One of my favorite Old Testament characters is David. I love how God takes a humble shepherd with a passion for God and makes him the greatest king Israel would ever know. More than any other story in the Bible, the story of David shows me what it means to be a man after God’s own heart and inspires me to follow hard after God.
After all the triumphs, struggles, and challenges David faced, 2 Samuel 7 finds him finally at rest from all his enemies. As he is walking around in his beautiful house of cedar, he expresses a thought that exemplifies his heart after God perfectly:
2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I am living in a cedar house while the ark of God sits inside tent curtains.”
David had a dream that God would dwell in a house more wonderful and extravagant than his. How could he live in such a palace while the Great I Am dwelt in a tent? Whatever else may be said about this desire, one cannot question the king’s intentions. His heart was obviously for God to be glorified. Nathan initially tells David everything is fine and to go ahead and do what is in his heart. What could be wrong with wanting to build a house to glorify the Living God?
That night, however, God informs Nathan that He has different thoughts on the matter:
5 “Go to My servant David and say, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you to build a house for Me to live in? … 12 When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
I have to confess that I am taken aback by God’s response here. Surely, if anybody would be qualified to build God’s house, it would be a man like David! Why would God deny David such a beautiful dream that was birthed in such a pure heart for God? Why deny him the desire of his heart? But God says no, and the rest of the chapter reveals how graciously David accepts that. He doesn’t kick against the goads or complain to God or even try to fulfill his desire anyway under the quasi-religious guise that it must be a good thing he wants to do here. No – he simply sits in the Presence of God, looks at what God has given him, and moves on.
If God denies one of the greatest men in the Old Testament the desire of his heart – a desire more noble than almost any desire I’ve ever had in the context of the Kingdom of God, then who is to say that God cannot say no to me? I hear a lot of talk in the church that tells me that if I have a desire in my heart to do something for God, it must be from God and thus I should pursue it. This story, however, shows a completely different perspective: no matter how noble, no matter how pure my heart, no matter how wonderful the thing I desire for myself and the Kingdom of God, in some cases God just tells me no. All I can do is keep my eyes on what I do have and glorify the Name of the Lord – regardless of whether His answer is yes or no.
The part of this story that makes my heart skip a beat more than anything, however, is that it also shows that God is a God who sees beyond the here and now, He sees across the generations. David may not have been the one to build the Temple, but his dream was fulfilled through his son Solomon. God saw beyond the limitations of personal desire and a limited timespan to fulfill His plan in His time. His plans and desires for us extend beyond us to our children and our children’s children. God is not limited to time in the way you and I are. He sees beyond the generations – and that may very well be why He sometimes says no.