David didn't lie in bed every night dreaming of the next giant he would kill or the next battle he would win. He dreamed of building a temple for God. He was a singer, a prophet, a hero, and a king, but what he really wanted to be was an architect. So what can we learn from his severe disappointment at being told no?
One of the questions you were asked while growing up – at least 100 times – was, “What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your dream job?”
I did a little research and found that kids are still wanting the same jobs . . . giving the same answers we probably gave when we were growing up.
Today kids still want to be astronauts, the president of the United States, professional athletes and Superman.
In one of the surveys I dug up, one kid wanted to be a lion tamer. Another survey revealed a number of children who dreamed of being famous movie stars, daring pilots, race car drivers and rich doctors.
Among my favorite responses were the kids who admitted they really wanted to be garbage collectors – I’m sure their mothers were thrilled.
My all-time favorite was the little boy who said he wanted to grow up to be the ice cream scooper at Baskin and Robbins when he grew up. Smart kid.
What I found interesting – and not all that surprising – was that less than 10% of the adults surveyed acknowledged they never got close to their childhood wish. The vast majority never made it to their dream job.
Not many among us became astronauts, actresses or lion tamers. Many of us are race car drivers . . . we just don’t get paid to do it.
Somewhere along the way, just about every one of us experienced some sort of transition; a disappointing turn in our past . . . the changing of a dream.
The truth is, most people learned to follow new dreams along the way.
Even now, your desires are being transformed . . . changed by the agency of the Spirit’s work in your life. You’re learning to trust in the Lord with all your heart – and not to lean on your own understanding; in all your ways to acknowledge Him – that is, to put Him first – and then watch as He directs your steps (Proverbs 3:5-6).
That’s a critical transformation, because your direction is often different than the direction God wants.
How do you respond when His path for your life takes an unexpected turn?
What do you do with those lingering desires to do something else . . . to be somewhere else . . . to do something different? But God never agreed to give you that chance.
How do you respond when you’re planning to take steps – in a relationship; a career; a move; a purchase; a decision . . . and God closes the door?
No matter how hard you turn the doorknob, it won’t open – the door won’t budge – it’s locked up tight and nothing you do unlocks the door.
The average Christian will go out and buy a sledgehammer . . . we’ll see about that!
Others will ask friends to pray that they figure out how to pick the lock.
Do we really trust the Lord with all our heart, refusing to lean on our own understanding of what we think’s best – do we put Him first and then watch as He directs our steps?
Let me ask it this way? What do you do when God says, “No”?
How do you respond with wisdom and deference and even joy when God says, “Not that door . . . it’ll never be that door . . . and not that way either . . . I’ve got something else in mind for you”.
Let me show you someone who responded with wisdom and joy.
His name is David. We know him as a man who wore a lot of different hats. Shepherd, fugitive and king.
If you track his biography through 1 Samuel, by the time you turn to the first page of 2 Samuel, the word that come to mind is, finally!
We were first introduced to him as a neglected shepherd boy – the runt of the family patriarchs. We then marveled verses later at his youthful courage in taking on a giant with a sling; his perspective putting the seasoned warriors to shame as David shouted “Is there not a cause?”
Later you observe David make a living out of playing musical instruments and dodging spears.
Then off to fight Philistines as Israel’s most prized commander where for years he stayed one step ahead of King Saul. Eventually, David’s only recourse was to run. To hide out in caves, refusing to rip the crown from Saul’s head and seize the throne when he had the chance.
Read his songs that he composed during these fugitive years and listen as he cries out to God for strength and protection and wisdom.
After 20 years of waiting, Saul dies in battle and David hears the chant of the Israelites as they coronate him, “Long live King David.”
Still it will take several years before David unites the Jewish nation, bringing the tribes of Judah and the tribes of Israel together once again; eventually returning the ark of the covenant into the new capital city of Jerusalem.
David is now king of a unified, God exalting nation.
