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10(2Sam 07) What to Do When God Says No

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“Thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in.’” That sounds pretty final, doesn’t it? David could easily have interpreted it as a slap in the face. Especially since it appears from this chapter and the parallel one I mentioned that David had only the highest motives for wanting to build this temple. “It isn’t right for me to live in a cedar house while God lives outside in a tent!” Nothing wrong with that motive! David had a heart overflowing with love for God and a desire to serve him. He was gratefully conscious of all God had done for him and the nation. It seemed only right that he should build God a temple. But God said “no.”


How is a Christian supposed to respond to such broken dreams? How is he or she supposed to deal with those times when God says, “No”?

Sometimes, instead of a “no” answer, what we receive is a “later” answer.

King David of Israel had a dream. He wanted to build a temple in Jerusalem to replace the tent like tabernacle that was the center of Israel’s worship. He had no ulterior motive in his desire. He wanted to do it solely for God’s glory. But God said emphatically, “No!

I.     God Says “No.” (Read v. 1)

The period of security we read of here was a time in David’s life when he could relax and enjoy the fruit of his labors and God’s blessing.  There was peace in the nation of Israel after years of war. The long war with the house of Saul was over.

David also was enjoying domestic peace, that is, peace in his home life.  (This was before the sin with Bathsheba and the many family problems it would cause.)

(Read v. 2) Nathan listened to him, and then responded.

(Read v. 3) To Nathan, it sounded like a great idea.  What could be a better way to honor the God of Israel? “Go for it, David!” Little did either of them realize that what they were planning was outside the will of God.

(Read v. 4-7) Now, though the language of this chapter seems a bit uncertain as to whether or not God was expressing a definite “no” answer, there is no doubt that was what He was saying.

1 Chr 17:3-4 And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in:

That sounds pretty final, doesn’t it? David could easily have interpreted it as a slap in the face. David had a heart overflowing with love for God and a desire to serve him. He was gratefully conscious of all God had done for him and the nation. It seemed only right that he should build God a temple.

And it was a right thing to do! Some 30-40 years into the future, God would indeed make use of a temple built for Him by David’s son, Solomon.  But, as for David building that temple, God’s answer was an unequivocal “No!”

Lesson: God sometimes says “no” to things that are good and right from our perspective.

That is difficult for us to understand. Why would God reject a perfectly good idea proposed by a man with no other intention than to glorify Him?  Why would He say “no” to something that seemed so right? 

(Read v. 8-17) Yes, God would have a temple. But it would be David’s son, Solomon who would build it.

Another lesson is there for us with just a little thought: Though God wanted a temple, it isn’t God’s plan that everyone build temples. God has His own plans as to who does what in His kingdom. He has a special plan for each one of us as to what he wants us to contribute. I’m reminded of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 4:11-12:

“He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

A third lesson from this first half of the chapter is this: God honored David’s intentions even though he didn’t allow him to build the temple.  Reading only this chapter we are studying, this refusal by God almost seems like a slap in the face to David. But elsewhere we learn that was not the case.

2 Chr 6:7-8 Now it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. But the LORD said to David my father, Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for my name, thou didst well in that it was in thine heart:

In other words, God honored David for the thought that was in his heart (his intentions) even though he did not allow David to build the temple.  I’m really glad that is true!

If ever God says “no” to something you would like to do for Him, don’t conclude that He doesn’t appreciate your honorable intentions! He will reward you for your desire to please Him even if you do not get to consummate your plans.

Perhaps it is like a child who comes to his parent and says, “I would like to mow the lawn for you.”

II.    David Responds.

Perhaps our most common response is despair. I give up!”

Sometimes we begin to think that we must have done something wrong to deserve God’s refusal. To that let me ask you, had David done anything wrong in his desire to build a temple for God? No! Actually, God’s refusal was more a redirection.

So, let’s look at David’s response.

A.            His very first move was to go to the Lord, not away from Him. (v. 18a)

went to God. Proverb 3:5-6, written years later by David’s son, Solomon,

says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

That is exactly what David did.

B.            He acknowledged God’s sovereign right to decide what was best for him.  (Read v. 18b)

Romans 9:20 “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?

Sometimes we forget that God is the potter and we are the clay!

C.            He acknowledged the magnitude of God’s wisdom compared to his own.  (Read v. 19-21)

D.            Fourth: he praised rather than pouted. (Read v. 22-24)

I remember a certain two evangelists, their story told in the book of Acts. They had preached their hearts out to an unreceptive, rebellious, crowd of idol worshippers. As a result they were arrested, beaten, jailed, and fastened in stocks for the night. And what were they doing at midnight? Singing!

When it seems like midnight has come upon you because God has said “no” and it has caused the death of a dream you held very close, do you sing?  Do you praise or pout?

E.            He accepted God’s will. He didn’t fight it. (Read v. 25)

I know that few of us would dream of praying to God without adding somewhere in our prayer, “According to your will, Lord.” But do we really mean that when we say it?

F.             He would find happiness within the realm that God did allow. (1 Chr 22:1-5)

He couldn’t build the temple, but he could surely get the materials ready! He couldn’t oversee the project, but he could certainly support the one who would!

David wasn’t one of those who says, “If I can’t lead it, then I won’t be involved!” He was a servant of God, willing to be used in whatever capacity God willed.

If you can’t build, then gather for the one who can. If you can’t go, then support the one who can. If you can’t have a family of your own, then do things to strengthen the ones around you. If you cannot start a ministry of your own, then go get involved in helping someone who can.  There is always plenty you can do, even after God says “no”.


Vance Havner, a well known preacher of a generation ago, once told the story of an elderly lady who was greatly disturbed by her many troubles both real and imaginary. Finally, she was told in a kindly way by her family, “Grandma, we’ve done all we can do for you. You’ll just have to trust God for the rest.” A look of utter despair spread over her face as she replied, “Oh, dear, has it come to that?” Havner commented, “It always comes to that, so we might as well begin with that!” Indeed, it is true. When God says, “No,” there is only one right response. From it all these other things flow. We must trust. It always comes to that...

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