WHEN GOOD INTENTIONS ARE WRONG
A sermon on 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
First Baptist Church of Lynchburg
July 18, 2021
By Paul Dakin
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord our
Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Whenever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the
tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not
built me a house of cedar?” 2 Samuel 7: 7
Everybody here has no doubt heard stories about the celebrated American pioneer, Daniel
Boone. In late 18th Century America, Boone was a famous figure whose explorations helped to open up
the land west of the Allegany Mountains. His most important accomplishment was blazing the trail that
eventually became known as “The Wilderness Road.” This road ran through the Cumberland Gap in
what is now far southeastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. Not long after the Road was
completed, settlers began streaming into the region. It is estimated that around 300,000 people
traveled The Wilderness Road during the first 35 years that it was open. Boone himself used the road to
settle in the area, establishing the town of Boonesboro, KY.
You all also know that Daniel Boone’s skills as a hunter, a trapper, a scout, and a trailblazer are
the stuff of legend. His reputation as a woodsman became huge even during his own lifetime. In fact, so
many stories and myths grew up about Daniel Boone’s exploits that it soon became difficult to separate
fact from fiction—even in his own lifetime. Boone developed the reputation of being able to find his way
out of any unfamiliar woods by simply using his skills as a pathfinder.
In one of his earliest biographies, the author asked Daniel Boone if he had ever gotten lost in the
forest. The famous trailblazer thought for a moment and then replied, “I can’t say I was ever lost, but
once I was bewildered for three days…”
“I can’t say I was ever lost, but once I was bewildered for three days…” It seems to me that
Daniel Boone’s statement was not only true about his own experiences, but it also sums up something
important about life—that all of us sometimes take some wrong turns or that life deals us trouble that
leave us confused for a while—and sometimes it is for much longer than three days. The people of God
are not exempt from being bewildered at times…True—people who follow Jesus may not be lost—after
all, we are saved by faith in Christ, right? But sometimes we can still get bewildered, even when we do
our best to follow what believe is the voice of God in our lives…
1 www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/wilderness-road (Accessed April 28, 2021)P a g e | 2
Today’s Old Testament passage is from 2 Samuel 7. In this passage, both King David and the
prophet Nathan are a bit bewildered as they try to discern what God wants them to do. In fact, they get
it wrong before they eventually get it right…
In the beginning of 2 Samuel 7, we see King David at ease in Jerusalem. It is probably the first
time since he left his father Jesse’s house that he had been able to be at rest. At this point in his life, he
had been anointed king over Israel. There was no one from who he had to run, as he did when Saul tried
to have him murdered. The troublesome Philistines on the northwestern border of Israel had been
subdued. The Amalekites and Edom to the south had been defeated. No other nation posed a threat to
In the preceding chapter, David had ordered the Ark of the Covenant to be brought to
Jerusalem. It was done with much pomp and ceremony. Oh, David had had a bit of a tiff with one of his
wives, Michal. You may remember that she was the one who berated David for dancing before the Ark
as it entered the city. But that was not of much consequence to him. (After all, Michal was the daughter
of the deposed King Saul. What else would one expect her to do but criticize him—especially after he
ascended to the throne that her father once occupied?…)
And David had built himself a magnificent palace in Jerusalem—one made of the finest building
materials. Yes—life was good for David. But I think his conscience began to bother him…
The scriptures do not tell us what David’s motives were in this instance. But I have a hunch that
David had begun to feel guilty that he was living in a palace—and yet the Ark of the Lord—the symbol of
the presence of God in Israel’s midst—was still being housed in a tent. True—this was no ordinary tent.
This was the Tabernacle—“the Tent of Meeting”—that God had commanded Moses and the people of
Israel to build. It was a symbol of God’s presence and leadership as the Lord led them from being slaves
in Egypt to taking possession of the Promised Land. The Tabernacle had served the people well during
those days. But they were now settled in Israel. They were no longer a people on the move. I think that
David must have felt that the Tabernacle had outlived its usefulness. God deserved better.
