Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Change Up? No, A Curve

Anyone who knows me, soon realizes I have a passion for baseball. My first real memories of baseball coincide with the rise of the Royals in the mid-1970s. I was six when Chris Chambliss homered off Mark Littell in Game 5 of the ALCS and I cried for hours afterward. I soon started playing competitive baseball, and played at very high levels during my teenage years.

A good baseball player must develop different skills. Primarily, one must learn to hit and to play defense. I was ok on defense, but I did not usually hit very well (only a couple of seasons was I truly any good). So, I trained myself to be good in the other area – pitching. I had one major advantage at a very early age. I was, and am, left-handed. Then, as I grew older, I developed a very good curveball. And finally, in my later teens, I developed a high-velocity fastball. But the curveball was my out-pitch for most of my years as pitcher.

What is not well-understood about the curveball, is that the curving is not what is most important. The fact that the pitch comes in much slower – often 10-20 miles per hour slower is what makes the pitch effective. But, it does curve. Dizzy Dean was once challenged by someone who said the curveball was an optical illusion. Dean’s response was to have the guy go stand on the other side of a tree. I will throw a curveball and “whomp him.”

Some of the best fastball pitchers of all time actually have been voted as the top curveball pitcher in their team’s history. Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Dwight Gooden and others all had tremendous fastballs, but their curveballs made them truly great.

Why am I talking about curveballs? Well, our church has been thrown somewhat of a curveball. Most of you know that we were scheduled to vote on, and begin, our renovations this past week. But the air conditioner started having problems in late July and now has completely quit. Do we press on and commit to renovating the sanctuary and paying for a new heating and cooling system? Or do we press pause on the renovations to take care of what seems to be a pressing need? We will soon meet to discuss these very options once we have the proper bids, but for now, we simply must recognize the curveball and consider how we will adapt.

The question is: Was this curveball from God? God does sometimes throw curveballs. Paul was ready to go to Asia and other areas until God sent a vision for him to go to Macedonia. Sometimes God helps us overcome a curveball. For instance, Daniel regularly went about his regularly duties of praying to God only to be arrested and thrown to the lions. But God saw to it that the lions’ feast would come a few hours later after Daniel was released unharmed. And finally, we can say with certainty that God wants to keep us from striking out against the curveball of sin, and thus, He sent Jesus to pinch hit for us, so to speak, to cover our sin. But our sin does still have consequences, and that is the story we are going to review today.

Our story is about King David near the very end of his life. The Bible says that David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13.22), but that does not mean he was sinless. In fact, a few weeks ago, the Sunday School lesson was about David and his mating with Bathsheba and the subsequent killing of her husband Uriah. But what separates David from so many others was His true repentance. He did not just confess a wrong to God, He truly turned from that sin even though the consequences haunted him for the rest of his life.

Today’s story is another sin in the life of David. It was a sin of pride which impacted the nation. The story is found in 2 Samuel 24.

Our Pride vs God’s Desire (vv. 1-9)

2 Samuel chapter 24 is concerned with the effects of David calling for census. In your notes, you will see that the principle issue here is not the census, it is the placement of David’s trust. A couple of notes are important here.

First, noticed that verse 1 says God incited David to take the census. Is God to blame for David’s sin? No. James 1.13 clearly states that God does not tempt us. So, what are we to think in this situation? Well, God does allow us to be tempted. We can find part of the answer in 1 Chronicles 21 which says, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.”

That sentence makes more sense to us, but now we have an apparent contradiction. Many people will use passages like this to say that the Bible has errors because it contradicts itself. Such statements are why theology is important. Our understanding of God comes from Scripture, but our understanding of Scripture depends upon our view of God. While the two versus seem to contradict one another, we can look at a third passage like Job 1 and 2 that reveals that Satan can only do what God allows. Thus, a most reasonable explanation for this apparent contradiction is that God allows Satan to incite David to take the census. Why did the author of 2 Samuel state it differently? I don’t know. Maybe just to show that God is in control.

What we must see here is that after David was incited, Joab warned him against it. But David’s pride was set to take the census, and so he did. David had listened to the council of Nathan earlier when David desired to build God a house (temple), but God said no (2 Sam 7). Here, however, pride entered the equation. David desired to know how powerful he was. A census would show him and others just how powerful he had become. And what became known is that 1.3 million men were available for war.

Principle: The issue isn’t the census, it is where David’s trust is placed.

Is it ok to take a census (count)? Sure.
  • The Bible records how many Jesus fed on two different occasions.
  • The Bible records how many were saved on the day of Pentecost for instance. 
  • The Bible speaks of 144,000 souls in Revelation.

But here is the issue. In each of those situations, what matters is not how many people are involved; the key is Who is involved. That is, the focus is on who God is and what He is doing. David wanted to count the people so he knew how many were “valiant men who drew the sword” (2 Samuel 24.9). In other words, David was placing his trust in the military might of Israel rather than in the power of an Almighty God. Thus, David sinned, and he is given a choice of consequences.

Our Sin Brings God’s Judgment (vv. 10-17)

This story is unique because David is given His choice of judgment. Notice, David realizes His sin AND confesses it in verse 10, but that does not erase a need for punishment. God uses a man named Gad to lay out the alternatives. Three are provided:
  • Three years of famine (on all of Israel)
  • Three months on the run (David, not Israel)
  • Three days of pestilence (on all of Israel)

David’s choice is not the one that would only impact him. He chooses pestilence which causes 70,000 people to die. Three days, 70,000! But David knows one thing – God’s mercy will prevail. God intervened before Jerusalem could be destroyed. Before he realized his sin, David must have felt good knowing the size of his army. Now, undoubtedly, some of those men had died, but more importantly, David realized that no matter the army, God is in control.

