September 11th, 1983 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 24:1-25
9-11-83 10:50 a.m.
Where are you getting that music? I never heard it before. Is it legitimate? Is it all right? Well, God love you. The Lord be praised for you, wonderful orchestra and marvelous choir. And the Lord no less, be wonderfully good to you who share this hour in love and prayer on radio and on television. You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the sixth message on economology, on our coming before the Lord with an offering. And the sermon entitled True Sacrifice is an exposition of the entire twenty-fourth chapter of 2 Samuel, 2 Samuel chapter 24, the last chapter of 2 Samuel; it begins with a chastisement, a judgment of God upon the sin of David in numbering Israel. In the judgment of God, it was wrong. The chapter begins in verse 1, “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, for David had said, Go, number Israel and Judah” [2 Samuel 24:1]. It was a sin in the judgment of Almighty God.
To my astonishment and amazement, it was a wrong in the judgment of Joab the captain of the host. Joab was a ruthless man, shrewd and cunning, heartless, sometimes violent. Even Joab said to the king, “Why doth my lord do such a thing?” [2 Samuel 24:3]. And later, it was a sin in the judgment of David himself. Verse 10, “And David’s heart smote him… and he said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in what I have done” [2 Samuel 24:10]. There are two facets that comprised the wrong of what David did. Number one: he no longer was depending upon God and the strong arm of the Lord for the defenses of the nation, but he was placing his trust in horses, and in chariots, and in numbers, and in armies, and in the carnal strength of the flesh. David was doing this in the teeth of one of his own psalms, in Psalm 33:16:
There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.
A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength . . .
It is the eye of the Lord upon them that fear Him, that hope in His mercy;
that delivers our souls from death, and keeps us alive in famine.
David was turning aside from trusting in the Lord and was trusting in the might of his armies. There’s another facet to the sin of David; he was doing this in prideful boastfulness. It says here in verse 8, it took them nine months and twenty days to number the fighting men of Judah and Israel [2 Samuel 24:8].
And when Joab gave up the sum of the number…to the king: there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah numbered five hundred thousand men.
[2 Samuel 24:9]
David, in his pride and in his boastfulness, was lifted up, as he thought of his empire and his kingdom as being even greater than those on the Nile and the Euphrates. It is amazing; it is astonishing what pride, boastfulness, can lead a man to do. There has never been in Scripture a finer king presented than good king Hezekiah. Yet when Merodach-baladan, in the thirty-ninth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, sent messengers and emissaries from Babylon to congratulate Hezekiah upon his health and strength after his tragic illness, Hezekiah took the messengers and the ambassadors from Babylon and boastfully and proudly exhibited to them all of his treasures and all of the riches of the temple and all of the glory of his kingdom [Isaiah 39:1-2].
And Isaiah came to Hezekiah and said, “What have you done?” And when the king admitted the pride and the boastfulness that led him to exhibit his treasures before the ambassadors from Babylon, the prophet said, “The days will come when everything you possess will be carried to the kingly city on the banks of the Euphrates, and when all of the people will be carried captive into that foreign land, and when your very sons and daughters will serve as slaves and eunuchs in the courts of the king” [Isaiah 39:3-7]. That is the sin: pride and boastfulness in his own heart, and a turning aside from trust in God, to trust in armies and in the strength of carnal flesh.
The judgment that came, that was pronounced, was tragic in the extreme. For the first time since David was a young man, Gad, the prophet Gad, comes before him. We were introduced to Gad when David was fleeing and hiding from Saul [1 Samuel 22:5], and now he appears before the king in the evening of his life. Evidently, the prophet Gad had been a friend to King David through all of his reign:
And the word of the Lord came unto . . . Gad . . . saying,
Tell David, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose one of them, that I may do to thee.
So Gad came to David, and told him, and said . . .
[2 Samuel 24:11-13]
And these are the three things, “Shall three years of famine come unto thee . . . “ That’s reading the more ancient text and the text in 1 Chronicles chapter 21, “Shall three years of famine come upon thee in the land? Second: or shalt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? Or third: shall there be three days plague and pestilence in the land?” [1 Chronicles 21:12].
Oh, what a choice! Three years of famine, three months being annihilated by foreign invading armies, or three days of plague and pestilence to decimate the people. Chastisement is a mercy of God. Judgment emphasizes from heaven the plight of the sinner and the darkness of our transgression. It is a mercy of heaven that God visits us with chastisement. It is like the hurt in a wound: it signals the need of healing and care. It is like the burning of a fire: it teaches us to withdraw from such flame and hurt, so chastisement from God is a mercy from the Lord that He teaches us the wrong of sin and transgression.
