June 28, 2017
David had reached the pinnacle. He had consolidated power, subdued enemies domestic and foreign, had embarked on an ambitious public works project, and had built a palace worthy of his growing stature as king of Israel. He even brought the Tabernacle to a specially prepared spot in the city and had the Ark of the Covenant set in place. In a reflective mood one day, he began to think about the Tent of Meeting which at between two and four hundred years old, was probably showing its age.
“Look, I am living in a palace…while the ark of the LORD’s covenant is under a tent,” he said to the prophet Nathan. It just didn’t seem right to him to be living in such luxury and splendor while the centerpiece of the national identity and worship sat in a tent. Nathan answered, “You should do whatever you have in mind; for God is with you.” It was a perfectly understandable response, but that night, God spoke to him, instructing him to tell the king that he was not to build a temple; that honor would go to his son.
Not every good idea is from God. Not even every good and God-honoring idea is from God. We too often assume that because we mean well and want to do things that glorify Christ, our plans are therefore necessarily God’s will. Problem is, it’s not quite as easy as that. History is littered with good, God-honoring projects that in reality, were not from God at all. Nathan somehow discerned the flaw in the king’s thinking in a dream, not exactly the best rationale to bring a contrary report to the man who is used to getting his way. He meant well, but it wasn’t God’s idea.
I’ve lived long enough, and made enough mistakes to have seen more than my share of good, God-honoring plans blow up in my face. Good intentions weren’t enough. We need to make plans, but plans alone do not necessarily add up to God’s will. Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied powers in World War II, and president of the United States from 1953 to 1961, said, “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”
I get plenty nervous when I hear people declaring categorically that this or that particular Christian project is God’s will. That kind of language shuts down discussion and dissent, and avoids responsibility when we make bad decisions. Sometimes I wish I had better certainty when it comes to making godly plans, but perhaps that kind of certainty would negate the need to keep in close relationship with Christ. After all, who needs faith when you have certainty?
I read this story yesterday, and in the afternoon, I was approached about providing pulpit supply for the summer. My immediate reaction was to decline, until I remembered the Scripture. Nathan’s immediate response wasn’t the right one; maybe mine wasn’t, either. So I called back and said I would consider it. Whichever way it turns out, it is my decision, not God’s will. I am praying for discernment, and searching my own heart. I like retirement, but God isn’t finished with me yet. Now, I have to pray…and decide. And thank God for the freedom he gives me to simply decide.