September 11th, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 24
9-11-83 8:15 a.m.
We also no less praise God for the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. We are here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message. It is the sixth one on economology, in the series on our coming before the Lord with a minchah, a gift, an offering in our hands. And the title of the sermon today is True Sacrifice. We turn in our Bibles to the Second Book of Samuel, the last chapter. Second Samuel, chapter 24, and the message is an exposition of this entire chapter, chapter 24 of 2 Samuel.
The story begins with a recounting of the sin of David in numbering Israel. And in the judgment of God, it was a sin. It starts off in the first verse like that: "And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, for David said, Go, number Israel and Judah." It was a sin in the judgment of shrewd and cunning and ruthless Joab, which is an amazing thing to me. There never was an army general more hard of heart than Joab. But the third verse says, "Joab said unto the king, Why doth my lord do such a thing?" And it was a sin finally in the judgment of David, in verse 10: "And David’s heart smote him. And David said, I have sinned greatly in what I have done." What is this sin that so angered the Lord, and so caused Joab to hesitate before doing it, and finally humbled David in acknowledgment and confession?
It is twofold. One, instead of looking to God for victory, for strength, for help, David began looking to his carnal defenses; he began placing the trust of the kingdom in horses, and chariots, and armies, and the flesh. He did that in the face of one of his psalms: "There is no king," says Psalm 33:16, "There is no king saved by the multitude of a host: and a mighty man is not delivered by much strength." In the face of that, David turns aside from his dependence upon God to his dependence upon armies and chariots and horses, the carnal flesh.
The sin lay in another area: not only his turning aside from dependence upon God, but the prideful boastfulness that lay back of the spirit that caused him to enumerate these armies. It says in the eighth verse, "It took them nine months and twenty days to count the armies of David. And the sum of them was eight hundred thousand valiant men in Israel that drew the sword; and five hundred thousand in Judah." David was proud and boastful in his spirit that led him to take the census. He was grateful in himself and proud in his kingly throne that he had an army that would rival the great empires on the Nile and on the Euphrates.
It is the same and identical thing as Hezekiah, when Merodach-baladan the king of Babylon sent ambassadors and emissaries to Jerusalem to see Hezekiah, good king Hezekiah. Hezekiah boastfully and pridefully showed the ambassadors from the Euphrates all of the treasures of the king’s house. And when Isaiah the prophet asked him, "What have you done?" Isaiah the prophet said, "The day will come when all of these treasures, and your people, and your sons and daughters will be captive in Babylon" [2 Kings 20:12-18]. That’s the sin; now the judgment.
This is the first time, in verse 11, that we’ve heard from Gad since he appeared to David in his youth. Gad encouraged and helped David when he was fleeing and hiding before Saul. So all of David’s kingly life, Gad the prophet was by his side. "And the word of the Lord came unto Gad, saying, Go and say to David, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose one of them. So Gad came to David, and told him, and said," and these are the three, following the more ancient text and the one recounted in 1 Chronicles 21:12. "Shall three years of famine come upon thee? Or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? Or shall there be three days pestilence in the land? Now advise, and see what answer I shall return to the Lord God that sent me" [2 Samuel 24:11-13]. What an awesome choice: three years of famine, three months of being prostrated before a victorious and revengeful enemy, or three days of ravishing pestilence in the land!
Now, when we think of the judgments of God, they are harsh; any judgment is. But a chastisement from God is one of the mercies of the Lord. It is the same as the wound that becomes so hurting: the hurt is to help preserve the body. It is like what God has done to protect us and to help us. Fire will burn, and I keep my hand out of it. The visitation is a mercy of the Lord; a chastisement is the goodness of God toward us. And the Lord said to David by Gad the prophet, "Shall it be three years of famine, or three months before your enemies, or three days pestilence through the land?" And David said to Gad, "Let us fall into the hands of the merciful God." So the Lord sent a pestilence upon the land, and seventy thousand brave men died in Israel [2 Samuel 24:14-15].
We now look at David. There is an abounding admiration that rises in our hearts concerning King David that I think is undeniable in any man’s soul who reads of the life of this man after God’s own heart. First of all, our own admiration for him: when this judgment, this chastisement, this visitation from heaven is pronounced upon him for what he had done, David prostrates himself before the Lord. He has no proud desire to defend himself or to extenuate what he’d done. He bows before the Lord in acknowledgment of his wrong, "I have sinned" [2 Samuel 24:10].
