Monday, December 11, 2006


The Last Failure 2 Samuel 24

2 Sam 24:1 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel again, and it stirred up David against them to say: “Go, count the people of Israel and Judah.”
1Chronicles 21: 1 Satan stood up against Israel and incited David to count [the people of]Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count Israel from Beer-sheba to Dan and bring [a report]to me so I can know their number.”
You may be inclined to shake our head in amazement when you read that 70,000 people were killed by divine judgment because David ordered a census. Is this the same God that we have found to be a God of reason and order and fairness? Obviously, there is something under the surface here that we need to understand.

1. The Problem You Find
The external cause.
Verse 1 reads, "Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel and He incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." From this it appears that God is angry at the nation for some reason and desires an excuse to punish them. So He tells David to do something and then turns around and disciplines him and the nation for doing it. If this is all we had I think we would be excused in assuming that David was used, but from verse 10 we learn that David himself didn't feel that way (and he was certainly closer to the situation than we are). Fortunately there is other Scripture to help us with this dilemma.
Turn with me to 1 Chron. 21, which is a parallel chapter to 2 Samuel 24. In other words, it tells the same story from start to finish, only from a slightly different perspective. The introductory verse is certainly quite different. It reads, "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel." Well, who was it who really incited David? Was it God or Satan? I would say that from the perspective of the Biblical author both are true at the same time.
The immediate cause was undoubtedly Satan. One of his most common tactics is to incite God's people to sin. And if he can trip up their leaders he can usually bring about the greatest harm in the shortest time. But there is another cause that always lies behind the scenes.
The ultimate cause, however, is the permissive will of God. Satan cannot do anything to God's people unless God allows it. That is clearly seen in the story of Job. Satan had to ask specific permission from God to bring any calamity upon Job. As I mentioned last week, the permissive will of God is at times a troubling theological problem to us, because we have a hard time seeing how a sovereign God can permit something to happen and still hold the person who does it responsible. But this doesn't seem to bother the prophets and apostles when they are writing Scripture. They frequently make reference to one and the same event as being the responsibility of God and the responsibility of someone else at the same time.
Do you remember your maths from primary school. There were sets. Here there is the set of God’s revealed will. God has decreed what is moral and right. He has given the ten commandments. They reveal His will for mankind, the Thou shalts and the thou shalt nots. We commenced our service tonight discussing God’s revealed will for your life. 1 Thess 5:17 says In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. This is the sphere of your human responsibility , a circle. It is a sub set of God’s permissive will or Sovereign will. God works all things after the counsel of His own will. Its good to know that no matter what happens its part of God’s Sovereign will. If anything took place that could surprise God, or wasn’t part of His will, then you could not be sure that God will win in the end. You could not be sure that the second coming would happen as He has decreed it will happen. God’s Sovereign will is the “Universal set”. It’s the thing that takes in everything, even what’s inside His revealed will and where our human responsibility doesn’t agree with His moral or revealed will.

I have sinned Greatly!
David’s conscience troubled him after he had taken a census of the troops. He said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I’ve done. Now, Lord, because I’ve been very foolish, please take away Your servant’s guilt.”
We have here the intersection of human responsibility and the Sovereign purposes of God.
This means that Romans 8:28 is a reality for you and me. God can work all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

