Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Israel's first sin going into 1 Samuel was that they wanted a king to replace God as their security and their treasure. Now David wants an army to replace God as his security and treasure. So David sinned here because he delighted in the strength of his numbers, not in the grace of God. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.
Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Bitovitch. If you've been listening over the past few weeks, you know that we're in a teaching series called Search for a King. It's a study of the life of King David. There's a lot that we can learn from the person who was called a man after God's own heart, and not just from his faithfulness, but also from his devastating failures. Today, we're looking at one of the most perplexing stories of God's judgment in the Old Testament. And it all happened because David ordered a census to be taken.
Doesn't sound so bad, does it? Now, if you've missed any of the previous messages in this teaching series, you can always find them free of charge at jdgreer.com. But right now, let's see what God has to teach us. The whole life of David has two different endings that are given to it in the Bible. The reason there are two different endings is because there are two parallel accounts of David's life. One of them is in 2 Samuel, and that author ends it one way. And then 1 Chronicles is like a parallel account of David's life, and that author ends it another way. Now, these are not two contradictory endings, like, you know, one of them says that he died in France in battle, and the other one says he died of a freak mule accident in Egypt.
You know, it's not like that. But it just means that each author chose a different event to summarize and bring together all the events of David's life. So it's got two endings. And I was looking at both of these and trying to figure out which one of these endings that I wanted to choose for David's life.
And difficult decisions, hard decisions, just totally stressed me out. So I'm just going to do both of them. And I'm going to do one of them this week, and I'm going to do one of them next week, which will be our final message. But today, we're going to do ending number one of the life of David. It comes from 2 Samuel, chapter 24. So if you have a Bible, I would love for you to pull that out and open it to 2 Samuel 24.
And I am going to work you through this passage, walk you through this passage, and work you through this passage. 2 Samuel 24, verse 1. Again, the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And he incited David against them, saying, go and number Israel and Judah.
Now, there's your one of your first major problems right there. We'll come back to that one. But who was it that incited David to do this? But basically, the deal is this. David sends out a command that he wants his people to number all of the fighting men in Israel, both those that are currently in the army as enlisted men, as well as those who are eligible for the draft. All right, so verse 3, Joab, who was, if you remember, the mancretary, says back to King David, he's like, look, man, may the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are.
I want our king to have lots of fighting men. But why does my Lord the King delight in this thing? He says, David, why are you doing this? He sees this as a senseless census. He's like, David, what's going on with this? You see how it says there the word delighted?
I think that's a key word that we're going to come back to. But David's response back to Joab is, listen, mancretary, you're the mancretary. I'm the king. I make the rules.
Do it. Joab says, yes, sire, and goes out, gets a job done, gets the numbers back to David. Jump down to verse 10. But David's heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, I have sinned greatly in what I've done.
But now, oh Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very, very foolishly. Now, at this point, many of you may be asking the question, you're like, well, what's wrong with what David did? I mean, getting an account of the people, that sounds organized.
I mean, no accountant is worth his salt who would not know how many people are in his army and how many people there are to tax and all that kind of stuff. It just sounds like it's an organized plan. Now, I am going to give you an explanation for why I think this was so wrong. But before I do that, I want to lay out one kind of just ground rule for you, one little caveat, and that is that at the end of the day, it's wrong because God had told him not to, right? If you obey Jesus only when he makes sense to you, then he's not your Lord, he's your advisor, all right? I am not telling you to check your brain at the door. I'm just telling you that if there is a God and you believe this is his word, then you should have at least have the humility to submit to his lordship, okay?
That's my caveat off the soapbox back into the text here. All right, here's what I think is wrong with what David did, and I think I got a good reason to think this. I think the key is in the word delighted. David finds a delight in how strong he's made the army.
There's probably three things that work there. Number one, pride. He's trying to rejoice in how strong he's built up the institution and say, look at what I've done. Number two, I see a lack of faith. He wants to know how many fighting men he's got because he wants to see how well they're going to do when somebody attacks them.
He said, well, what's wrong with that? God had promised to take care of them. And so the David that used to say, it doesn't matter how big the giant is because God fights for us, that David's not there anymore.
Now he's like, yeah, that was me when I was a teenager, but now I got responsibilities and I got bills to pay and I got a kingdom to run. So it's all going to come down to how big that army is, so there's a lack of faith. Pride, lack of faith. Number three, military aggression.
One of the reasons that you figure out how many fighting men you have is because you're thinking about picking a fight, right? These things made David delight in his army. He should have been delighting in God. He should have been trusting in God, and he should have had his eyes on God's grace, not on the potential conquest of other nations.
