How God Transforms Failure
1 Chronicles 21:1-30
June 18-19, 2022
This book is written after Israel was destroyed after they were exiled to Babylon. Now they've returned just a remnant of what they once were. He's writing to strengthen them, to help them to see that God has called them to be His people and that they should hold onto the promises that God has given them, hold onto a hope, a messianic hope, which is very important even today. He's talking here about David, and the lessons that come out of this story are impacting the world today. So important, is it? It actually speaks to even the Temple Mount and the history of how that came to be.
I tell you, that Temple Mount is the most precious land on the face of the world today. David buys that land in the story, and I suggest to you that he buys the most precious land because it is the very epicenter of the unveiling of prophetic events in the future. In fact, the conflicts of the world are going to be centered on that very place. I was just reading in the news this last week that the Palestinian Arabs, the Palestinians, had made a declaration that should the Jews even so much as pray in the Temple Mount, that they're going to bring destruction of epic proportions as a consequence. Such is the nature of that land.
This is the story of David and how it came to be. What's interesting is that it came out of David's failure and how God transformed that failure into what then became the mount on which the temple was built. Very fascinating story. There are decisions. David made a decision that was very important. In fact, his life, the life of the nation turned on that hinge-point decision because there are many decisions that we make. If you look back on your life, you will find that the decisions you made became hinge points by which life was turned on those decisions. This is true. If that decision is a failure, what happens next is of tremendous importance.
David, he made a tremendous error of judgment, but what he did next and how he responded to it is a lesson of faith, and how God responds is a lesson of faith, because we need to recognize people fail. It's part of human nature. It's what you do next that determines the course, and then you must factor God into the equation for God is able to take failure and transform that failure into a victory and into faith. We need to take hold of that great truth today.
Now, the backstory of this is that David is now king, he's been king for some time, there's peace all around. He decided that he wanted to number the people, the fighting men of Israel. Now, the reason that he wants to take this census is not specifically given, but it's very easy to see when you read the story. Now, it's also important to see that taking a census and counting the people by itself is not wrong if it's done from the right perspective and the right reason. For example, in the book of Exodus, God gave instruction to Moses that the number of people could be counted if they are going to ask for support of the tabernacle and then each adult over 20 would give a half shekel. The rich would not give more, the poor would not give less. This would be one of the reasons to take a census.
Also, a census could be taken if a nation is preparing for war. In other words, the king and the commander would need to know the strength of its forces in order to assess the ability to confront an enemy. Now, this is normal. Jesus said as much also. It's very common understanding. Luke 14:31, Jesus said, "What king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, would not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with 10,000 to encounter the one coming against him with 20,000?" Very common.
I. Never Stop Relying on God
This was not the case, however, with David. There was people, the nations around them had been subdued. If David's men set out for the purpose of counting the fighting men, it must mean only one thing, that people would assume David must be preparing for war, and war is tragedy. War is suffering. War is losing the young men to battle. The amount of people would be lost in a battle. They must have assumed David must be getting ready for war, but he wasn't. That wasn't the reason that David was taking this census at all. Why was David taking this census?
The understanding is David wanted to know just how great a nation Israel had become, how great David had become. Now, Joab, his commander, tried to persuade David not to do it. He knew it was the wrong thing to do. Others tried to convince him not to do it, but David would not relent. He was insisting, he wanted this taken, and he would not change his mind. It was a failure because it had nothing to do with faith, it had nothing to do with trusting the Lord, it had nothing to do with relying on the Lord. It had everything to do with how great David was, and that is the failure of epic proportion.
Let's read the story. 1 Chronicles 21, we'll begin in Verse 1. "Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, 'Go, number Israel from Beersheba,'" that'd be in the south, "'even up to Dan,'" far north. "'Bring me word that I may know the number.'" Joab said, "May the Lord add to His people 100 times as many as they are. But, my lord the king, are they not all your servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should you be the cause of guilt to Israel?'"
He knew right away this is not what God wants. "Nevertheless, the king's word prevailed against Joab. Joab departed and went through Israel, and came to Jerusalem. Joab gave the number of the census of the people to David. All Israel were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and of Judah, there were 470,000 men who drew the sword. He did not number Levi or Benjamin, for the king's command was abhorrent to him."
Add those two numbers together. 1,570,000 is a world force. David and Israel have become a great world power. As soon as David heard that number, he knew it was wrong. He knew that he had done the wrong thing. In fact, in Verse 7, "God was displeased with this thing, and He struck Israel. David said to God," immediately, he recognized it, "'I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. Now, please take away the iniquity of Your servant for I have done very foolishly.'