And besides that, the Tabernacle would have been a couple of hundred years old by this time.
While it was no doubt a beautiful and impressive tent back in the day, it had probably seen better days.
It no doubt showed all the signs of wear and tear of being set up and taken down—and set up and taken
down, and set up and taken down time after time—and being hauled around the desert wilderness for
forty years. And once the people had reached the Jordan River, then it had been moved from place to
place as the Israelite army conquered the Promised Land as recorded in the book of Judges. By the time
of 2 Samuel 7, I imagine that the Tabernacle was only a shadow of its former glory. To David, after all
that God had done for him in leading and protecting him over the previous several years, the old, worn
out Tabernacle did not seem to be a fitting place to house the Ark of the Lord any more…
So David called in Nathan the prophet to discuss the matter with him. This is the first time in the
Old Testament that we hear of Nathan, but he must have already proven himself to the king as someone P a g e | 3
who was in tune with God. David told Nathan what he had in mind. He told the prophet that he desired
to build God a house—a permanent temple in the capital city of Jerusalem.
At first, Nathan agreed with David’s proposal. He even went as far as to suggest that it was
God’s will for him to do so. In verse three, he tells David, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord
is with you.” It seemed that the matter was settled. Except that it wasn’t…
In verse four, we learn that the Lord spoke to Nathan that very same night. God told him to go
back to David and tell him that he was NOT going to be the one to build the temple. The message that
he was to deliver to the king included the news that God would establish David’s family as a dynasty that
would rule over God’s people forever. And in verse 17 of the chapter, we are told that Nathan reported
to David the entire message that God had given him to deliver…
[Side bar here: let’s just be honest. God tells David through Nathan that he would make an
everlasting dynasty out of his sons that would rule his people forever. However, in the cold light of day,
it must be admitted that the dynasty that God had promised got off to a pretty rocky start. David’s sons
were no great shakes.
As you may remember, David’s son Solomon ascended to the throne after David’s death. The
son who succeeded him, Solomon, he started out well. And he is the one that God designated to build a
magnificent Temple to the Lord in Jerusalem. But then the scriptures tell us that he used his great
wisdom to collect foreign wives and, towards the end of his life, we are told that he joined them in
worshipping their false pagan gods. He started out well, but did not finish well…
David’s next oldest son, Absalom, was hardly any better. Absalom would lead an armed
insurrection against David while he was still king. Absalom would flagrantly disrespect his father by
making a spectacle of some of his father’s wives in the sight of all Israel.
And because of the civil war
that Absalom initiated, David was even forced to flee Jerusalem at one point, fearing for his life…And a
third son of David’s named Adonijah thought that he could usurp the authority of his father by having
himself crowned king even as David lay helpless on his deathbed. The plan was uncovered in the nick of
time and he failed in his attempt. But once Solomon became the new king, Adonijah would be quickly
executed. So…At a minimum, it could be said that the dynasty that God had promised to David did not
get off to a very good start… But in God’s inscrutable wisdom and power, out of these people, who were
not great examples of Godly living, he was able to bring our Lord Jesus, the Savior, into the world…]
Anyway, back to today’s text…So what went wrong? Why is it that both David and Nathan
managed to get God’s will so wrong—at least initially? As we consider those questions, I think it is
instructive to remember that David and Nathan were extraordinarily devout people. David was Israel’s
greatest king as well as being Israel’s greatest musician. He wrote about a third of the book of Psalms.
2 Samuel 16:21-22.P a g e | 4
He is described in the scriptures as being “a man after [God’s] own heart.”3…And Nathan? Nathan is one
of the most revered prophets during his lifetime. He was the true heir to the legacy of the great prophet
Samuel and he would go on to serve David and the nation well.
