When God Says No!

2 Samuel 7

Some years ago I read the story of a little boy who was overheard praying for a bicycle for Christmas.
When Christmas arrived, and there was no bicycle, the person who had overheard
the little boys prayer asked him why God had not answered it.

The little boy thought for a moment and then answered, "But He did answer it. He said, 'No!'"

That characterizes much of our own experience in prayer.
There can be little doubt that "No" is an answer as well as "Yes."
But if you think about it, most of us will agree that when we receive a "Yes" to our prayer,
we consider the prayer was answered, and when we receive a "No," we consider it unanswered.

It seems that the second situation occurs as often as the first.
Therefore, the problem of an answered prayer – or receiving a "No" answer is a great one.

One of the Bible's greatest character asks God for something and received "No" for an answer.
The value of the story lies in the fact that he was praying, so far as we can tell,
with the highest of spiritual motives.
That person was King David, and his prayer was that he be allowed to build a great temple
for the worship of God in Jerusalem.

The Bible tells us of David's plan and of the initial agreement of the prophet Nathan to it in 2 Samuel 7: 1-3:
"And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest
roundabout from all his enemies, that the king said unto Nathan, the prophet,
'See, now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwelleth within curtains.
And Nathan said to the king, 'Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee
.'"

Unanswered Prayer

Let us begin with some consideration of what prayer is.
For many people do not understand the most basic facts about prayer,
and therefore do not have their prayers answered for obvious reasons.
If you find yourself in this category, you must not think that the things said later in this study
about David applies to your situation.
There is much more in the Bible about God's not answering prayer then about God's answering it.

First, God will not ordinarily answer the prayer of a non-Christian.

God offers salvation to the non-Christian, and that includes all humanity.
Anyone can come to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But there is not one promise of comfort; not one promise of prohibition; not one promise of help
in times of distress or danger for anyone who is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Someone might say, "But don't we read in the Bible, 'Ask, and it will be given you;
seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you'?
And doesn't that mean that anyone can pray and receive an answer
?"

No – the simple answer is no.
That promise was not made to unbelievers – it was made to believers -- the "you" of the verse –
ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you"
– refers only to the believer.

Even the well-known Lord's Prayer begins with this teaching, for it can only be prayed by those
who can address God as their heavenly Father.

Second, the Bible says that God will not even hear the prayers of some Christians.

For instance, God will not hear the prayer of one who is cherishing sin in his heart.
This means that if you are living in sin with some person, or cheating some person, or harboring a grudge,
you will find that God is ignoring the prayers for peace of mind, prosperity, and an abundant life
which you pray on Sunday mornings or in your quiet times.

Isaiah knew this when he wrote, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save;
neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden His face from you, that He will not hear
." (Isaiah 59: 1-2)

Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

The Bible also says that God will not answer a Christian's prayers if the Christian is praying out of God's will.
This is not surprising.
For if God's will for us is the best thing that could possibly happen to us – which it is – then anything
other than that would be harmful to us.

God will not give us that which will harm us spiritually any more than a mother will give a shiny butcher knife
to a baby boy just because he cries for it.

James is talking about this problem from the negative side when he writes,
"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss." (James 4:3)

James wrote positively, "And whatever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments;
and do those things that are pleasing in His sight
." (1 John 3:22)

It is safe to say that billions of prayers are not answered simply because the people praying them
are not Christians.
And that even millions more are not answered because although they are prayed by Christians
who are harboring some known sin and are praying foolishly.
Many of our own prayers probably fall in at least one of these categories.

David's Prayer

These things that we have been discussing may apply to us, but they do not really apply
to this in the life of King David.
We have been talking about prayers that are wrong or that are prayed by a person who is persisting in sin.
But David prayed about building the Temple out of what appeared to be the purest and most noble of motives,
at a time when he was in a right relationship with God.

First, he prayed suitability.

This is the real meaning of the first of the three verses quoted earlier, for we are told that the prayer
was made after the Lord had given David "rest round about from all his enemies."
If David had prayed this prayer during the period in his life when he was at fighting the Lord's battles,
when he was overcoming the Philistines, Moabites, and Syrians, then the prayer would not
have been suitable.

God could rightly have said, "Forget that kind of thing right now, your job is to win the next battle."
However, that was not the time in which David prayed.
He prayed in a time of peace and prosperity.

Do we pray suitability?
David was praying about the Temple only after his previous God-given responsibilities had been fulfilled.

Second, David prayed unselfishly.

David might have argued that he needed a new wing on the palace or a new battalion of troops.
Instead, he told Nathan, "See, now, I dwell in an house of cedar,
but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains
."
(2 Samuel 7:2)

Third, David also prayed spiritually.
That is, he prayed with the express intention of pleasing God and doing His will.

Why God Says No.

When we put all these truths together, we find that it is possible for a believer to be in a state
in which he is not harboring a known sin, and to pray responsibly, unselfishly, and spiritually
for something that is apparently God's will, and yet, have God say, 'No.'"