The Lord spoke to Gad, David's seer, and He said, 'Now go and speak to David, and you say, thus says the Lord. I offer you three things, choose for yourself one that I may do this to you.' Gad came to David and said, 'Thus says the Lord. Take for yourself either three years of famine or three months to be swept away before your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or three days of the sword of the Lord, even pestilence in the land with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout the territory of Israel. Consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.'
David said to Gad, 'I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great. Do not let me fall into the hand of man.' So, the Lord sent pestilence on Israel and 70,000 men fell. And the Lord sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy; but as he was about to destroy, the Lord saw and was sorry for the calamity and said to the destroying angel, 'Enough; now relax your hand.' And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan," also known as Araunah the Jebusite.
David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, covered with sackcloth, fell on their faces. David said to God, 'Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who sinned and have done so wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? Oh, Lord my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father's house, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.
Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan or Araunah the Jebusite. David went up at the word of Gad, which he had spoken in the name of the Lord. Now Ornan turned back and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves, and Ornan was threshing wheat. As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and prostrated himself before David with his face to the ground.
David said to Ornan, 'Give me the site of this threshing floor, that I may build on it an altar to the Lord; for the full price you shall give it to me, that the plague may be restrained from the people.' Ornan said to David, 'Take it for yourself; let my lord the king do what's good in your sight. See, I give you oxen for burnt offerings. I give the threshing sledges for wood, I give the wheat for the grain offering; I give it all.'
King David said, 'No, I will surely buy it and I will buy it for the full price. I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering that which costs me nothing.'" Very famous response that's very important. I will not give to the Lord that which costs me nothing. David gave Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site. This is a magnanimous sum. This is a huge sum.
"David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And he called to the Lord and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on that altar of burnt offering." They haven't seen fire from heaven since the time of the judges. This is an amazing, marvelous event, and on this exact site is where the temple of Solomon will be built, the very site of the Temple Mount which is so controversial today. "The Lord commanded the angel, and he put back his sword in his sheath. That time, David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. There he offered his sacrifice."
A very, very important part of the history of the world is seen here. There are great lessons of faith for us to take hold of and apply it to our lives. I want to begin with this, never stop relying on God. David, when he was young, was an example of a person who relied completely on the Lord. Does there ever come a time in your life when you no longer need to rely on the Lord? This was the part of the story. When Joab gave the number of the valiant men, immediately, David knew that it was wrong.
It wasn't about numbering the people. Immediately, David's heart was convicted. I have done foolishly. I've seen greatly in what I've done. David now understands what Joab and his commanders knew all along that it was wrong. What was David beginning to see as soon as he heard the number, 1.6 million? Can you just imagine David? Why did I do that? What was I thinking? Why did I need to know that number? Why did I need to know this, the amount of strength of forces? Why did I do that?
Have you ever done that in your life? Have you ever done something really, really dumb and then looked back on it and said, why did I do such a thing as that? Now, let's not do a show of hands here. Let me just raise my hand in behalf of all of us because I think all of us have done something in our lives where we look back on it and say, that was a really dumb thing to do. Why did I do such a thing? To search one's own heart is good to understand why, why did you do this? It really helps your understanding to know your heart. See it for what it is.
A. Let God be your confidence - always
Submit it to God because God will remind and show us how important it is to always being in a place where we rely on God. Let God be your confidence, but let God be your confidence always. Does there ever come a time when you no longer need to rely on the Lord? Does there ever come a time in your life when you no longer need to have confidence in God? When David was young, this is what separated him from all the others. David understood something that most people never understand all their lives. In fact, he wrote it in Psalm 71:5,7.
"You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence since my youth." I love this verse. I love quoting it because it really speaks to what faith is. It relies on God to the point that your confidence is in God and not in yourself. This is a very important aspect of faith. Does there ever come a time in your life when you no longer need to rely on the Lord? "You are my confidence since my youth. I have become a marvel to many." Why? because, "You are my strong refuge." Now David has a fighting force of 1.6 million men. Does he no longer need to rely on the Lord?
He's got an epic force. No army could stand up to David now. Therefore, he doesn't need to rely on the Lord? David began by trusting in the Lord. All his confidence was in the Lord. It's a great lesson. Psalm 27, another verse that speaks to it so beautifully. I love Psalm 27. You should memorize it. It is such a wonderful, powerful declaration of what faith really is. "The Lord is my light. The Lord is my salvation. Whom should I fear?" See, that is faith. If the Lord is my light and my salvation, should I be afraid of something?
