With all the traveling Tammy and I have done, I occasionally find myself going the wrong direction. Even with a GPS system to help guide me, I occasionally hear that woman in the box say –Turn right and then turn right. In other words- “You’re going the wrong way buddy and you need to turn around!” Sometimes it’s hard to make a U-turn. Posted along the way are signs that indicate that U-turns aren’t allowed. Thank God that spiritual U-turns are allowed. During my life as a Christian, I have had to make more spiritual U-turns than I can count.
The Apostle Paul wrote – “For the good that I would – I do not: but the evil which I would not – that I do.” (Rom 7:19) To put this into simpler terms – often we do exactly what we know we shouldn’t do, and we don’t do that which we know that we should. Why is this?
When Paul made this statement about himself, he was expressing to us the weakness of the human nature. This is true, even of God’s greatest saints. The Bible speaks of a man whose heart was right towards God. God described him as a man after His own heart. (1 Sam 13:14) In other words, a man who loved the things God loved. That man’s name was David. Yet if you have ever studied the life of David, you know that he was not a perfect person. David made his blunders and even in his old age, at a time in life when he should have known better, he allowed his pride to get the best of him and he did a very foolish thing.
1 Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. 2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. 3 And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why then doth my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? 4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. 6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. 7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
Like always, my outline is pretty simple:
1) When Self Gets in the Way
2) When Consequences Have to be Paid
3) When God Saves the Day
That’s a simple outline, yet I think that it describes the story we’re about to study and it is something that we all can relate to.
I. When Self Gets in the Way
What would cause a man, who was known to be someone after God’s own heart, do that which deep down he knew that he shouldn’t? Even Joab, who was the commander of David’s army and somewhat of a hot-head, recognized the foolishness and sinfulness of David’s request. Verse 3 – “Why then doth my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?” In other words, why are you going to cause Israel to sin and force God to punish us? Yet David insisted and so Joab obeyed.
Note how this passage begins –
1 Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked (enticed) David to number Israel.
Like most of the problems in our lives, behind all of this was the working of Satan. The word ‘provoked’ means to entice. Satan enticed David to do this. How did Satan entice him?
Sin has a certain appeal to it and that’s why it’s so enticing. The reason we yield to things that we know are wrong is because of a desire deep within us to gratify ourselves with pleasure. Many believe that there is a reward center in the human brain called the ‘Nucleus accumbens.’ It appears that this part of the brain creates the want or desire in us for pleasure. If that is so, God created that part of our brain. Yet sin corrupted this part of our makeup.
Concerning the first sin, the Bible says –
Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat , and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Adam and Eve responded to their desire for pleasure, yet their response was a sinful response because they ate of the fruit that was forbidden. The result was the formation of a nature that craves often what is sinful.
Proverbs 9:17 Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
The Bible now calls this desire for pleasure – ‘lust.’ To lust means to long for something, to desire it, to crave it.
Consider what we learn from the book of James.
James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Many of you men are familiar with fishing and the use of bait to catch a fish. The best bait is something that is so appealing to the fish that it can’t be resisted. Scripture teaches us that Satan uses the natural desires of our fallen flesh as bait to entice us into sin. Every man is tempted, scripture says, ‘when he is drawn away of his own lust…’
Most think of sexual sins whenever we speak of lust; yet lust can display itself in many ways in our lives. Some people lust after pleasure. The Bible refers to those whose – ‘god is their belly.’ (Php. 3:19) Others lust after possessions. We read in 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. David’s particular lust at this time in his life had to do with pride and prestige.
What is most amazing about this sin is that it is not the sin of a foolish, ambitious young man. Theodore Epp states in his commentary that David has now been king for 38 years and this happens just two years before his death. David is at a point in his career when he is able to sit back and let his generals do the dirty work. He is the epitome of success. He’s strong, powerful and secure. He’s also grown complacent in his relationship with God. Someone has said that a recipe for disaster is being out of touch with God, and unaccountable to others. Commentary from one source states – “When men dwell securely in full peace and health, they grow careless in religion. God is not much present with them; they seem sufficient of themselves to keep themselves and to make themselves happy.”
