There are 133,350,000 people who are born-- that's three per second-- while 52,756,000 people die every year. That's 1.7 per second. It is a part of life, though. We always rejoice when people are born, and we always mourn when people die.
We know it is a fact of life. "It is appointed unto man," every man, "once to die, and after this comes the judgment." Even though we know that, in this country we are a little bit more removed from the reality of death than so many other countries that don't treat it quite the way we do.
In fact, often in other countries, and even in our past early on, a person would die in their own home. The body would stay in the home for a few days as people would come over and pay a visit with the family, while the body was there on the couch or in the bed. And to us, that's so weird, and so spooky, and so otherworldly, and we have so far removed that reality that-- well, a lot of us don't want to deal with it, don't want to talk about it.
It was a part of life, and it was a part of life for David. I say that because chapter 23 is a record of David's last words. He's coming now to an end of his life. Now, I mentioned last time that chapters 21, 22, 23, and 24 are an epilogue to the book. They're not necessarily chronological, though they are logical-- showing us how David met adversity, what he did when he was attacked, what he did when he was dying.
These are David's last public words, in terms of a song. His last official words. So we open up with, "Now these are the last words of David." Don't let that throw you because when you get to 1 Kings-- which we won't next time, we'll be in Ephesians, but we'll eventually get to 1 Kings.
David is saying other words. He's talking, he's still kicking, he's still alive, he's still around. But these are his last official words. As I mentioned, his last psalm really.
I've always been interested in the last words of people, especially famous people because I got this book called The Last Words of Famous People. And I read through it. And I found it quite interesting, quite insightful, to find out what people that you've heard about all your life, what they said the moment they kicked the bucket. Because you can always talk, well when I die I'm going to be--
You never really know, do you? And the rubber meets the road, what is the last utterance? Now our first words, generally, are all the same. I mean it might vary a little bit from goo-goo to gaga but it's still the same. It's really inarticulate utterances. And mom and dads love those first words, even though we have no clue what they're saying or what it means.
Goo-goo. He said, my name! He just said dad, did you hear that? I don't think he said that. Oh, he did.
But though our first words are generally the same, people's last words are very different from one another. Their dying words are, I would say, most significant. As they exit this world, what is on their heart? What comes from their mouth?
And it all depends, of course, how you live. How you die depends on how you've lived. If you've lived well, you will usually die well under any kind of death circumstance. It will come out. I will never forget walking into a hospital room with a woman dying of cancer, hearing her last words. And she turned to me, sat up in bed with her, just, little energy that she had left. And she said, Skip, I'm so excited. And I thought, there's the best sermon you could ever hear right there.
Here's a woman dying of cancer, and she smiles and she says, I'm so excited. In a few moments, I'll be home. And it was such a shock to me. Then I grew a little bit envious. Yeah, she's going to be home. She's going to beat me to Heaven.
In fact, she'll have the place wired by the time I get there. She'll be able to show me around.
But not everybody dies that way. A man named Tony who is now in Heaven didn't look like he was going to Heaven. I met Tony because of the Graham family. This kid grew up in part with Franklin, but he grew up most of his life in Cuba. His father was in the Cuban government. Worked for Fidel Castro, was the finance minister. This kid grew up in that regime, and since coming to the United States, was staging a plot to assassinate Castro from this country. And he was involved lots of other stuff.
Well, when I shared the gospel with this guy, I was the last person on Earth he wanted to listen to. He blew it off. He was polite, but eventually he just said, bug off. I visited him on his hospital bed when the cancer was so ravaging his body he could not get up out of the bed. He was there to stay and to die.
And he was still a bit hard, he was still a little bit aloof. Until those final stages, he was hard and he had a harsh response. And then I told him the story of the thief on the cross who, all of his life, lived an immoral life, an unlawful life. But in the last moments of his life, on his deathbed, so to speak, he turned to Christ and said, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. And at that moment, Jesus said, today you'll be with Me in paradise.
Then I noticed a change come over Tony in his bed. I'm just telling the story, and I stopped to look at a man whose eyes were flooded with tears. And I said, Tony, what's wrong? And he said, that's so beautiful, that Jesus would forgive a man who has sinned all of his life, and at the last moment let him get into Heaven. And that really gripped his heart.
Well, the short end of the story-- let me make it short. Tony gave his life to Christ like the thief on the cross said, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. And I was able to officiate at Tony's homecoming. He went to Heaven.