B. Leave faith as your legacy
"The Lord is the defense of my life; whom should I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host arise against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident." This is an aspect of faith that many people do not understand all their lives. They would've understood something. Take hold of this great truth, but never let go of it. That's the thing. See, the question of where you place your confidence isn't an essential question of life. It's easy to misplace your confidence.
It's the mantra of the age. To be self-confident is very highly valued in our modern culture, and it's a very important point of faith. I submit that God does not want us to be self-confident. You say He doesn't, what does He want? He wants us to be fearful and insecure? No. That's not of God either. Well, what does He want then if He doesn't want us to be self-confident? See, if one is self-confident, by definition he is confident in self, but when you're confident in God, it's a whole different understanding.
Your confidence is in what God can do. When you're young, it's very easy to misplace your confidence because when you're young, your confidence can be in your youth itself. You feel invincible. Your whole future is in front of you. Time is on your side. You've got strength. You've got vitality of youth. I remember when my son went into special forces in the marines and when he was graduating, you can just sense it. You can just sense that beaming with youth and confidence especially now that he's trained as a special force warrior. It's like [groans]. You know what I'm saying? It's like that invincible youth.
I understand. I was young once myself. It's very easy to put one's confidence in one youth. Even though when you're young, you may not have any money. You may not have anything at all, but you got your youth. I remember when Jodie and I were first starting out, we literally had nothing. In fact, it was so bad. How bad was it? My car was so bad that like when we were in our courting or dating time, we would maybe, I don't know, go to dinner somewhere in Hillsboro to take her home to where she lived in Beaverton. From Hillsboro to Beaverton, my car would burn a quart of oil. I know. Then to go home from Beaverton to Hillsboro, another quart of oil. I know that we had youth.
It doesn't matter whether you're young or whether you're old. It's a mistake to trust in one's self. Does there ever come a time when you don't need to rely on the Lord anymore? Surely when you're young. David was young. He understood it when he was young. Does there ever come a time when you don't need to rely on the Lord anymore? You're older now. You got stuff now, you got a heritage, you got stuff up in the bank, you got retirement, you got stuff now. Does there ever come a time when you don't need to rely on the Lord anymore?
I suggest to you that there never is a time when you don't need to rely on the Lord. You need to rely on the Lord all the days of your life. In fact, I submit that when you get older, there's even more necessity of relying on the Lord. Anybody who's older would agree with me. Amen? Doesn't matter whether you're young whether you're old. Those who trust in the Lord, those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength. God will make you walk on high places. God is the one that will make you accomplish much. God is the one that will strengthen you.
I was thinking of an illustration. Back in 1872, church leaders in England were planning a revival, and so they're having these planning meetings. One of the pastors out of the planning meeting said, "We need D.L. Moody to come." Now, D.L. Moody, you might know, in the day, was like the preacher of preachers. I mean the power, the anointing of the Spirit was so amazing and he was centered in Chicago and God was using him in powerful ways, so they said, "We need D.L. Moody."
Then a debate, "Why? Why do we need D.L. Moody?" Someone says, "What is it? Does D.L. Moody have a monopoly on God or something?" One of the young pastors said, "No, but God has a monopoly on him." And that's changes everything. When God has a monopoly on you and God has completely taken hold of your life, you are relying on God. David wasn't like other young men when he was young. He understood something that many don't understand all the days of their life.
Psalms 20:7, "Some boast in chariots, some boasts in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God." That's reliance, confidence in the Lord. Now that David is old, he's taken a census. He would have sent shockwaves of fear throughout the nation. Is this the way David would be remembered? If it became known that the only reason David wanted to number the people was so that he can know how strong he was, wouldn't they say of him, "Where is the David of old? Where is that man of faith? That's why we loved David. What has happened to our beloved David?"
What is the legacy that you leave is a really great question. Leave faith as your legacy, I submit, is a very important principle. When we come to the end of our lives and people look at you, wouldn't it be marvelous to say this one, he/she relied on the Lord all the days of his or her life? He/she began in the Lord and she finished. She finished strong, he finished well. He finished the course, he fought the good fight. I don't know about you, but that's how I want to finish. Anybody else? Leave faith as your legacy. Faith is the question of the day. It's the crisis of the moment. Faith, it's everything when it comes to your relationship to the Lord, and it's the crisis of the day in which we are living.
