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Andrew Krayer-White - October 25, 2021

"When God Says No"

David was a shepherd and a king, a soldier and a poet, a sinner and a saint. Yet of all the descriptions that the Bible gives of David, the most important is the one given by God, when He calls David “a man after my own heart.” In this series, we’ll examine how you and I can develop a heart for God. _____________________________________________________________________ Hi church, it’s good to be with you. In case you’re newer to our community, my name is Andrew. I serve as one of the pastors here. We’re excited to have you with us today. This fall we’re working through a series called “Developing a heart for God” as we look at the life of King David. Our message today is titled “When God says No.” As the title suggests we’re going to spend our time today walking through a situation in David’s life where God says exactly that. There was something David really wanted, and it seemed like a good thing, not a selfish or self-serving thing, certainly not a foolish thing– a good thing to which God said no.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe there’s something in your life right this moment that you’ve been asking God for again and again. You’re wearing the knees out of your pants praying for it, you’ve got your family and your life group praying for it. You’ve done all that you can to plead God for it. But for whatever reason it seems like God keeps coming back with no. In certain Christian circles, there can be all kinds of spiritual abuse heaped on you for this kind of thing, saying if you only had more faith: God would respond. If you truly believed He would act. I want us to start here God’s no is not sign of deficient faith. Abraham the father of our Faith was told no, Ishmael won’t receive the blessing. Paul the most prolific writer in the New Testament, was told no when he asked for the thorn to be taken from his flesh. Jesus himself was told no when he asked Father will you take this cup from me? When we receive God’s no, it is not a sign of our deficient faith, it’s simply the reality of our faith. Sometimes, inexplicably, that answer is no. Our capacity to hold on to God despite His no, is a sign of the maturity of our faith.

As many of you know, I’m a Dad. We have a four-year-old, a two year old and our youngest is just over two months old. And like a lot of you who’ve had young kids, my wife Kristen and I, find ourselves saying no, a lot. It’s not that we like saying no, we try to say yes as much as we can, or later, or at least no creatively, but sometimes you just have to say no. When they want to eat ice cream for lunch, help chop the veggies with the big knife, or help our youngest with his pacifier and their hands are sticky or covered with peanut butter, or snot. We say no, because more often than not, it’s in theirs or someone else’s best interest for us to say no. Working with parents as an analogy, it makes sense that God, as our heavenly Father who has a perfect plan and an eternal perspective, is going to say no to us on occasion. We know that. When I was in my early teens, every night I would pray that God would make me an NHL All-Star goalie, clearly God’s answer was no. Maybe not yet – but that’s probably not likely.

There are some no’s that make sense, particularly in retrospect. But those aren’t the ones that threaten to shake our faith. We’re talking about the legitimate, deep heart longings, for healing, for a relationship, for a child - what do we do with those things which are nearest and dearest to our hearts, that it seems like a good loving God should and would answer yes, but to date it seems that he hasn’t? In Isaiah, God says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” but aren’t their times when it seems like our ways are better?

Turn with me to 2 Samuel chapter 7, we’ll begin with verse one. "Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” 3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

The timing for this passage is a little unclear. We do know that David has already been King over all Israel for some time and had been fairly successful. He had secured Jerusalem as his capital city, and to some extent secured the borders of the promised land from their adversaries. In the preceding chapter, chapters six, he brought the Ark of the Covenant up into the city, which made Jerusalem not just the seat of political power, but also made it the religious center of Israel. In suggesting that he build a house for God, that is, a temple, it would establish Jerusalem as the permanent religious center for God’s people. It would also seem to represent the fulfillment of God’s word in Deuteronomy 12. It would be establishing “a dwelling for his Name.” Of course that glosses over the fact in Deuteronomy that it’s the place of God’s choosing, not David’s but that’s beside the point. This seems like a good plan.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t necessarily a unique request. In the Ancient Near East, building a temple was a frequent and pretty pragmatic means of legitimating your rule. Many Ancient near eastern Kings that were in power long enough built temples to their gods. It was a particularly effective way of consolidating your power by identifying your reign with the will of your gods. So much so that to reject your rule and turn against you was therefore a rejection of your God. So there is context for what David’s suggesting.

But as we’ve seen so far David wasn’t just any King. His desire to build God a temple seemed more than just political calculus, as some secular scholars might suggest. David could not bear the contrast where he lived in a house made of cedar while the Lord lived in a tent, or in Hebrew a house made of curtains. It doesn’t take long reading through the Psalms, to get a sense for David’s love and devotion to God. In Psalm 27 David tells us of his singular overriding desire in life “One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” That is the longing of David’s heart. It shouldn’t surprise us then that if David’s primary ambition in life is to remain in the house of God’s presence, that fairly high on his list of things to do would be to construct such a house. David valued the construction of a house of worship to the Lord more than any military victory or the accumulation of wealth or glory to his own name. This was it for David. It was his dream.

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying...

Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 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 and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders[a] 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 to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.

