Good intentions versus the will of God.

January 10, 2014.

Is it possible to have a good thought that goes against the will of God? Think about that question for a few minutes. Are good thoughts and/or good intentions every contrary to the will of God? This probably seems like a weird question, or maybe a question with an obvious answer, but I think there is a lesson that can be learned by asking it.

I am reading through II Chronicles, and I came across the story of David’s plan to build the temple. It’s actually the second time the story is told, the first being in II Samuel. I will pull passages from both places.

“Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”
(II Sam. 7:1-3)

The story begins with King David, after his rule has been pretty well established, looks out and sees that he has been given rest from his enemies and has been able to build a massive house for himself. This is unsettling to David, a man after God’s own heart, because he has built a house for himself but not for the Lord. Thus, David decides that it would be good to build a house for the Lord, and the prophet Nathan (without council with God) tells him to go and do all that it in his heart. Everything sounds good, right?

Then God throws a bit of a wrench in his plans:

“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 aboutin a tent for my dwelling. 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?”’ … 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, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
(II Sam. 7:4-7, 12-13)

When Nathan leaves the King’s presence, God comes to him and tells him that David is not to build the house for God, for reasons we will see in a minute. This seems a bit odd at first glance. David wanted to do what he saw as a good thing. He was going to build a house to honor and praise the Lord, making a permanent resting place for the ark of the covenant. Nathan thought it sounded just as good as David did. But God said, “When did I ask you to build me a house?” It was not God’s plan for David to build it. It is further explained in the two books of Chronicles:

“Then King David rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.’ Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me from all my father’s house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father’s house, and among my father’s sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues strong in keeping my commandments and my rules, as he is today.’”
(I Chronicles 28:2-7)

If you stop the story there, as I have done in the past, you might get the impression that God was displeased with David for wanting to do something God didn’t ask him to do. You might see Nathan’s rebuke as God yelling at David. I don’t think this is the full picture, however. Look at what Solomon says after he finishes the house:

“Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless, it is not you who shall build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made. For I have risen in the place of David my father and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel”
(II Chronicles 6:7-10)

“…you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless…” This is the key phrase of this post. In Solomon’s address to Israel, he says that God said this to his father, David. I believe this is a good lesson that we can pull from this story. David had a good intention in his heart, even called good by God, nevertheless it was not according to the will of God. Does that mean David was wrong to have it in his heart? Not according to the word of God. However, would David had been wrong to carry out his intention? Indeed, for it would be going against the word of God.

“But what is the application?” you may ask. There are many things that we find good in our hearts to do. Most Christians, however, assume that if it is in their heart, then it must be from God and the right thing to do. I am not convinced of this. I do not believe that every good feeling we get is a stirring of the Holy Spirit.

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?”
(Jer. 17:9)

Now this is not to say that we cannot follow things in our hearts, or that some of our feeling are not indeed prompts from God. Our religion, our theology, our world view must be based on a combination of things, such as prayer, reading, study and listening to the Spirit. We are not able just to choose one and ignore the rest. Thus, if we find it good in our heart to do something, pray for wisdom about it. Then drop all bias (to the best of your ability) of what you want to do, and search the scriptures for an answer. If you find that the good thing you had in your heart to do does not line up with the will of God, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just accept his will, and continue on. David wasn’t wrong for having it in his heart. But God made sure he knew that it wasn’t his will for him to build the house. I believe he will do the same if we are truly, honestly looking for the answer.

Suggested Daily Reading: II Samuel 7, I Kings 8, I Chronicles 28, II Chronicles 6.

Today’s post may have been a bit confusing at first glance. Please feel free to ask me to further explain any portion of what I was trying to convey. The Lord guide you into wisdom and grace.

-Walter

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