For the next 15 years, David will not only unite the nation but bring about domestic peace and national rest. Charles R. Swindoll, David: Man of Passion & Destiny (Word Publishing, 1997), p. 158
And at the end of the next 15 years of hard labor and wise leadership, the Philistines and all the surrounding enemy nations will respect, revere and even serve King David and his Jewish empire.
The opening line of chapter 7 tells you just how good it is – the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies.
If we were like David, we’d reach for the lazy boy, kick up our feet and enjoy the rest of our lives on the patio of prosperity.
He finally landed his dream job, right? I mean, this was everything he could have imagined possible when as a 13 or 14 years old, Samuel the prophet had anointed him as the future king.
After all those long years of struggle and trouble and war, David has finally arrived. And the nation prospered along with him – they had two donkeys in every garage and apple pie in every oven.
David is living the dream.
Not quite. The truth is David wasn’t reaching for the lazy boy. In fact, none of what he has represents the dreams of his heart.
David is actually bothered by something. The king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.”
Here David is, living in his mansion of cedar – built for him as a gift from another king – and he looks out his window and sees this tabernacle and the ark of God living inside a tent made out of badger skin and he finally says to Nathan, This just isn’t right . . . it’s time for me to build for God a magnificent house.
Don’t be tempted to think that this was some kind of random, spontaneous desire. As if David was bored ever since he subjugated the Philistines and having tried his hand at woodworking and painting, he’s come up with the idea of trying his hand in the building business.
No, this project has been his dream job . . . for some time.
In fact, we read in a parallel passage from the Book of 1 Chronicles 22, Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” David commanded to gather together the resident aliens who were in the land of Israel, and he set stonecutters to prepare dressed stones for building the house of God. David also provided great quantities of iron for nails for the doors of the gates and for clamps, as well as bronze in quantities beyond weighing, and cedar timbers without number. For David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will therefore make preparation for it.” So David provided materials in great quantity before his death.
You can render that – for the rest of his life.
With great excitement and enthusiasm, David approaches Nathan and effectively says, “Nathan, can you think of one good reason why I can’t get started? This will be the culmination of all my skill and creativity and passion and longing – let me build God a magnificent temple for His glory!”
And Nathan said to the King, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
“Just think of it,” David tells everyone who will listen to him, “a temple wherein the presence of God will abide . . . a magnificent temple made of white stone and purified gold . . . a temple worthy of the reputation of our true and living God.”
Consider the fact that David now has the power, the position, the skilled labor, the wealth, the people, the capital city, the infrastructure to fulfill the dream job of his heart. You can almost see David clearing off a table and calling for the royal architects to get started.
A green light from the Prophet Nathan was a green light from God.
Not so fast.
The next word in the narrative changes everything – But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, “Thus says the Lord, Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” 8. Now, therefore, thus you shall say my servant David, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.
Let me stop and simply say that what God does next through Nathan, is communicate what we call the Davidic covenant.
A covenant that promises David eternal things.
The play on words is this – David won’t be allowed to build God a house, but God will build David a house – literally a dynasty that lasts forever. Kenneth L. Chafin, The Communicator’s Commentary: 1,2 Samuel (Word Books, 1989), p. 282
In these next few verses, David is promised a land, a nation and a kingdom which will effectively bless the world.
In other words, the line of David will be the royal line with the right to the throne and the right to an earthly kingdom.
And that’s just one more reason it was so stunning for the angel Gabriel to deliver the news that the Lord God will give to him – Jesus – the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)
A throne, a house and a kingdom . . . forever.
Nathan delivers the news centuries earlier to David here in this chapter that:
- David’s death will not annul this covenant – verses 12-13
- Sin won’t destroy this covenant – verses 14-15
- Even time will never exhaust this covenant from being fulfilled – verse 16 Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel (Christian Focus, 1999), p. 921
That’s the good news . . . now for the bad news. Nathan will go back to David and tell him that God doesn’t need a house – at least not built by David’s hand.