David knew of God’s control when he fought against Goliath.
David knew of God’s control when he fled from Saul for several years.
But David forget about God when he mated with Bathsheba and then had Uriah killed.

However, just as he repented when confronted about Bathsheba, he repented here as well. But the cost to Israel was great.

Principle 2: The sin of one person can impact many.

Reggie mentioned Achan last week (Joshua 7). Achan’s greed at Jericho cost Israel in battle at Ai. For David, the result was worse. Far more people died, in part, because it was a leader who was responsible for the sin. But it was also David’s pleas for the people (v17) that kept the situation from being any worse. (See 1 Chronicles 21.14-17 for a parallel to this story.)

What we must realize is that when we sin, punishment may come, but God is a merciful God. We should repent as soon as we realize our error and pray for God’s mercy to extend to us and to all who might be impacted.

Our Worship as Response to God’s Grace (vv. 18-25)

Gad came to David the same day that the Lord withdrew the pestilence. Gad told David what to do and David did not hesitate at all. This immediate action shows that David trusts Gad. What was David to do? Worship. He was to praise God – not just for what God did, but for who God is.

When David went to the place where he was instructed to build the altar, the man who owned the property offered the site and even the oxen and other items needed for the sacrifice. But David would not receive the items as a gift. He was determined to pay for them. Why? Because the payment of sin requires sacrifice.

David built the altar. He made the sacrifices, and the Lord received them. And this place that David purchased, this place that David sacrificed would become the site where the temple was built after Solomon became king (1 Chronicles 22.1).

Principle 3: Worship comes at a price.

David realized his mistake, pleaded for God’s mercy, and then was instructed to make sacrifice. David knew that sin needs a payment and he could not cover his sin otherwise. He had received so much from God, he needed to pay for what he would sacrifice to God. Of course, God knew our sin needed payment as well. It was God who chose the place and the Person to be our sacrifice, but do we offer nothing in return for payment? Do we ignore the sacrifice of God in our worship and instead complain when we are asked to give of ourselves in some way?

God deserves worship for who He is, let alone what He has done. But God gave up His Son so that we might worship. Will our worship cost us nothing in return?


Originally, this week’s message was to focus on the launch of a capital campaign to renovate the sanctuary. But, we have been thrown a curveball. Yet God doesn’t want us to fail! The timing could have been horrible – but God! I want to be careful here because the situation we have studied today does not perfectly resonate with ours, but I do think we can find some parallels. At a minimum, I believe our current situation requires us to ask some questions.

1.   Are the proposed renovations the right thing to do at this time or were we incited to do them? Please understand, I am not saying they were wrong or are wrong. I am simply asking a question. The carpet needs to be replaced which means the pews will need to be removed. So, in a practical sense the plans were fine. But are they right?

Prior to two weeks ago, our goal was to focus on the aesthetics of the church, and from Scripture, we have examples of how much God cared about the design and ornateness of the tabernacle and temple. But we must ask ourselves, how necessary are the aesthetics in light of our new situation with the heating and cooling devices?

2.   God’s mercy may have prevented us from a sin, but at a minimum it has given us an opportunity to reevaluate our overall situation. Whatever we choose from here will be with a timely reminder that money is finite and we need to be wise so we do not put the church into a financial pitfall.

God says, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy (Exodus 33.19), but I believe one reason we have been spared financially is because of our generosity toward others. Next week, we start collecting for the Missouri Missions Offering. We give to North American Missions (Annie Armstrong) and International Missions (Lottie Moon). We pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, and support the BSU at Northwest. We provide Christmas for a local family and help with school supplies. And over the last eleven months we have provided over $2,000 in money to help pastors in Kenya – first buying a motorbike, and now supplying their gas. In other words, we are a church that has already given much, and thus I truly believe God spared us that we might be able to give more even as we will soon vote on some major expenditures.

3.   Because we have been spared, we must praise God. But to praise him, as we have seen, requires sacrifice. Frankly, to praise him as we have come to expect to do so on a typical Sunday will require a sacrifice on our part.

The reality is that we have some work to do. The truth is that we have had had comfort in our day because of the expense of others in the past. We need to consider how the future of the church will benefit others at our expense. Comfort always has a price to be paid by someone. In fact, the Bible says that we, you and I, were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6.19-20) – our eternal comfort is only possible because of the expense of Jesus’ life.

JOURNEY: R – Revere

That’s why this message must have the JOURNEY letter of R for REVERE. David was offered the area for sacrifice for free. He was offered the necessary items to sacrifice for free. But David knew something we should not forget – worship requires sacrifice. Maybe it is a sacrifice of pride, or money, or time, or all three, but we cannot truly worship – that is, we cannot truly appreciate God, unless we are willing to sacrifice.


Learn: I am going to ask you to give. Not today, but soon. In April, I preached a sermon from 2 Corinthians 8 to help us prepare our hearts for this day. This day has now arrived and we do not yet know how we will proceed, in part, because we do not know the cost. But in order to come and worship in this place, we need to be like David and be ready to pay a fair portion for us to worship in relative comfort.

So, I am asking you to focus this week and next (or, at least, until our meeting) on asking God:

1. What He would have us as a church do regarding these projects?

2. What He would have you do regarding an extra financial contribution to allow the church to do what He wants us to do?

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