Here is the irony. And by the way, I love the author of 1 and 2 Samuel. I mean, it's got everything I would want in it in a book. It's got danger. It's got fighting. It's got love and romance and espionage and intrigue and betrayal. And the whole time, if you notice, there's potty humor, seventh grade potty humor mixed throughout both of these books. It's like a perfect book. And then just to cap it all off, it ends with this delicious irony.
Here it is. The irony is 2 Samuel ends with David repeating the same sin that opened 1 Samuel. You remember back when we started this study? Israel's first sin going into 1 Samuel was that they wanted a king to replace God as their security and their treasure. Now David wants an army to replace God as his security and treasure.
So David sinned here because he delighted in the strength of his numbers, not in the grace of God. So let me ask you this question about you. What is it that you delight in? What makes your heart soar just a little bit when you think about it? You drive up to your house, you're like, man, look at that thing. Is it a certain award that you've gotten? Is it how much money you made last year? Maybe you just look in the mirror and you're like, dang, my body looks good.
I've worked on it for like a solid year and look what it looks like now. Is that what you delight in? What causes your heart to delight? Because what you see is that David's sin here is not something altogether bad it seems. It's that he's taking delight in something more than God and he's replaced God as his security and his treasure. That's what's behind all this. And you and I as individuals and as a church might be much more dangerously close to David than you and I probably realize.
Because usually idolatry is not delighting in a bad thing, it's delighting in a good thing so much that it replaces the delight you should have in God and his grace. Verse 11, when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad. Gad, what happened to Nathan?
Nathan went into retirement. The new guy, the rookie was Gad. Gad, the prophet of God. Gad was from Boston and that's just how they say God up there. That's why he's named Gad. All right, that's a footnote in my Bible.
You should write that down. So Gad, the prophet of God says or God says to Gad, go and say to David, thus says God, three things I offer you, choose one of them that I may do it to you. This is like the worst genie experience ever, okay. Three things, choose one.
You're like, I'm going with none of the above. Verse 13, shall three years of famine come to you in your land or shall you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you or shall there be three days pestilence in your land? Now consider and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me, namely God. Verse 14, then David said to Gad, I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord for his mercy is great but let me not fall into the hand of man. And so David chooses the pestilence, the plague to come upon the land for three days and it tells you that within three days 70,000 people died.
70,000 Israelites died. Now let me just make sure you understand the story and then I'm going to show you what the big problems are that he has with the story. Basically David decides that he's going to delight in and find more security in the size of his army than he does God. He is going to think about what all these things say about him and he's now replaced God with himself in his own strength. That grieves God and so God sends a punishment and David chooses a punishment which is three days of plague, afflicting the people of Israel, and 70,000 people die.
All right, now again it is passages like this one that are precisely what keeps some people from believing the Old Testament could possibly be from God, aren't they? Did you see why? There were a number of problems some of you probably noticed as we went through there and there's probably some more that you didn't even notice. So I'm going to deal with the ones that you saw and then maybe some you didn't see too. So in other words I'll see your objections and I'll raise you a few objections in this passage. I see five of them. Number one, who was it that incited David to count the fighting men?
Who was it? Second Samuel 24 says that God moved David to count the fighting men. The Lord did it, but you know that's kind of a problem. But then it gets even worse because if you read, get this, the parallel account in First Chronicles when the author of Chronicles tells the same story he says, chapter 21, 1, then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. Uh-oh, I mean is it Satan or is it God? That's actually just a misunderstanding of God's sovereignty. The Bible teaches that God sometimes, you see, allows us to fall prey to the temptations of Satan or allows us to fall prey to even our own evil desires. In one sense God is not the one doing it. Satan is the one that's tempting us and we're the ones that are choosing to yield to that temptation. But in another sense God is sovereign even over that temptation. Now how it is that he takes our free decisions and even the malicious intentions of Satan and works them for his perfect plan is a mind-boggling mystery.
I will acknowledge that to you, but he doesn't because he's God. This is Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. We'll get right back to today's teaching in just a moment, but first let me tell you about our latest resource. We want to help you prepare your heart for Christmas by offering you a book called He is Here filled with 25 Advent devotionals. And what we celebrate at Christmas, God coming to earth, was God's plan all along, like we're finding in our study of David this month.
All of scripture was building toward the coming of Jesus, the King, and in each story we see God interact with someone from the Bible. Meeting God changed everything for these people and it can change everything for us too. We'd like to encourage you to really focus your attention this Christmas season on the presence of Jesus, our Savior and King. Reserve your copy of this devotional guide by calling 866-335-5220 or visit us online at jdgreer.com. Thanks for being with us today.