That last moment of his life, the mercy of God was extended. His last words-- I didn't think were going to be that great, but they turned out to be spectacular. Now, I mentioned not everybody does that. David Hume, the Scottish philosopher-slash-atheist. When he was dying, his parting words from this life were, I am in the flames, as if he could feel the fire of Hell already consuming him.
How would you like to die like that rather than, I'm so excited, I'll be home soon? He said, I'm in the flames. I shared with you before about Voltaire the French infidel who, when he was dying, said, oh Christ, oh Jesus Christ, I shall go to Hell And he cried out all night in agony. The nurse who attended Voltaire said, for all the money in Europe, I will never attend the funeral of another unbeliever, or the deathbed experience of another unbeliever.
Even Mahatma Gandhi, whom people still today look up to in a spiritual sense. When he was dying, Gandhi said, my days are numbered. For the first time in 50 years, I am in the slough of despond. Darkness is all around me, and I can see no light.
Of course, the most famous last words are the words of Jesus. Seven statements, seven grand statements uttered on the cross. The first being, "Father forgive them," all the way to, "It is finished. Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit."
Now we get to the last words of David-- last great psalm of David. And they are worth noting-- [? owe ?] it to God that we could live in such a way that these words would be words that we would say at our deathbed.
"Thus says David, the son of Jesse, thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel. The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me. His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, he who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God and he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear, shining after rain.
Although my house is not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. For this is all my salvation and all my desire, will He not make it increase? But the sons of rebellion shall all be as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands. But the man who touches them must be armed with iron, the shaft of the spear. They shall be utterly burned with fire in their place."
David-- he's an amazing guy. Singer, songwriter, great poetic voice. And it's an interesting mix to have such a sensitive, musically artistic-oriented person mixed with this warrior personality and King of Israel. It's a wonderful blend, I think.
I've always admired David, and I share David's love of music. It's very inspirational. In fact, let's face it. David, in his psalms, has influenced not only the nation of Israel but the early church, who used a lot of David's psalms for worship. And still today, we sing some of his psalms.
73 out of the 150 psalms penned are attributed directly to the authorship of David. Those are the ones attributed, he may have written more. There are unmarked psalms. Maybe David wrote them, maybe he didn't, but at least 73 out of 150.
A couple of things I want you to notice. There's a biographical sketch that David begins with. "Thus says David, the son of Jesse, thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel." David acknowledges that he was a nobody, a peasant, a peasant farmer, shepherd raised up by God-- not by himself, not by ingenuity, not by education, not by personal prowess. Raised up and anointed by the God of Israel, he went from peasant to royalty-- from peasantry to royalty.
And I love that he acknowledges it. And I love that because so have we. We were outsiders, outside of the covenant. God has grafted us in. You know that New Testament analogy? And now we are royalty.
Peter-- writing of the church-- says, you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. That you are. That we are. But what he meant by that peculiar people is a people of his own whom God has called out for Himself. And David acknowledges that. God did this, God saved me, God brought me to this beautiful place-- royalty.
A few years ago when I was in Jordan-- the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, it is called-- I met royalty, really in my case, for the first time. She was the princess of Jordan, Sharifa Zein. And she was quite impressed with the missionaries that were from Australia and America, doctors and nurses who were giving their lives for the poor of that country.
And being Christian missionaries in a Muslim country-- well, it was awkward. You didn't get much done. The government didn't look too favorably. But this Muslim princess-- a direct descendant of the prophet, Muhammad-- used her royal status to give these missionaries a break, to push all of the red tape aside and get done what needed to be done in terms of food distribution, gift distribution, medical distribution.
She was careful not to abuse her name, but she did use the name very, very carefully and very regally. And let me just say as one child of God to other children of God, as one king's kid to other king's kids, be careful how you use the name. Treat it royally, treat it regally. Go in the name of your God, be filled with strength and confidence, but don't trash the name.
Remember that poem, I've told it to you before. You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day, by the things that you do and the words that you say. People hear what you say, and they see what you do, so what is the gospel according to you?
When you use the name-- I am a Christian, I follow Christ, the King of kings. As all eyes are upon you, what are they seeing? Be careful with the royal name to which you were given.
Look at verse 1, just the end of it. He's called the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel. Great title for this guy, great biography.
