Ever had someone in authority, someone you admired and respected, let you down? Few things are more painful than discovering character flaws in our celebrated heroes. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll is teaching from 2 Samuel 24 in a message we introduced on Friday's program. With an additional head count, David was quite proud of his achievement, ignoring God's role in it. Chuck titled his talk, When the Godly are Foolish. Down deep inside David's inner man, there was an aching reminder of God's displeasure in what he had done. David is such a sensitive man, it's troubling to him after he had numbered the people.
And he wondered, why have I done that? All in the world that does is prompt my pride. Moms and dads, the thing that your children appreciate the most about you in your spiritual walk is that when you're wrong, you're troubled over it. They don't expect you to be perfect, but they expect you to declare the trouble when you've done wrong. They will admire you till the end of their days if they have the assurance when you're troubled from God, you'll admit to them what you did was wrong. And you will leave a legacy they'll never forget. How few children grow up having ever heard their parents say, I was wrong.
I was wrong. God's dealt with me about that. Let me tell you what he wants us to do now.
First of all, I need to make things right with you, or with the family. David was troubled in his heart after he had numbered the people, and David admits those hard words, I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have acted very foolishly. In 1 Chronicles 21 verses 7 and 8, God was displeased with the king, so he struck Israel. I suppose that's what began the troubled heart in David. When we have done wrong, and we began to see the devastation occur, either in the spirits of those around us, or in a sweeping movement of God that might be small or it might be great, we witness that, then we sense, if we are sensitive to him, we sense we have caused the trouble, and we cannot let it rest.
We have to deal with it. I have sinned greatly, he says in verse 8, in that I have done this thing. Please take away the iniquity I have done very foolishly. A genuine declaration of his wrong. Now he has a choice to make. This is a very unusual passage of Scripture. In our next to last study in the life of David, we have come once again to one of those unique sections of Scripture. It's the only time I can remember where a man has a choice in the consequences of his wrong.
God gives him a choice. Now look at how it unfolds in the Chronicles passage. The Lord spoke to Gad, verse 9, David's seer.
This would be one of his administrative assistants, one of the prophets that surrounded David's throne. He said, Go and speak to David, saying, Thus says the Lord, I offer you three things. Choose for yourself one of them.
You have a choice. Choose from the three that I may do it to you. So Gad came to David and said to him, Thus says the Lord, Take for yourself. Now look at the choices in verse 12. Either three years of famine or three months to be swept away before your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you. Or else three days of the sword of the Lord, even pestilence in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel. Now therefore consider what answer I shall return to him who sent me. Now that's tough, isn't it?
Any of the three is awful. I want that to make an impact. I want you to see that one does not sin without making waves and causing a wake.
Even if he chooses the three days as he does, it is a never to be forgotten event. What a deterrent to sin it would have been had David heard the three ahead of time. What it would have meant.
His response in verse 13 is very vivid. I am in great distress. The Hebrew word means to be tied up, restricted, cramped.
And it's the idea of having one's stomach churn inside. I am cramped. I am tied up inside.
You've all said those words. He heard this account and it was more than he could bear. It was a tremendous guilt. It says, I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hand of man.
That's wise. If you want grace, fall into the hands of the Lord. If you want judgment, fall into the hands of man. I'll take three days of the sword of the Lord. Now there's a pathetic scene that follows as David realizes the movement of God's scythe across this land of Israel, cutting people down one after another.
It's almost more than he can stand. And God sent this angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. Think of that. To this capital city to destroy it. As he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw and was sorry over the calamity. He said to the destroying angel, it is enough. What is it?
It is enough. I purposely overlooked verse 14 because that is the devastation of one man's sin. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel.
70,000 men of Israel fell. Now that's a number that not a person here can identify with. I think you can identify with your family. If you are a dad or a mom that is determined to go your own way, you may go, but you cannot get away from the devastation that will work upon your family.
And all of your rationalization will not silence it and will not remove it. In my earlier years, we were in East Houston living next door to a very interesting family. A family of four children. The father owned a shipyard. He was affluent. He was into sailing. He had several vessels, two of which he raced. He had a trophy case that was lined with huge regatta type of trophies that he had won.
This man was a playboy. He and his wife lived in a world that was the farthest thing from a family life. It was not uncommon for them to leave food in the refrigerator for the children on Friday evening and to be gone Friday night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday, and come in late on Sunday night prepared for work on Monday. And I'm sure a couple of trophies in the back seat that they had won, leaving the children to raise themselves.
And indeed they did. As the children were raised, misery struck that home. As a matter of fact, the mother could not cope and she finally died of suicide. She took her own life through drugs. One of the boys fell into trouble and did a term in prison.
