************ Sermon on 2 Samuel 24:14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 14, 2005
2 Samuel 24
2 Samuel 24:14
"In God We Trust"
Title: No Water
A United Press release in a Midwestern city told of a hospital where officials discovered that the firefighting equipment had never been connected. For 35 years it had been relied upon for the safety of the patients in case of emergency. But it had never been attached to the city's water main. The pipe that led from the building extended 4 feet underground -- and there it stopped! The medical staff and the patients had felt complete confidence in the system. They thought that if a blaze broke out, they could depend on a nearby hose to extinguish it. But theirs was a false security.
In our Bible passage we see that trust has also been misplaced. We find out that only God is deserving of our trust. We discover that even the best of men cannot be trusted the way the Lord can be. We are told not to put our trust in princes, wealth, or our own abilities, but to put our trust in God.
Ironic, isn't it? Most people put their trust in money and wealth and riches. Yet, all of our coins and paper currency say, "In God We Trust." We trust in something even though it directs us to put our trust in God.
I God's Anger Against Israel
A The first verse of our Bible reading tells us that God was angry with Israel:
(2Sam 24:1) Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."What was the reason for the Lord's anger?
A study of 2 Samuel answers our question. We read of two incidents which kindled the Lord's anger. The first incident is the uprising of Absalom against his father, King David, the Lord's anointed. Absalom scorned the promises of the covenant God. He asked the people to make him king in the place of the Lord's chosen servant, David. Absalom got the people to trust in his false claims rather than in God and His promises (2 Sam 15).
B The second incident concerns a "troublemaker named Sheba" (2 Sam 20). He called all the men of Israel to desert David.
(2Sam 20:1) He sounded the trumpet and shouted, "We have no share in David, no part in Jesse's son! Every man to his tent, O Israel!"Like Absalom, Sheba called the people to desert the Lord's anointed. And, once again the people of Israel listened.
C Now we know why the Lord was angry: two times the children of Israel rejected the Lord's anointed. Now, don't forget, it is from the family of David that the Messiah was supposed to come. So, in forsaking David, the people of Israel were forsaking the promise of the future Messiah. Two times, then, the children of Israel were actually rejecting the Lord Himself. Two times the children of Israel put trust in men rather then in God and His promises.
II David's Trust Misplaced
A The Lord God, we said, was angry with Israel. So He incited David against Israel (vs 1). This means the Lord decided to punish Israel by the actions of her king. Somehow, in some way, God by His providence moved David to commit the sin of numbering the people. We know this as the doctrine of concurrence. This doctrine tells us that every time a human agent acts, God's will is being served. Even when human beings act in an evil manner, God's hand works in the midst of such evil and He remains sovereign. However, God is able to work through such evil actions in a way that does not make Him responsible for the evil that men do; in other words, God is not responsible for the sin. Whatever evil is intended by mankind, God intends it for the ultimate good of His people (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28). We see, then, that even evil serves our sovereign Lord! Now, this same incident is told in 1 Chronicles 21 and there we read that "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel" (vs 1).
B Being moved of the Lord in some way or fashion David commanded that the people be counted. David commanded Joab,
(2Sam 24:2) Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are."Joab at first protested because he knew this was wrong (vs 3) but eventually he did as he was commanded. He went through the length and breadth of the land counting the number of fighting men. After nine months of counting he was able to report to the king: "In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand" (vs 9).
David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men. So he confessed to the Lord the error of his ways:
(2 Sam 24:10) "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing."
To us the counting of the people seems harmless. None of thinks twice about the national census done once each decade. We all realize this needs to be done to determine which areas qualify for federal government programs and to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. I don't think the U.S. government wants to know as much as the Canadian government. While we still lived in Canada we had to fill out a long form. The Canadian government wanted to know everything: the amount of toilet paper, Kleenex, deodorant, and shampoo we used in a year; how often we went out for dinner; the number of magazines we subscribed to; the TV stations we watched; the number of TVs and radios in the home; the number of hours we spent in volunteer work; and so on. No, we are used to census taking.
But in counting the people David was not census taking, or doing voter registration, or trying to get tax information. He wasn't even trying, first of all, to find out the number of soldiers. All of this is quite harmless and in no way can be counted a sin.
David's sin was that he was taking delight in the size of his army. He was looking at Israel as a military machine fit and ready for war. And he was placing his trust in this machine and in his ability to lead it to victory. David gloried in the size of his army. He thought the strength and security and glory of his kingdom depended on the number of people and their readiness for war. David's trust was in armies, and in his leadership, but not in the Lord.