"The Spirit of the Lord," he said, "spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me." Now, he is claiming a prophetic utterance. What I am writing here is not personal inspiration, but it's divine inspiration. Now, David wasn't considered a prophet, per se. He wasn't like Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or even the minor prophets, but he did speak prophetically here and in the psalms. God used him to pen scripture.
And he articulates what is, to us, the doctrine of Divine inspiration. Do you remember the words of Peter In the New Testament? He said, no prophecy is of any private interpretation. But the prophet's prophecy was given as holy men of God were carried along or moved by the Holy Spirit.
Now, I mentioned there were prophets in the Old Testament. David wasn't considered a designated prophet, but he does speak prophetically. It was a gift God gave to him, and oddly, even his predecessor King Saul prophesied. The Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied. So he acknowledges it, he states it.
In the New Testament, though we don't have prophets like the Old Testament, there is a gift of prophecy. There are prophets, there were prophets in the church. However, the prophets in the church had to be judged by the leadership of the church. Thessalonica, Rome, Corinth, Antioch-- all of these places housed prophets in the gift-mix of the early church.
One of the most notable examples is, I think in Acts, chapter 11-- a guy by the name of Agabus. Remember that guy who proclaimed a famine throughout the world? And it happened.
But in 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, the New Testament prophet is given strict parameters. And here's the parameters. "He that prophesies," said Paul-- 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, around verse 2, verse 3, I forget which-- "speaks edification, exhortation, or comfort." In other words, to build up, to stir up, or to cheer up. Now that is important. And I'm bringing it up because today it is abused, just like it was abused in Old Testament times.
Some people come along and they say, I am a great prophet of God. Of course, the burden of proof now lies upon them. You say that you are. Anybody can say that they are. Prove it to us. And sometimes, they try to prove it by this dramatic dynamism that usually translates into anger and thrashing-- trashing, really-- God's people. It's very condemning.
I get letters, I collect them, from prophets. And there seems to be this constant connection between so many of them. It's not edifying. It doesn't build me up. It tries to tear me down, or tear you down, or tear God's church down. Thus saith the Lord, you idiots. Oh that's really edifying. Thank you, I'm so blessed by that. No, no edification-- to build up. Exhortation-- to encourage or to stir up. And comfort.
Well, David speaks prophetically. Let's get back to the Old Testament. Let's get back to the context. What he says by God is this, verse 3. "He who rules over men must be just," or have integrity, personal integrity. Ruling in the fear of God. If you want to lead, if you want to rule over men, you must be ruled over and be accountable yourself.
Someone who isn't ruled over by God and/or godly men is dangerous. I've seen it too many times. I've seen churches split too many times, and be devastated, as well as nations. You have too.
And so we must be just, ruling in the fear of God. In political circles, and believe me, I don't know politics like our guest tonight does. But from what I have seen over the years, some in politics-- some-- don't take in account the fear of God. They're not controlled by godly fear.
It's really the fear of the voter that motivates them. It's sort of finger to the wind politics. Let's see which way the wind blows, what people want, and I'll just tailor my campaign and my speech to whatever they want.
That's not a leader, that's a follower. But somebody who will stand up in the fear of God, trusting the Lord prayerfully, even though it's not popular-- strong leader, good leader, ruling in the fear of God. Now, what does that mean? Because I get questions about that. What does it mean to fear the Lord?
It is a term that is used 110 times in the Bible. Did you know that, 110 times? So it's got to be important if God mentions that. The beginning of knowledge-- the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Little axioms like that are sprinkled through the scripture.
Don't have in your mind a superstitious fear. That's how the Canaanites saw their gods, the pantheon of their gods. They lived in fear of them. The Greek pantheon, they lived in fear. In fact, there's an old story in Greek mythology about Prometheus. A god who had pity upon mankind, saw that mankind needed fire to warm himself, to cook meals, et cetera. So as a gift from the gods to man, Prometheus gave fire to mankind.
When Zeus-- according to the myth, the legend. When Zeus found out how kind Prometheus was, Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock on an island in the midst of the Adriatic Sea, and commanded buzzards to pluck out its liver. Why? Because this guy, this god, this being was nice to mankind.
Well, with stories like that flooding Greek mythology, the people who heard those stories lived in morbid fear. And so people today even think, well that's what it means to fear the Lord. You have to walk around like Dorothy and the lion in The Wizard of Oz, afraid that God will go boo at any moment.