His heart smote him in penitence and in grief, and when the visitation had been finished from heaven and seventy thousand men had died, he, loving his people, said, "Lord, it is I who have sinned and done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Thy hand, I pray Thee, be against me and my house, but not against them" [2 Samuel 24:17]. You can’t help but admire a man like that, lying prostrate before the Lord, his heart filled with penitent grief, asking God to spare what he calls his sheep, his people.
Then, as though that were not enough, in our tremendous admiration for this King David, in his mercy God sends Gad back with another message [2 Samuel 24:18-24]: "And Gad came to David that day, and said, This is what the Lord says: Go up to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. And David went according to the word of the Lord." And he saw there standing on Mount Moriah, with his sword brandished, the avenging angel. And according to the word of God, to spare the people he said to Araunah, "I have come to offer here burnt offerings and sacrifice that the plague and the pestilence may be assuaged from devastating the people." And Araunah said to the king, "The threshing floor is yours, I give it to you for nothing; it is yours. And I give you the oxen for sacrifice; they are for you. And I give you the wooden instruments, they are for you. All of it give I thee." And 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." Admiration, I say, arises in every man’s heart when he sees David and the spirit of this wonderful king.
And what David says not only commends itself to every man’s conscience, but immediately it rises into a religious principle: "Neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. Not only are we filled with admiration for the king, but God admired him too. In the twenty-first chapter of 1 Chronicles, in the twenty-sixth verse it says, "And God answered David from heaven by fire"; consumed the sacrifice, pleased God.
Now looking at it I think beautifully, spiritually, meaningfully, in the third chapter of 2 Chronicles, the first verse reads: "Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Araunah," or Ornan, "the Jebusite." It was on Mount Moriah. Does your mind hearken back to the meaning of that place? In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis, Abraham in that place offered up Isaac his only begotten son, Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah, the avenging angel coming finally from the death of these seventy thousand brave men, destroyed by pestilence, by the plague, came and stood over the Holy City with a sword brandished to destroy the city; and he stood above Mount Moriah with that sword raised to destroy [2 Samuel 24:16]. And what God did in the day of Abraham, when He stayed his arm and saved Isaac [Genesis 22:11-12], God did again in the life of David. When the angel raised the sword to destroy the people, David offered sacrifice. As the ram took the place of Isaac, the oxen take the place of the people, and God intervenes and spares the people. That is the place where Solomon built the temple. And for a thousand years and beyond, sacrifice was offered in that sacred place, prefiguring an antitype of the sacrifice of our Lord. The penalty and judgment of death should fall upon us, but He, the just suffering for the unjust, He paying the penalty of our sin, we like Isaac are free, we like the people in the Holy City are free, and the stroke of death falls upon Him who died in our stead on the cross. What an unbelievable story; Mount Moriah, the temple mount! Oh, how God does things!
May I point out one other thing about that Mount Moriah, that temple mount? It is of all things a message of missionary love and devotion and God’s abounding mercy. It was owned by Araunah, a Jebusite, not an Israelite, a Jebusite. He was a stranger and a foreigner. And this is what Isaiah says to us: "Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, let him not say, The Lord hath separated me from His people. Even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My 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, even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer." Then one of the noblest of all of the prophecies of the Bible: "For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people" [Isaiah 56:3-7]. The temple mount, Mount Moriah, was owned by a Jebusite, a stranger, an alien, a foreigner. And there, there did God instruct Solomon to build the temple of praise and intercession. That’s a wonderful mercy; that included us, that included me, praise God! We’re all elect, and to any man, anywhere, who will open his heart, there is redemption, intercession. "Come boldly to the throne of grace" [Hebrews 4:16]. It’s a marvelous thing, what God has done for us.
