Stages of Growth: “Celebrating Myself” – 2 Samuel 24

The end of David’s biography in the Bible is not about how GOOD a man or a king he was, but rather a series of stories of how God redeemed a flawed man and watched out for him with great friends and honest prophets. The story of the founding of the Temple fits this time and this pattern.

David had many great days of following God, but near the end of his reign, he began to believe his own press. His success went to his head, and his pride led him to folly. The outcome was a costly lesson to him that exposed a deep truth of God – the true meaning of repentance and obedience.

Key Principle: Repentance is not simply deciding I am wrong in what I did. It is not tears over how bad I feel about what I did. It isn’t even crying out loud that I am wrong and despicable. Real repentance is surrender to God’s way in the inner most part of me.

I. The ego trip: five steps down (24:1-9).

David opened himself to sin (24:1; cp. 1 Chron 21:1). Note: The Lord once again turned his face from Israel (as in 21:1 and the story of Gibeon’s revenge) when David opened his heart to Satan’s stirring (1 Chron 21:1) and David ordered a military census to rejoice over what David had accumulated and to give him a man made security over an impending trouble. James 1:13 – God doesn’t tempt!

David drew others into his sin (24:2)

David turned off godly counsel (24:3). It has been my experience that we find it easy to block out godly counsel and quickly forget what we heard when we DO hear it. We have selective hearing and selective memory. An older couple had trouble remembering common, day-to-day things. They both decided that they would write down requests the other had, and so try to avoid forgetting. One evening the wife asked if the husband would like anything. He replied, “Yes. I’d like a large ice-cream sundae with chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry on top.” The wife started off for the kitchen and the husband shouted after her, “Aren’t you going to write it down?” “Don’t be silly,” she hollered back, “I’m going to fix it right now. I won’t forget.” She was gone for quite some time. When she finally returned, she set down in front of him a large plate of hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, and a glass of orange juice. He took a look and said “I knew you should have written it down! You forgot the toast!”

David ignored nine months of emptiness in distance from God (24:4-8). Problems have a way of growing when we ignore reality. Take this true story from our American past: Every February on George Washington’s birthday, the late newspaper columnist, Frederick C. Othman, used to visit the West Wing of the Smithsonian Institution, look at a certain statue there among the antique printing presses, then reprint this piece in his column as a tribute to governmental  bungling…. “I regret to report that Father of this country looks as goose-pimply as ever – all 11 feet, 4 inches of him – with a sheet around his middle, a laurel wreath on his brow, and his bare toes in the breeze.” I guess you might call this the result of one of Congress’s sorriest experiences with the arts. “It began in 1833, when Horatio Greenough was paid $5000 to sculpt a heroic statue of George Washington for the Capitol’s rotunda. Horatio went to Florence, Italy, and emerged several years later with a 20 ton marble statue. When the longshoremen started to hoist the statue onto a boat, the rope broke and George sank in the mud. The U.S. Navy sent a battleship to Italy, fished George out and took him to New York. Because some railroad tunnels between there and New York weren’t big enough, they took him to New Orleans and forwarded him by deviant routes, without tunnels, to Washington. This artistic enterprise by now had cost some $26,000. “When the statue proved too heavy for the Rotunda, it was quickly moved to the Capitol lawn, where the unveiling came on George Washington’s birthday, 1843. The Navy band tootled, the lawmakers made speeches, the Speaker of the House pulled the string, and sure enough – there was George Washington, twice as big as life, scantily clad as a Roman Senator! “Over Capitol Hill rose a horrified gasp. After weeks of bitter debate, Congress decided to build a wooden shed for $1600 to hide the statue. By 1908, the shed was so weather beaten – and the lawmakers so mortified, that they appropriated a final $5000 to tear it down and haul the semi naked Washington – in the dead of night – to the Smithsonian.” Why did this Frederick Othman visit the Smithsonian every February… and then (every February) reprint this story about this statue? Because in Washington D.C., Othman was constantly exposed to governmental waste and incompetence – AND this story perfectly symbolized the emotions of anger and frustration he felt every time he was exposed to the bad judgment of elected officials.

David got what he wanted – the fruit of his sin (24:9).

II. The sound of Repentance (24:10)

David Realized the Problem (24:10a).
David Took his trouble to the Lord (24:10b).
David Verbally admitted his wrong (24:10b).
David Asked for cleansing (24:10b).

The problem with verbal people is they can sound like they mean what they are saying, even when their heart doesn’t really agree. We must learn how to both obey in the heart, and use our lips wisely. I think you will quickly sympathize with these men who learned to use their mouth well the hard way:

TOP 10 Lame-brained, Foot-in-mouth Compliments from a Husband to His Wife

10. “You look great for a woman who has had four kids.”
9. “This is almost as good as mom used to make.”
8. “Thanks for the new shirt. It’ll be great for working on the car.”
7. “That’s a great new hairdo, Honey. How much did it cost?”
6. “I never knew you could sing that close to pitch.”
5. “I like it when you wait until halftime to vacuum.”
4. “Whaddaya want me to say? Okay, you look fabulous.”
3. “This … meatloaf is a neat color.”
2. “Yes, that actress is beautiful, but you’re pretty on the inside.”
1. “Wow, that makeup works wonders!”

III. The Test (24:11-16). Note: God never tests us so that He can learn anything!

God sent a test to expose David’s heart (24:11-13).

Under pressure, David blurted out his selfishness (24:14). We have an almost unlimited capacity to be selfish. A farm boy accidentally overturned his wagon load of corn. The farmer who lived nearby heard the noise. “Hey Willis!!” the farmer yelled, “Forget your troubles. Come in with us. Then I’ll help you get the wagon up.” “That’s mighty nice of you,” Willis answered, “but I don’t think Pa would like me to.” “Aw, come on,” the farmer insisted. “Well okay,” the boy finally agreed, and added, “but Pa won’t like it.”  After a hearty dinner, Willis thanked his host and said, “I feel a lot better now, but I know Pa is going to be real upset.” “Don’t be foolish,” the neighbor said with a smile, “by the way, where is he?” “Under the wagon,” the boy replied.

Judgment fell all about David, exposing to him his inner sickness (24:15-16).

IV. The Breaking Point (24:17).

David watched in horror as others paid (24:17a). “A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but sometimes a loving pat won’t bring the desired result.”
Finally he recognized his ego is the problem (24:17b).
David asked for a personal penalty (24:17b).

V. The Redemption (24:18-25).

God didn’t continue the discipline, but gave David something he could work on (24:18).
David obeyed immediately and precisely (24:19).
David had an opportunity to sacrifice personally so that he could accept the grace and restoration of God (24:20-25).

God didn’t need a place to meet. The Tabernacle was already more than 400 years old, and the ark was parked on the high place at Gibeon. Why the building program? Because God gives us an opportunity to be LIKE Him, to participate in the relationship by giving, building and working.He doesn’t ask us to do it because He can’t. He does it for US. In the case of David, he gave him something that would help David visually get back on track. God’s forgiveness isn’t always the issue. Often, the real problem is accepting God’s forgiveness once it dawns on us how despicable we really are!

God offered an outward sign to help David come to the solid realization that his heart was truly open…

Repentance is not simply deciding I am wrong in what I did. It is not tears over how bad I feel about what I did. It isn’t even crying out loud that I am wrong and despicable. Real repentance is surrender to God’s way in the inner most part of me.

Matthew 3 shares the teaching of John the Baptizer: Bring forth fruits worthy of real repentance. Let him who has ears to hear, move from hearing to doing!