2 Sam. 24
Most people want to connect with God.
A little boy wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for weeks, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting $100. When the post office received the letter to "God, USA", they decided to send it to the President. The President was so amused he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5 bill. The little boy was delighted with the money, and sat down and wrote a thank-you note to back to God. The post office forwarded his note on to the President. It read: "Dear God, Thank You very much for sending the money. But I noticed You sent it through Washington, D.C., and I just wanted to let You know those stinkers took out $95 in taxes!"
Have you ever felt like you had a problem really connecting with God? Every Sunday we gather together here to connect with God- we call it worship. But do you ever leave wondering if you’ve made any connection with God at all? You bow your head for the prayers, sing the songs, put a dollar in the offering, and listen politely until the preacher says his final, “Amen”. But still you’re not really sure you connected with God. You feel like you missed something somewhere. You didn’t truly worship God in a soul-satisfying way. You walked out with the 5 bucks, but you wonder what happened to the rest of the $100.
How do you make this connection of personal worship with God? That’s what I want to talk to you about this morning as we look in 2 Sam. 24. The purpose of this story in the Bible is to relate how God chose the site where the Jewish temple- a place where Israel connected with God- would be built. But in this story I also find 3 principles for personally connecting with God through your worship. I want to share these with you this morning.
For you to personally connect with God in worship
I. YOU MUST APPRECIATE GOD’S HOLINESS. (v. 1-9)
In the movie Jurassic Park you might remember a powerful scene where paleontologist Allen Grant, who has devoted his life to the study of fossils, suddenly comes face-to-face with a real, live dinosaur. He falls to the ground, overwhelmed with awe. Why? Because it’s one thing to piece together a bunch of theories and bones, but it’s something else entirely when you stand face to face with a living brontosaurus or T-rex.
It‘s one thing to piece together facts and theories about God- it’s quite another to personally connect with Him. The Bible uses images to help us understand Who God is, but ultimately, God is very different from anything else or anyone else you’ve ever encountered.
In the Bible when anybody met God, they had the same reaction Allen Grant did—they fell to their knees, overwhelmed with awe. That’s because God is what the Bible calls holy. If you want to connect with God in worship, you must appreciate His holiness, which includes:
a. His sovereignty. (v. 1) This verse raises questions about how God works
in this world. It says because God was angry at Israel for some unspecified sin, …He moved David against them to say, “Go and number Israel and Judah… It even gets more confusing when you read the parallel account in 1 Chron. 21:1 which says Satan moved David to take this census. What’s going on? God is exercising His sovereignty.
God’s sovereignty means He is always in control. God does not tempt David, but He allows Satan to tempt David. David takes the bait and commits a sin that ultimately calls down God’s judgment on Israel. Without realizing it, Satan and David do what God wants them to do of their own free will. God uses David and Satan and me and you to do His will in this world. He is wise enough and powerful enough to use all our choices to fulfill His plan for good.
Psalm 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
If you want to connect with God, you have to appreciate His holy sovereignty. He is in control of this world, and your life—not you, not the government, not your boss not your friends or your enemies- He is in control. But you also have to appreciate:
b. His righteousness. (v. 2-3)
Psalm 11:7 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;…
Even though He allows us to be tempted and even allows us to sin, He never tempts anyone. In fact, even when He knows you will sin, He offers you a chance to change course. When David decides to do wrong, Joab confronts him. This is God’s way of reminding David what he is doing is not right. But what exactly was wrong with numbering the people? God once ordered Moses to count the people in Ex. 30:12. But God also told Moses to receive a half-shekel offering for the Lord from each person. Maybe David ignored this command. Or it may be David’s motive. Notice from vs. 9 Joab only counts the soldiers. Maybe David is feeding his ego, or even planning to use his military for some mission God has not authorized.
Whatever the reason, the Bible makes it clear David sin, and his sin offends a righteous God. If you want to connect with God, you have to appreciate His holy righteousness. At the same time you must appreciate
c. His grace. (v. 4-9) It takes time to count people, and a lot of time to count a lot of
people. Joab and his men start in the north at Dan, and move counterclockwise all the way down to the southern frontier of Beersheba.
