Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue



New!

Resisting Gossip was released on September 3rd by CLC Publications.

Learn More

Preview, download, and read the endorsements, table of contents, foreword by Ed Welch of CCEF, introduction, and first chapter at the CLC Facebook page.

Order Today

Resisting Gossip is available through these and other booksellers:

Amazon

CLC Book Center

ChristianBook.com

WTSBooks.com

Next Step Resources

and in a growing list of e-book formats.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "All Roads Lead to Romans"

“All Roads Lead to Romans”
August 31, 2014 :: Romans 1:1-7

I’ve been putting off this sermon series for about 16 and half years now.

Romans is a glorious book, but it is not an easy book.

Romans has 16 tightly argued chapters from the brilliant Apostle Paul.  Some law schools have used Romans as a textbook to teach lawyers how to make a logical and persuasive argument.

It’s an amazing book, but it’s been compared to Mount Everest. You don’t just decide one day to climb Mount Everest. You work up to it.

And I’ve been working up to preaching Romans for 16 and a half years.

Some pastors get almost lost in Romans. One of my pastor heroes is John Piper. He took 8 years of sermons to preach all the way through the book.

Don’t worry!  We won’t spend 8 years here, though it would be good for us.

I think we might spend this whole school year in Romans, though. Maybe a whole twelve months. We’ll see. It might go faster. There will be places where we take great big chunks at once and then at other times, we’ll just take one verse at a time.  Today, we’re not going to get past the “Hello” at the beginning.

But we’re going to marinate in this book, that’s for sure.

So, if I’ve been working up to this now for 16 and half years, why NOW?

Why tackle Romans together now?

Well, for one reason, I realized this Summer that I will never feel adequately prepared to preach Romans. I have a stack of books, almost as large as my wingspan in my office just on the book of Romans, and I’ll never read everything there is to read there, much less everything that has been written.

And I’ll never master all of the arguments.

And I’ll never settle all of the controversial interpretative questions there are.

I’ll never master Romans, so why wait?

But the bigger reason is that Romans speaks God’s truth to so much in our lives today.

Romans helps us to understand so much about what is going on in our world.

Romans is such a robust explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that it touches just about everything!

You’ve heard the old expression, “All Roads Lead to Rome?”

Well, I’m saying “All Roads Lead to Romans.”

All roads lead into and out of the Letter to the Romans.

Now, I’m not saying that Romans is the best book in the Bible. There isn’t such a thing. You’re not supposed to pit one book against another. Each one is God’s Word.

However, there is a priority to them. Romans serves in the Bible as a nexus, a crossroads, a critical juncture where phenomenally humongous doctrines meet and connect with life.

It’s very important.

While I’ve never preached all the way through it, I’ve quoted Romans almost weekly for the last 16 and half years.

Romans is imminently quotable.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is...”

“The wages of sin is...”

“All have sinned and fallen...”

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners...”

“Therefore there is no no...”

“If God is for us...”

“Who shall separate us...”

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead...”

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as ...”

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome...”

You love Romans!

You love the truth of Romans.

But Romans isn’t just a string of beautiful but random verses. It’s a letter. And we need to take in the whole thing.

All roads lead to Romans.

Do you want to understand homosexuality?

That’s hot-button issue today. And it’s only going to get hotter.

After we came back from Challenge, a number of you asked me to teach here what I taught there on same sex attraction.

Romans addresses it.

Do you want to know what’s wrong with the world?

Romans addresses it.  It explains to us how broken our world is and why.  And what God is doing about it.

Do you want to know what’s wrong with people?

Romans addresses that. Romans explains what is wrong with us and what God is doing about it.

Do you want to know how to get along with others?

Romans addresses that. It was written for Christians who were having trouble working out their relationships, especially between two cultures: Jew and Gentile.  Jews having been the historical recipients of God’s gifts and Gentiles who had apparently become the majority here in Rome.

They are very different. More different than the Republicans and the Democrats.

How will they do church together?