Luke 18:8, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" This is a failure, but what you do next determines the course. See, when you fail, run to the Lord. It's one of the greatest life lessons because failure is part of human nature. What you do next determines the course of your life. When you fail, run to the Lord because God is able to transform failure into a victory which God is going to do in this story.
C. When you fail, run to the Lord
Now, David is called a man after God's own heart. It's not because he never sinned, but you see David's heart again. As soon as he heard that number, it struck him. As soon as he heard it, he knew right away this was wrong, and it troubled him. You know, a troubled soul can be a good thing. God can use a troubled soul. God can use a troubled soul to stir a person up so that they sense a necessity to get right with God. A troubled soul can make a person run to the Lord.
There have been many, over the last number of months, who've made decisions for Christ. A number have made decisions to get right with God, and a lot of that is born out of a trouble of the soul, a necessity, need to run to the Lord. Some people are so hard of heart that their soul is never troubled, nothing bothers them. Now, that would be a tragedy in itself. Some people are so hard of heart nothing bothers them. No matter what they do, whatever they're involved or whatever same thing it is, it doesn't bother them. It's like 1 Timothy 4:2, having their conscience seared as with a hot iron. Some people don't like that, but other people, their soul bothers them when they fail, and that God can use. It's a life lesson.
What's interesting is David learned a great lesson about this after the first time, if you remember, with his sin with Bathsheba. Then he tried to hide it. Notice, for example, Psalm 32:3-4, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long." It troubled his soul so much. He said that "my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. Night and day your hand was heavy upon me." I tell you, there are many, I think, who can relate to this. Your hand is heavy upon me. This is God, this is God moving, this is God trying to stir a person, this is God trying to get a person to run to the Lord, but when I kept silence, my body through my groaning wasted away.
II. Count the Cost of Discipleship
What you'll love in this story is that as soon as he heard that number, he immediately ran to the Lord, immediately acknowledged his sin. David has learned a great lesson that is a lesson for anyone to take hold of today. If there is that failure in a person's life, a great lesson, run, run as fast as you can get into the presence of the Lord. Some people when they fail, when they mess up, you know what they do? They go the other way, they run away from God.
Let me just tell you, if you run away from God, He will pursue you. Anybody agree with me? You run away from God, He will be the hound of heaven, and He will be on your trail and He is coming after you. For what purpose? Now see, this is where it's very important. For what purpose? So that He can get you and make life troublesome for you? No. You know why he wants to come after you? To bring you home. God is going to go after sinners to bring them home. Amen?
Do you love the Lord? You're going to go find them and bring them home, but how much better it is when a person fails to recognize it immediately in the soul and then they start running toward the Lord? The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous, they run to it. It's a life lesson. Anybody agree with me? Then we see this out of the story, count the cost of discipleship. Count the cost.
When David saw the angel, it's enough, the Lord had said. The prophet said to David, "Go and erect an altar to the Lord on that threshing floor." When David came to buy it, Ornan or Araunah said, let my lord have it. Take it, offer what's good in your sight. Here, oxen, I give it to you. Here are the threshing sledges for burning, I give it to you, weed for the offering, I give it all to you, my king. May the Lord accept you.
A. Offer God that which cost you something
David responded. His response is absolutely critical to understand. "I will not give that which costs me nothing." It's a life lesson. Consider the cost. Consider the cost of forgiveness, consider the cost of grace. Does it have a price? Does forgiveness have a price? It does, but would you notice this out of the story? It has a great price for the Lord, but I suggest that it does have a price for us as well.
We can summarize the lesson this way. Offer God that which costs you something. Now, we know a great lesson that David spoke. I will not give that which costs me nothing. He knew the necessity of giving an offering. A burnt offering represented the heart of the one doing the offering. A burnt offering represented a heart that was on fire. I am consumed with a fire for the Lord, burnt offering. Peace offering. There is peace in my heart with God. I'm offering this as a picture of my heart that's at peace with God. I want to offer you that which is right and good to you.
I want to give that to you. Not which costs me nothing but that which costs me something. It's interesting. Reminds me of a time later in Israel's history when they only gave pretense of bringing an offering to the Lord. They knew what the word of the Lord said but they didn't want to bring anything of any value, you might say. One of them might say, well, we know we need to bring a lamb. We have a sick one anywhere? Oh, there's a sick one. Give that one to the Lord. He's going to die anyway. Oh, there's that one over there. He's lame. He's never going to make it. Give that one to the Lord. He's a goner anyway.