The Lord didn’t waste much time to put a stop to the plan. Before building permits could be filed God said no. And David’s wonderful dream of doing something incredible for God comes crashing down. For those of you who are wrestling with God’s no, David knows what that’s like.

God’s message through the profit Nathan does a number of things: in part it reestablished God’s initiative, it reestablished God’s authority in David’s life. In essence it is a reminder David, God is God, you are not. While David is referred to as the king three times in the first three verses, in his address God refers to him not as king but as “my servant David.” In case David was getting a little too confident in his accomplishments, God took him down a couple notches. You’re going to do something for me David, no, no, no. It’s I who’ve done something for you. I was the one who brought you up from shepherding the flocks, I preserved you in your wandering, I am the source of your victory, and I not you, will make your name great.

You might have a plan David, but so do I, and I’m God and you’re not, so we’re going to go with mine. In our culture we’ve gotten this all mixed up. God is God and I am not is a message we might know, but it’s not one we like and it’s certainly not one we practice. We’ve taken the belief in God as our loving father and turned it into God as our loyal butler. We’ve misunderstood the roles of who’s really the King of kings, and who has the role of servant. In 2005 a scholar by the name of Christian Smith studied and named the pervasive heresy of our day as “Moralistic, Therapeutic, Deism.” His study was of teenagers, but Smith contends that in large part they’re simply reflecting the spiritual views that they received from their parents. Because this view was as prevalent amongst Mormons, Jews and Catholics as it was amongst Evangelicals, that is, it was roughly the same beliefs held across the board, it’s clear that our current culture, not scripture, is the primary force in forming our beliefs.

Smith describes the predominant view of God saying “This God is not demanding. He actually can’t be, because his job is to solve our problems and make people feel good. In short, God is something like a combination of Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too involved in the process.” One of our problems with God saying no is tied to our misunderstanding of the very God who says no. Pastor Rick mentioned this a few weeks ago, there are countless numbers of people today who are rejecting God and walking away from Christianity. They call it deconstructing. What these folks need is our empathy and a non-judgemental environment in which to work through their doubts into deeper belief. But as Smith’s work shows for many of them, it’s not the God revealed through the bible, rather it’s a sort of culturally constructed Santa Clause deity they’re walking away from for failing to provide them what they want. That’s certainly not the only thing motivating deconstruction in our day, but it’s certainly part of it.

Does that mean that it’s wrong to bring my requests to God? No, that’s absolutely not what it means. Jesus, who was God in the flesh encouraged us ask, seek, knock. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he tells us that as we speak, Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of the Father interceding on our very behalf. In the very same chapter, Paul tells us the Holy Spirit that indwells us is also interceding for us. So it’s not wrong to ask. The second and third person of the trinity are doing that exact thing. But it is wrong when I prioritize my wants and my dreams above God’s will and His plan. It is wrong for us to surrender our faith in God because He has pursued his will and his plan over ours.

That’s part of what’s going on here. It’s a reorientation in order that we might see God rightly. And in doing so, we can also recognize our position before him rightly. Not standing over him, but subject to him and his will and plan.

At the same time this message does something else. God’s reminding David, that even while the answer is no, he is still good. I’ll say it again, while the answer is sometimes no, God is always good. Look at back at God’s message to David. It’s like he’s saying it wasn’t you who called or elevated you, provided for and protected you. It was me all along. And it’s not just about what God’s done, there’s also a promise of what is in store. God was reminding David I have been there every step of the way and I will continue to do so, until my good plan is finished. Until it is finished.

I love this: God mentions dwelling in a tent, why did he dwell in a tent? Why didn’t God choose something more befitting the creator of everything, like some elaborate bejeweled mind blowing Temple that could be seen from miles around even at night where you would have to avert your eyes as you approached because it was to blinding? Why a tent? Because God has graciously knelt down, condescended to His people, covenantally committed to them not to be God from far away but God in their midst. A God who journeyed with them on their pilgrimage. Here’s another reminder for us today/ No, always comes with the yes of God’s presence. Silent though he may seem, absent as he may feel, angry as you may be. No doesn’t come from far away, or in the mail. His no comes with Yes of his presence. This is where counter to the information of our experience of the moment, we trust the witness of His word, and backed by the testimony of the Saints, that even in your darkest nights He is here. The overarching story of scripture is one of God’s love and longing to be with His people. And while His Son received the no of God’s absence, it guaranteed for us His enduring presence. Even in no, he is present.

God’s promise continues in verse twelve.

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

Thanks be to God for this promise. Sure he’s talking about Solomon as the one who would build the temple, and from there he speaks of the Davidic dynasty, they will be rebellious and for that they will be disciplined. But despite their unfaithfulness God has promised that He will faithful. Isn’t that the good news, that it’s not about our faithfulness but his faithfulness to us the unfaithful. And the way He is faithful, is by the provision of a Son who will be the Messiah. In case this is new to you, He’s talking about Jesus. Jesus comes from the House of David, Jesus is the Son of the Father. He commits no iniquity, but becomes sin for us and receives the punishment for our iniquity. And His throne has forever been established.