Already David forgot that it was the Lord Who won battles and not the size of one's army. Already David forgot how Gideon and three hundred men, because of the Lord, destroyed thousands upon thousands of Midianites (Judges 7). How Samson, empowered by the Lord, singlehandedly killed a thousand Philistines with the jaw-bone of a donkey (Judges 15). How David as a boy, by the Lord's help, killed a bear, a lion, and great Goliath (1 Sam 17). Already David forgot it was God Who had given these mighty victories. David had misplaced his trust. He put his trust in numbers when he had only to remember Gideon, Samson, and Goliath to realize that numbers do not matter.
What is amazing is that just a bit earlier in his life David sang a song of praise to the Lord. It is a song he made up when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:
(2Sam 22:2-4) "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; (3) my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior-- from violent men you save me. (4) I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies."How can David say such beautiful words and then do the opposite in our passage?
In doing what he did, David stooped down to the level of the heathens. It is the pagans who put their trust in kings and princes, in armies and swords.
C Are we at all like David? Do we ever put our trust in something or someone other than God?
Do we ever put our trust in ourselves? The businessman can too easily trust his knowledge, his management, and his hard work and forget it is God Who gives success. The factory worker or prison guard can put trust in the union, the seniority system, and the pension and health plan rather than trust in God. The athlete can put his trust in muscles rather than in God who gave him his ability. The farmer can put trust in his hard work, good equipment, and skillful crop rotation instead of in the God Who gives the harvest. The student and teacher can rely on brains rather than on the God Who made the brain. The dairyman can put trust in his herdsman and veterinarian and feed-mix and management style rather than in the God Who blesses the work of our hands.
When we are sick we may put our trust in doctors, hospitals, medication, or some alternative treatment. When we think about the future we may put our trust in life, fire, or car insurance. When we plan a trip we may put our trust in a new car, new tires, or in the mechanic who looked the car over.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not saying there is anything wrong with insurance. Nor am I saying it is wrong to trust in doctors or medicine or new tires. But our trust in these persons or things must never take the place of our trust in God. We must trust God first and foremost. And, this is what David did NOT do!
The Psalms have a lot to say about trust. They tell us what to trust and what not to trust:
(Ps 44:6-7) I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; (7) but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.
(Ps 49:13-14) This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. (14) Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions.
(Ps 62:10) Do not trust in extortion or take pride in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
(Ps 146:3,5) Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save ... Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
III Choosing to Trust God
A God decided to punish David's misplaced trust in numbers by reducing that number. At the same time, don't forget, God was also punishing Israel for what she did with Absalom and Sheba.
On the Lord's behalf the prophet Gad laid before David three different options: three years of famine, three months of war, or three days of plague. All three punishments were equally severe.
B David picked the plague. When we compare this choice with the others we see that David was putting his trust in the Lord. The first choice, three years of famine, would make Israel dependent upon foreign countries for food. They would be just like Abraham and Jacob who had to depend upon Egypt during a time of famine. Israel would have to beg of its enemies with no assurance that its enemies would be merciful. The second choice, fleeing from enemies for three months, would once again make Israel dependent upon the unsure mercies of a foreign power. But the third punishment, three days of plague, comes directly from the hand of God and would make Israel dependent upon no one except God Himself.
In making his choice, then, David was showing that he knew something about man and God. In making his choice David was declaring the unreliability of man. In making his choice David was declaring the faithfulness and mercy of God from generation to generation.
God is just as faithful today as He was back then, in the days of David. I am reminded of the story of Gladys Aylward.
Subtopic: In God
Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than fifty years ago, was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng. But she could not leave her work behind. So, with only one assistant, she led more than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China.
During Gladys's harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng ... she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
"But I am not Moses," Gladys cried in desperation.
"Of course you aren't," the girl said, "but Jehovah is still God!"
When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and we can trust in him.
IV The Right Choice
It quickly becomes obvious that David made the right choice, the only choice. The Lord sent the plague. In His great mercy He put an end to it after 70,000 men had died. He stopped the angel at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
Out of thankfulness David responded by buying Araunah's threshing floor. He built an altar there to the Lord. He sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
Now, this piece of land where the angel of the Lord stopped his work, this piece of land which David bought, this piece of land upon which David built the altar and offered sacrifices to the Lord, became a very important piece of land in the history of God's people. For on this piece of land King Solomon built the Temple. The Temple – the sign of God's presence with His people – became a constant reminder to the people that God can and should always be trusted. The Temple – which Jesus said pointed to Him – reminds us our trust is never in buildings or things but only in the Lord and in His Son.
I would like to conclude with words from the prophecy of Jeremiah:
(Jer 17:5-8) This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. (6) He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. (7) "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. (8) He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
You see, congregation, trusting in the Lord means life. Trusting in anything else means death. So which do you choose?
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