The No and Yes of God


For those of you who may not know—my name is not Kris Broadhead. I am not the pastor of Mosaic. My name is Brett Davis, and a few times a year the leadership of Mosaic allows me do this—they allow me to preach.

They allow me stand in front of you and open this mysterious and ancient collection of texts—to reflect on and wrestle with holy Scripture.

They allow me try to wrap a few weak and ragged words around the magnificent truth contained in these pages.

They allow me shiver naked in front of you because I have nothing worth saying.

They allow me to remember that my words are utterly powerless—my words cannot call universes into existence, cannot separate light from darkness, cannot cannot raise the dead. And therefore they cannot speak life into you.

And then they allow me to come and listen with you—to come and wait with you—for the voice the ever-present, ever-pervading, ever-penetrating Spirit of God who is ever-living, ever-speaking and ever-breathing life into those who will finally confess that they need it.

We are in dire straights if I’m the one speaking today. If I’m the one you’re hearing. So let’s pray and ask for ears to hear the voice of the Spirit of Jesus.

Because he—is—speaking.

“Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

We’re going to be reading today from 2 Samuel 7, so I definitely want to invite you to turn with me there. If you’re having a tough time finding 2 Samuel—it’s right after 1 Samuel. No, in all seriousness, it’s toward the front of your Bible.

(Read 2 Sam 7:1-16)

THE SCENE (7:1-3)

Alright. Some basics. We’ve got three characters in this passage: David, Nathan and Yahweh. And these three are discussing—in the most general terms—the future of the ancient kingdom of Israel.

“Israel” you say? Yes indeed the Israel.

That nation that Yahweh promised Abraham that he would make Abraham’s descendants into back in Genesis 12.

That family of Abraham’s grandson Jacob who traveled to Egypt at the end of Genesis to escape a regional famine.

That rag-tag group of slaves who was rescued from Egypt by Yahweh through Moses in the early parts of Exodus.

That idolatrous rabble content to worship a golden calf even while Yahweh is promising that they are going to be his kingdom of priests.

That same group who saw seas split and fire fall who yet would not trust Yahweh to give them their long-promised land in the book of Numbers.

That band of people who finally settled in their inheritance only to willfully, woefully, wickedly and repeatedly rebel against the reign of Yahweh—even while Yahweh sent rescuer after rescuer (called judges) to their aid.

That confederation of tribes who finally rejects the kingship of Yahweh outright and wants to be like all the nations around them in 1 Samuel 8. They want a king.

That’s right. That Israel.

These three people characters in our passage today are talking about the future of that group. Because this ungrateful nation, this rebellious lot—this Israel—carries a gargantuan promise on its shoulders:

The Creator of the cosmos will bless the entire world through this nation.
That’s the promise made to Abraham three times. Gen 12. Gen 18. Gen 22.
The world is going to be blessed through Abraham’s offspring. Through Israel.
Take it to the bank.

And so here, according to 7:1, we find David—the long-awaited king of Israel whose heart beats in time with Yahweh’s own—and he’s settling into his palace, sitting on his throne and finally ruling over this Israel.

He’s just finished conquering a city of a groups called the Jebusites—a city called Jerusalem. That was chapter five. Then in chapter six, we discover that David has just brought one of the most ancient symbols of Yahweh’s presence among his people to this city:

The ark of Yahweh.

The golden chest that containing the stone tablets from Sinai carved by the finger of Yahweh himself.

That ancient box which assured David’s ancestors as they escaped Egypt and entered the land that God was with them, that God was among them, that God had not forgotten his promises.

That hope that the Creator was active and on the move and (hey!) literally over there, working to restore creation.

So when verse one says that the king is settling in to his palace, this is the scene. Israel finally has a king after Yahweh’s heart. And that king has just brought that symbol, that chest, that box, that hope to freshly-conquered city of the Jebusites.

David has brought the ark of Yahweh to Jerusalem.