Now let's get back to the final moments of today's teaching here on Summit Life. If you're one of those people who like to have everything figured out in a math formula, there's just some things about God like this that are going to frustrate you because he doesn't fit neatly into your mental excel spreadsheet. And I know that just drives some of you crazy, but then again, listen, we're talking about God, right?
Would you just stop and think about what that means for a minute? I mean if there is a God, if there is a God, then he would be infinite in power and infinite in wisdom, right? All I'm telling you is the appropriate question is if there is a God then it makes sense to me that there's many things about him, how he rules the universe, what he does, it just blows my mind and I'm okay with that.
Number two, here's your second problem. Is there a discrepancy in the numbers that are reported? You see another thing you'll notice if you study the 1 Chronicles account is that there's a discrepancy in the number of people that get reported. Second Samuel 24 says that in the northern states there were 800,000 whereas 1 Chronicles 21 says that there were 1.1 million. So people will point to this and they're like, well, clearly there's a contradiction here. The Bible can't possibly be written by God because God could count whenever I counter this kind of contradiction, right? And it's a fair question.
There's one of two things that I usually do. The first thing is you just do a little research. You do a little research and try to figure out what's all behind this and if you do a little research on this passage what you'll find out is that 1 Chronicles 27 tells you there were 288,000 people in the standing army in Israel. So the number in 2 Samuel 24, the 800,000, that is a report of the number of people eligible to be drafted.
If you add 800,000 eligible to be drafted to 288,000 that are in the standing army you will come up with 1,088,000 which is basically the 1.1 million that was reported in Chronicles if you round that number from 1,088,000 to 1.1 million. And then you're like, well, I just feel like he's God. He should probably give me the exact count.
No, that's not fair. I mean, seriously, I know God knows how many there are but we all speak in rounding. If you call me at 11.55 and I'm like, what time is it? You say noon.
I don't scream, liar! I mean, you round. It's fine, okay? So God speaks to us in ways with round numbers and so what you've got is you've got a rounding here and you've got the number in 2 Samuel reporting a different number than 1 Chronicles because there's another number in that number.
He didn't count. So if you do research this all works out just fine, right? That's one way that I handle stuff like this. The other way, I'll just freely acknowledge this to you, is sometimes in passages like this one what you've got when there's a discrepancy in numbers is you've got what we call a copyist error. A copyist error because the Bible has literally been copied over the years hundreds, thousands of times down through the years and a lot of times when people are copying these things by hand, they're not, you know, scanning it, putting in Adobe and posting up on the internet. They're copying it by hand sometimes when it comes to names, when it comes to phrasing, when it comes to numbers. A little copying error will slip into it and that doesn't need to throw you off. I know you're like, oh but that totally throws off my confidence in God's words. Is this not the word of God? How am I supposed to trust it if maybe some monk mucked it up according to his own agenda?
How am I supposed to do that? Okay? Again, let me just be honest with you. In college this really threw me off because I would look at certain passages where there'd be a apparent contradiction or a discrepancy and I'd kind of be like, how am I supposed to trust this to be in the word of God if it's got these errors in it? I have in the 18 years since I have been in college, I have studied literally hundreds of those supposed contradictions. Every single one has worked out.
Every one. So I'm just telling you that as you approach the word of God and when you encounter something like this that looks like a contradiction. I realize the Bible is, it's a very earthy book, it's put together in somewhat of a messy fashion but what you'll find is that yes it's written by human authors over 40 of them on three different continents over a span of like 2500 years but what you'll find is that God's Spirit is the one that has guided this and this is a book that you can trust and build your life on.
And I would just encourage you not to be lazy and just dismiss it but to get into it and when you study it and when you research it you'll find these things work out. Number three, number three wasn't, here's the third objection people give, like well wasn't this punishment like an overreaction? I mean come on. People read you know that God sent this big plague in response to David counting the people and they feel like you know I mean at best God's a little cranky here. One of the things, listen, that David's counting indicates is a military buildup of Israel.
What that means, watch this, is that Israel is becoming like the other nations, a nation that looks to dominate other nations. Did you know that almost all of the big judgments in the Bible, I mean the apocalyptic stuff, almost all the big judgments in the Old Testament are because of the aggressive violence of a society? Genesis 6 says that when God sent the flood it was because the world had grown so violent and every thought of men toward one another was one of violence and exploitation. Sodom and Gomorrah, Ezekiel 16 49 says that Sodom and Gomorrah were judged for oppressing or in Hebrew grinding the poor. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to warn it of its impending destruction because, it says, they were so oppressive and brutal to the surrounding nations. When God sent the children of Israel into Canaan he said it was because of the Canaanites brutality which included infant sacrifices and the constant pillaging of their neighbors. Israel's taking of the promised land was a judgment by God on those nations. So do you see what's happening here in 2 Samuel 24? Israel was becoming the very nation that God had used them to judge and if they became like those nations God would have to judge them like those nations. So you see in one sense this is mercy because if they kept on their current course, their current trajectory, they would turn into a nation that God would have to judge much worse than this. You're thinking Sodom and Gomorrah, you're thinking the flood. So God's judgment, his extreme measure was in some ways saving them from a much more devastating judgment later and it was mercy.