David didn’t receive what He wanted. But he got to experience God’s goodness, God’s presence, and lastly despite the no, he received the promise of a better day. I know, it’s hard sometimes to say God is still good even in His no. But this is where we can take comfort and find hope. While the answer is no today, God has promised a better day is coming. This isn’t just empty optimism or some self-help mantra. I’m talking about God’s plan. Jesus is God’s good plan for a broken cosmos that goes all the way back to Genesis. It’s Jesus whose heel crushes the head of the serpent. He is the seed of Abraham through which all Nations are blessed. The ruler from the tribe Judah. And as we see in this passage He is the Son of David who’s Kingdom will last forever.

Because of Jesus we look forward to a better day when He will wipe every tear from (our) eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain.” In Him we have hope in the promise of resurrection to Life eternal, and trust that the no – to healing, for a child, for a dream, or a relationship, that that no, will be transformed or fulfilled in ways we could never begin imagine on this side of the divide. Yes, and even on top of that it gives us hope for a better today, because Jesus’ life, death and resurrection has already brought God’s Kingdom here now. It’s a present reality. Not yet in it’s fullness, but it is here. And so even in no, we can experience the joy, the delight and surprise of His Kingdom showing up in unthinkable places.

Let’s pause here a moment: I don’t want to pretend that the promise of a better day is going to take away the pain or even the confusion when God says no. Please don’t leave from here – thinking that I’m saying that none of us should grieve in light of God’s promise. Turn with me a moment to Psalm 89, check out verse two. “I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. 3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 4 ‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.’” Jump down to verse thirty, there is says “If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, 31 if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, 32 I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; 33 but I will not take my love from him, nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.”

What is the Psalmist talking about? Second Samuel Seven. This is actually where we get the language of the Davidic Covenant. The word covenant isn’t used there, but elsewhere in scripture, that’s how it’s described. As God made a Covenant with Abraham and Moses, now we have the Davidic Covenant. And the Psalmist is praising God for the promise, this covenant made to David. He trusts the promise. And yet, at the time of the Psalms composition, it hasn’t come to fruition. In fact, it seems like God’s yes, is no. So, as someone who affirms his belief in the promise, he does something that might seem odd. He laments How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? 47 Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all humanity! Who can live and not see death, or who can escape the power of the grave? 49 Lord, where is your former great love, which in your faithfulness you swore to David? Rather than pretending as if his doubt doesn’t exist, or pay lip service to God is good all the timeIt’s as if he’s taking his trust in one hand, and his questions, doubts, and grief in the other, and he’s bringing it to God. I trust there is a better day coming Lord, but I don’t think I’m going to see it. This is full hearted spirituality. The Psalm is a beautiful picture of how we live in the tension of trust and doubt.

If I was to describe a process for dealing with God’s no in life it would look like this: first trust. Not trust as a feeling or emotion, but trust as a conscious choice. A despite evidence to the contrary, countercultural, but continuous with biblical witness kind of trust. An active leaving your nets behind kind of trust. That He is God, that he is good, that he is present and trust in His promise of a better day. And second, it’s to lament. God this doesn’t seem good, you don’t feel present, how long until this better day you’ve promised us? Like the Psalmist we hold both before God, trust and lament.

And until He says that’s it, or I have a better plan – the third is ask again. Because in Jesus’ sacrificial death, God has shown us his heart for us. The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” We ask again, Jesus asked three times. Paul asked three times. Until he has told us to do otherwise we ask again. Like the parables of the persistent widow or the neighbor at midnight we ask with shameless audacity. Not because we are deserving but because all that he is revealed to us about himself tells us that He is loving, that He is faithful. And that His plan is for His glory, and good. And that He is a father, that delights in answering the prayers of His children. So we ask again. And we trust again, and we lament again. And we do it again and again. Because that’s what people of faith do until He calls us home or He returns. Let’s Pray...

Lord we believe, help our unbelief. Wherever this message needs to land with us, Spirit would you penetrate straight through to our hearts with it. For those of us who need reorientation, that we might see and serve you as God. For those of who need the assurance of your goodness and presence in the midst of your no. For those that need the hope of your promised better day.

Lord we just want to take a moment to lift up the no’s. Corporately Lord we cry out “How Long Oh Lord” and to honor those of you, for whom this is your stuggle, we’re just going to be silent for a few moments to create space – in the quiet of your heart, to lament God’s no. And we’re going to sit with you in that.

(… moment of silence)

Gracious Father, we trust you. Hear these our prayers. Amen.

From Series: "Developing A Heart For God"

David was a shepherd and a king, a soldier and a poet, a sinner and a saint. Yet of all the descriptions that the Bible gives of David, the most important is the one given by God, when He calls David “a man after my own heart.” In this series, we’ll examine how you and I can develop a heart for God.

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