It takes 9 months and 20 days for them to complete this census—God’s grace period. God could have started punishing Israel the day David decided to do wrong. But instead, He is willing to hold off judgment to give David a chance to reconsider—even though He knows David won’t. If you want to connect with God, you must appreciate the words of the psalmist:
Psalm 86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.
God is holy—He is sovereign, He is righteous, He is gracious. To appreciate God’s holiness is to see Him for Who He is, and to stand in awe of Him. This is the God you and I must connect with, if you want to truly worship Him. But if you want to be connected to God, also
II. YOU MUST ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR SINFULNESS. (v. 10-17)
Connecting with God begins by focusing on God’s holiness, but you also need to ask how do I stand in relation to this holy God? The answer is not easy to face: you and I stand as sinners who depend on God’s mercy to connect with Him. How does this work?
First, you have to realize your sinfulness (v. 10). We don’t know what causes David’s change of heart, but somehow, some way, he comes to his senses. He cries out : …I have sinned greatly…I have done very foolishly…David confesses (=agrees with God) that he has done wrong. But now he must do more:
he must face up to the consequences of his sinfulness. (v. 11-14a) We’d often like to forget that sin always has consequences. But God does not let David forget. God allows David to choose the consequences of his sin; the Lord doesn’t usually let you and I make that choice.
God gives him 3 options in vs. 11-14a: 7 years of famine, 3 years of running from his enemies, or 3 days of plague on the people. How would you like to make that decision for you and your family? None of the alternatives looks appealing. So David makes a different decision
He casts himself on God’s mercy. Look at vs. 14 and tell me: which option does David choose? Every commentator tells me David chooses the plague, but I’m not so sure. It looks to me as if David leaves the choice with the Lord. Whatever You do, O Lord, let me and my people fall into Your hand, because You are merciful. Our only hope is in Your great mercy.
Does God show mercy? 70,000 people die. Those are not just nameless numbers- they’re individuals, soldiers, somebody’s dad, somebody’s son, somebody’s husband, somebody’s buddy. Why do they have to die? Because sin always brings death. The wages of sin is death. God demonstrates His mercy not by setting aside the consequences of sin, but by limiting those consequences. He would have been justified in killing David and everybody else in Israel. Instead God shows mercy by punishing them, but not destroying them. God is merciful when we acknowledge our own sinfulness.
If you want to connect with God, you’ve got to acknowledge your sinfulness. You may be a recovering sinner trying by God’s grace to do better, but you are not cured yet.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
It is dangerous to come to God demanding what you deserve, because He might just give it to you. But if you want to connect with Him, You must admit your guilt, hide nothing, and receive His mercy through the death of an innocent Man- a Man named Jesus Christ, Who hung on a Cross not for nice people, but for sinners who know they’re sinners-sinners who cry out for mercy. Only His mercy can save us from our guilt. Only His mercy can change our stubborn sinful hearts. Only His mercy can give you the hope of heaven.
John Newton- remembered for his hymn "Amazing Grace." In his later years, he often lost his memory in the pulpit and had to be reminded of the subject about which he had been preaching. He said, "My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Jesus is a great Savior."
Those are the words of a man who was truly connected to God. Only by His mercy can you truly connect with Him, know Him, and worship Him. Finally, if you want to connect with God
III. YOU MUST PAY THE PRICE OF SACRIFICE. (v. 18-25)
It will cost you to connect with God. How do you measure that cost?
Many Christians in the world measure that cost in persecution. Christians in China, India, and Muslim nations pay a high price to connect with Christ. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people this morning are sitting in prison, being tortured and killed, all for the crime of being a follower of Jesus Christ. They will tell you that it costs to worship God.
Or you might add up how much it cost to keep this church going. I am often amazed at how many of us come into a nice building like this and sit on nice padded pews cooled by air-conditioning, sing songs from nice hymn books and listen to a sermon by a preacher who makes his living preaching God’s Word and never once do we ask who pays the bills for this church to keep running? Who pays the bills so I can connect with God here?
You know the answer, don’t you? You pay them, somebody else pays them, or they don’t get paid and the church locks its doors. You might not like to think about it, but it costs money for you and I to worship in this building.
But there is a much higher cost you must pay if you want to worship God. It will cost you to connect with God, and the price is sacrifice. It will mean
a. You go where God wants you to go. (v. 18-20) After all of this death and destruction, God sends the prophet Gad to David with clear instructions: go out to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and build an altar to Me there. What’s a threshing floor? A flat surface area used to separate grain from its stalk, especially wheat or barley.
