Has life rewritten your plans? Did your agenda get changed, and you weren’t consulted? Whether it has to do with someone you love, your family, your education, your career, your finances, or what’s going in in our world today because of the coronavirus fears, our lives don’t always unfold as we anticipated, and we need to be prepared to respond in gratitude and trust that God’s got this one covered, too.
“King David was living in his palace, and the LORD had given him peace from all his enemies around him. Then David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Look, I am living in a palace made of cedar wood, but the Ark of God is in a tent!’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go and do what you really want to do, because the LORD is with you.’ But that night the LORD spoke his word to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Will you build a house for me to live in?’” (2 Samuel 7:1-5 NCV)
David had a plan. With the death of Saul and his heirs, he had consolidated his kingdom and was entering a period of prosperity. There were no challengers to his throne, hence no war. Finally, he would be able to build a permanent temple for the God he loved! Yet God said no.
Keep in mind that David really loved God; certainly he sinned, he failed—at least once he failed miserably! But he repented. When confronted, he acknowledged his sin and agreed with God as to its error and gravity, and committed himself to His judgment and mercy. He is even identified in I Samuel 13:14 as, “a man after…[God’s] own heart.” Many of the Psalms, written by him, are an enduring testament to his love for God and desire to glorify Him.
So it’s natural to assume that when David decided to honor the God he loved with a permanent temple (rather than the movable Ark that had been with them for so long), that God would allow him to do so. But it was not to be: God had a different plan, and it did not involve David building the temple:
“I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ’ “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 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. 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 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. “ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 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. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 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. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (2 Samuel 7:6-15 NIV)
God’s plan was for David’s son, Solomon, to be the one to build His temple. Elsewhere, God explained that it is because David was a man of war—that he had killed people. This must have been bitter for him, because he had done that in battle, to become the ruler over Israel God had anointed him to be, but it was what it was—it was God’s will, and again, David responded with reverence and obedience:
“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, Sovereign Lord, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! Do you deal with everyone this way, O Sovereign Lord? “What more can I say to you? You know what your servant is really like, Sovereign Lord. Because of your promise and according to your will, you have done all these great things and have made them known to your servant. “How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you! What other nation on earth is like your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have you redeemed from slavery to be your own people? You made a great name for yourself when you redeemed your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations and gods that stood in their way. You made Israel your very own people forever, and you, O Lord, became their God. “And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. Confirm it as a promise that will last forever. And may your name be honored forever so that everyone will say, ‘The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is God over Israel!’ And may the house of your servant David continue before you forever.” (2 Samuel 7:18-26 NLT)
David submitted to God’s divine will and plan. He didn’t cajole, or complain, or respond with bitterness and discontent, but with gratitude for His favor and all of God’s mercies toward him—He recognized the good God had done for him and his family. Do we do the same when God alters our plans? Or do we respond angrily, like a spoiled, pouting child?
You see, God does not have to consult with us before rewriting the script of our lives—more than that, whatever has happened was probably what was supposed to happen all along; we just didn’t realize it. And some of what happens can be bitter. Some of it can be genuinely unwelcome.
Remember Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law? She and her husband and two sons left Israel because of a famine, and her husband and sons died there, leaving her a widow alone in the world, except for her daughter-in-law, Ruth:
“So the two of them continued on their journey. When they came to Bethlehem, the entire town was excited by their arrival. “Is it really Naomi?” the women asked. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?”” (Ruth 1:19-21 NLT)
Naomi means “pleasant;” Mara means “bitter.” Naomi was testifying to the bitterness of what God had allowed to happen to her, not realizing at the time, that He had allowed this so God’s Son, our Savior Jesus, would be a descendant of Ruth and her future husband Boaz!
And that’s my point: we frequently cannot see into the future; we cannot understand at the time the good that will come from a very miserable present. Unlike His response to David, God does not always choose to let us in on the reason why.
Many times He does; we are told:
“Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7 NLT)
But does He let each and every one of us know what’s going to happen before it does? No, not always. Actually, it probably seems more rare than not, for us to even sense when something is about to happen. But, I suspect, this is His mercy.
Imagine if you knew when your loved one would die? Could you go about living life and enjoying their presence as if nothing was about to happen, or would you go into premature mourning in anticipation of that very moment, regardless of how far in the future it would be? No, we couldn’t, so sometimes we don’t know. The truth is that many things happen in our lives that we didn’t anticipate or plan for.
How many of you, for example, ever imagined the world we live in would go on lockdown, to the degree it has, because of COVID-19? Who knew—right? As recently as this past Christmas break, life was normal. Our daughter flew to Quebec to participate in an immersive French language program; now, her summer pre-college academic program, like all others, is uncertain. Life as we knew it has changed—at least for a while. And many of us can be grateful that we have not personally witnessed or experienced serious illness or death as a result of this threat; that while we didn’t see this coming, at present, our lives are merely different.
Yet God knew; He knew and He continues to know—nothing takes Him by surprise! More than that, He works His purposes and perfect will through everything. How? Again, I don’t know. But I do know that,
“…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)
So…has life rewritten your plans recently? Have you not been consulted? Will you yet experience more changes that you didn’t anticipate? Perhaps, but that’s okay, because Jesus Christ is our God and Savior, and our Heavenly Father God loves us with an infinite love that will never end—and He’s got this; really!
Dear Lord God,
Thank You for who You are! That, “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet…[Your] unfailing love for…[Your people] will not be shaken…” (Isaiah 54:10 NIV) Amen!