Thus it came to David and the choice was made, “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, not into the hands of my enemies” [2 Samuel 24:14]. So the Lord sent on the land a plague and a pestilence. And from Dan to Beersheba, seventy thousand brave men fell prey to the sin, and the pride, and the boastfulness, and the transgression of the king [2 Samuel 24:15].
When I read the passage, as you, I cannot but be filled with infinite admiration for the response of David to the visitation from heaven. He had no disposition to extenuate what he had done or to defend his action. He is not proudfully boastful in seeking to exonerate his part in the wrong. He has no prideful disposition to be at peace with himself, but in deepest humility, he falls before the Lord in an agony. He loves his people, and he cries saying, “It is I who have sinned; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Thy hand, I pray Thee, be upon me and upon my house” [2 Samuel 24:17]. You could not help but admire a man who, in deepest contrition and penitence and grief, falls down before God in acknowledgment and confession of his wrong. When David thus prays before the Lord and acknowledges his transgression, Gad is sent back to him with a message of mercy. This time it is, “Go to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and there make an offering unto God—a sacrifice—and the plague will be stayed” [2 Samuel 24:18, 21].
And when the king approaches Araunah and the threshing floor, Araunah bows himself before the king, and he says, “The threshing floor is yours. I give it to you, and the oxen for sacrifice are yours, I give them to you. And the wooden instruments of threshing are yours, I give them to you” [2 Samuel 24:22-23].
And, the king replies in one of the noblest responses in Scripture. The king said unto Araunah, “Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24].
As I read it, the very thought of it, and the very sound of it, commends itself to every man’s conscience. And it arises into a great religious principle. “I will not offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. Not only does the response of the king bring admiration to our heart for this man who is after God’s own liking and pleasure, but it pleased God what he did. When I read the same story in the twenty-first chapter of 1 Chronicles, the Scripture says that God answered David from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering [1 Chronicles 21:26]. It pleased God, what David did and what David said.
There is one of the most beautiful and meaningful of all the typological presentations in this story of the sacrifice and the intercession of David in behalf of the people. In the third chapter of 2 Chronicles, the first verse, it reads:
Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Araunah, Ornan the Jebusite.
[2 Chronicles 3:1]
That is an astonishing and amazing revelation from heaven! When the pestilence and the plague was following its course in Israel and in Judah, the avenging angel came to Jerusalem like a besieging army, and he stood over Mt. Moriah, with his brandished sword over the holy city of Jerusalem [2 Samuel 24:16]. And it was when David saw that avenging angel with his unsheathed sword over the city that he prayed God for the stay of the judgment and the avenging plague [2 Samuel 24:17]. And it was on Mt. Moriah that Jebusite Araunah, was threshing wheat. And it was there that God directed David to build the altar and to offer the sacrifice of expiation and intercession. It was on Mt. Moriah [2 Samuel 24:18-19].
Does that bring back the dramatic and traumatic experience of Abraham in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis? [Genesis 22:1-14]. God directed Abraham, on his three-day journey to Mt. Moriah, there to offer his only begotten son Isaac for a sacrifice [Genesis 22:1-4]. And it was on that mount, Mt. Moriah, that Abraham raised up the knife to plunge it into the heart of his son [Genesis 22:9-10], when God stayed his hand and pointed to a ram in the thicket [Genesis 22:11-13]. And the ram was offered in the stead of Isaac, and Isaac was spared and saved [Genesis 22:13].
It was in that place, on Mt. Moriah, that David sees the avenging angel with his brandished sword ready to destroy the city of God, the people of the Lord. And the sword is stayed by the sacrifice on Mt. Moriah [2 Samuel 24:16-25]. And it was on that mount that for a thousand years the temple sacrifices were offered unto God, a picture and a type of our Savior, who died that we might be delivered from the condemnation of our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], He, the just, dying for the unjust [1 Peter 3:18]. Mt. Moriah: not only that, the type and the picture of sacrifice that saves our souls from the judgment of death, but Mt. Moriah was owned by a stranger, by a foreigner, by a sojourner. He was not an Israelite. He did not belong to the people of God, he was a Jebusite [2 Samuel 24:18]. Listen to Isaiah, chapter 56:
Let not the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from His people:
Even unto them, the strangers, will I give in Mine house and within Mine walls a place and a name. . .
The sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants . . .
Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and will make them joyful in My house of prayer . . . For Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
[Isaiah 56: 3, 5-7]
Not just David and Judah and Israel, but for us also has God made expiation and atonement and provided forgiveness, and redemption, and salvation, and welcome into the kingdom and grace of our Savior [Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2].