Who is Araunah? The Bible says he is a Jebusite, a man who descended from the original inhabitants of Jerusalem before it was conquered by King David. An altar was simply a place to offer sacrifices to God, a place to worship Him, to connect with Him. Put all of this together, and what God basically says to David is go down to the barn of this foreigner and connect with me there. David could have said, But Lord, we’ve got a nice clean tabernacle where we worship you. Why do you want me to go out to a hot, dirty place to connect with You? But he didn’t. David went where God told him to go, and if you want to connect with God, you’ve got to go where He tells you to go. But when you get there, you also need to be sure
b. You give God your best. (v. 21-24) I would guess Araunah is not used to frequent visits from the king. But he knows how to act, so he bows, and politely asks so what brings you out this way, my King? David is looking around at the threshing floor, where some oxen are standing, waiting to go to work. He looks Araunah in the eye and says I’ve come to buy your threshing floor. I want to build an altar here, since this is where God stopped the plague.
After staring at the king with a you-can’t-possibly-be-serious look on his face, Araunah finds his voice. My king, you don’t have to buy this piece of property. I give it to you, along with these animals and the equipment. You can sacrifice the animals, and use the wood for the fire. It’s yours! Free of charge. Listen to David’s reply in v. 24: “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” I like the way Eugene Peterson translates David’s words:
2 Samuel 24:24 “No. I’ve got to buy it from you for a good price; I’m not going to offer GOD, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.”
Worship always involves sacrifice. If you want to connect with God, you must offer your best to Him, not what you throw away, not your leftovers, not what doesn’t matter to you—offer Him your best as a sacrifice to Him because He deserves your best!
In the OT, when an Israelite brought an animal to offer to God, it had to be spotless. No sick lambs, no goats on their last leg- they were required to honor God by giving Him their best. Their sacrifice said something about their relationship with God.
A farmer had a cow that gave birth to twin calves. That afternoon at the supper table he told his wife, “Ol’ bossy had twins today. You know, honey, we’re gonna give one of those calves to the Lord and we’re gonna keep one for ourselves.” A couple of days later he was rather quiet and solemn and she asked what was wrong. He said, “Well, honey, I was in the barn today and I noticed the Lord’s calf had died.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Isn’t that how a lot of us “sacrifice” to God?
We’ve got time to go to school, go to work, watch TV, read novels, work in the fields, work another job, chat with friends, get some sleep, and go on vacation—but not enough time to pray for more than 5 minutes, or read a chapter of the Bible, or come to church 3 hours a week. Not enough time to share the Gospel with our neighbor, or show a little extra kindness or compassion to an enemy. That’s too much of a sacrifice.
Every paycheck you get the government gets their share, your bills get their share, what you need and want gets it share, but somehow you run out of money before God gets His share. That’s too much of a sacrifice.
We don’t like to sacrifice. Sometimes we don’t like it so much we won’t do it. But David says that worship that costs you nothing is worth nothing. If you give what you can spare, you don’t connect with God. If you give until it hurts, you do.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
But here’s the beautiful part—when you sacrifice for Christ’s sake, you not only connect with Him—you will help others connect with Him, too. Jewish tradition tells us that Araunah’s threshing floor was on Mt. Moriah—the same site where Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. But Jewish tradition also declares that on this very spot where David offered his sacrifice to God is where the Temple would be built by King Solomon. It would be here that countless souls would come and connect with God in worship. It would be on this site Jesus Himself would grow up learning to worship God. David’s sacrifice went far beyond himself—it made it possible for others to connect with God as well.
When was the last time you truly sacrificed for Christ? That is when you connect with God in true worship.
I believe there are some here who desperately want to connect with God this morning. You really want to experience His presence and His power in your life. You’re soul is not satisfied with just another Sunday service- you want God’s touch on your heart and soul. This is how it happens. If you are willing to come to God, realizing He is holy, confess your sin, and offer your life as a living sacrifice this morning, I want you to know you will connect with God right now. I’m not promising you will hear voices or see visions, or raise the dead. What I am offering you-what God is offering you- is the opportunity to make a real connection with God in your heart and soul, a chance to leave this place changed by the power and presence of God. Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what you need?