Why does God say no?

There are answers to this question that we will never know or at least not until we get to heaven.
And yet, there are answers that we can see and understand now.
Many of these are seen in this story from 2 Samuel.

Why did God say, "No," to David?
What benefits resulted from that "No"?

First, by means of this answer, David learned that he was not as necessary to God
as he might have been tempted to think.
In fact, he should have learned that he was not essential at all – and maybe we need to learn this.

This is the most significant point in the Lord's reply to David.
God reminds David, not of what David had done for Jehovah, but of what Jehovah had done for David.

Then, God tells him, "I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep,
to be ruler over my people,
over Israel; and I was with thee wherever Thou went, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight,
and have made thee a great name, likened to the name of the great men who are in the earth
." (2 Samuel 7:8-9)

This is something that we can all apply personally to ourselves.
Most of us believe, at least intellectually, that God can do whatever He wants to do without us.
But somehow, when we are in the midst of His work, it is very easy to associate ourselves
with the success of what God is doing.

Let me say that again – it is very easy to associate ourselves with the success of what God is doing.
And we began to wonder how God could possibly manage without us.

If we are thinking like this, perhaps God has been saying, "No," to our prayers in order that
we might learn this lesson.
In John 15:5 Jesus said, "Without me ye can do nothing."
This doesn't say that we can do something.
It says that we can do nothing.

The second benefit of God's, "No," was that David learned that God had a reason
for what He was doing even though David was unable to see it at the time.

David did learn the the reason later for when David spoke to Solomon about building the Temple
years later he said, "But the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars;
thou shalt not build an house unto My name, because thou hast shed much blood
upon the earth in My sight
."
(1 Chronicles 22:8)

Nevertheless, at this time David did not have the reason.
Instead, he had to learn to trust God for it.

Do you do that?

The patterns and plans of God are often difficult for us to detect in this life.
Have you ever looked at a beautiful piece of tapestry from the wrong side?
If you have, you know that the wrong side is a tangle of threads.
At times a bit of the pattern can be traced, but it is largely unintelligible and confusing.
Yet, when you turn the tapestry over, the pattern is beautiful and clearly apparent.

In a similar way, life for us is often a tangle.
We see it only from the wrong side.

However, we are told that the day is coming when we shall see it from the right side
– from God's perspective – and that in the meantime, we are to trust Him to work out the pattern.

The third benefit from God's, "No," to David was that He was free to say, "Yes," to David about something else.
He said, "No," so that He might be able to give David a better and different blessing
that was uniquely his own.

What was that blessing?
Well, David had told the Lord that he wanted to build God a house.
Instead, God promised David that He will build David a house.
We see this in 2 Samuel 7:11-12, 16:
"Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house,
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers,
I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thine own body,
I will establish his kingdom…
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established
for ever before thee; thy throne shall be established for ever
."

In other words, God was saying, "I don't want you to get busy building a temple.
Instead, I am going to build you a house... and that's better.
And I'm going to make it so permanent that when My Messiah comes,
we're going to speak of the permanence of His reign by reference to you.
We will say that He will reign upon the throne of His father David forever
."

God's Promises

David learned one more thing as he was given God's denial.
David had prayed.
God had said, "No."
God gave a promise.

David learned to claim the promises of God for himself, personally.
So, in the midst of his second and much longer prayer, which closes this chapter (2 Samuel 7:18-29),
David first confesses his own unworthiness, and then prays,
"And now, O Lord God, the word that Thou has spoken concerning Thy servant,
and concerning his house, establish it forever, and do as Thou hast said.
And let Thy name be magnified for ever, saying, 'the Lord of hosts is the God over Israel;
let the house of Thy servant, David, be established before Thee
." (Verses 25-26)

If God says, "No," to one of your prayers, it is not that you might become
discouraged and confused.
It is so that you might be led to turn to His promise.

What are your needs?

Is your need for the pardon of sins and for forgiveness?
The Bible says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
." (1 John 1:9)

Do you have a need for peace?
The Bible says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
(Matthew 11:28)

In Isaiah 26:3 we read, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee,
because he trusteth in Thee
."

Do you have a need for wisdom?
James 1:5 says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally
and upbraided not, and it shall be given him
."

Do you need assurance?
John 10:27-28 says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish,
neither shall any pluck them out of My hand
."

And just in case, some need has been left out, we also read:
"But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:19)

There is no need in your life, however great or small, that is not covered somewhere
in the Word of God by such promises.
And the promises are there in order that we might learn to claim them.

If God says, "No," to one of your prayers (and the reason is not one of the things
that we have considered), God only wishes to bring you greater blessing.

Trust Him!
Learn to claim His promises of blessing personally.

"Whisper a prayer in the morning,
Whisper a prayer at noon.
Whisper a prayer in the evening,
He will keep your heart in tune.
God answers prayer in the morning,
God answers prayer at noon.
God answers prayer in the evening
To keep your heart in tune."

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White