Romans addresses that.

Do you want to know how to be a new person?

Romans speaks to that.  It’s all about change from the old you to the new you. That picture of baptism. Down, down, down in death to the old and up, up, up to new life.

And then really living that new life.

Do you want to know what the Holy Spirit is up to in this day and age?

Romans tells us.

Do you want to know how to relate to government? Whether or not you have to pay your taxes. Whether or not you have to obey the speed limit.

Romans addresses that.

Do you want to know how important missions is?

We’ve just had a great month of missions here with McGills, Magills, O’Briens, and Ileases.  How important is what they are doing? How important is it that we support them?

Romans addresses that.

All roads lead to Romans.

Do you want to know how to be right with God? How to be saved? How to be justified?

Romans gives us the gospel.

I could go on. The reason why we are tackling Romans now is because we need it.

Earlier this Summer, I felt that the Lord was forcibly moving me from avoiding this book (always studying it but never preaching it) to embracing it and preaching it for you.

The bottom line reason why we’re beginning Romans in the Fall of 2014 is that I love you and I want the gospel truth of Romans for your lives.  And much deeper than that, God loves us and wants the gospel truth of Romans for our lives.

Now, one of the most important things that I want you to get this week in Romans is that Romans is a letter.

I know that’s obvious, but we don’t tend to treat Romans that way.

Romans is a letter.

We tend to think about Romans being a theology book.

And there’s good reason for that. It’s full of theology!

But that theology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It got written into a letter.

It was a letter from someone to someone(s) and about something.

Romans is a letter.

It’s not a string of powerful verses chained together.

It’s a letter.

And today, I want to show you 3 things about this letter from the greeting in the first seven verses.

#1. It’s a Letter from Paul.
#2. It’s a Letter About the Gospel About God’s Son.
#3. It’s a Letter to the Romans Christians.

Let’s take those in order.

#1. ROMANS IS A LETTER FROM PAUL.

Now, I know that’s not a very life-changing sentence, but bear with me.

Look at verse 1. People back then started their letter by telling you whom they were from. A lot like emails are today.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”

Do you remember a few years ago when we studied the book of Acts together?

We met Paul back then. I have preached a few but not most of Paul’s letters of the last 16 years.

Paul was a changed man. He was a devout Jew and a staunch enemy of Christians.

And then God knocked him off of his horse and changed his life.

Now, he describes himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. That’s taking a low place but also an apostle of Christ Jesus–that’s an authorized representative.

He may be a slave, but he’s a slave of Jesus. And he’s bringing an authoritative word from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Most scholars believe that Paul wrote Romans between the years 55 to 58 AD. And it’s likely that he wrote it from Corinth, possibly around the time recounted in Acts chapter 20.

Paul has never yet been to Rome, and so he writes the longest greeting of any of his letters because he’s introducing himself and his understanding of the gospel to the Roman Christians.

Paul says that he is (v.1) “set apart for the gospel of God.”

Now, we need to get this. Romans is not a stodgy book. Paul is an incredibly passionate man. He writes with logic, and reason, and arguments. But they are not dispassionate logic, reason, and arguments. They are logic, reason, and arguments ON FIRE!

When Paul says that he is sret apart of the gospel of God. He couldn’t be any more excited about it. And he couldn’t think of a greater subject to be excited about.

Anyone excited that football has begun?

Anyone set apart for the good news of football?

Paul was set apart for the gospel (the good news) of GOD!

And that’s what this letter is all about.

#2. ROMANS IS A LETTER ABOUT THE GOSPEL ABOUT GOD’S SON.

Paul goes on to describe it. V.2

“...the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures...”

This is not a new thing. This gospel didn’t come out of nowhere.

There are new aspects to it. There are surprises. There were mysteries.

But it’s been promised before in the Bible. And (v.3), it’s a gospel “regarding his [God’s] Son.”

This is good news about Someone. A Someone with a capital “S.”

