Perhaps the harshest word we ever hear growing up is also one of the shortest: “No.” “No” is a small word that packs an enormous amount of power. It has the ability to both prevent and protect. Growing up, we almost singularly see the prevention side of this command, seeing “no” as merely a barrier hemming us in, but in fact, “no” is more like a gateway to better living. “No, do not touch that electrical outlet.” “No, do not touch that hot stove.” “No, do not play in the middle of the street,” etc. Youthful ignorance and curiosity sometimes see only the prevention, not the protection in those words.
We often do the same with God. When the Heavenly Father says no to us, we often react like a toddler throwing a tantrum. What’s your reaction when God says no? What happens when God closes a door and denies your seemingly good intentions? Do you still see the protection and preservation of His hand in that moment? Or do you see it as another instance of Him preventing you from enjoying life and fulfilling a dream?
At the end of King David’s life, he expresses a desire to build a house for the Lord. “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2 Sam. 7:2; 1 Chron. 17:1). A passion arises in David to construct a temple for Jehovah — not for his own renown but for the worship, honor, and glory of the almighty God that had sustained him throughout his life. It’s a good desire, and the prophet Nathan even confirms his aspirations, saying, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (2 Sam. 7:3; 1 Chron. 17:2). God’s will is seemingly clear: David would erect a house of the Lord in which generation after generation could extol the God who had delivered them and now preserves them.
It’s natural for us to conclude that God would not only recognize such an impulse but that this impulse would also be commended and action allowed. But the Lord’s plans were different for David. God denied him. God said no. “Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in” (1 Chron. 17:4). The good intention in David’s heart wasn’t to be. It wasn’t God’s will for David to build the temple; rather, David prepared the way for the temple. We see this at the beginning of 1 Chronicles 22, where David begins stockpiling materials and resources for the promised construction of God’s house — the house he would never get to see (1 Chron. 22:2-5). He then commissions his son Solomon to “arise and work” (1 Chron. 22:16), for he was the one who should see the glory of the Lord’s house. The blueprint was there, the plans were made, the materials were collected, but the building wouldn’t be realized in David’s day. This must have been perplexing for David. The man after God’s own heart would never get to walk in God’s house.
But when David desired the good thing of constructing the Lord’s temple, God had a better plan. As is always the case, His ways aren’t our ways, nor His plans our plans. God promises to David that He would raise up his offspring, Solomon, who would usher in a reign of peace and prosperity in God’s kingdom. “When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever” (1 Chron. 17:11-12).
I can’t help but think that these words aren’t only intended to foreshadow what God would do through Solomon but also what God would do through His own Son. He wasn’t only going to raise up David’s son; He was going to bring a Savior: the one who would bring true, lasting peace and rest for the nations. The promised Messiah would come from “David’s body” (2 Sam. 7:12). The true and better Son of David would come and establish God’s Kingdom. David might have wanted to build God a house, but God’s plan was better: He was going to build David a house. “Moreover, I declare to you that the LORD will build you a house” (1 Chron. 17:10). God makes a covenant with David, something much better than any construction project David could’ve pulled off. And, so, David passes away, denied a good thing but promised a better one. God had closed a door but had opened another.
It’s tough hearing God’s “no,” especially when it doesn’t sound like protection, only prevention. During these times, it seems as though God takes our hearts, puts them on His anvil, and hammers us in a myriad of unexpected ways. This leads to all manner of questions and doubts. Why, God, are You denying this passion in me? Why are You preventing me?
But it’s then that the Spirit brings the truth of the Word to our minds. The truth that you don’t have be somebody to do something for God. He doesn’t need you to lead a movement or start a reformation or be the next gospel crusader. God doesn’t need that. His call for your life is far simpler than that. He just wants you to be faithful, where you are, with what you’re doing right now. God closes the door sometimes because He knows we need a few more seasons of meekness and humility under our belts. Because you see, when God closes a door, he doesn’t always open a window. Sometimes he just wants you to be content in the room you’re in.
How do you persist in seasons like this? Pray to be content in the room of quiet faithfulness. Pray to be okay with not knowing what next year, next month, or even next week holds. Pray that He’d give you a greater concern for the here and now. Pray to be okay with God’s denial, knowing that His deliverance of you is secure forever by the merits of His Son. He might have said “no” to you in this, but for everything else, His “yes” is Christ. And that’s all you really need.
God doesn’t always open a window after He closes the door. But even still, you can praise Him in the hallway.
We need to learn to do the one thing our world won’t do .