One of the girls became a call girl in Vegas when she reached young adult life. Another boy stepped into his father's shoes and just began to relive the same lifestyle that he had seen in the pattern of his father. Devastated kind of shadow fell upon that family.
It's left a never to be forgotten memory in my mind. Now David is caught in the trap of watching it happen and he's seeing those effects of the death angel sweep across the land. Verse 16, in anguish lifts up his eyes and sees the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven with this drawn sword in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem and David and the elders, covered with sackcloth, fell on their faces.
Look at what he says. Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned, emphasis on the I, and done very wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done?
Answer, nothing. But it is part of the law of sowing and reaping. And you cannot discount it. No man is an island.
We do not live alone. We do not sin without its devastating effects. What have they done? O Lord my God, please let thy hand be against me and my father's household. By the way, what had they done?
Nothing. If it affects anyone else, it's a heartache, but not against thy people that they should be plagued. Now watch what God does. Here's a broken man who is facing the responsibility of his iniquity at the mercy of God.
By the way, sin pays a terrible wage. Those of you that have been raised in church have heard that so long, it no longer leaves an impact on you, many of you. One man wrote this, 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 unhappiness. Sin then is not wise, but wasteful. It is not a gate, but a grave.
Summertime is a pretty loose time to live, especially in our area, especially if you're younger. You know, you can sort of let out a little more of the stops and run a little freer, and before long, the bills come to you. It's amazing the enemy is never around to help you through that time, never. Being the coward that he is, once you're trapped, he leaves you. All the wound of sin to ferret out your own life as best you can, and you don't do it very well. And so the Lord has a plan. He wants David to build a never-to-be-forgotten memorial. Verse 18, the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite. So David went up at the word of Gad. By the way, he's very obedient now.
It's amazing how rapidly obedient one becomes after suffering the consequences. He would have gone anywhere, and so he went up to do that. David went up at the word of Gad. Verse 20, now Ornan turned back and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. Ornan was threshing wheat. As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and prostrated himself before David with his face to the ground.
Now, just a minute. The sin of David is not public knowledge. Ornan still sees David as a man of God. David knows the truth of his life. And Ornan holds this king up in high respect. That's part of the vulnerability of spiritual leadership.
People put you on a pedestal, and you live on that pedestal, and they provide particular protective kind of benefits that are continually laid at your feet. And David could, had he not known better, could have taken advantage of this again. Here is a man who thinks such thoughts as, Praise God, I have the king calling on me in my own home. Now to get the sweep of it, I want you to go back to 2 Samuel. Verse 19, David went up, verse 20, Oranah looked down.
Same individual, just a little different rendering of the name. Oranah looked down and saw the king and his servants crossing over toward him. And Oranah went out and bowed his face to the ground before the king. And Oranah said, Why has my lord the king come to his servant? David said, to buy the threshing floor from you in order to build an altar to the lord, that the plague may be held back from the people. And Oranah said to David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what is good in his sight. Look, the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing sledges, the yokes of the oxen for the wood. Everything, O king, Oranah gives to the king. Look at that respect to a man that didn't deserve it.
Oranah didn't know it. But you see, the position of spiritual leadership is such that few ever doubt it. Never doubt but what that is, not a man of God. And lavishly laying upon him all these benefits. And the king hears those words that must have pained him.
Oranah said, They're all yours. Don't pay for anything. I couldn't take a dime. Ministers discount. If you're a minister, don't ask for a discount. We are no more deserving of a discount than anybody else. Any other profession.
And may it never be forgotten that some work as hard if not much harder and longer than we. David, broken knowing the truth of his own life that he, by the grace of God, was able to stand there, rejected the offer right away. May the Lord your God accept you. Verse 24, The king said to Oranah, No, no, I will surely buy it from you for a price. For I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God, which cost me nothing. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 50 shekels of silver. I won't take the gift, but I'll pay for what it costs.
Tell me the figure. And he pays for it and he constructs this altar. Can you picture it? The king's in there putting together however the altar was to be built. He saw that it was built. And verse 25, David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the Lord was moved by entreaty for the land.
The plague was held back from Israel. One more look at Chronicles. One more. It's worth it. Great verse. Verse 27, just found it.
Hadn't seen it before. And the Lord commanded the angel, 2127, and he put his sword back in a sheath. That great pestilence is over. The plague has ended. I smell the offering. It brings a sweet fragrance to my nostrils. My holiness is upheld.
He put his sword back in a sheath. Oh man, that's grace. I hear some people at times say, how can God do such thing? And I wonder rather how can God stop where he did, knowing what we deserve. The third and fourth generation, that's grace.
It could have been the 20th and 30th generation that followed. The truth were known in all our lives. We deserve none of those benefits that come our way just by habit, just by regular benefits of grace. I want to tell you though, the sword was back in its sheath. Hear me. There were still 70,000 fresh graves in Israel.