And Paul divides the life of this Son of God into two phases. V.3

“[the gospel]...regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,”

Anybody read first or second Samuel recently?

Remember how we said that when we saw David at his best, he was pointing us to his greater Son who was to come?

Remember those promises that God made to David in 2 Samuel 7?

They are fulfilled in this gospel about this Son. Who “as to his human nature was a descendant of David...” (V.4)

“....and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do you feel how excited Paul is about this Person?

He is not saying that Jesus became the Son of God by being resurrected.

He’s already the Son who took on flesh.

He’s saying that the resurrection catapulted Jesus into a new phase of life, resurrection life.  “The Son of God in Power.”

Jesus is declared, appointed, recognized, enthroned as the Powerful Son of God resurrected from the dead!

He is “Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

Jesus = humanity.
Christ = annointed savior.
Our = belonging
Lord = king over all.

That’s whom this gospel is about. Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Are you excited about Him?

Is He the most important person in your life?

Is He what your gospel is all about?

You know, we all have a gospel. Even those who don’t believe the real gospel have a gospel they believe.

What they think is wrong with the world and what they think will fix it.

What’s your gospel about?

Some people think that if we could just get rid of one set of politicians and put in another set, then everything would be good.  Whichever party you want. Politics is all gospels.

Some people think that education is the Savior.

Some people think that guns are the gospel.

Some people think that music is the answer.

Some people believe that love makes the world go around.

But Paul’s gospel was centered on the person of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

And it was from Him and for Him that Paul did his ministry. V.5

“Through him [Jesus] and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.”

It was from Jesus and for Jesus that Paul did his ministry.

Jesus gave Paul the grace (the gift) and the apostleship (the commissioning) to go out to the Gentiles (that’s important, by the way) to call them to trust and obey Jesus.

Paul was a Jew.

But God had gifted and called Paul to share the gospel about God’s Son with the non-Jews. The Gentiles.

And to call them, specifically, to believe in Jesus.

And out of that belief, that faith, to obey to Jesus.

The NIV translates it, “the obedience that comes from faith.”

I think that’s right. It could be just “the obedience of faith” which could be taken many ways, but I think that’s right. We obey because we believe.

Faith and obedience go together. We trust God and that changes the way we live.

We trust in God’s gospel, and we are saved.

We trust in God’s gospel, and we are changed.

And here’s where Paul gets personal. V.6

“And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

#3. ROMANS IS A LETTER TO ALL THE ROMAN CHRISTIANS.

Paul says that these folks in Rome (which is the center of their geo-political world, by the way) are called (effectually, God called and it happened) called to Jesus Christ.

And not just some of them, but all of those in Rome who are Christians.

Jew and Gentile.

If they had a more Jewish church on one end of town and more Gentile church on another, it was both of them.

If they had a church that was led by Gentiles but had some Jews that were a part of it, it was to all of them.

A few years before this, all of the Jews had been kicked out of Rome. About a decade before this.

It was probably Jews that started this church. Most of the first Christians were Jews.

But then they had to go and the churches were then led by the Gentiles who had converted.

Now the Jews are allowed back but maybe they aren’t in charge any more.

In fact, maybe the Gentiles are wondering if they really need all that Jewish stuff any more.

And the Jews who had it first and who still loved their traditions, their law, the promises, their Jewishnes–maybe they weren’t too sure about those Gentiles.

But this letter is for ALL.

This gospel is for ALL.

The people in this room are very different from one another.

We have different skin colors.
We have different languages that we speak.
We have different political parties represented here.
Some of you are sure that President Obama is a closet Muslim.
Some of you voted for President Obama, and love him, and would love to get to vote for him again.
Some of you love football.
Some of you love hunting.
Some of you hate hunting.
Some of you love Country Music and some of you love Rap and Hip Hop.
And some of you love Opera.

I could go on. All you need is to do is listen for a while to see how different we can be.

The people in this room are very different from one another.

But this letter, this gospel is for ALL Christians.

We who believe this are ONE in Christ.