In verse 12, God informs David that when he lies down with his fathers – that is, when he dies – his descendant will build the temple – that house for God.
In the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 17:3-4 we read more clearly, “The word of God came to Nathan, saying, “Go and tell David My servant, “Thus says the Lord, “You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in.”
David, it won’t be you . . . it will be your son, Solomon.
Keep in mind, David has had no selfish motive here. He has had no selfish ambition . . . he has no desire to make a name for himself. He simply wanted to exalt the name of God. Swindoll, p. 159
And God said no.
We’re given clarification in the Chronicles that since David has spent most of his life at war, God wanted a man of peace to build his temple and Solomon will be that man. Even Solomon’s name is a derivative of shalom – peace.
And it wasn’t a matter of David’s heart being wrong either – it was simply a matter of God saying, “No”.
Nathan’s about face the next morning would have him approach the King and report the difficult news, “David, I told you yesterday that God would be pleased for you to build His temple . . . but . . .”
But . . .
That little conjunction can spell discouragement, can’t it?
- You had planned to go on to graduate school, but . . .
- You had made plans to get married, but . . .
- You knew you were the right person for the job, but . . .
- You had planned on having several children, but . . .
- You had planned on not having more children, but . . .
That little word can change everything!
In fact, if you’re talking to someone, what comes after they say, “But”, is what really matters.
Your child’s elementary school teacher calls you on the phone and says, “We really enjoy having your little boy in class, but . . .”
A client calls you up and says, “I’ve enjoyed doing business with you, and you’ve always done a great job, but . . .”
Some of you men had a girlfriend tell you, “I really enjoy being with you and all, but . . .” What does that mean? It means you are free to move about the country.
I am convinced David was unable to sleep that night over so much excitement. The prophet had said “yes”. Oh, the plans he was dreaming; the temple he would build for God’s glory – and the next morning God effectively said, “I’m grateful for the intention of your heart, but . . .”
Frankly, the mark of having a heart after God is probably nowhere more revealed than in how someone responds when God says no.
As David responds to God’s refusal, there are five summary words revealed in David’s attitude and actions.
They are all worth imitating. We’ll call this:
Five Ways to Respond When God Says No:
- The first way is to respond with humility
Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?” (v. 18)
In other words, David doesn’t respond with a laundry list of why God ought to let him be the one to build the temple.
His response here could be paraphrased, “Who am I anyway?!”
Without any argument or protest, David is literally at his best – going into that skin-covered tabernacle and there offering up this rare testimony of self-deprecation and self-denial and self-relinquishment. Keller, p. 64
Dreams or no dreams, I am a blessed person, David says. Swindoll, p. 164
Why do I even have what I do have?!
- When God says no, respond with gratitude.
And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God. (v. 19)
David chooses to focus on what God is giving him in the future rather than what he wants God to give him in the present.
Gratitude comes to those who are willing to view the will of God over the long term rather than just in the short term.
David clearly understood that God evidently had something else in mind.
In fact, if David had been allowed to build the temple out of materials he had available at that moment, the temple would never have been the magnificent structure it would become.
He had wanted to build . . . but God will use him to design a much grander structure as well as spend years storing and designing the materials for Solomon to use.
David will be used by God to do something suitable to his gifts.
- Maybe you can’t teach, but you can pray
- You can’t go, but you can support
- Maybe you can’t sing, but you can organize
- Maybe you can’t run some particular race, but you can provide shoes and support for those who do.
I read recently about a man who was accepted, along with his wife, as missionaries to an unreached tribe in Africa. After they raised their support and headed off to the field, his wife came down rather quickly with a disease. For her health sake, they had to leave their first term of service and come back to the United States. In order to make a living, he joined his father in their dentistry practice. They also began to experiment with pasteurization so that they could provide unfermented grape juice for their church communion services, held weekly.
