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Full Length Sermons

When God Says No, Part 2

A Leader You Can Follow

“He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13)

We are looking together at the story of a godly man with a good heart and a great idea. David had it in his heart to do something for God. He wanted to build a temple.

We saw that he had the right concern, the right goal, the right heart, and the right process. David wanted to do something good for the glory of God. But God closed the door. And we asked the question Why? Why would God close the door on something good that David wanted to do for him?

Several of you have pointed out that 1 Chronicles tells us that God said to David, “You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth” (1 Chronicles 22:8; see also 1 Chronicles 28:3).

Does this mean that David could have built the temple if he had not been a man of war? Is God saying, “You have done what you should not have done, so now you will not get to do what you wanted to do”? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

David completed the conquest that Joshua started hundreds of years earlier but did not finish. We are told repeatedly in the book of Joshua, that God’s people did not drive their enemies out of the land (Joshua 13:13, 15:63, 16:10, 17:13).

The people drove out some of them, but enemies remained embedded, and were able to rise up at will throughout the time of the judges. That was how it remained for about 400 years, until the time of David when God said, “I will give you rest from all your enemies” (2 Samuel 7:11). It was God’s purpose to bring this season of conflict to an end.

David was given the very difficult calling of completing the work that Joshua had only begun. Driving out the enemies was hard and miserable work – one conflict after another. This is not the kind of work any leader wants to do. But it had to be done, and until the time of David, no one else had been able to do it. Only in the time of David were the enemies defeated and peace established for the people of God.

Matthew Henry says about this verse in 1 Chronicles:

God would not suffer him (David) to proceed because he had appointed other work for him to do, which was enough for one man, namely, managing the wars of Israel.

David had to fight the battles so that Solomon could enjoy the peace in which he was able to build a great temple for the glory of God.

This speaks directly to a frustration that many leaders face today. You start out, like David, wanting to do something great for God. But you find, to your disappointment, that much of your time is spent dealing with unresolved conflicts.

You may find yourself saying, “I wanted to do something great for God, but here I am plowing through one difficulty after another.” And you wonder, Others seem to enjoy peace in their home, their business, or their ministry, and they get to accomplish great things! Why am I the one who “draws the short straw” and ends up embroiled in all these difficulties?

If God has called you to something that is especially hard, this story is for you. A fruitful tree flourishes because someone did the hard work of digging a hole in the ground. The great work of Solomon could not have been accomplished if the hard work of David had not been done first. David subdued the enemies and established peace. Only when that work was done could the temple of God be built.

There are many applications of this pattern – David must fight the battles before Solomon can build the temple. Parents of young children know that there are battles to fight before great things can be accomplished. Establishing order in a home is hard work. No one enjoys these battles, but this work needs to be done if something great is to be accomplished.

We can apply what we learn from these battles in the Old Testament to the many struggles we face as Christians with sin and temptation in our own lives. Here’s the principle: If you want to do a great work for God, you must deal first with sins that remain embedded in your life.

Listen to these words of Paul to Timothy, a young Christian leader: “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Timothy, you want to be useful to the Master? You want to be ready for every good work? You want to be a vessel for honorable use? Well then, here is what you must do: Cleanse yourself of all that dishonors God. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Here is a great motive for pursuing holiness of life, for waging war against the sin that remains in your life. Think what you could be for the Lord. Think what you might do. Think how he might use you if the sins that have gained power over you were driven out! Don’t let an impure heart put you on the sidelines of usefulness to God! Any great work of God begins with a person who gets serious about the pursuit of holiness.

Well, all of that came out of good people asking a good question about 1 Chronicles 22 and 28! Let’s return to 2 Samuel 7.

Last week we looked at the challenge in this story. When God closes a door on something good you wanted to do, your faith will be tested. How well do you love God? How well do you love others? How well do you understand grace? Today, we will look at the encouragement of this story.
When God Closes a Door, His Promise Remains Sure

David had said to God, “I will build a house for you.” But God said to David, “No, I will build a house for you” (2 Sam. 7:11). God was not referring, of course, to a building of bricks and mortar, but to a dynasty, a line of descent that would continue.