And folks, I still today meet superstitious Christians. They talk about the blessings God has given them, and then they sort of slow down in talking about it and say, I better really not mention it because I don't want God to take it away. Maybe I shouldn't talk about what God has done because, well, it might not last. What a superstitious way of living life.
Let me tell you where I think that comes from. And you'll recognize this. Years ago in pagan Holland and Germany-- let me set up the scenario. Hans was walking through the forest. And as he was walking through the forest, Hans met Franz. I'm just making these names up.
And Hans said, (DUTCH ACCENT) Franz, how are you doing today? And Franz said, good, I am good. How are you, Hans? Oh I am good. I am so happy, I just bought new house. Big house, good house. For good deal, too. Wow, that's great.
Now as they were talking about it, the thought struck them that they were boasting about their blessings. And they would run over to a tree nearby in the forest and start pounding on it hard because there was the superstitious belief that the gods lived in the forest, and upon hearing that mankind was blessed, would quickly steal the blessing away from them.
Hence the term knock on wood. That's where the-- oh, I just said something good. Knock on wood. That's going to happen, knock on wood. That's where it comes from, a stupid pagan superstition.
The fear of the Lord isn't a morbid fright of God. It is a reverential awe of God. Let me define it for you as I see it in the scripture. The fear of the Lord is a reverential awe that produces loving submission to God. Reverential awe that produces, let's say, humble submission to a loving God. That's the fear of the Lord.
And when a leader, when a people, when a Christian lives in that kind-- the fear of the Lord, in our lives, should be this. It's a lifestyle. It's a grid. OK, let's picture it that way. To live in the fear of the Lord is to live with this grid by which everything is filtered through-- decisions, desires, choices, attitudes.
We ask hard questions like, well, what would God think in the way I handle this financially? What would God feel about what I am watching on television? What would God think about this conversation?
To live with that kind of a grid is to live with a reverential awe that produces humble submission to a loving God. That's a healthy, healthy way to live.
And that's the idea of the fear of the Lord, and that's what David has in mind when he says that. Ruling in the fear of God, and he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises. What a beautiful description, a morning without clouds. Bright like we have around here so often, bright, brilliant, crisp mornings.
Like the tender grass springing out of the earth. I live in the mountains. I've got grass growing up on the roads everywhere. It's beautiful.
By clear shining rain-- although, he continues, "although my house is not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. For this is all my salvation and all my desire, will He not make it increase?" What I love about David is that he acknowledges that he does not deserve, nor did he deserve, God's blessings when God made a covenant with him.
He says, ruling in the fear of God, this is what people need. Although, he says, my house is not so with God. Now he said, God made a covenant with me. And we already covered that, the Davidic Covenant. But I didn't deserve it. It's not about David, it's all about God.
Now let me just get through this quickly and give you an assignment. If you want a fruitful study on your own, study the covenants of the scripture. The covenants, when God makes a covenant with people. And the Bible's full of covenants-- covenants that one nation makes with another nation, one individual makes with another individual, God makes with a nation, God makes with an individual, et cetera.
But basically, in the Bible, the covenants that God and man share are one of two types-- an unconditional covenant and a conditional covenant. A conditional covenant is, man is a part, God is a part. God will bless man, but man has a responsibility to fulfill, and when man fulfills that responsibility, God will bless him.
But then there are unilateral covenants, unconditional covenants. Man may have a part, may have a share in responsibility, but the covenant is not contingent upon that. God has basically made a declaration-- I'm going to do this, period. It is unilateral, unconditional. Make a study of them.
God made a covenant in the Garden of Eden, the Edenic Covenant. It was a conditional covenant. They blew it. They were kicked out.
God made a covenant with Abraham. It was an unconditional covenant. I'm going to bless you, I'm going to multiply you, I'm going to give you land, period. I'm just going to tell you what I'm going to do for you and through you.
God made a covenant with Moses, the Mosaic Covenant, a conditional covenant-- the Covenant of the Law. Later on, He made what is called the Palestinian Covenant, or the Covenant of the Land of Israel, an unconditional covenant.
And here's your assignment. How can God keep both conditional covenants and unconditional covenants at the same time? Example-- God says, as long as you obey Me, I'll bless you in the land of Israel. I'll keep you there, I'll bless you there, et cetera. If you disobey Me, no rain, I'm going to send judgments, I'm going to send your enemies.