The name of that young man who had been a missionary – whose dreams had been set aside by God’s designs – was Thomas Welch.
Thomas figured out how to pasteurize grape juice so it wouldn’t ferment – and went on to produce “unfermented sacramental wine” for his fellow church members. His product caught on and within a decade, Welch Grape Juice and then later his grape jelly was being sold all over the world.
He and his family would eventually give hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable people to reach their mission field with the gospel.
God said, “No,” but He also said, “Yes.”
After planning and designing and organizing for 20 years, the temple will be absolutely breathtaking; the organized priesthood with their designer robes and utensils will be amazing.
God had closed one door only to open another.
You can easily catch the gratitude in David’s voice here – no hard feelings . . . no resentment . . . sheer thanksgiving as he thanks God for allowing him to play a role.
He responds with humility and gratitude;
- Thirdly, respond with surrender (v. 20-21)
When your dreams are dashed and the answer is no – surrender.
That’s not an easy word, is it?
And again what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! (v. 20)
In other words, “I am your servant. What more can I say? I belong to you and that’s good enough.”
Isn’t it interesting that in verse 18, he says, “Who am I”. And in verse 20, he says, “I am your servant.”
Which provides an interesting principle of surrender and security; it is not so much who you are as much as Who’s you are.
David said, “I belong to You, oh God, and I’m willing to wait on Your timing in all my efforts.
Frankly, surrendering – and here’s the tough part – to the plan of God means you are surrendering to the pace of God as He determines your steps in life.
Changing your pace to match God’s will is as difficult as changing your plan.
I can remember years ago, driving our twin sons to kindergarten a few mornings each week; we carpooled with another family and their son as well.
I used to just listen to their conversations . . . I loved it. For several weeks they were talking about the latest rage at school, which happened to be loose teeth.
They knew everybody in the class who had a loose tooth. And, as soon as one of them lost their tooth, they came to class prepared to show off the empty space in their row of little teeth. It was really big news – a clear sign of growing up.
Marsha and I ended up having a little trouble with our twins because they assumed that since they had been born on the same day, everything should happen to both of them at the same time.
I can remember when one of the boys announced he had a loose tooth, his twin brother immediately checked his own tooth and it wasn’t loose. That was grounds for panic.
He stayed up half the night working that tooth over and announced at breakfast the next morning, “Mine’s loose too!”
And it was.
One particular morning where I was the designated driver, another boy in the car informed my sons that a girl in their class had another loose tooth; it had evidently been verified on the playground.
They were all so impressed – “Man, she’s got two loose teeth at the same time!” At that moment, one of my sons just sort of blurted out, “Why is it that everybody has loose teeth but me?”
I had to pull the car over and offer emergency counseling.
Since then, I’ve recognized that none of us really get past that struggle, do we?
The only thing that changes is the object of our discontent and we struggle from teeth to toys to homes to cars to careers.
David, in a sense here, says what Paul said, “I have learned, in whatever situation I am in, to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)
Then he goes on to explain - whether rich or poor; in need or in abundance – whether none of my teeth are loose or one just came out.
Perhaps you’re tempted to say, “I wish I had that gift of contentment.” Uh-uh. Paul said, I have learned.
Contentment is learned under a curriculum entitled, “When God Says No.” Most of us would rather skip that class; few stay in the class long enough to learn the course.
Here’s David surrendering, “Lord, I happen to belong to You and I’ll wait on Your timing; I’m willing for You to both order my steps and my stops . . . according to your perfect precision and purpose.”
- Fourth, respond with praise
Imagine this response – Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you. (v. 22)
Wait, didn’t God just say, “No”? Yes, but isn’t He great!
Didn’t God just take away your dream job?
Yes . . . but He didn’t take away my faith . . . there is no God like Him!
But shouldn’t you try once more to force the locks on that door . . . or at least knock a little harder?