The gospel brings us together by bringing us all to the same Savior.

And here’s where I want this to get really personal and applicational.

Do you see how Paul describes those Roman Christians?  V.7

Those “who are loved by God and called to be saints.”

Loved by God and called to be saints.

Christian, you are loved by God.

My wish for you over the next however-many-months-it-takes-to-study-Romans is that after every sermon you walk out of here saying, “I am loved by God.”

“I am loved by God.”

Paul is saying that the Christians (all of them!) in Rome are beloved of God.

Do you know that about yourself?

Do you know how good the gospel is?

How good the good news is?

That Jesus Christ died for you?

That Jesus Christ–Who was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection–did that for you?

And that you, because of what He did, are saved from God’s wrath and given Jesus’ righteousness, Jesus’ status?

So that God loves you like He loves His Son?

Every day this week. I want you to look in the mirror and say, “I am loved by God.”

Not because of how good you are or because of what you have done, but because of what Jesus has done.

“I am loved by God.”

Now, remember this–that’s true of all Christians. All those who believe the true gospel and being changed into the image of Christ.

All the ones that you and I might not like or want to be around.

They are loved by God, too.

And that should affect how we treat them, shouldn’t it?

And every day this week, I want you to look in the mirror and say, “I am loved by God.”

On the authority of God’s word. Because that’s where the Romans road leads.

But it doesn’t stop there, does it?  V.7 again.

“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”

Now, some of you were taught in your religious upbringing that saints were super-Christians.

But there aren’t any super-Christians. There are just Christians.

A saint is a holy-one. A set-apart person.

Someone that Jesus has set apart for Himself and wants them to live holy.

Called to live a holy life. That’s what a saint is, and it’s for ALL who were in Rome.

And it’s for all of us.

If you are beloved of God, then you will become like God.

You will want to be like God. You will want to be holy.

And you’re called to it.

The gospel meets us we are and then changes us.

Are you living a holy life?

You and I are called to live holy.

We are called to say, “No” to sin and “Yes” to righteousness.

That’s what it means to live as a Christian.

Loved and holy.

Loved and holy.

And this is Paul’s message to them as he starts this amazing letter, perhaps the most amazing letter ever written, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Grace, God’s unmerited favor and blessing.

And Peace, God’s wholeness and health and serenity and restored fellowship with Him.

Grace and peace, from the God whose gospel is about His Son.


***

Messages in this Series

01. All Roads Lead to Romans

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"The Stone" (Live Acoustic Version) by The Gray Havens

Can't wait for the full album to come out on January 6th!

But this is a great teaser--a new version of "The Stone," and it's live so you get to wonder if Dave's glasses are going to fall off before the end of the song!




Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"The Great Surgeon" Kickstarter Campaign

My friend Spencer Folmar is running a Kickstarter campaign to create an animated film called "The Great Surgeon."

Spencer is an accomplished filmmaker (he even has his own page on IMDB). He's the one who created the trailer for Resisting Gossip and is putting the finishing touches on the new Resisting Gossip Teaching Series (more about that soon!).

Now, he's trying something new. They need to raise about $12,000 to make this film and are only about 25% of the way there with only 2 weeks to go. Interested? Find out more and get involved at the official Kickstarter page.

I've read the script for "The Great Surgeon," and got to offer this endorsement:

"I can't wait to see the final version of The Great Surgeon! Spencer and his team are creating a vivid parable of the joy that comes from knowing God's sovereignty in our salvation. This is moving art that gets at the most important things in the universe: death, life, love, peace, joy, and God."  - Pastor Matt Mitchell

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Learning from the Heart of King David”

“Learning from the Heart of King David”
The LORD Is My Rock: The Message of 2 Samuel
August 10, 2014 :: 2 Samuel 23:1-24:25

This morning, we are going to finish our sermon series on 2 Samuel. This is the last message in that series.

We started 1st Samuel on September 1, 2013.  So, for about a year (a total of 33 messages), we’ve been studying these 2 books of God’s Word.