It’s a foreigner, it’s a Jebusite, it’s a sojourner [2 Samuel 24:18]: where Abraham offered up Isaac [Genesis 22:1-12], where David offered sacrifice [2 Samuel 24:25], where the holy temple was built [2 Chronicles 3:1], and where God says, “Any man, anywhere, though he be a stranger to the covenant, who will find joy in Me, he shall belong to the family of God” [Isaiah 56:3, 5-7]. Lord, Lord that includes me! That includes us, that includes our families, our children, our people, all of us, beloved alike in the grace and goodness of our Savior.
May I now comment on this marvelous word of the king? When Araunah, this Jebusite, said to David, “Here, the threshing floor is yours, I give it to you [2 Samuel 24:21-22]; the oxen for sacrifice, they are yours, I give them to you; the wood for fire, the implements of threshing, I give them to you” [2 Samuel 24:22-23], and the king replies, “Nay; I will buy them from thee at a price: neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24], I say again you can’t help but admire that wonderful king. And it commends itself to every man’s conscience, and it rises to a great principle of religious faith, “I will not offer to God what cost me nothing. I will not serve God with a cheap religion.”
Practically everything in which we devote our lives can be prostituted and cheapened. There is cheap education. I can give you name and addresses where you can buy a Bachelor of Arts degree for ten dollars. I can give you name and addresses where you can buy a Doctor of Philosophy degree for one hundred dollars. Cheap education, cheap living, no self-denial, no striving, no toiling, no travail, no labor, cheap living, living off of somebody else, living off of others, no contribution to the welfare of the people, but a parasite, a vampire, a bloodsucker, cheap living.
I don’t know whether you pay any attention to some of these TV advertisements or not. But one of them, there is a heavy man, and he is saying something about Smith-Barney, an investment brokerage house. And his closing sentence is always this, “We make money the old-fashioned way: we earn it.” Did you ever hear that? That’s right! For a man to be a parasite, and others have worked and toiled, is cheap; there is cheap living.
There is also cheap religion: cost me nothing. In Pennsylvania, in a certain kind of a church that has no ministry, they just gather together and from eleven o’clock to twelve o’clock, they sit there in silence unless the Spirit moves somebody to say something. And after the service was over…I was the guest of a very rich, wealthy farmer in Pennsylvania, and he said to me, “I like our church. I like my religion. It costs me nothing, nothing.” When I heard him say that, I thought, “What an affront to Almighty God!” I like our church. I like our religion. It costs me nothing. Well, that’s antithetical to the call and cause of our Christian life.
Listen to Paul, as he writes in Colossians 1:24: “I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church.” When you look at that passage carefully, that is an amazing avowal, “I fill up that which is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for His people.” What is this apostle saying, that the atoning work of Christ on the cross was not sufficient? That it had lack? That it wasn’t able to save us from death and to wash away our sins? Is he saying that the sufferings of Christ were not equal to the need of our souls and the salvation of our lives and the judgment of death?
No! What he is saying is there was a suffering and a sacrifice for Christ on the cross. There is also a sacrifice and a suffering for us, in our assigned places in the kingdom and patience of our Lord. He suffers, He sacrifices, and it was all-sufficient to wash our sins away [1 Corinthians 6:11], but we also have a part to sacrifice and to suffer for our Lord [Matthew 16:24; Galatians 2:20]. We use that word, “bless.” Do you know where that word comes from: “to bless”? “To bless” is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning, “to hallow with blood.” The word “bless” and the word “blood” are the same thing in the language of our Anglo-Saxon forefathers.
It is at a cost that God makes us a blessing. It cost Abel, it cost Jeremiah, it cost Stephen, it cost Paul. It cost all of the great, dedicated servants of God; they served at a cost. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, verses 7 and 8, the author says that our Lord Himself, with strong crying and tears, plead with Him who was able to save Him from death [Hebrews 5:7-8]. In the garden of Gethsemane, “Lord, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” [Matthew 26:39]. And our Lord served at a cost, at a sacrifice [Philippians 2:5-8], and the apostle avows that we also have an assignment: to fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ [Colossians 1:24]. We also are to sacrifice in serving Him. And if there is no sacrifice in it, it is a cheap and unblessed offering.
You members of the choir, David tells me you are going to Oberammergau next year. I have been to Oberammergau and have looked upon that famous passion play. This next year, they are observing the three hundred fiftieth year of that play. I went there thirty-three years ago. There was a famous, famous actor named Anton Lang who played the part of the Christos for thirty years. Well, you know how these American tourists are. We’re all alike: all kinds of cameras, you know. These came to see us here with a whole load of them—what did you do with them, leave them back there? They are over here; the typical American tourist, you know, taking pictures. So, you listen to the Oberammergau play for the morning, and then you have a lunchtime, and you go back in the afternoon and spend the day there, looking at that play.