Does that make sense? I mean think of it like this, sometimes I come home from work here and I walk into my house and I look at my wife and I can look in that woman's eyes and know that she has had one of those days that you have when you have four kids under the age of seven. You know what I'm talking about? And I know there's a little signal that's like don't mess with Veronica and I sit down at a table and I'm eating dinner and I don't you know look her in the eyes I'm just talking about how good it is and this doesn't happen often but when it happens right so I'm sitting there and in fact this happened the other night. One of my kids smarts off at my wife, totally disrespects my wife and I look up and I can see it in her eyes. It's like a red flag waving in front of the bull you know and I look at that kid and we have a rule in our house you don't disrespect authority you know so I pick that kid up from the table and I carry her into the back room and I discipline her which in our house is spanking all right. Now that they don't enjoy it, it's discipline but I have saved that child on at least two accounts. Save that child on at least two accounts all right. Number one, number one I have cured a character flaw in her which if left unchecked would damn her soul to hell right because if she doesn't ever learn to submit to authority namely God that's going to be a major problem number one but number two I have saved her from a much more harsh and devastating judgment that she would have gotten from my wife had I left that thing undealt with.
I'm like kid you just better be glad I was the one who picked you up not that woman over there okay. What you see happening here is God what he does yes I mean it's it's judgment it hurts but God's work here is mercy saving them from where the trajectory of their sin was taking them see. Number four fourth question well what about the innocent David commits the sin right but the people the one who pay this brings out the whole question of human suffering people ask why do innocent people suffer when they haven't done anything wrong well why didn't God reserve judgment only for the guilty and and not for the innocent. A couple thoughts on this first the people are not innocent did you notice this whole thing started by saying that God was angry at Israel did you notice that first line go back to verse one God was angry at Israel doesn't tell us exactly why he was angry but you can probably assume they had the same issues David did they were proud and had a lack of faith and were looking for the military aggression to to take over other nations just like David was plus we do know they just participated in this big rebellion against David first under Absalom and then under this dude named Sheba right and David was God's king so in one sense they were rebelling against God so the point is they were not innocent the human race is not innocent bad things happen in the world and we're always like God why are bad things happening to the innocent the whole human race is under a curse for sin that all of us have participated in if what we deserve are good things then what is surprising is judgment but if what we deserve are bad things then what is surprising is grace and mercy and most people have this attitude they're like God why are all these bad things happening to us good people and the bible actually turns that on its head says no why are all these good things happening to you bad people the fact that you and I took a breath this morning the fact that we have family the fact that we are alive is mercy we don't need to live waiting for the other shoe to drop God in his love and mercy protects and provides for us you're listening to summit life with pastor jd greer we are nearing the end of our teaching series on David titled search for a king but remember if you missed any part of this engaging old testament study you can always catch up online by visiting jdgrier.com jd in this new devotional resource we're offering as we head into the holidays what can we expect to find when we actually hold it in our hands it's a 25-day devotional guide specifically for the advent season that's coming up it's called he is here right each day you can expect three elements there's a short reading from scripture most of the time it's going to be from a story in the old testament and then there's going to be an accompanying devotion that'll show you how this story is pointing to jesus and how it it answers the the yearnings of your own heart and then there's an application of prayer or reflection or meditation that'll help you connect it to your to your your practical day-to-day life we're praying that this guy would help you anticipate the true king this christmas so that you would would not only understand who he is and how the old testament points to him but you would you would feel the thrill of hope that accompanies that the name emmanuel emmanuel god with us you can get that today i think it will bless you this christmas at jdgrier.com thanks jd ask for the book titled he is here when you donate to summit life today you can give over the phone by calling 866-335-5220 that's 866-335-5220 or give online at jdgrier.com we're so grateful for your support because your generosity brings gospel-centered bible teaching to people across the country every day through the radio our podcast and our online archive of pastor jd sermons so thank you so much for partnering with us i'm molly vinovich hope you have a great weekend of worship and join us again next time as we continue with more of this heartbreaking story at the end of david's life see you soon for summit life with jd greer today's program was produced and sponsored by jd greer ministries
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