Heed the warning (2 Samuel 24.1-5)

Series: David, a man after God's heart


There are four periods of great discouragement in the life of David. One has to do with the lie he told when he ran away. Another is the moving of the Ark of the Covenant. One has to do with Bathsheba and another has to do with 2 Samuel, Chapter 24 or 1 Chronicles, Chapter 21. We’ll begin to look at this sin, today; but it will be, in a few weeks, God willing, that we will look at the aftermath of the sin.

Now if I asked you to tell me the most damaging sin, in the life of David, what would you say? Most of you would quickly think of the most notorious mistake he made, when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. You probably would think of the murder he committed, against Uriah, the Hittite. And, maybe, you are right about the fact that it is the most notorious; but not about the fact that it was the most damaging. For, if you look at the last sin in the life of David, you see it’s the gravest one. You learn that, because of that sin, 70,000 people lost their lives. They die because of what David has done! Let me mention two more things, before I begin. First, just because you have a long series of successes, on behalf of God, does not mean that you are immune to Satan or sin. Second, just because you have a long history of faithfulness, does not make you stronger than Satan. You can still sin. Paul understood that. That is why, in 1 Corinthians 9:27, he says, “….” We all know that Paul’s writing this had already preached to 1,000’s of men. That many had already been saved because of it. But he said, everyday, it was necessary for him to fight his sinful tendencies. Why? So that, in his old days, he would not be carried away by Satan and miss heaven!

SSo, just because you have many successes or a “long history of faithfulness, it does not mean you are immune to Satan. I know that, also, this afternoon, by looking at the life of David because, here he is, in his winter of life, with Chapter 24 of 2 Samuel. He has just won another victory, against his enemies, and you know that he has had a long history of faithfulness. But now he commits this great sin. Let us read 1 Chronicles 21:1. “….” So I find that Satan is involved in this sin. He enters the heart of David and invites him to count the troops. And according to the text in 2 Samuel 24, the Lord’s anger burns against him and Israel. But, maybe, this afternoon, you are puzzled and you ask, “Why is God so upset about this counting of the troops?” Maybe we need to first remember that David is no longer leading the troops into battle. And so, maybe, he is growing a little insecure in his old age or, maybe, he is growing a little too proud! But here is where David misses it! His success and his strength have not ever been due to the numbers of fighting men he has had! It’s never been due to the weaponry he had or to the leaders he had, in his army. His successes have always been due to the fact that God was with him. And if God is on your side, it doesn’t make any difference how many you have in your army. You will win! And David seems to have forgotten that. He has forgotten that, every day, you have to humble yourself and remember to fight against Satan. So now, he is thinking of his strength, in terms of the size of an army and not on the terms of his relationship with God. And in verse two, of 1 Chronicles, then we read, “….” But it’s verses three and four that contain material for thought, for this afternoon. See, Joab has not been a very good person, at times. He has killed, in jealousy; he has plotted against the king; but on this occasion, he has some good words of advice. He says to David, “….” So Joab was wishing well for David. He wanted prosperity for the kingdom. But he was opposed to the counting. So, somehow, he knew that what David was doing was not right. And yet, in verse 4, we read, “….” So it is as though David doesn’t even hear the words of Joab. Satan has already done a good job in his heart. He is bound and determined to do what he wants to do.

Now, I want to show you a very similar situation, this afternoon, and make a parallel for you. You remember, now, that David has committed, at least, two other important sins. But do you remember that, in both of those sins, David was warned? In both of those sins there were people who tried to talk him out of the sin! Go to 2 Samuel, Chapter 11. There you find the story where David was on his rooftop. We read that he saw this very beautiful woman, named Bathsheba, bathing. So he told the attendant, “Go and inquire about her.” And you remember that the attendant knew, exactly, what David had in his mind. So he returns with three things to discourage him. In verse 3, he says, first, “She is the daughter of Eliam.” And Eliam was one of the mighty men of David. He was a might soldier; but he was, also, a longtime friend of David. He had helped make David become king. So that, alone, should have caused David to stop, right there. It should have caused him not to dishonor the lady. But it didn’t. And the messenger said a second thing. He said, “She is a wife, or a married lady. And David knew the penalty of adultery. He knew what God thought about adultery. But it didn’t stop him. And the messenger said a third thing. “But not only is she married”, he said, “She is married to Uriah, the Hittite!” And again, Uriah was one of the mighty men of David, a long-time, loyal friend of his. So, surely, with all of this information, he should have been discouraged. But, if you remember, back then, he did as he now does, in 1 Chronicles. It was as if he didn’t hear what was said. He ignored the admonition. Verse four of 2 Samuel 11 says, “….” So the same story surfaces again and again! The players are a little different; but it is still the same tune!

So, I want to draw three lessons for you, this afternoon.