The Lord confronted this. Actually, this is in Malachi 1. Through the prophet the Lord said, "'When you present the lame and the sick, is this not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased? Would he receive you kindly?' says the Lord of hosts." Would you entreat God's favor with such an offering as this? The lame, the blind? "Would he receive you kindly?" says the Lord of hosts. Count the cost. We know that it cost God something.
The Son of God gave His very life. The price was high. Does forgiveness have a cost? Yes. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, You're not your own, you have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. The price was high, but I submit that forgiveness does have a cost for you and for me. What is our part? We know what God did. We know the part that God gave. He demonstrated the greatness of His love when Jesus died on the cross. Does it have a cost for you and for me? Yes.
Our part is one, repentance. That's our part. God saved us from our sin and He paid the penalty for it all so that we would turn from it. We were saved from it, so therefore, don't go back to it. Really, that's what repentance means. Don't go back to it. Turn from it is like that Scripture that says, should a dog return to his vomit? Should a swine return to his wallowing in the mud? Should a sinner return to the sinful life in which he was saved? Our part is to turn from it. Consider the cost. David's words ring true. I will not offer that which costs me nothing.
Number two. What does God want for us to give? Our part is to give love. What is the highest foremost of all the things that God has ever spoken to man? Jesus was asked. He said the greatest of these is love. To love the Lord your God with all of your heart. That's your part. That's my part. To love the Lord with all your heart. God demonstrated His love in that He gave His only begotten Son. What's your part? Love, to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
B. God answers fire with fire
Then we see this. It's a very important part of the story. God answers fire with fire. David built an altar there on that threshing floor. He bought it for 600 shekels of gold. Magnanimous price. He built an alter to the Lord, offering burnt offerings representing the heart of the worshiper. Here's my heart, on fire and burnt up with devotion. Peace offering. There is peace in my heart toward You, God, peace from God.
It's a beautiful picture. He offered it with fire. Then fire from heaven consume the altar. It's a beautiful picture. Your part, a heart that's in love. In many ways, you can capture that as a heart that's on fire. God wants the church to have a fire that burns in the heart, in the soul today. God wants to see a church that has revival. God wants to see a church where there's a love and a love that is of the heart and the soul that is on fire for the Lord. God wants revival in the church. I am praying for revival in the church. Anybody want to agree with me in this prayer? Amen. Let's give the Lord praise and glory. It's for His call and the desire in our lives.
When you come with a heart that's on fire, there's a love, God will answer by fire. He'll pour the Holy Spirit down on that church. That's the glorious thing. God answers fire with fire. You come with a love after the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, God will answer fire with fire. You come to the presence of the Lord with a desire to honor Him in your heart, He'll answer fire with fire. He'll pour the Holy Spirit out on that church. That church will come alive. That church will move. That church will see the hand of God. That church is the one that God-- Oh, may the Lord answer with fire when we come to the presence of the Lord. Amen? That's my prayers. Well, Lord, pour your Holy Spirit out on your church.
It's on this very site that Solomon would build the temple. It's on this very site that Jesus would enter in and would cleanse the temple. This is my Father's house. This is a house of prayer. This is my Father's house. This is a place of worship. This is a place of honor. This is the place when Jesus at the end of the age comes and He will enter into Jerusalem and He will rule and reign the nations of the world.
God is going to send His Son at the end of the age and He's going to set things right in this messed up world, to which we say Lord Jesus, come quickly, because this is a messed up world. What does He want now? He wants a church that's on fire. He wants a church that's in love and He will meet us in this place, for God responds with fire.
Let's pray. Father, thank you so much. Oh, do we thank you for meeting us in this place now, for showing us your desire to pour fire out upon your church because that church has fallen in love with you. Church, how many would say that to the Lord today? Here I am. I see, God, what you've done for me. How you have paid the price for my sin when you sent your Son to die in the cross that day to take the penalty of my sin upon Himself. The cost was high. I see it and God, I respond to you with my heart filled and overflowing with thanks, with love, with great appreciation for all that you've done.
God, I come to you with a heart filled with a desire to love you. God, meet me in this place. Pour fire upon my soul and ignite by your Holy Spirit. Church, how many would say that pour your Holy Spirit, pour the fire from heaven on my soul. It's a desire, isn't it? It's a prayer. It's a request. Pour the fire of heaven into my soul. Here's my heart, I give it to you. Now pour your fire. Would you say that to the Lord by just raising your hand to the Lord? Just raise your hand. It's a prayer. It's a way of saying, God, I'm asking meet me in this place. Pour your fire, ignite the soul within me. Father, we love you and thank you for showing us the greatness of your heart. We love you and honor you now in Jesus' powerful name.