No, God has closed this door and I’m waiting on His direction. There is no one more trustworthy than my God.
The difference between waiting on God and wrestling with God is worship. Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Pains (Insight for Living, 1989), p. 3
Let me repeat that: the difference maker in your life between waiting on God and wrestling with God is stopping long enough to worship God.
And from verse 22 to the end of the chapter, David does nothing more than remind himself of the greatness and glory and grace of God.
The priority of worship allows the believer to respond when God says “No” with humility, surrender, gratitude and praise.
- Fifth, respond with readiness
I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve always smiled at the statement that when God shuts a door, He opens a window.
The window for David was the opportunity to prepare the work although someone else would see it finished.
And what did David do for the next twenty years? What did he dream about for the next two decades?
Winning more battles or building a temple?
The answer’s obvious because of David’s speech years later as he hands the blueprints over to Solomon, along with all he’d collected and organized and sacrificed.
Twenty years after God refused David, he could have become the shell of a bitter, old, angry man.
God had put His foot down and David’s dream had been dashed. He never would occupy his dream job as the builder of God’s temple.
However, by being willing to accept God’s refusal and worship God instead, walking with God and waiting on God – David shows up twenty years later with everything needed to build the Temple of God.
We know from other passages that God has revealed to David the architectural details, the precise measurements and dimensions and exactly how the temple would operate. Keller, p. 63
David never hit the pause button in his life. God’s refusal was met by David’s readiness to do what God revealed.
Just before Solomon began construction, we’re told in 1 Chronicles, chapter 23, that he has already organized and trained 38,000 priests; 6,000 officers; 4,000 gatekeepers and 4,000 people trained to sing and play musical instruments – musical instruments that David had designed – imagine, 4,000 musical instruments ready and waiting.
David says earlier in chapter 22, “With great pains I have provided for the house of the Lord (in other words, it wasn’t easy) but with great pains I have provided 7,500 tons of gold and 75,000 tons of silver; bronze and iron beyond weighing, for there is so much of it; timber and stone, too I have provided. You have an abundance of workmen, stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Arise and work! The Lord be with you.
One author estimated that David had saved up, in today’s economy, more than 5 billion dollars in gold, silver, precious stones and supplies.
This is no shell of a bitter old man. This was an excited, thrilled man who had accepted God’s answer and had spent his years preparing in whatever way he could for the work to continue.
And keep in mind, he will not be alive to see it finished.
That’s like being excited about planting an orchard that will bear fruit after you’ve died.
What an attitude!
God said no to something, but He did say yes to something else.
And David decided to focus on what he could do, rather than what he couldn’t.
Some time ago, a survey was presented to 3,000 adults asking the question, “What do you have to live for?” The pervasive theme that ran through their answers basically revealed that nearly 90% of them were waiting for something they did not have or something they hoped they would eventually experience.
For instance, a number of them were living for that moment when they were going to be married. Others were waiting for children to be born. Still others were waiting for their children to either enter college or leave home. Some were waiting for that long dreamed about trip. Many were simply waiting for retirement.
The tragedy was that most of them were waiting for something they wanted and, in the meantime, their lives were effectively in neutral.
The survey summarized with these perceptive words: many people are waiting without realizing that all anyone has is today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come.
What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for God to change His mind; for God to change the locks on that door; for God to stamp your dreams with His approval?
Instead, like David, come and sit before His presence and surrender, “Who am I but Your servant? I am willing to serve You today – here and now – in whatever and wherever You want me.”
Respond to God’s refusals:
- With humility for what He has chosen – for you;
- With surrender to what He has chosen to do – through you;
- With gratitude for what He has chosen to give – to you;
- With praise for what He has chosen to receive – from you;
- And with readiness for how He has chosen His will to be prepared, organized, supported, enabled, interceded – by you
When God says “no”, be prepared to respond to His “yes” . . . for His glory . . . and for His praise.