I. We all need warning.

The first is that “everyone of us, from time to time, needs to be warned!” Why? It is because Satan is after us! Maybe you have had many, many successes, in the kingdom of God. Maybe you’ve had a long history of faithfulness, maybe 10, 15 or 20 years. But you are still vulnerable to Satan. And Satan will use anything to enter your heart and thoughts to lead you this way or that way. So you and I, we need people who will say, with gentleness, but firmness, “No! You ought not to do that!” Think of what could happen if we all had warnings. Think of all the hurt we would avoid. Think of how many times people fell in the Bible because they didn’t receive those advance warnings. How about, in Genesis 2:15-17? Do you remember what God did? We read, “….” So he told man not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Note that it doesn’t say that God said it to the woman. And when you jump down to Chapter 3, verse 6, you read, “….” Obviously, her husband was with her when Satan talked to her and tempted her. But Adam never warned her and said, “No, remember what God has said!” Why in the world, did he stay silent and not say, “Eve, this is not right. You can’t take of the fruit!”? We are not told; but we know he didn’t assume his responsibilities and Eve sinned. And my point is, perhaps, if the woman would have heard the word “no”, perhaps she would not have taken that fruit. And she and Adam would still be in the garden, eating from the Tree of Life! And I’ve come to the conclusion that all of us need to hear, from time to time, a word of caution – a little word called “No”! I think that’s why God put a church in every town. I think that’s why he didn’t want believers to be isolated! I think it’s why he also wants elders and preachers, within the church! Their job is to watch for the sheep, going in the wrong direction, and say, “No, don’t go!” “No, you can’t go that way!” I think parents have been given the same responsibility. They are there to give direction to their kids. And that doesn’t stop, by the way, when a child turns 18. Even when the child is independent, I believe parents are there to say, “No!” “No, you can’t go this way!” Watch out if you do this!” I think they are there to prevent their kids from doing the wrong thing in the springtime and summertime of life. And, frankly, who can express a warning better than a parent with a child? Who dares to be so open? Who compares in the compassion, the great love and the tenderness when the warning or admonition is extended. Good friends should say, “No”. Brothers need to say to brothers, “No, you can’t do that! Don’t do it!”

All of us need a warning. That is why we all need to hear sermons.

II. Seek accountability.

That brings me to my second point. We all need to, constantly, seek accountability. If you want to get warnings, you need to seek to be in those relationships that will produce that kind of admonition. See, the problem with David was that he had reached such a peerless position, as the King of Israel, that he answered to nobody. He could do whatever he wanted, virtually, without challenge or obstacle. Even when it came to somebody, like Joab, who was the general-in-chief, David could say, “Just do it!” Right or wrong, his word stood.

I learn from this that an unaccountable life is dangerous. It’s a precarious place to be. And it is all the more true as you’re climbing the social ladder. That is why even the President is accountable. He answers to the Senate, or at least he is supposed to. And I would suggest that if you find yourself in that position of authority where no one questions you, you need to seek to change that very quickly! Be very, very careful. Select a small group of people to whom you voluntarily make yourself accountable. Give them full freedom to correct you, to challenge you – in love, of course, and in respect, but give “carte blanche” to that group. Few people can handle not being accountable. David, an old, wise king couldn’t even handle it. So my question, this afternoon, is “Are you accountable? With whom are you accountable? Is that true in all areas of your life?” If you have answered, “No” to the first question, pick at least one person, close to you, and start sharing. Build relations until you have grown comfortable enough to share your weaknesses and to ask guidance and direction.

III. Listen to warnings.

That brings me to my third and last lesson for this afternoon. That is this. “When you receive a warning, listen!” If someone admonishes you, out of love and kindness, and says, “Stop, don’t go!”, stop and listen! David entered major sins because he refused to do that!

Now there were times when David listened. If you can remember, 2 Samuel, Chapter 25, David listened when Abigail went to him. He put his anger, against Nabal, that mean, rich man, who refused to share the product of his wool harvest, away. David turned his troops around and spared a man’s life. And I love the way he answered. He said to Abigail, “Praise be to God, who sent you to me!” Had he killed Nabal and reacted differently, he would have committed great sins.

Now, many times, people will come to you with warnings. Don’t hold a grudge against them. Just listen! Stop if you would, this afternoon, and think! Think about a sin you almost committed or one that you did commit. And as you think back, tell me, “Did anyone warn you?” If not, maybe you were not accountable. Perhaps you hadn’t sought that relationship. But if they did, were they right? Should you have listened? Do you wish, now, you had listened? You know you might not be able to go back and change history; but you can change the present and the future. You can say, “I’ve learned the lesson and now I will listen! For now I see the hard consequences of sin!” It reminds me of a young woman, who said those words. She had graduated from college. She had started to become interested in a man, who was going through a divorce. And there were all kinds of problems; but they were talking about marriage. Now, her mother and father were faithful members of the Lord’s church. They started to plead with her, saying, “Don’t do this. We don’t think it will work. It’s not right! Please don’t do it!” She didn’t listen. She married the man. They had children. Every year they were together; but they never had a good marriage. And finally, it all flew apart! And she was scarred; he was scarred; and the children were scarred. And finally, she said, ”I remember when Mother and Father tried to tell me, ‘No!’ I wish I had listened to them!”

Next time we study the end of this chapter, you will see it is exactly what David will say. Clearly and loudly, he will proclaim, “I wish I had listened to Joab!”


So I tell you, this afternoon, that each one of us needs a warning, from time to time. And so, you need to strive to put yourself in a position of accountability. And then, when it is done, when you get your warning, I encourage you, “Don’t hold grudges. Stop and listen, for the sake of your soul!” Say, “Praise God, for he sent you to me!” So, this afternoon, if you are living in rebellion, I encourage you to listen to God’s warning. Repent and come home as we stand and sing.