So what happened? Did Nathan just get it wrong the first time…or did something happen
overnight that changed the picture? We are not really told. How could these two Godly people have
misread God’s purposes? And how could their good intentions have gone so wrong?
I do not think that there are any easy or definitive answers to those kinds of questions. Over the
years, I have discovered that the process of discovering what God wants me to do is not an exact
science. (That’s why the Bible says that we live by faith and not by sight.
If we could know for sure
about everything, then it would no longer be living by faith…) But as I have read and pondered the text
this week, a few things have come to mind. Let me share some of those with you as our time draws to a
One of the things in today’s passage that caught my attention is that both David and Nathan
came to this decision to build God a temple…and they did it without consulting God. Did you notice that
too? Nowhere in today’s text does it mention that either man took the time to spend in prayer asking
God for guidance in the matter. Seems pretty ironic, doesn’t it? Desiring to build God a temple without
consulting the God for whom it was intended…
Whenever we attempt to do the work of the kingdom of God, it ought always to be a matter of
prayer from the very beginning. Prayers for God’s blessings…prayers for God’s leadership…prayers to be
filled with the Spirit’s power. Without consulting the Lord in matters of the heart and faith, we are
setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure. To assume that God will bless us without actually
seeking his will is a recipe for spiritual disaster.
Philippians 4:13 tells us that, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” The most
important words in that verse are not “I can do all things.” NO—not at all. The most important words
are “through Christ,” for it is only through the workings of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit—the gift of
Christ—in our lives that we can hope to accomplish the things that are pleasing to God. Jesus himself
made it very clear to his disciples in the gospel of John chapter 15. In verse five, he declared, “I am the
vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” And, to bring
the point home, he adds, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” That is true whether we are trying to
grow deeper spiritually or if we are working to expand God’s kingdom here on earth. Both endeavors
need to be guided by the leadership that God provides to his people. And central to that leadership is
regular disciplined times of prayer…
1 Samuel 13:14.
2 Corinthians 5:7.P a g e | 5
One last thing…Most of us here have been walking with the Lord for a long time. Some of us
have been walking with Jesus for decades. For people who have a history of devotion to God, sometimes
it can be easy to take it for granted. We have been close to the Lord for so long that we think that we
can always depend on being close to God without continuing to go through the motions of what it takes
to draw close to him. We just normally assume that we can know what God wants for us without
seeking and considering what it is that God may want. We just kind of think that we automatically know
because of our long history with him.
If I were to hazard a guess, I would suggest that this is what happened to David and Nathan.
Both of them had intimate relationships with God. And they had had them for a long time. Because of
that, they did not feel the need to actively seek out what God wanted them to do when the question of
the temple came up. Since they had walked with God so long, they just kind of figured that they knew
what God wanted of them without asking. They were wrong.
The truth of the matter is that none of us spiritually arrive. No matter how long we have been
walking with the Lord, no matter where we are in our spiritual life, no matter how we may have served
the Lord in the past—the truth is that we are always in process. We are always in a sense of becoming.
All of us are still beginners in the school of Jesus—regardless of how long we may have known him.
Consequently, none of us—from the youngest to the oldest, from the novice to the most
experienced—can ever just presume to know the will of God. Knowing what God wants of us is a
constant course of action. It is something which occupies us the children of God until we reach the other
side of glory. So we must keep ever before us the necessity to remain in contact with Jesus. Not just on
Sunday, but day by day and even hour by hour. That’s the very definition of what it means to “live by
faith and not by sight.” That’s what we are called to do. That’s who we are called to be. That is what can
keep even good intentions from going wrong…Let us pray:
Take my life, lead me Lord,
Take my life, lead me Lord
Make my life useful to thee
Take my life, lead me Lord,
Take my life, lead me Lord,
Make my life useful to Thee.5
To God alone be the glory! Amen.
5 Words and music by R. Maines Rawls, 1968. #366 in Baptist Hymnal, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1975. This
closing prayer was sung a cappella by the preacher