And at the same time, God can make unconditional covenants. I'm giving you this land, period, perpetually. Done deal. How does God manage to do that? I'm not going to tell you tonight. That's your assignment, OK? How's that? Is that good? OK, let's move on. It's always fun to make this interactive. That's your interactive part. You get the answer, come and tell me.
Verse 8-- "These are the names of the mighty men whom David had." No, we're not going to read them all. We're just going to notice a couple of them and move on because, frankly, some of the names I can't pronounce, all right? You've heard me, you know that. "These are the names of the mighty men."
We have a gallery of 37 heroes, mighty men, valiant men-- men who could wield a sword, men who could defend against the Philistines or other enemies, men who could attack in a war time when necessary. But these are the mighty men. Now, I am going to turn back for a moment and read something to you. You can turn there if you want, 1 Samuel 22.
Notice something about David's mighty men. They weren't mighty because David looked at them one day and thought, you know, you have earned your stripes. You are a cut above everybody else. I want you on my team.
No, rather, they came to him at a very difficult time, and they became mighty men. In 1 Samuel 22, "David therefore departed from there, and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, every one who is discontented came to him."
How'd you like to have those guys for neighbors? Everybody in distress, everybody mad, in debt, discontented gathered to him. And there were about 400 men with him. Now these discontented, disenchanted, debt-ridden men that gathered around David-- many of them stuck with David, became his army. A ragtag group of individuals, some of them rose to the top and became listed later on as David's mighty men.
There is a lesson that we just should tackle before we move on. No man is an island. We all need a network of people, and they may be people as discontented in life and disenchanted as we are. It might start that way.
I'm angry about this. Well, I'm angry about it, too. Well let's have fellowship. Now, that's not a great fellowship, but at least it's a start. And what it could become, especially when you put God in the equation, and you begin praying, and you begin talking, and teaching each other the truth.
But no man is an island. We all need a network of people. And any time you see somebody visible or somebody is successful like a David, know that he had a whole bunch of mighty men behind him doing a lot of these great deeds. They don't get the credit, they don't get the spotlight like guys like David do. But if you were to ask David, David, why are you successful? He would point to his mighty men.
Who do you have? Who do you have when the night around you gets dark and you're discontented, disenchanted, disillusioned, debt-ridden?
We have all heard of Charles Lindbergh, but who thinks about Charles Lindbergh's mechanic? We've all heard the name Billy Graham, but how many of us have read much about T.W. Wilson? Longtime friend and encourager, recently went to Heaven. Martin Luther is on the lips of everybody who knows reform theology or church history. But how many people know well the name Philip Melanchthon, his friend, encourager, theological inspiration?
Leonard Bernstein-- the great conductor-- was asked, of all the positions for you to fulfill or fill in the orchestra pit, which is the most difficult? He said, without hesitation, second fiddle. Second fiddle, it's hard to find somebody to play second fiddle. I get plenty of first violinists, but that second chair is difficult to fulfill.
But every leader knows that the greatest ability is dependability. And David had dependable men and they are listed here. And just know that they were important guys doing important things, and David mentions them. Well, the names are given. The first one, I'm not going to pronounce. Verse 9, after him was Eleazar, that's easy, the son of Dodo.
I'm glad that dad did name him Junior, aren't you? Dodo Junior. Eleazar is a better choice. Verse 11-- "After him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together into a troop where there was a piece of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistine. But he stationed himself in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. And the Lord brought about a great victory."
You've probably not read that before and stopped to notice it. You just read through it, but today I stopped to notice it. It doesn't sound like much. What did you do that was so great? I defended a bean field. I was the guy in the little field with the sword. Ooh, like Milagro bean-field wars.
But keep in mind that he is mentioned in the Bible. Just because somebody isn't that visible doesn't mean he's insignificant. It's a member of the body, the part of the whole. And to Israel, who needed food, a defender of the bean-field was pretty cool.
And so you might not think that your gift is all that great, your contribution is all that great. It is vital to the church-- how we need what you do, and we need you to do it with all of your heart, as unto the Lord and for the sake of the Body of Christ. Every part is necessary, even a defender of a bean-field.
