I’d like to start this lesson this afternoon by getting you to think about the way you feel when you see sin in the life of another person. How do you reach them? What goes on in your mind and in your heart? How do you feel when you see another person sin? For some of you, this question may need to be answered because, perhaps, you’ve grown accustomed to the practices, to the actions of a certain person. You may be very indifferent, now, when wrong is taking place. But I know that there are times, for all of us, when we see sin, in the life of people around us that causes us to become very disgusted. It is so bad that we become angry and indignant. Sometimes, we cry out loudly against it. But I’ve found this truth. Most times, we become more disgusted, with the sin we find around us, than we are disgusted with our own sins. And most times, I am willing to cry more loudly against the sins I see, in the life of people around me, than I am willing to cry out against my own personal sins. And of course, you know, from the scriptures, that most times we have it all backwards. God’s desire is for me to be upset against sin, in this world. Yes, against child abuse, sexual immorality and drug addiction; but it is also his desire that I be angry with my own sin. In fact, he, first, wants me to take a look at myself and cry out more loudly about my personal sins than the sins of John Doe.
I say all of that, this afternoon, because, as we study the last chapter of 2 Samuel (Chapter 24), we find that David is taught to look at his sin and cry loudly against it. By the end of the story, we will find David, there, very disgusted with his own personal sin. But let me remind you of the context. You might remember that four weeks back, we saw David committing the greatest trespass of his life. He had decided, in his pride or in his insecurity, to count all of his fighting men. Oh, people tried to stop him. Joab, David’s army commander, objected to the decision. He tried to have David change his mind. He tried to give warning to the king. But we read, in the Bible, that the word of David overruled. He prevailed. And so, Joab went through the land and he started to count all the fighting men.
Now, in 2 Samuel 24:8, we read, “….” And now Joab reports to David. We read, in verse 9, “….” In other words, David has a total of 1.3 million fighting men. He has a huge army. But, in verse 10, something happens that we don’t expect to happen. All of a sudden, in verse 10, we find a change of heart in David. We read, “….” So David is conscience-stricken. What a wonderful tool our conscience is. It is through it that we can decide right and wrong. It is a gift of the Lord. Everyone is born with it. But I have the responsibility to grow it. And when I do that, when I water it with the word of God, then when I do something wrong, my conscience burns within me. It rises up and cries out against my actions. My heart becomes troubled. And David is in that situation. He knows he has sinned against God. So, immediately, he stands before God and says, “I am wrong! Take the guilt away from me. But for three months and twenty days, God’s anger has been burning because of the ongoing count. For two months and 20 days, God was slighted. So, God sends words, before the next morning, to Gad, to the prophet, David-seer. He tells him to present three options for David to choose from. In verse 13, we read, “….” Now the options are tough. Think about it. Which one would you choose? Three years of famine is a long time. And we saw that the land had just gone through three years of famine. The reserves were depleted. People had not had time to replenish their barns, their provision around the waste! Then the second option was not much better. Running away from an enemy is never fun, especially for three months. At that time, they burned the cities down. They, often, killed all the men, raped the wives and took the kids into captivity, as slaves. Plus, remember David was now in the winter of his life. He was old. He couldn’t run or fight, as he used to. He probably, also, could remember all the days of his life when he had been on the run. The third option was three days with a plague. That was a much shorter time than the alternatives. Maybe that helped convince David, in part. But, in verse 14, we read what really pushed David to the third option. He said, “….” The consequence of sin has pushed David to great distress. It always does that! But David is wise in his choice. David understands that God is more merciful, more compassionate, more kind, more forgiving than men could ever be. So he takes his chance with God and we read, in verse 15, “….” The account reveals that an angel is at work in the plague. He works mightily for that day 70,000 die. Can you imagine that?
But then you come down to verse 16. And it says that God is grieved because of the calamity. He sees the people hurting so much that he begins to show the mercy David hoped he would show. He stops the angel and says, “It’s enough, for now!” However, God does not send the angel back to the celestial plains. He only wants the angel to pause in the work. He wants to give David the opportunity to interact, to intervene. And David does so in verse 17. He sees the angel at the doorstep of the city and he makes that beautiful statement. “….” How hard it must have been for him to say that. Can you imagine seeing people killed and saying take me, my wives, my children, for I am the one who has done wrong. That’s the heart of a true leader! He does not blame his mistakes on others. He does not want the others to carry the consequences of his actions. So he says, “Deal with me God and let these people go free! It takes courage.
Now, in verse 18, we find David’s prophet, who comes back with advice. We read, “….” It is amazing how one becomes obedient after sin’s terrible consequences. I think David must have run with all of his might, with all of the strength of his old legs, to the field of this Jebusite. For the next thing you read is that David is there! And we are told in verse 20, “….” Arsunah is puzzled and frightened. He says, in verse 21, “….” Now Arsunah is a fine man. He loves his king. Within seconds, he is willing to offer his resources to David. In verse 22 and 23, we read, “….”
