building the temple, David’s kingdom will be established forever. Another is that David was surrounded by so much war and bloodshed that God didn’t want him building it. 1 Chronicles 22:8 says, “But the word of the LORD came to [David], saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me.’”
Scripture doesn’t tell us what David’s reaction was when he heard the news from Nathan that he wasn’t supposed to build God’s temple. We do know that he obeyed God. But I wonder – did he sulk? Did he throw a fit? Did he try to rationalize with God – if you just let me do this,…?
Sometimes we can be like David. We come up with a great idea. And we convince ourselves that God really wants us to do it or that we’re doing it for God. But then God tells us “no.” What do we do?
It can be difficult to hear the answer no and even more difficult to accept it. So we try to convince ourselves that the answer really isn’t no. I mean, why would God tell us “no” when we are trying to do something for him?
There are several different reasons. The first is that your plan doesn’t fit into God’s timing. When we look at this story of David today, we can see that God had a timeframe for when he wanted the temple built. And it wasn’t right then.
Scripture backs this up. We’re probably familiar with Ecclesiastes 3 that tells us “ For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Perhaps less familiar is Habakkuk 2:3 which says, “For there is still a vision for the appointed time. If it seems to tarry, wait for it: it will surely come, it will not delay.” Think of all the times that angry mobs were after Jesus to do him harm. How many times could Jesus have been killed? But he wasn’t – until it was the right time – God’s right time.
The second reason that God tells us know when we want to do something is that whatever we want to do doesn’t fit with his plan. Not only must things happen in God’s time: They must happen according to his plan. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” If your plan doesn’t mesh with God’s plan, you aren’t going to be successful. You’ll hit roadblock after roadblock after stumbling block. And the funny thing when we wonder why we aren’t being successful, we never stop to consider that perhaps God doesn’t want us doing what we’re doing.
We think, “Well, I must not be doing something right” which is, in essence, our pride talking. But that’s a whole other sermon for another time.
But here is the biggest reason I think that God tells us “no” when we have big plans. We really aren’t doing it for God’s glory. We’re doing it for our own.
We’re warned about this is Philippians. 2:3 says, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. The problem is that we’re really good a deluding and convincing ourselves that what we are doing is for God. We get an idea and we convince ourselves that it is what God really wants us to do. And like David, the ideas are honorable and seem like the right thing to do.
But the danger with our delusion is that it ISN’T what God wants: it’s what we want. And when we start doing what we want, we are taking God’s role upon ourselves. We fall into that original sin of wanting to be like God. Remember how the serpent was able to tempt Adam and Eve? He told them that if they ate of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, they would be like God. Well, they bit and we’ve been biting ever since.
Our desire to do what we want – to be like God, if you will, makes it all about us. If I start a program to help homeless people, I’m doing what God wants. After all, he told us to take care of people like this so I must be doing his will. And if this program really gets going, people will respect me. I’ll be important because I started this wonderful program. People will seek me out wanting my ideas and my opinions. And all because I’m doing God’s will.
Let’s examine what happened to a couple of biblical characters when they did God’s will – according to what they wanted. Samson. A Nazarite – one of a group of people who were separated out to be especially holy unto God all the days of their life. Quite the ladies man. He worked out. Had long flowing hair. He didn’t exactly follow God’s path for his life. Kind of thought that it was all about him and what he wanted to do. Remember what happened to him?
What about Moses? Now, what bad thing could I find to say about Moses? We find it in Numbers 20. The Israelites are still wandering around in the desert. And they’re still complaining about the same old stuff: nothing to eat, nothing to drink. God tells Moses to take his staff, strike a rock and water would come out of the rock. Well, that’s what Moses did – sort of. Oh, he did strike the rock with his staff and water did come out of it. But then he lit into the Hebrews. Listen you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock? (10)
What’s the big deal? Who could blame him? I mean, he’d been listening to the griping and complaining from these people ever since they left Egypt. But it was a big deal to God. Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them. One careless moment, a few choice words, and the promised land was no longer available to Moses.
Need a New Testament example? Look at Paul – or rather, Saul. Persecuting Christians, thinking that it was God wanted him to do. After all, they weren’t following the law. They were following this criminal Jesus – this blasphemer. And he was rather important because he was doing it. But God made it abundantly clear – or maybe it’s better to say abundantly dark – that what Saul was doing wasn’t for God’s glory but his own when he struck him blind on the road to Damascus.
So what happens when we are so blinded by what we think God wants us to do that we can’t see that it really isn’t? That’s when we need someone – a Nathan – to come in and tell us. First, God is going to try and tell you himself. There will be roadblocks, problems, and issues that should serve as signs to us. But if we don’t listen, he’ll send a Nathan. Nathan will say things like, “Are you sure this is what you’re supposed to do?” or “I don’t think this is a good idea.” or just flat out ,”No, don’ t do this!” Do you have a Nathan in your life?
When Nathan –or God, if we listen – comes and tells us “no” we have to swallow our pride and back. That’s not fun to do. But we’ll save ourselves a lot of pain, grief and fruitless efforts if we do so. We have to trust that if God wants something done, he will accomplish it in his time and with his plan. And you have to accept that it might not involve you.
Once we do this, we can focus on what God is really telling us to do. Amen.
Next week we’ll talk about when we go ahead and do what God tells us not to do.