Now the Philistines' strategy is, let's wait till the crops grow and when it's almost harvest time, then we'll go in and defeat them, and take their food. But this guy stood there and defended it.
Verse 14 is a great little story interjected. "David was then in the stronghold, the Garrison of the Philistines was in Bethlehem. And David said with longing--" Oh, he's just out there with his guys, and he's just talking like soldiers would often do on a battlefield.
"Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate." Oh, I remember the water. Man, the Bethlehem water's the best, so fresh, so cool.
"So three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, took it, brought it to David. Nevertheless, he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord. And he said, 'Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Is this not the blood of men who were in jeopardy of their lives?' Therefore, he would not drink. These things were done by the three mighty men."
Now why did David do this? Because they risked their lives and the water was like, in his mind, blood. He poured it out in a sacrifice to the Lord. I'm not worthy to drink this. It wasn't like, well, thanks a lot, I'm glad you got it for me. He just felt so honored and so humbled by it that he treated it as if it was blood poured out since they risked their lives for it. And it was a sacrifice to God.
Someone else before we close the chapter. Verse 20-- "Benaiah was the son of Jehoaida, son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day."
I know you're wondering, who cares? Why is that put in the Bible? Well think about it. This guy has guts. It's not easy to kill a lion. It's not easy to kill a lion in a pit. It's not easy to kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day. This guy has tenacity.
I know some people that can't even go to church on a rainy day. Here's a guy who kills a lion on a snowy day in a pit. Kind of people you want around you, kind of people you'll list as your heroes.
Now, there are many more names that are listed, and have fun with it. But the last one is worthy of mention, verse 39-- "and Uriah the Hittite." David killed him. It is a reminder of his own sin at the end of this chapter.
Now chapter 24, and we're going to kind of breeze through this because of time. We only have about 12 minutes left. But it's a story of sin and mercy, transgression and hope, which is the story of our lives, isn't it?
Aren't you glad that God is merciful? Don't you have hope in God's forgiveness? For your sin-- the wages of sin is death. You'll see that here. But the gift of God is eternal life.
I am so glad that my God has a big eraser because I've got to tell you something. He uses that puppy a lot in my life. Take it out again.
Chapter 24, David takes his census, a census of the nation of Israel. Presumably the army of Israel, presumably for either setting up a draft or tax purposes, which was usually done like in Luke, chapter 2, when Caesar Augustus brought a census into the world to tax people.
But it says, "Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, 'Go, number Israel and Judah.' And so the King said to Joab, the commander of the army who was with him, 'Go throughout the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, north to south, and count the people that I may know the number of the people.' "
Let me just briefly say that in 1 Chronicles-- I think it's 21-- we have a different read on it. It says, Satan moved David to number the children of Israel. Now in reading both accounts, it sounds like there is a conflict. One says, God's anger was aroused and he moved David to do it. The other one says, Satan tempted David.
What it is, I believe, is simply the same story from two different angles. God was angry for whatever reason, for whatever David had done. David, I think, it seems-- from putting the narratives together-- was toying with this idea all along. Satan was tempting him. Hey, you ought to number of the people, David. You ought to see how many people you have who are able to fight your wars, your battles.
Why? Rather than trusting in the Lord's strength-- and the Bible says God has no delight in horses, chariots, or the strength of a man, a fighting man. And so rather than trusting in the Lord, like he always had, oh, I would feel so much better if I knew how many fighting men I had so I could trust in my army, trust in my strength.
It's always a danger for any nation to say, you know, we've whipped everybody in the last so-many years. We have such a strong army, and such a great fighting machine. And we can get a little cocky. We're at our most vulnerable spot whenever we do.
And I think David was toying with that. Satan was the prime mover in that. God, who had withdrawn His sustaining grace, allowed that to happen. And so written from the angle of the sovereignty of God, the author of 2 Samuel puts it. 1 Chronicles puts it from the other angle, the other movers in the story apart from the sovereignty of God.
"Joab said to the king, 'Now may the Lord your God add to the people a hundredfold more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it, but why does my lord the king desire this thing?' " In other words, this guy knew it was wrong. Nevertheless, the king's word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army. So Joab and the captains of the army went out from the presence of the king to count the people of Israel.
Well, verse 9-- "They counted 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah," that's just from Israel, "were 500,000 men." I mentioned David was toying with this. Joab said, don't do it David, don't do it. But David's the king. He said, do it, it's my command.