Now we read, in verse 24, one statement that really deserved being underlined in your Bibles. If you have a yellow marker, mark it down. David says, “….” So David wants to take all the responsibility; he does not want to have another man pay for his redemption. So he buys the cows, he buys the threshing floor and he builds the altar and he sacrifices the cows. And the last sentence of 2 Samuel says, “….” The plague is stopped, thanks to David’s sacrifice. The sweet aroma of David’s sacrifice has calmed the anger of the Lord. Now there are a few lessons I want you to learn from all of this, this afternoon.
I. How God feels when you put your trust in something other than Him.
First of all, I want you to see the way God feels when you put your trust in something, other than Him. David placed his trust in his soldiers and God became very angry! But we have an example, in the Bible, where other people put their trust in other wrong things. For some it was money or friends. Whatever it is, God does not like it. And He will take away the false security to teach you to rely on Him.
II. What kind of man is David?
Secondly, I want you to see the kind of man David is. Now we’ve had lesson after lesson about him. We’ve had 22 lessons, all together. And we’ve seen what trials came his way and how he reacted to each of them. And each time he has shown himself to be a great example. This afternoon, you can see, there is no exception. At the end of his life, he is just as in the spring of his life. When he sins, he is the kind of man that repents of his sins. He turns to God and confesses his mistake, very openly. Granted, at times, it takes him a while. He is not perfect, far from it! But he has a sensitive heart! A heart that gets troubled after a mistake has been done. Did you know that the term that was used, in verse 10, for troubled means to be assaulted. It was a term that was often used in reference to a city that was destroyed or slaughtered. It conveyed the idea of something wounded or crippled. So David, when he sinned, was cut deep. He was stricken and destroyed, within! That was why I think he was a man, after God’s own heart.
Now, that brings an interesting point. What is your heart like when you sin? Do you make up excuses? Do you rationalize or are you cut and do you go to God, with a destroyed heart, saying, “I’ve done wrong. Forgive me?” We live in a world where people don’t like to take responsibilities for their actions. But we ought to be different. We ought to stand and say, “It is my fault. Let your hand fall on me!” And we ought not to take the easy way out.
So, that’s the kind of man David was!
III. The consequences of sin are never pleasant!
The third lesson I see, this afternoon, is the consequence of sin is never pleasant! Sin makes us pay a terrible wage. Sometimes, we have heard it so much, in the church, that it has no impact on us any longer. But let he who has ears, hear. As a man has eloquently expressed:
Sin does not serve well as gardener of the soul. It landscapes the contour of the soul, until all that is beautiful has been made ugly; until all that is high is made low; until all that is promising is wasted. Then life is like a desert – parched and barren. It is drained of purpose. It is bleached of happiness. Sin, then, is not wise, but wasteful. It is not a gate, but only a grave.
David saw sin’s ugliness, it’s devastation and it’s horror. It said, in verse 14, that he was in great distress. You have the Hebrew word tsarer that means he was trampled. His stomach was churning inside. It was almost more than he could bear. Do you realize this about sin? Do you realize the devastation, the ugliness it leaves in us?
One weekend, we returned to Clovis, New Mexico for a visit. And we saw, again, the youth group, there. In the youth group was a girl, named Jenny. Jenny, growing up, was always a little rebellious. I would speak for hours with her, trying to convince her to do the right thing; but she would always seek to follow the wrong crowd. See, her ears were closed. She had listened just enough to be bored with it, but not enough to be touched by it. And now, this time, we see Jenny is pregnant. She is 17 and she is expecting. Jenny has not finished school. She is not living with her family anymore. She doesn’t have a job and she has put herself into a situation that will be extremely hard on her. Satan has done his job well. So hear me, this afternoon. Sin is bad; sin is ugly; sin is never pleasant! Keep away from it and repent, quickly, if you give in!
IV. Do not forget, when you sin, that God is just, but He is also compassionate.
That leads me to my fourth lesson for this afternoon. Do not forget, when you sin, that God is just, but, also, that God is compassionate. He is full of mercy. What a marvelous God we serve! It is better to fall in his hands than to fall in anybody else’s hands!
This brings me back to my introduction. See, man has such an easy time being harsh with others. We have such an easy time throwing stones on others and not being loving in our judgments. But God doesn’t. We can see it, so often, in the church. We have, at times, people coming to the front of our auditorium and they beg for forgiveness. They beg God to forgive them and the body to excuse them. And, so often, we sit back and we cross our arms and we say, “Never! It’s too easy! That person does not truly mean it. He or she has not proven himself or herself, yet. I know so-and-so is not sincere!” And we sit in judgment while God forgives. But I tell you that God is compassionate. He is so much more tolerant and compassionate than we’ll ever be. Do you understand this, this afternoon? If so, why don’t you go to Him?
Have you seen his righteousness? Have you trusted in the wrong thing and experienced sin’s terrible consequence? Have people been terribly unloving around you? I tell you, there is one who will treat you right. He loves you. He is good and compassionate. Why don’t you cast your hurt upon him, this afternoon, as we stand and as we sing.