And as we’ve already seen, David is immediately concerned.
He’s not thinking about how great his view is from the fortress of Zion,
he doesn’t seem to be reveling in his growing reputation,
he’s not deluding himself to think that somehow he deserves all of this.
Instead, he’s saying, “Why am I in a palace while God’s box is in a tent?”

David wants to build build Yahweh a temple.

“I mean, look around, all the neighboring tribes and people groups have temples and shrines to all of their gods. But here we are the real and living, good and dangerous God of the Universe has stooped to be among us—he attached himself to that box, for crying out loud. And we don’t even have a legitimate, permanent home for it. We don’t have a temple celebrating the grandeur, the glory, the magnificence of THE TRUE GOD. Why not? Let’s get to work. Let’s build God a house.”

David has got the best of motives.
A great agenda. Wonderful intentions. Wanting the right thing.
God-centered, God-honoring plans.
And God says No.

THE NO OF GOD (7:4-7)

In verses 4-7, Yahweh begins to tell the prophet Nathan how he hasn’t had a temple up until this point and hadn’t asked anyone for a temple. And Yahweh’s words sting a little:

5b Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?

It’s not directly stated, but the implied answer is No. The story of David wanting to build God’s temple, however, is retold and reflected on in a couple of others places in Scripture. And those places, the No is a little more explicit.

For example 1 Kings 8, Solomon (David’s son) is reflecting on all of this at what amounts to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the temple:

17 “My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 18 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. 19 Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’

“You are not the one.” Wow—those are hard words aren’t they? David is desiring, longing, planning to do something good, holy and God-honoring. Yet when he finally gets around to hearing from God himself about these plans, God says No.

Nope—not you. Not that. Not now. Which effectively means, not ever.
You’re not going to get to do it. It’s gonna play out differently, David.

I think we’re all familiar with this No, aren’t we? It doesn’t get explicitly stated here in the text, it’s just implied. And it’s just as implicit many times in our lives.

God, I’d like to do THAT. We would like that opportunity. To pursue that dream.
To follow that plan. To have that relationship. To have that experience.
To serve people in that way. To be able to minister in that capacity.
And that’s when it gets SO hard.

Because for I think most of us, we’re not asking, hoping, praying and dreaming for a Porsche in the driveway, untold amounts of cash, and a modest island in south Pacific If you’re one of the few people who genuinely asking for those things—I’m here to tell you that God is almost certainly No to those things. And he’s almost certainly saying No for your good.

But it gets excruciatingly hard—I’m talking sick-to-your painful—when you’re asking for the right things:

When we’ve got the best of motives, a great agenda.
When we have wonderful intentions. When we’re wanting the right things.
When we’ve got God-centered, God-honoring plans.

It gets hard when we haven’t heard an explicit No from the sky but the circumstances of our lives are speaking that No implicitly.

And God seems to be saying No to what (honestly) God absolutely MUST want.

For example, on the simplest of levels: why the No to blessing the food? I mean, who’s gotten food-poisoning before? It’s like, “Hey God, I’m pretty sure you’re the Creator of healing, health, life. The God who became flesh in Jesus and couldn’t stand NOT to heal. So… hey, I blessed the food, why the food poisoning?”

It gets to be a little bigger of deal though when the implicit No comes to good things: healing for dying infant. Or the rescue of a marriage. Or the provision of a place to live. Or a livable wage and a decent job. Or restoration of health. Or an opportunity to serve others. Or the economy to recover. Or for while family members traveling. Or for peace within a home. Or (seriously) for world peace.

The No of God is hardest to hear when we want to build God a temple.
When we’re praying for, longing for and desiring good and holy things.
The right things. And we still get the implicit No.

Why does God say no to David? Interestingly enough, Scripture is a little vague about this. It’s a little unclear. In 2 Samuel, it’s possible to read some kind of secondary motives into David’s intentions. What if… David might be consolidating religious authority to this new city of Jerusalem for his own political power? Maybe it’s becoming a bit too much about David. And maybe Yahweh says No to protect David from himself.