Chuck Swindoll, in his book on the life of David, entitles this chapter – ‘When the Godly Are Foolish.’ Here’s a quote from his commentary: “It would be wonderful if I could announce that as we grow older we automatically grow up, or that the longer we walk with the Lord the more we are guaranteed immunity from sin. That is not the case, however, we will never be immune from sin’s appeal. Often those who fall the hardest are those who have walked with God the longest. Not until we are with the Lord will we be what we ought to be. There is no such thing as outgrowing sin.” (David, A Man of Passion and Destiny – pg. 272-273)
There will never come a time when you can coast as a Christian. You’ll never outgrow the tendency to sin. You’ll never master your flesh. As long as you are on this earth, you’ll never reach a point of spiritual perfection when you will just naturally do what is right. You’ll fight the sinful tendencies of your flesh until the day you die and unless you and I walk closely with the Lord all the days of our lives, like David, we will do some very foolish things.
As I have meditated upon this passage it seems to me that David did what he did, not so much because he had to but because he could. David knew that he was a success and he wanted to know just how great a success he was. ‘Go out and get a count of all the men old enough to be in my army.’ Scripture tells us that the final count came close to 1 ½ million men.
II. When Consequences Have to Be Paid
Again to quote from the book of James –
James 1:15 … when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Sin can be enjoyed for a season. For a while we can block God and the rest of the world out of our lives and do as we please. Yet, if we truly are a child of God, God will deal with us as a father does with his wayward children.
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
The Bible also says –
Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
There were consequences of David’s sin. First of all, he experienced great guilt and shame. 2 Samuel 24 is a parallel passage and note what it says –
2 Samuel 24:10 And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people.
Isn’t that the way it always happens? Before we sin, we are so blinded to the truth that we believe disobedience is the best thing for us. Apparently the desire to gratify our lusts often overrides our desire to glorify our Lord. But once we sin; once we have bitten into the forbidden fruit and tasted what it has to offer; we immediately realize that we have been a fool and we begin to feel guilt and shame.
The Bible says that it took Joab and his generals nine months and twenty-one days to conduct the census. What went on in David’s heart during those nine months? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but it does tell us about another time in David’s life when he sinned and tried to cover it up.
Psalm 32:3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. 4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
Christians can sin and do sin. However, sooner or later God is going to step in and expose the sin and chasten His child for their disobedience. The Bible says –
God chastened David with conviction and also with consequences.
1 Chronicles 21:9 And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. 11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.
13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.
14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.
III. When God Saves the Day
70,000 men died that day, but it could have been so much worse. God gave David three choices for his chastisement and David chose to fall into the hands of God. Chuck Swindoll writes – “If you want grace, fall into the hands of God.”
1 Chronicles 21:15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.
Note – ‘the Lord beheld.’ The word beheld means to see and to consider. What did the Lord see that caused Him to stay the hand of the angel?
1 Chronicles 21:16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.
When the LORD saw the genuine repentance and sorrow of David, He made the angel stop. Note what we read from the book of Proverbs
Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
There is one last important detail that we should take time to consider.
1 Chronicles 21:18 Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
This occurred at the threshingfloor of Ornan. What is significant about that?
1 Chronicles 21:26 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
27 And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. 28 At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.
The LORD commanded David to build an altar at this very spot. This was not just any ordinary spot. It was on this spot that the fellowship was restored between God and David. David offered peace offerings which are symbols of worship and fellowship, and the LORD answered David by sending fire from heaven to consume the offerings and show His approval. It was also on this same spot, two thousand years earlier, that Abraham was called upon to offer up Isaac, his son. In addition, this spot had another very special purpose –
2 Chronicles 3:1 Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
This spot became the place where David’s son, Solomon, build the temple. Many believe that it was on the very spot that David built the altar that Abraham build an altar to sacrifice Isaac and later the place of the Holy of Holies.
As Christians, we long for the day when we will be finished with sin. Yet we will not be through with our struggle until we see Jesus and we are made like Him. Not even the great men and women of the Bible could coast. They had to stay strong in their relationship with the Lord in order to defeat the sin in their lives.
The Apostle John gives us some great insight and guidance into how we should walk each day as a Christian –
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another , and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1) We can’t deliberately walk in darkness and still have a relationship with God.
2) We must chose to walk in the light
3) As we walk in the light, our sin will be exposed and we will receive God’s guidance
4) As our sin is exposed, we must confess it and forsake it
5) If we continually confess our sin, God will be faithful and just to forgive us of our sin, and to continually cleanse us from all unrighteousness