The first series we called “A Heart for the Heart of God.” And the key idea there was seeing what God saw in David, what God delighted to see in David. A heart for His own heart. David far from perfect, but he did love God.

The second series, we have called “The LORD is My Rock.” And the key idea there was seeing what David saw in God, what David delighted to know about His Lord.

In the last chapter (chapter 22), David said, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.” Even though David’s kingly rule was marred by his sin and its consequences, David knew that God had been good to him over and over again, and gave Him praise.

As we study these last two chapters, I want us to take one more long look at the heart of David.

I’m going to call this message, “Learning from the Heart of King David.”

As we said last time, these last four chapters are a different kind of ending than we would probably come up with.

Chapter 21 was out of chronological order and so is chapter 24, the last chapter. Chapters 22 and 23 are from later in David’s rule. Chapter 23 says that it starts with David’s last words, meaning, not the last thing he ever said, but the last public statement he ever wrote.

His last psalm. His last time going “on the record.”

And then, there is kind of a hall of fame list of David’s “mighty men.”

And then, in chapter 24, a story from somewhere in the middle of David’s reign when he made a tragic error with tragic consequences.

I wouldn’t put these thing at the end of my book, if I were writing 2 Samuel.

Aren’t you glad I didn’t write 2 Samuel? God is.

These are what He wants for us to get at the end of 2 Samuel, and what I think I need to point out is what we see and hear from the heart of David in these last two chapters.

What does David say and sing and do that reveals to us what a godly heart is like?

Let’s take one more time to learn from the heart of King David.

Let’s look at verse 1 of chapter 23.

“These are the last words of David: ‘The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel's singer of songs:”

No question about who these next words are written by, is there?

“David son of Jesse.” He’s been (after God) the main character of these two books. “Son of Jesse.” Exalted by the Most High. He’s been made king. “Anointed” not just by Samuel in the presence of his brothers, but by God, the God of Jacob, the God of the promises.

And a songwriter. “Israel’s singer of songs.”

The King James has, “The Sweet Psalmist of Israel.”

What is his last psalm all about?

It’s prophetic. Verse 2.

“The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: 'When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.’”

He’s singing about being a righteous ruler.

It’s a message he got from God himself. Again, he calls God “the Rock.” A trustworthy place to stand. Something solid to hold onto in a shifting world.

God said to him, “When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.’”

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

When you have a righteous ruler that fears God then it is so good! It is pure blessing.

Beautiful like light at dawn and refreshing like how everything is after a life-giving rain.

And that’s the kind of rule that David has sought to provide for his kingdom.

He has done it IM-perfectly, that’s for sure.

But it’s been what his heart has desired.

And now, looking forward, David trusts that God has good things in store for his kingdom. He has promised it. V.5

“Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?”

The answer to all of those rhetorical questions is “Yes.”

His house is right with God.
God has made an everlasting covenant with David. Remember 2 Samuel 7?
And God will bring fruition to David’s salvation and grant his desires.

Yes, He will.

Here’s what we learn from the heart of David’s last psalm:

#1. BELIEVING IN THE PROMISES OF GOD.

David believes that God is going to do everything that He promised that He would do.

“Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part?”

David exults in God’s promises. His covenant. He makes a song about it.

David knows that God will keep His promises. He always does. V.6

“But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand.  Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie.’”

Evil men are the opposite of righteous rulers.

David has always opposed them, and He knows that God will, too.

I would love for my last song to be so confident and joyful, too.

To know and to proclaim not just how good God has been all of my life (like the last chapter), but to lay down to the sleep of death knowing and proclaiming how good God will be to me and to those I love.

Have you ever noticed how often the applicational point of an Old Testament passage is to trust that God will always keep His promises?

How many times have I said that as we’ve gone through Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and now the books of Samuel?

Do you think that God is trying to get it across to us that He is faithful?

And wherever David has failed, His great great great great grandson will not fail.

King Jesus’ rule will be the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, and like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth.