But then lest we get sold on that as “the why to the No” the passage we just read from 1 Kings makes it sound like David doesn’t get to do it precisely so that Solomon can! The son gets to fulfill the dreams of the father.

But then again, 1 Chronicles gives us the impression that “the Why” to the No is because David is a king whose rule and reign has been marked by war and conflict. But that’s a bit unsettling too because here in our passage Yahweh explicitly states:

9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.

We’re to understand that through David Yahweh cuts off Israel’s enemies, defends his people, but then ends up saying No to building the temple because of those things? That’s doesn’t seem fair.

Best I can tell from my reading of Scripture, we don’t get a crystal clear answer on “the why” to the No.

Protecting David? Gift to Solomon? David is a warrior?
We don’t know with exhaustive clarity why God says No to David.

But the No comes.
No to a sure thing. The plans were ready.
No to something a good thing. The plans were holy.
No to something God actually plans to do. Someone else is going to do it.

God says No. And it’s hard. It’s confusing. It’s maddening. It’s too much.
And a lot times it appears like God’s No is more frequent than his Yes.

THE YES OF GOD (7:8-16)

But I am here, my brothers and sisters to proclaim the good news:
God is the God of Yes.

I know. It’s hilariously good news. It’s hard to believe. It appears to go against all the evidence sometimes—against all the odds. It’s like its too good to be true. But God is the God of Yes.

David still doesn’t get to build the temple. But God is the God of Yes.
Listen to the rest of Yahweh’s message for David:

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and [I] appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

David’s entire life, his entire kingship, his entire kingdom, his entire reputation, his victories, his past, his present, his future—all of it has been by the hand of Yahweh. All of it is gift. All of it grace.

If we want to go beyond God’s words here in chapter seven, we could include a lot of things as grace—as gift. You know, little things like:
breath in David’s lungs, food on David’s table,
his family, his friends,
the taste of warm bread and cool water,
the sunset and sunrise, the cool breeze, the warm sun
naps, pets, music, dancing, the taste of fresh fruit
grass and trees and mountains and stars,
fish leaping, birds singing, children laughing.

All from God.
Gift, gift, gift.
Grace, grace, grace.
Yes, Yes, Yes.

It’s like we’re so surrounded by the Yes of God that we’ve stopped hearing it.

But there’s more. Because we’re all aware that something has gone wrong with the world—that despite all of this gift and grace, something is wrong. Rebellion and corruption and evil and death have infected the world “out there” and us “in here.” That was whole the reason why God was promising Abraham that the world would be blessed through his family in the first place.

That’s the whole point of Israel—something David would very much remember.

And so Yahweh finishes by making a grand promise—by giving a deeper Yes to a question that David wasn’t even asking. The world in Hebrew for house in Hebrew can have a couple of different meanings. It’s very similar to English, how “the house of Broadhead” could refer to the place where Kris and Jaime live, but it could also refer to where their family. So while David wants to build “a house” (building) for Yahweh, Yahweh is planning on building “a house” (family or dynasty) for David:

11b “‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever. ’”

Well how do you do? The dynasty of David will go on forever. David wasn’t expecting this at all.

The most immediate and obvious reference here is to Solomon. After all, Solomon, son of David, is the king who succeeds his father and builds a house for Yahweh.

Then for subsequent generations of Israelites, ancestors of David—grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on—were successors to the throne. They were the Sons of David. They were the anointed kings. The anointed ones. In Hebrew you would call them Massiachim or Messiahs. In Greek, you would call them Xristoi or Christs.

And these christs, these messiahs, these anointed ones, these kings—they all experienced quite a bit of punishment during the centuries following David. They endured floggings and punishment because their track record after David looked just as abysmal as the track record before him. Rebellion, hardheartedness, idolatry, corruption, self-righteousness, hypocrisy—you name it.

But a promise has been made.
A deeper Yes has been given to a question David never asked.
The dynasty of David will endure forever.

Through the centuries, the Jewish people wrestled with how this promise could hold true. How could it be that the line of David would rule forever? And what would it look like?