Now, the appearance of David before the Lord: that magnificent word, "Nay, Araunah; I will buy this threshing floor of thee. I will buy these oxen of thee. I will buy these instruments of thee. For I will not offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing" [2 Samuel 24:24]. Cheap religion, David says, "I will have no part in it or of it." There is cheap education. Why, I can list for you numbers of places where you can buy a Bachelor of Arts degree for ten dollars; cheap education. I can list for you a number of places where you can buy a PhD degree for one hundred dollars; cheap education. There are those who seek and desire a cheap way of living: no toil, no labor, no dedication, no self-denial. I don’t know whether you look at these things or pay any attention to them or not, but there’s a guy, a big fellow, big, heavy man with a gruff voice who advertises an investment firm called Smith Barney. And he says, "We make money the old fashioned way: we earn it." Remember that? Man, I like that guy. I don’t know who he is, but I like it. I like it. To work, to toil, to labor, that pleases God, and it builds character and strength in the man.
It is the same thing about cheap religion; nothing of a price, nothing of a cost. The call of our Savior is in another world. Let me read Colossians 1:24: "I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church." Now what do you think about that? "Fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ." Was not the atonement of our Lord complete? What does he mean, "I am to fill up that which is lacking in the sufferings of Christ"? When you think of it, it is evident what he means: Christ suffered for us and died for us, but there is also suffering on my part too. He paid the complete cost of our salvation on the cross, but there is also an assignment of cost for me and for us. We also are called to a suffering sacrifice for our Lord.
I have seen that in ways that have humbled me. I saw it Friday, as I’ve seen it through the years of my life, as I saw it when I began to preach. I held a revival meeting in Chicago in a neighborhood church of that vast city; the little congregation struggling before the Lord, the only evangelical witness in that vast area of Chicago. The utility company sent word to the little congregation, "Because you haven’t paid your bills we are cutting off the utilities in the church." And in a cold place like that, to cut off the gas, for example, was like a sentence of death. One of those young fellows in the church gave a gift, and the pastor called him on the phone to thank him. And the phone had been disconnected. And when the pastor saw him in the revival meeting, he said, "I tried to call you to thank you for the gift," which to me today seems so paltry and small, but it was big to him, "tried to call you and the phone was disconnected." And the young fellow replied, "Pastor, I am leaving out of my life everything that I can in order to give it to the church, and I can live without the telephone. So I’m giving that to the church." And as though that were not enough, in the revival, while I was there, after the evening service there was a young woman who was getting ready to walk home. And the pastor said to her, "Walk home? No, you catch the bus." She demurred, "No." And he insisted, "You catch the bus to go home," and as he pressed it, she softly began to cry. And as he continued encouraging her, "Don’t walk, catch the bus," she finally admitted, "I don’t have the money for the bus fare." And as we talked to her, she had given all she had to the church. And not only that, but she walked every day to work, and every evening back to home from work, and she had left off her noon lunch in order to give it to the church!
Friday, I was talking to one of our young men who has a family who attends our Bible School. And the young fellow strives; he has several little babies. And the young fellow strives to buy a bottle of milk for the baby, all because he feels called of God to serve the Lord. Quit his job, brought his family here to prepare himself for the ministry. When I look upon people like that, I think of our Lord who watched that widow put in two mites, and the Lord said she had given all of her living. And the Lord was pleased. Isn’t that an amazing thing? The Lord was pleased, and commended her [Mark 12:41-44]. The Lord seemingly, if I can understand His heart in the Bible, the Lord is pleased, He is delighted with our sacrifices and our scars, these things that we take from us and give to Him.
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.
"Neither will I offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing." God is delighted and God is pleased when we serve Him at a cost, whether it be in the story of Abel, or Jeremiah, or Stephen, or Paul, or these humble servants of Jesus who bow my heart in admiration and thanksgiving. Lord, help us to be like this great godly King David and to be more like those who serve God at a cost.
We’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and in a moment when we stand, we invite you, a family to come and put your life with us in this dear church; a couple, you and your wife, you and your friend, come to the Lord and to us; or just you, a child, a youth: "This is God’s day for me, and I’m answering with my life" "Pastor, I’m on the way. I want to take Jesus into my heart, and I’m coming," or "I want to be baptized, as God has written in His Holy Book," or "I want to place my life in this wonderful communion of prayer and worship and heavenly service." As the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and when we stand up, stand up walking down that aisle, coming down that stairway. May angels attend you, may the Spirit bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.