Well, this dear wife thought it would be a beautiful thing if her hubby lifted up the cross and she took a picture of him, carrying the cross of Jesus. So at the lunchtime, they went up there on the stage dais and she said to her hubby, “Now you go up there and you lift up the cross, and I’ll take your picture.” So hubby obediently went over there to lift up the cross while his wife took the picture. He couldn’t lift it! And while he was struggling with the cross, Anton Lang came by, and the American tourist said to Anton Lang, “This is a play! Why is the cross so heavy?”
And the great actor replied, “If I don’t feel it, I can’t play my part.”
It is the same thing in the faith, and in the Lord, and in the church. If it doesn’t cost me, if I don’t pour blood, and tears, and sweat, and labor, and travail into the ministry, it’s meaningless to me. “If I don’t feel it, I can’t play my part.” It is the sacrifice; it’s the cost that counts, and without it, it turns to dust and ashes in our hands and in the hands of God.
I live in that kind of a world; I see it all the time. On Friday of this week, there was a preacher in our Bible college here—gave up his job, gave up his work, has moved here to Dallas with his wife and about four little babies to attend school. And among other things, he said to me, “It is a struggle for me. It is a struggle for me to buy milk for our little baby.” And I don’t know why, but when he told me that, my mind went back many, many years ago when I was a youth and I held a revival meeting in Chicago, in one of those great neighborhood districts that had no evangelical witness at all. In their need and in their poverty; the utility company said, “We’re going to cut off your utilities. You haven’t paid the bill.” Well, in a cold place like Chicago in the wintertime, you cut off the gas, and it is frigid and devastating! So in those days of the revival that I held there, there was a young fellow, and he made, to me, that day such a paltry gift, but it was all that he had; he gave it to the church. And the preacher sought to call him on the telephone to thank him for the gift. And the telephone was disconnected. So we saw him at the revival meeting, and the pastor said to him, “I tried to call you to thank you, and the phone’s disconnected.” And the man said, “Yes. I have left out of my life everything that wasn’t necessary, and I don’t need the telephone. I can live without it, and I’m giving it all to the church.”
Well, as though that were not enough, after the service one night the pastor and I were talking to a young woman and encouraging her to go home on the bus. And she said no, she was going to walk the long distance. And the pastor encouraged her, “No, you must ride the bus.” And the girl demurred. And at the insistence of the pastor that she ride the bus, she began softly to cry. And when the pastor pressed, she said, “I walk to work every morning, and I walk home every evening. And I omit, I’ve given up my noon meal in order that I might give to the church.”
Examples of devotion like that—at a cost to God—you can multiply a thousand times a thousand times, on the mission field, in the families here at home, in the work of the Lord, in those young ministers who have given up everything to try to serve in the calling of God. And shall I look upon that and seek for me and for us a life of ease and of luxury?
I counted dollars, while God counted crosses;
I counted gains, while He counted losses;
I counted my possessions by the things gained in store,
But He valued me by the scars that I bore.
I counted my honors and sought for ease;
He wept while He counted the hours on my knees.
And I never knew until one day by a grave,
How vain are these things we spend a lifetime to save.
[“Illustrations Unlimited,” James S. Hewett, (Wheaton: Tyndale
House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 253]
“Neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. It is the sacrifice, it is the cost that counts, that from my heart and my soul, as well as for my offering, the dedication of my highest best to God.
Now may we stand together? Our wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Lord, who gave up heaven for us [Hebrews 10:5-14], who died, suffered on the cross that we might be saved [1 Corinthians 15:3]. O Lord! How could it be that we could ever be cheap, and paltry, and miserably selfish in the presence of so great a love?
And our Lord, as we search our souls, it’s in us, Master, to do better and more for Thee with each passing day. May our service be marked by devotion and consecration and self-denial. May it please God to receive the gifts we bring to Thee of heart, soul, and hand, and possession, because the Lord looks upon it as He did that poor widow and her two mites, trusting God for all her living [Mark 12:41-44].
And in this moment that our people wait and pray, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, “Pastor, today I have chosen God. I’ve decided for Him. I’ve opened my heart heavenward and Christ-ward and God-ward, and I’m coming.” A family you to put your life with us in this dear church, to accept the Lord as your Savior, to be baptized according to the Holy Word of our Lord, to answer the call of the Spirit in your heart; make the decision now. And in a moment, when we sing, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, here I stand, God helping me.” And our Lord, bless these who come. May angels attend them. Make them happy in Thee. May we grow in every grace together, in the love of Jesus. Amen.
Now while we sing our song: a thousand times welcome, as you come, while we sing.