Turn to Matthew 22 with me. Fast forward ten centuries with me. The excitement and speculation about a coming a coming king (or messiah or christ), was near fever-pitch in Jesus’ day under the rule of the Roman empire. Many claimed that title for themselves. It was a good way to start a war. It was a good way to get yourself killed.

Near the end of Jesus’ life, Jesus poses a question to some of the devout religious leaders about the coming the anointed one:

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,“‘The Lord said to my Lord:    “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies  under your feet.”’
45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Jesus is playing with the words of a famous Psalm (110) that anticipated the coming king. And he’s asking a legitimate question—if David was writing prophetically about a future king, why did he call him Lord? After all, David wouldn’t have called Solomon “my Lord.” He would have called him “Junior” or “my Son” or something else. Not “my Lord.”

And no dares ask Jesus any questions because he’s implying something incredible about the Messiah—if the Messiah isn’t David’s son, whose son is he? And if Jesus is claiming, he’s a different kind of king. They’re expecting something different than what they’re about to get. They’re asking the wrong questions about the messiah.

The earliest proclamation of the Christian church was that Jesus was not merely the son of David, but he was God the Son. The utterly unique embodiment of the Creator of the universe as a real flesh-and-blood, living, breathing, eating, sleeping human being.

The God of Israel became an Israelite.
The God of Abraham became the offspring of Abraham.
The God of David became a son of David.
He himself would be the blessing to the world promised to Abraham.
He himself would become the Davidic king who would rule forever.

God gave a deeper Yes to the world than anyone dared ask. And the good news is that God the Son did this by enduring the No that belonged to everyone else.

Across the board, all four gospels include a sign on the cross above Jesus that reads “King of Jews” as the climax of their stories. Because all four evangelists understood that this was a different kind of messiah. This was the innocent God-man hanging on a cross—enduring floggings at the hands of men not for his own wrongdoing but for everyone else’s. This is a different kind of Messiah because he’s not the Son of David taking the rod for his punishment—Jesus is the Son of God enduring the punishment belonging to us all.

Since Jesus is truly human, he could rightfully represent us.
And since Jesus is truly God, he could actually endure it.

God gave the deepest kind of Yes to all of us by giving himself the deepest kind of No.

David never built temple and never got a “Why.”
But he was reminded of million Yeses that he’d stopped hearing.
And then he got a deeper Yes than he could ever imagined.
His God would become is descendant. His Lord would become his Son.

We’re like David. We just can’t imagine the big picture. In all humility and all honesty guys, I have no idea how this works, but the Bible insists that God is working all things for good. And so if you confess Jesus as Lord, you can trust that:

God’s Nos are deeper Yeses to better questions.
Yeses to the requests we didn’t request.
Yeses to the prayers we couldn’t pray.
Yeses for ultimate good, even when we’re insisting on building the temple.
I cannot imagine how this must sound to some of us.

Some of us are so furious at God for answering our prayers with No that it’s more than we can bear to think that there’s somewhere, somehow a deeper Yes behind it. Our invitation today is to believe the good news that there is—to believe that the good news really is that good.

Some of us are so heartbroken by what seems like the silence of God that it seems like crazy-talk to dare to think that God might actually be shouting “Yes, Yes, Yes” to better questions. Our invitation is to remind each other that he is. That he’s the God of Yes.

Some of us are exhausted because we long to build the temple. Our plans are fantastic, our motivations are godly, we’re wanting the right things. But we’re invited to lay our best-laid-temple-plans on the altar and begin praying for eyes to see God’s Yes.

All of us are challenged again, invited and called again to lay down our lives, our dreams, and our “whys” down in obedience to King Jesus. And to trust that the King who endured No on our behalf speaks the deepest Yes over us.

May we be driven to our knees by the No spoken to Jesus on the cross.
May we be lifted to the heavens by the Yes spoken by Jesus from the cross.
May our eyes be open to the uncounted Yeses that God gives every day.
And may we hear God’s deeper Yes especially when we’re not allowed to build the temple.

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