Amen?

Now, this next section is often called “David’s Mighty Men” because it’s a long list of the best warriors in David’s armed forces. These guys are special forces of the special forces!

And it’s clearly important that they be honored for their service to, for, and with David.

But there’s a little detail that gets easily overlooked when we read their stories, and it just pokes out from behind the scenes in a couple of verses. We don’t want to miss where their victories came from. V.8

“These are the names of David's mighty men: Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.”

Wow! Can you imagine?  This guy would scare Chuck Norris! V.9

“Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the men of Israel retreated, but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. [Here it is!] The LORD brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel's troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and [here it is again] the LORD brought about a great victory.”

Here is the lesson learned.

#2. REJOICING IN THE VICTORY OF GOD.

These are great battles fought by courageous men, but the victory was, ultimately, from God.

And David knew that. V.13

“During harvest time, three of the thirty chief men came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. [This is probably before he was even king.] At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem [his hometown].

David longed for water and said, ‘Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!’

[And a trio of his guys, said, ‘Alright, let’s do it.]

So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines [fighting all the way!], drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.

But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. ‘Far be it from me, O LORD, to do this!’ he said. ‘Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?’ And David would not drink it. Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.”

Was David throwing that water away?

No, he (v.16), “poured it out before the LORD” like a drink offering sacrifice.

He honored those men and the risk they took, and He worshipped God in the act.

David rejoiced in the victory of God.

Do you and I rejoice in God in the victories that He gives us?

Often I ask God for help. I don’t know if you do this, too, but often I ask God for help and then I steal the glory when the good things roll in.

Or I thank other people but I don’t thank God for answered prayer.

Not enough.

If you have a heart for the heart of God, you give God the credit when the victories come.

David was good at that. He poured out that water as a statement of honor of the mighty men and worship of the God who gives victory.

Verses 18-39 are a further list of these mighty men. The Bible loves lists like this and it reminds us that people are important to God and that even nobodies who no one even remembers except that they were on this list matter to God.

And God knows your name and my name, too. And we aren’t that mighty. V.18

“Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three.  Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab's best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty men. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

Among the Thirty were: Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem, Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite, Helez the Paltite, Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa, Abiezer from Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite, Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite, Heled son of Baanah the Netophathite, Ithai son of Ribai from Gibeah in Benjamin, Benaiah the Pirathonite, Hiddai from the ravines of Gaash, Abi-Albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite, Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan  son of Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam son of Sharar the Hararite, Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maacathite, Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, Hezro the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite, Igal son of Nathan from Zobah, the son of Hagri, Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah, Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite and Uriah the Hittite. There were thirty-seven in all.”

It’s hard to read that last one, isn’t it?

It reminds us that even though David loved the Lord, he had feet of clay. And he sinned greatly.

But it also reminds us of God’s grace, doesn’t it? That even though David sinned so greatly, He could still be forgiven and used of God.

That’s what happens in the next chapter again. Chapter 24, verse 1.

“Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.’ So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, ‘Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.’”

Now, verse 1 is confusing. It seems to say that God commanded David to take a census, which we’re going to read in a few sentences is a really really really bad idea.

Well, that’s about what it says, and I don’t know that I can easily explain it.

Israel has made God angry with some unstated sinful behavior. And God has decided to use David’s foolishness to bring judgment on Israel.

So, God stirs up David to take this census–now the book of 1 Chronicles makes it a little more complicated but perhaps clearer to say that Satan incited David to do this  foolish thing.

I think that probably means that God in His sovereign wisdom permits Satan tempt David into doing something very wrong so that God’s ultimate purpose is achieved.

And the author of 1 Samuel is just cutting out the middleman in the story.

Any way about it, David shouldn’t do this thing.

Do you know what I say so? Because even Joab is worried about it.

And Joab, as we’ve seen is no stickler for ethics. He thinks it’s a bad idea. V.3

“But Joab replied to the king, ‘May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?’