Now this promise to David points wonderfully to Jesus Christ, but we must not go there too quickly, because it speaks first to what would happen in the time of Solomon.

A camera can focus on what is near, or it can focus on what is far away. If you zoom in on a flower that is five feet away, you will see the flower clearly, and whatever is behind it will be less clear. If you focus on a bush that is 50 feet away, your picture will show the bush clearly, but you will not have the same focus on the flower.

Prophecy in the Bible is like that. The focus can move quickly from one horizon to another.
For example, Isaiah says, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given;” That surely speaks to the coming of Jesus into the world as a baby. Then Isaiah says, “and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isa. 9:6). That surely speaks of Jesus when he returns to reign in power and glory. Yet the two prophecies flow into each other, the near and the far, as if they were one.

You have something similar here. Some words of this prophecy could only be fulfilled in Solomon, and not in Jesus. Other parts of this promise could only be fulfilled in Jesus, and not in Solomon.

God’s promise answers our questions

This marvelous promise answers two questions that must have been in David’s mind.
They are the questions that we all face when we are called on to endure hard things.

Stand with me for a moment in David’s shoes: “All right Lord, you have mapped out a path for me. It’s not what I wanted, but I am ready to accept it. I will do the hard thing that you are calling me to do. But here is what I want to know: What will happen when I am gone? What will come of all my effort and all my work? Will anything that I do have lasting value?”

Remember that there had only been one king before David, and everything Saul lived for died with him. Saul’s house was never established. David wants to know, “Am I going to be another Saul, or will what I have worked for continue beyond my lifetime?”

That surely is the great question for all of us. What will come of your life? What will remain after you are gone? After all the effort we extend, will anything that we do have lasting value or will all our work be like sandcastles that are washed away when the tide come in? God has a marvelous answer for this question.

1. Will this last?

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name…” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

Do you see what God is saying to David? “David, your work will not be in vain! When you serve the Lord, what you do will have enduring value.” The apostle Paul says, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

If all that you work for and all that you do ends when you die, you are in the most miserable position. But God says, “That’s not how it will be for you, David.” And that is God’s promise to us in Jesus Christ. What you do will have lasting value.

Then there is a second question: The great work for which David laid the foundation will continue. It will be given to his son, Solomon (who, at the time God gave this promise, was not even born). What if Solomon messes up? Notice how God addresses that question.

2. Will this spoil?

“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him” (2 Samuel 7:14-15).

A time will come when David is no longer able to bring a father’s influence and guidance to his son. God says, “David, when you are gone, I will be a Father to your son. You can trust your son into my hand.”

“David, with regard to your son messing up, the question is not if, it’s when! David, you will mess up and so will your son.” But here is God’s promise to all of his children: “When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him… but my steadfast love will not depart from him” (2 Samuel 7:14, 15).

Whatever it takes to bring his rebellious children back, God will do. The Good Shepherd never gives up on one of his own sheep. If it turns out that you do not belong to him, you are in the worst possible position. Flee to Jesus Christ now. But if you are his, God will exercise whatever discipline is needed to bring you back. So don’t make this harder on yourself than it needs to be. If you belong to the Lord and are away from him, come back quickly!

God will do whatever it takes to bring you back, but he will never stop loving you! “When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him… but my steadfast love will not depart from him” (2 Samuel 7:14, 15). This is an amazing covenant: Death cannot break it. Sin cannot cancel it.

God’s Promise Is Ours in Jesus Christ

There is something else in this promise that clearly takes us beyond Solomon, and it lies in this wonderful word forever. “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13).

Obviously this does not mean that Solomon would reign forever. Clearly there is more to this promise than that David’s son would build a temple in Jerusalem. This becomes even clearer when God says to David: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

This marvelous promise could mean one of two things:

1. There would always be a descendent of David on the throne.

But that cannot be the meaning of the promise, for the simple reason that it did not happen. The last descendent of David to reign in Jerusalem was Zedekiah. His reign ended in 586 BC.

The line of David’s descendants continued, but no one from that line has sat on a throne in Jerusalem from that day to this. So this promise cannot mean that at every point in history there would be a descendant of David on the throne.