One of the most stark examples is found in the NT in Acts 2:22, which is part of Peter's great sermon on the Day of Pentecost. He spoke,
"Men of Israel, listen to these words: "Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know–this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death."
The crucifixion of Christ was the most heinous sin ever committed by human beings, and they were morally accountable for that awful deed, but Peter has no qualms about saying that God Himself delivered Jesus up for crucifixion.
Listen to Walter Kaiser's perceptive analysis of this theological problem:
. . . according to Hebrew thinking, whatever God permits he commits. By allowing this census-taking, God is viewed as having brought about the act. The Hebrews were not very concerned with determining secondary causes and properly attributing them to the exact cause. Under the divine providence everything ultimately was attributed to him; why not say he did it in the first place?
The Internal causes. There are sins of the spirit as well as sins of the flesh ( 2 Cor. 7:1 ).
The main source of it all is pride. 2 Sam 24:3 Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops 100 times more than they are—while my lord the king looks on! But why does my lord the king want to do this?” 4 Yet the king’s order prevailed over Joab and the commanders of the army.
This reminds me of a conversation an airline stewardess once had with Mohammed Ali when he was young and arrogant—just beginning his amazing career. Ali was on a plane and refused to fasten his seat belt. The stewardess came up to him and asked him to do so but he said, “Superman don’t need no seat belt.” She looked at him and said, “Superman don’t need no plane.” Well, simply put pride is this assumption that we are somehow better than other people...that we are more important than others.
This reminds me of a true story from the life of Ronald Reagan back in the days when he was governor of California and had just given a speech in Mexico City. Reagan writes: “After I had finished speaking, I sat down to rather UNENTHUSIASTIC applause, and I was a little embarrassed. The speaker who followed me spoke in Spanish—which I don’t understand—and HE was being applauded at almost every paragraph. Well, to hide my embarrassment, I started clapping when he spoke—BEFORE everyone else and LONGER than anyone else—until our ambassador leaned over and said, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Mr. Reagan. You see, that man is interpreting YOUR speech.’”
Of course this was an innocent mistake—but it does illustrate the fact that it is very easy for us to LOOK prideful or slip into prideful actions. Even without our knowing it, pride can trip us up. Benjamin Franklin understood this. He once said, “There is perhaps none of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases—it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it I would probably be proud of my humility.”
Self reliance
Psalm 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. [NIV]
By the way, counting people is not the only way we can fall into the sin of David here. As individuals we can do the same in counting money. We can get so involved evaluating our portfolios and making all kinds of projections about what will happen in the next ten years given certain economic trends that we in essence end up putting our faith and trust for the future in stocks and bonds and interest rates rather than in the Lord.
Proverbs 21:4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin! [NIV]
Or we can become proud and self‑reliant simply by counting our gifts and abilities. We may think we're so good at sports or academics or business or medicine that we no longer need God that much. So we keep Him at a distance, close enough so He's handy in case our plans go awry, but not so close that He interferes with our daily decisions. We forget how to lean on Him.
Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. [NIV]Proverbs 29:23 A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. [NIV]
A Love Worth Giving, Max Lucado writes, “The self-centered see everything through self. Their motto? ‘It’s all about me!’ The flight schedule, the traffic, the dress styles, the worship styles, the weather, the work....everything is filtered through the mini-ME in the eye.”(Prov 16:18 ) "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
Spiritual apathy may have been an issue at this point in David's life. In his pride, David numbered the people, but he did not connect the census with the redemption money ( Exod. 30:11–16) The Lord spoke to Moses: 12 “When you take a census of the Israelites to register them, each of the men must pay a ransom for himself to the Lord as they are registered. Then no plague will come on them as they are registered. 13 Everyone who is registered must pay half a shekel according to the sanctuary • shekel (20 gerahs to the shekel). This half shekel is a contribution to the Lord. 14 Each man who is registered, 20 years old or more, must give this contribution to the Lord. 15 The wealthy may not give more, and the poor may not give less, than half a shekel when giving the contribution to the Lord to atone for your lives. 16 Take the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will serve as a reminder for the Israelites before the Lord to atone for your lives.” and seek to honor God. This is an argument from silence, but nothing is mentioned in these chapters about him seeking the Lord's face or going to the temple. My suspicion is that David has become spiritually lazy.
Satan attacks leaders and it behooves us to pray for them. He appealed to David’s pride by encouraging him to find out the size of his kingdom. David was stubborn as well as proud, and his attitude got Israel into real trouble.
A stubborn heart
Proverbs 29:1 “One who is often reproved, yet remains stubborn, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” You see, stubbornness can be a form of pride—pride that causes us to shun needed correction. It renders us unable to stop defending ourselves. When someone points out an error or flaw, we evade or deny or blame someone else. What about it? Do you often find yourself being defensive even when good friends or parents or siblings lovingly attempt to give you guidance? Do you find it difficult to admit wrong? Is it hard for your lips to form these three words, “I was wrong?” If your answer is YES, then there’s a good chance pride has you ensnared in its deadly grip.
“Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick except the person who has it.”
Proverbs 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. [NIV]The Lord gave David nine months to change his mind, just long enough for the “pregnancy of sin” to give birth to death ( James 1:13–15) No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
2. The Penalty You Face
Proverbs 16:5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. NIVJames 4:6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." NIVWhen David realized his sins, he confessed to the Lord and was forgiven, but he still had to bear the consequences ( Gal. 6:7–8 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, 8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
Deuteronomy 8:10-13 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. [11] Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. [12] Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, [13] and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 [be careful]that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

3. The Prescription You Follow
Repentance and confession
Psalm 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. [NIV]
James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. [NIV]1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. [NIV]
David was a man who sinned greatly, but he also repented greatly. He had many faults, but a hard, rebellious heart was not one of them. He committed the most dastardly of deeds, but his conscience would never let him rest. He never got used to sin. We need hearts like his without making the same mistakes and suffering the same consequences as he.
A smitten heart ( 10–14 ). David’s sin was a sin of the will, so God asked him to make some decisions. He confessed his sin (“I have sinned greatly ”) and was forgiven, but he still had to suffer the consequences of sin. There are many here who have never murdered and never committed adultery as David did, but there are probably few of us who have not repeated his greatest sin–the sin of self-reliance and independence from God. The question is, "Have we been conscience‑stricken? Have we ever said to God, 'I have sinned greatly in being proud and self-reliant, in putting confidence in my own success, in being spiritually apathetic, and in failing to be accountable to anyone? Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.'”
A suffering heart ( 15–17 ). David had a shepherd’s heart and longed to deliver his people. It is more difficult to watch those you love suffer than to endure it yourself.
4. The Peace You Feel
Did you notice where the plague stopped. It was at Araunah’s place. 2Sam 24:21 This place had a few names:
The site which he purchased was Mount Moriah, the spot on which Abraham offered Isaac and the spot on which Solomon would shortly build his magnificent temple. It remains the most sacred spot in the world for the Jewish people. It is the site of Mt. Calvary!
What amazing grace that God could take David’s this great sin and build a temple out of it.
“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but lost, and pour contempt on all my pride.”
This is the place you find peace with God.

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