We all get tempted. And Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, lead us not into temptation. But you cannot pray that while, at the same time, you are opening certain doors in your life to temptation. You see, if you have a problem with gluttony, you don't walk into a Krispy Kreme at 8:00 AM and say, here goes, oh Lord, deliver me from evil. Walk away, pal. If you have a problem with alcoholism, and deliver us from the evil one, as you walk into a bar.
Joseph was tempted with Potiphar's wife. Potiphar's wife-- you know the story-- grabbed him and said, come to bed with me. Nobody was around. But Joseph didn't say, well, I'll sit and we'll talk about it. And Lord, by the way, deliver me from evil. He got out, he turned around. He didn't open that door.
David toyed with it, fell. And because of that, beginning in verse 10, Gad, one of David's guys-- a seer, one who had a prophetic voice, an oracle of God-- came to David and said, David, what you've done was wrong. You realize it's wrong. You've got three choices, according to God. Choice number 1, you can have seven years of famine. Choice number 2, three months of your enemy chasing you, you running from them. Or three days a pestilence, a plague from God.
David thinks about it. Goes, well, I don't want to fall into the hands of my enemies. Seven years is too long. I fall back on God. Let God do what He wants. Three days of pestilence broke out in and around the environs of Jerusalem. And look at it, verse 15. "So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel from morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba, 70,000 men of the people died."
Great judgment, great anger, and yet-- and here's where we close the book-- great mercy. It is not by accident that the author of 2 Samuel closes with a story. Keep this name in mind, put it in your head-- Araunah.
A threshing floor owned by a guy named Araunah is the last paragraph of the book. Here's what happens. David builds an altar on a raised place, a threshing floor, a stone platform, worships God, thanks God, the plague ceases. And that forms the basis of a whole new period in history, and that's where we close.
Now let's pick it up around verse 21. "Then Araunah said--" And by the way, if you read this in 1 Chronicles, he's called Ornan. There's Ornan and Araunah. Both are the same dude called two different things. Perhaps he had both names. "'Why has my lord the king come to his servant?' David said, 'To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.' "
"Now Araunah," or Ornan, "said to David, 'Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, threshing implements, and yokes of oxen for wood. All these, O king, Araunah had given to the king.' And Araunah said to the king, 'May the Lord your God accept you.' Then the king said to Araunah, 'No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price.' "
Now, what's the big deal about a threshing floor? A threshing floor is a raised place, as I mentioned, where afternoon winds would blow, and they would use it for harvesting wheat. You take the wheat. You throw it up in the air with a fork. The afternoon winds come, blow the chaff away. The wheat, which is heavier, remains and falls on the threshing floor. David wants to buy the threshing floor.
Eventually, a very important structure's going to be built there-- the Temple of Solomon, a place of sacrifice for sin. An altar is built, the threshing floor is purchased by David.
Later on, Solomon will build a temple there on the top of Mount Moriah. That's where all of the sacrifices of Israel will be killed to expiate their sins, and it will also be the place, the same ridge of mountains, where Jesus Christ will be crucified some time later, just outside the city wall, at the very peak of Moriah-- the peak of that area where the threshing floor was on Calvary, Golgotha.
In the midst of great anger, great mercy is promised. Great hope is seen. Great forgiveness is seen. But notice David's attitude. Guy says, hey, you're the king, man. It's yours, free of charge. Ministry discount.
No said David, "'but I will surely buy it from you for a price. Nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.' So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 50 shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers of the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel."
David had this idea in his own heart that for him to make a sacrifice to God, it has to be a sacrifice in his giving. He's not going to get something for free and then build an altar on it. If I'm going to give something to God, David is saying, it's got to cost me. I have to feel it. And that's a good rule of thumb. In fact, Paul the Apostle commends the Corinthians for this very thing, or to the Corinthians, the Church of Macedonia.
Moreover brethren, just listen carefully. This is 2 Corinthians 8, first couple of verses. "Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia, that in great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy in their deep poverty bounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing."
You can tell a lot about a person by taking a tour of their checkbook. That is where you get their value system spelled out. That is what is important to them, for where a man's treasure is, there is his heart also, said Jesus. Martin Luther said, there are three conversions that are necessary-- conversion of the heart, conversion of the mind, and conversion of the purse, he said. The pocketbook, the checkbook, you might say.