2. There will be one person, in the line of David, whose reign will continue forever.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

“The promise,” Isaiah says, “does not mean that there will always be a Davidic king.” Hope for God’s people does not lie in a dynasty. Hope for God’s people lies in a person, one person, who will be born into the line of David, and who will fulfill the promise given to David. His reign will be forever. That is the significance of the very first line of the New Testament.

  • The New Testament opens by introducing this Son of David: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David…” (Matthew 1:1).
  • The angel announces to Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David…” (Luke 1:31-32).
  • Hebrews 1:5 picks up God’s promise to David and relates it to Jesus Christ: “For to which of the angels did God ever say… ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’”? (Hebrews 1:5)
  • At the end of the New Testament, the cry of victory sounds out from the angels of heaven: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). This promise is ours in and through Jesus Christ!

Lean on This Promise

I want to end today by identifying three places in life when this promise (given to David, and belongs to us through the Lord Jesus Christ) will be especially valuable to you.

1. Lean on this promise when you don’t get to do what you wanted to do

That was David’s situation. He wanted to build the temple and he didn’t get to do it. I was struck last week by how many of you spoke about a door that has closed on something good that you wanted to do. Here we have what God says when you don’t get to do what you wanted to do: “You wanted to build a house for me. I will build a house for you.”

Solomon got to build the temple, and it stood in in all its magnificence for about 400 years and then it was destroyed. Since then David and Solomon have been in the presence of Jesus for centuries. How much do you think it matters to David, in the presence of Jesus, that Solomon got to build the temple and not him? Any tears that David shed over that are long since wiped from his eyes.

The answer to the bucket list of all the things you were not able to do in this life is that you have an eternal future with Christ in glory. However hard the calling you face, God says to you in the light of the resurrection: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

2. Lean on this promise when you mess up what you might have done.

There are times in life when our own sins, our own foolishness, closes a door that otherwise might have been open. If that is your position, you might find yourself saying from agony of heart, “If God had closed the door I could live with it, but what I hate myself for is that it was my own foolishness, my own sin, my own rebellion, that changed the path of my life and shut off opportunities that might otherwise have been open for me. My life would have been so different, if I hadn’t been such a fool!”

If that is your position, I want you to hear this promise: God says to you in Jesus Christ when you rebel: “I’m going to do whatever it takes to get you back, and my steadfast love will not depart from you.” Your life may follow a different path as a result of what you have done, but God never abandons his own children.

Think of David in the presence of the Lord. Later in David’s life, he messed up big time. He could only cast himself on the grace and mercy of God, and plead, “Lord, don’t cast me from your presence and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Please don’t abandon me. Please don’t take your steadfast love away from me.”

What matters to David now, is not what he did or did not get to do in this life. What matters now and forever is that God did not take his steadfast from David and, in Christ, he will never take his steadfast love from you.

3. Lean on this promise when you no longer know the joy you once did.

This application came from meditating on the word forever. This is not always an attractive word in this world. Our life in this world is like a bell curve that begins with rising opportunities and ends with declining strength. Visit a care home where an older person sits with limited activity. Things that once were easy are now much harder to do. Time passes slowly, and a day can see like forever.

When the joys of life have diminished for you, remember the forever that lies ahead of you. It is beautifully described in the book of Revelation: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). Brother, sister in Christ, you will never tire of the life that God has in store for you. It will never seem long, stale, routine, or dull.

God speaks to us, not of a stagnant pool, but of springs of living water! Christ himself will lead us into the joys of this life. You will never want it to end and God says that it never will!

This promise gives us a marvelous glimpse of our hope in Jesus Christ. What good would a promise be if it died with us? What good would a promise be if it was canceled when we sin? What good would a promise be if it expired after a certain period of time?

But God’s promise to us in Jesus Christ is stronger than death, greater than sin, and longer than time itself. When we come to the New Testament, Peter says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4, NIV).

This promise can never perish, spoil, or fade. This promise can never perish, so death can’t end it! This promise can never spoil, so sin can’t ruin it! This promise will never fade, so time can’t diminish it! When God closes a door, your faith will be tested. But when God closes a door, his promise remains sure.

© Colin S. Smith
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