70,000 grieving families whose lives were marked by David's compromise with pride. I find three remaining thoughts that I want to leave with you. First is to live an unaccountable life is to flirt with danger. If you find yourself living alone, be careful. If there is no one around to whom you are accountable in your personal life, mates are accountable to one another.
That's one of the things that keeps us pure. Our mates have a right to know our whereabouts and the whys of our lives. To ignore the accountability is to flirt with danger. The wife I mentioned earlier in the message shared with me just this afternoon as we spoke again.
There seems to be a glimmer of hope for her husband. She said the thing that had caused my husband's ruin was a lack of accountability to anyone once he reached that pinnacle. Not accountable.
Part of the repentance process that is being required of this individual is that he be accountable to a board for an extended period of time. Strong, natural leaders don't like that, but it's good. It's healthy. It's healthy even if you run your own business to have a sense of accountability.
Someone in that level of authority, someone near that level, not to have it is to flirt with danger. Second, to ignore sin's consequences is to reject God's truth. The Bible is filled with it. Consequences of sin all the way through that book. It gripped me this afternoon as I finalized and polished off my thoughts on this message that sin is really a selfish act. It's committed to bring one's self-pleasure, caring little about the devastation it'll have on someone else. The third, to fail to take God seriously is to deny his lordship. In the fun and the delight of living, and no one believes in that more than I do, it sure is easy to take the edge off his holiness.
I wouldn't take away for a moment the delight and the fulfillment of a full life, but when it comes to God, we need to take him seriously, not play games with him. Maybe these words fall on very sensitive ears. I hope so. I hope, in fact, that it catches you before the fact rather than after. I'd like us to bow together for some time of commitment of our lives. Heavy words, heavy thoughts, but needed. I'd like you to pick one truth that has really come home to roost this day in your life. It may not have even been something I said, it's just something God said to you. It may not be very profound, but quite simple, and that in itself could be profound. I'd like you to turn that truth over in your mind for just a moment right now.
Maybe it's I need to take him seriously, or I realize anew that sin impacts many, many other people than myself, or I can't afford to live an unaccountable life. If you don't mind this evening, before you walk out of this place, I'd like you to lean over to the friend that you met and share that one truth that spoke most to you. I want you to take your time.
If you're comfortable doing that, just share with your friend the one you met tonight, the one thing that really stands out. Our Father, we do not know, we have no way of knowing upon whose ears these words fall. You've really ministered to me personally all this week as I have turned over these thoughts of yours in my own mind. I've needed to hear what you have said, and I acknowledge my allegiance to you as the Lord of my life. You are my Lord, and I freely and seriously share that openly to this congregation. You are the Lord of this church. We as staff and board and congregation alike bow to your holy authority. Protect us, our Father, these growing days from a freewheeling, do-as-you-please kind of life that leaves in its wake so many consequences. Help the strong natural leaders, especially who hear this message, men and women alike, those in positions of sort of unquestioned authority, to take a long look at their integrity. Speak directly to us, Father, in the painful areas, the nerve center of decisions deep in our minds. Young and old alike, thank you for what you have said, some of which has not even been spoken. Thank you for that. Turn our hearts to you, our Father, in a fresh new way, even as we share with one another right now.
For Jesus' sake, amen. In this training, we'd like to invite you to request your copy of Chuck's biography on David. After preaching this teaching series during Sunday evening services in the late 1970s, Chuck decided to write a biography on David as well. The book came out much later in the 1990s. It's a classic, and it's called David, a Man of Passion and Destiny. All the details for purchasing a copy can be found at insight.org slash store, or you can give us a call.
In the United States, call 800-772-8888. And then you might be wondering what's coming up next. Well, Chuck will begin addressing one of the most dynamic relationships in our Christian walk. Our next series is called Flying Closer to the Flame, and it's about developing a renewed passion for the Holy Spirit. Chuck is convinced that many of us have overlooked or even quenched important dimensions of the Holy Spirit, and believes we can find a more spontaneous, intimate, and dynamic relationship with God through the Spirit.
So be sure to join us for this practical study called Flying Closer to the Flame. Well, this is traditionally one of the leanest months for nonprofit media ministries like Insight for Living. So as God prompts you to give a donation, please follow His leaning. Your contribution will truly make a difference for those who've come to rely on Chuck's teaching every day. In the United States, call 800-772-8888.
Or if you're online, visit Insight.org. We look forward to connecting with you soon. I'm Bill Meyer, hoping you'll join us when Chuck Swindoll begins his final message in our comprehensive study on David. That's Tuesday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, When the Godly Are Foolish, was copyrighted in 1978, 1988, 1997, and 2009, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2009 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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