[We don’t why this particular census was evil. Perhaps it was so that David could rest and trust in his armies instead of in the Lord. Or perhaps he wasn’t following the Law to the letter as he should have. Or perhaps he was acting like all of the other kings of the nations. Acting like Saul did. We’re not sure. V.4]

The king's word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel. After crossing the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer. They went to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan and around toward Sidon. Then they went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to Beersheba in the Negev of Judah.

After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand. [1.2 million soldiers.]”

And all of a sudden, David had an attack of conscience.

“What have I done?” v.10

“David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.’”

You know what that is?

That’s a man after God’s own heart.

We want David to be sinless and to never do anything stupid or sinful.

I wish he didn’t.

But this is where he owns it.

David repents.

‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done...I have done a very foolish thing.’”

No excuses.
No half-hearted apology.
No justifications and explanations.

Just repentance.

And looking to God for mercy.

That’s a man after God’s own heart.

Now, don’t hear me say that God loves those who run out and sin all the more so that grace may abound.

God sure loves people who sin a lot and then ask for forgiveness.

No, we are people who sin a lot. God loves those who repent. Who own their sin and turn away from it and look to God for mercy.

Here’s what happened. Remember, God is using this as a time to discipline Israel. V.11

“Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David's seer: ‘Go and tell David, 'This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.'’

So Gad went to David and said to him, [Pick your poison!] ‘Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.’

What would you have chosen?  Learn from David’s heart. V.14

“David said to Gad, ‘I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.’”

#3. TRUSTING IN THE MERCY OF GOD.

David knew His God.

He knew that he deserved wrath. He deserved death. His nation deserved judgment.

But David also knew that God was rich in mercy.

We look at this passage and see a severe God.  An angry God who brings plague.

And He is. God is holy, holy, holy!

But He is also rich in mercy.

“Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.’”

And David was right to trust in God’s mercy.  V.15

“So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the LORD was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

[Mercy!]

When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, ‘I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family.’

On that day Gad went to David and said to him, ‘Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’ So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.

Araunah said, ‘Why has my lord the king come to his servant?’ ‘To buy your threshing floor,’ David answered, ‘so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.’ [I expect mercy! And we’re going to worship God right here.]

Araunah said to David, ‘Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.’ Araunah also said to him, ‘May the LORD your God accept you.’

But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.”

This is not how I would end the books of Samuel.

But God wants the books to end on this note of mercy and sacrifice.

God wants this book to end with a picture of a holy God who becomes angry at sin and mysteriously uses even the foolish sinfulness of men to accomplish His purposes.

But also a picture of a merciful God who can be approached with genuine repentance in your heart and a costly sacrifice for your sin.

What does that remind you of?

I hope it reminds you of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Trusting in the mercy of God.

Paul said, “[W]e were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”

Rich in mercy.

Have you trusted in the mercy of God extended to you through Jesus Christ?

I’d hate to leave my eternal destiny in the hands of men. “Do note let me fall into the hands of men.”

But my eternal destiny is safe because it’s in the hands of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And those are merciful hands.

Christ died to make me alive through the richness of God’s mercy.

Have you trusted in the mercy of God extended to you through Jesus Christ?

I invite you to do so today.

One thing more as we close. It’s kind of hidden here.

But the Chronicler tells us that this spot where David built his altar is the spot where Solomon is going to build His temple.

That place where justice and mercy meet.
That place where God meets with His people.

The temple.

Which is also a picture of Christ.

John Newton wrote:

Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy's store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more

He who washed us with his blood
Has secured our way to God

May we have a heart like David’s heart when he was at his best:

Believing in the Promises of God
Rejoicing in the Victory of God
Trusting in the Mercy of God.


***

Messages in This Series

00. "How the Mighty Have Fallen!"
01. King David
02. David's Kingdom
03. The Right Way to Worship
04. "I Will Build a House for You."
05. The Rule of King David
06. David's Scandal
07. Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?il This
08. Absalom's Conspiracy
09. “O Absalom, My Son, My Son!”
10. The Return of the King