Keep Listening

“Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.’
But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan…” (2 Samuel 7:1-4)

The best of intentions. We have all suffered the consequences of them at one point. With the best of intentions we say or do something. We offer to take on a new responsibility. We volunteer to help out in a particular ministry that’s in need. We offer advice to a friend or co-worker who appears to be struggling. We give a suggestion for fixing something we think could be better. And just when we think we will hear , “Well done,” we hear, “No. Don’t do that,” or “You shouldn’t have said that,” or “That wasn’t the best yes.” We hear that still small voice tell us to stop, to not go forward, or maybe even to turn around and go the opposite direction. We realize the direction we had begun moving in was not the one God had intended for us.

Often when this happens, human nature–also called pride–wants us to immediately take cover. When confronted with good intentions gone wrong,  we want to pick up the heavy garment of guilt and wear it.  We then don’t dare take the weight off until we feel we have somehow redeemed the error of our ways, until we feel we’ve shrunk back enough from our impulsivity or misdirection. We condemn ourselves for meaning well.

And although to jump ahead of God or act before thinking is not wise and can have disastrous results, we must also remember something important: God wants our hearts, not our perfection. We will never be perfect. What He desires, however, is a heart that seeks Him in the midst of our errors.

Look with me at the portion of Scripture detailing David’s desire to build God a temple. God showed me something important as I read it: when we act impulsively with good intentions and then realize we were mistaken, instead of immediately feeling ashamed we moved too fast, we should be thankful we were close enough to God to hear His voice tell us to slow down or to stop. We should be grateful when we know God well enough to hear His correction and rebuke.

Think about Peter–impulsive, outspoken Peter.  At one point as Jesus was sharing about His coming sacrifice, Peter pulled Jesus aside and tried to correct Him.  He tried to tell Jesus that there is no way God would allow such a thing.  Good intentions, yes; the right thing to do, no.   So how did Jesus respond?  “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man” (Matthew 16:23).  Ouch.  That had to hurt.  Yet at the same time, Peter  had to love Jesus enough to be close enough to hear His rebuke.  If Peter hadn’t cared, he would have been silent; if Jesus hadn’t cared, He wouldn’t have turned around.

This same principle applies in the above passage from 2 Samuel. David had told Nathan he wanted to build God a house. Nathan immediately thought, “Great idea!” I mean, what would be wrong with building God a house? Nathan knew David was a man after God’s own heart, so he immediately assumed that any idea from David must be a God ordained idea. I’m sure we’ve all been there. We assume a good idea must be a God-ordained idea.

Wrong. The idea may have been good, but it was not God’s plan for David. Both Nathan and David had been mistaken. They were not mistaken because they wanted to do something evil; they were mistaken in their plans for good. They thought God needed and wanted a house, but they had not sought God about it. They had acted from a human perspective instead of seeking God’s perspective.

Again, we’ve all done this at least once, if not more. We mean well. We act on an idea because it appears to be a good one. And then God corrects us. Yet instead of immediately condemning ourselves for messing up, we need to be thankful. No, I’m not saying to be thankful we messed up. We need to be grateful we heard God’s correction. Both David and Nathan loved and sought God. So even though they missed it at first, they were close enough to be corrected.

Similarly, we must remember, a relationship with God doesn’t mean we always get it right, but it does mean we hear God when He corrects us. God loves His children. He wants what is best for us. When we start in a direction contrary to God’s will, He’s going to redirect us.

If we are listening.

This is key:  we listen.   If you continue to read in 2 Samuel, you will see both David and Nathan listened to God’s correction.  And you know what’s even better?  Even though David and Nathan at first got it wrong, once God corrected them, God’s promise and plan was far more awesome than simply building God a house.  God promised to build His kingdom through David; through David would come the Savior.

So I encourage you today. Did you start to say or do something then feel that tug of regret–that internal check from God telling you to stop or to wait?  Did you suggest an idea or give an opinion with best of intentions yet the worst of timing?  Don’t let it destroy you. Rather, let it grow you. Listen to that voice telling you which way to go. Ask for forgiveness, but don’t dwell in regret or condemnation. Dwell in Him. Draw near to Him.  Listen to His still small voice telling you, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21); all the while remembering that the way He leads is the way He wills. And God’s will is far better and far more glorifying than anyone’s best intentions–even yours.

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