Paul isn't saying, you know, I need more money. Dig deep for me, me, me. He was saying that here's a church who, when they were poor, gave even though it hurt them. And that seems to be David's own philosophy in personal giving.
You know, there's a story, and we're really done so, hold on. Just a closing thought. A millionaire spoke to a church group one night, and he was talking about how the Lord blessed his life, and how he had so much money now, and it was a direct blessing of God.
And he said, let me tell you how it started. The threshold moment for me is when I was young and I got my first job, and I made my first dollar. And here I was, holding my $1 that I got paid with that day. Went to church that night, he continued.
That night, a missionary spoke about his work overseas, and giving to the Lord's work, and it was as if God was telling me, give all. Give that $1. Give the whole dollar to the Lord's work. And he said, I did. And he said, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that God has blessed me since then, and all that I have now is a direct blessing from the hand of God because I was obedient, giving my all-- that $1.
People applauded. They loved his story. And he was sitting down, an old lady next to him leaned over and said, I dare you to do it again.
See, it's a little bit different when you have millions than it is when you have $1. And to give $10 when you have $100 is different than if you have $10 million and the Lord says, go ahead, give $1 million. The amount really isn't the issue. It's not. There was a woman who gave less than a penny. Jesus noted, look, she was poor but she gave everything she had.
David's life, a man after God's own heart in so many ways. In so many others, not. But a man who knew God's forgiveness, as well. And we didn't read it, but we alluded to the fact that when Gad the Seer came to him, David acknowledged his sin, and he felt terrible about it.
And one of the things I have noticed about David-- as flawed as this man was, he always came back to these places of tenderness and weeping in repentance before the Lord. And God had a big eraser in David's life.
And folks, let me just tell you, no matter what you have done, whatever mess you have gotten yourself into, you have maybe taken so many steps away from God and messed up your life, and now you have debt, or unwanted pregnancy, or drug habits, or whatever it might be. There's God with the big eraser. And God's ready to do for you whatever you allow Him to do for you at this moment. He's looking for an open heart.
Oh, but it's impossible, you say. Good, then give up. Lay down your arms, wave the white flag of surrender tonight and say, Jesus Christ, You will ever be my Savior and my Lord. I lay it down.
Heavenly Father, as we close tonight, and we have looked back over the life of David, a man who was tender for the things of God yet who failed, who hardened his own heart but then, through circumstances, came back, repented, and rejoiced because of Your forgiveness. He was a benefit, a partaker of You erasing so many blots, even though they're still preserved for us to learn from.
Lord, as we look at our own lives, some of us have grown cold, distant, aloof, apart. We've grown away from You rather than grown in grace and knowledge of You. Some in this room have never really surrendered their life to Christ. They come week after week, and yet something's not clicking for them. The relationship isn't established. The bridge is there, but they haven't crossed over.
Lord, it's Your plan, Your desire, Your design to make each one of us Your child, an heir, royalty. But it comes by us acknowledging that we are unworthy, acknowledging that we are sinners. And by faith, looking to the cross of Christ, the shed blood at Calvary to forgive us of our sins. Whatever walk of life we're in tonight, we all need God.
And as we're praying right now, as we're closing this book, closing this service, if A, you've never honestly surrendered your life to Christ, though you may have been religious, and good, well-intentioned, and sincere, or B, you did that so long ago your memories are distant memories, you've left God. You've backslid and you haven't been walking with the Lord in a reality for a long time, if ever.
Ponder this as we pray. If you were to die tonight, where would you be? Where would you end up? If you were going to give your last words tonight, would they be, I'm so excited I'm going home? Or I'm really scared?
Friend, you can be sure. I'm asking you by the Lord Jesus Christ that you surrender your life to Him. And if you want to do that as we're praying, as our heads are bowed, I want you to slip your hand up in the air. Put it up high and say, Skip, pray for me tonight. I need to give my life to Christ. I need to know His forgiveness.
Raise it up. Raise it up high so I can see it.
God bless you. In the middle toward the back, right up front, on the side, and in the corner on my left. And right up here in the front. And again in the front, in the middle. On the aisle. In the back to my right.
Anybody else? Right over there, God bless you. In the back. Father, for all of these, save, fill them with hope and peace. Let them know the kind of peace and security that only Christ can bring, and establish them for Your kingdom's sake. In Jesus' name, amen.