2Samuel 24:24 No, I insist on paying for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing….
Read 2Samuel 24 and 1Chronicles 21 This is the story of David taking a Census of his men against God’s wishes and the penalty of doing so. This chapter is a good story to demonstrate that when you pray, you must listen to God’s answer, and that sometimes, there is some action you must take for the answer to take place. Note: There is confusion in these two verses, but when you realize that in 2Samuel God is angry against Israel then you can see that what is described in 1Chronicles 21 as Satan inciting David to take a census and in 2Sam 24 as God inciting David to go and take a census is simply two ways of saying that God is sovereign and everything that happens is at his control/command…God does have control of Satan also and when God’s wrath burned against the people of Israel he used Satan to tempt David to sin by taking a census of his people. David always had the option to not yield to temptation, which also would have lessened God’s wrath. However he chose to go ahead and sin. Then he had to pray to God for forgiveness to lessen God’s wrath. God gave him a task to do to show his sincerity of repentance. Let me be clear…the task is not what gained him the forgiveness…it was simply a demonstration of his sincerity and an obedience to God. God does not “need” us to do anything, but does sometimes require us to do things…not for the sake of repentance (beyond accepting Christ), but for our own sake so that we can “feel” (for lack of a better word, though faith is a decision that you make, not a feeling that you have) that we have repented or that we have connected closely with God and rebuilt our faith in God. Everything that God does or asks us to do has one goal….to bring us closer to him…to help us understand him better, and to bring others closer to him and to help them understand him better through us. God does these things out of his extreme love for us. After all, he is God why else would he bother with us, if he didn’t love us?!!
For example: There is a story (not in the Bible) of a man who was living in a place where a flood was coming. He was warned by the news, but he told his friends and neighbors who were packing up their cars to evacuate that he was going to wait for God to answer his prayer. He was praying about it and that God would make everything all right. After a while, the police came by and told him that he must evacuate that the water was rising quickly and he was losing time. He assured the police that he was praying and that God would take care of the situation. (I know that sometimes the police will force an evacuation…but this is an illustration.) More time went by and the water had risen to the point where the man was having to go to his upstairs room. Someone came by with a boat and offered to let him join them in the boat and get him safely away. The man answered that he was waiting on the Lord that the Lord would rescue him as he had been praying about this situation. The man in the boat left. A couple hours later the man was forced to move up to his roof. A helicopter came by, and dropped a rope for him, and told him to climb up. The man repeated that he had been praying and was waiting on the Lord to answer him. He refused to climb up. You can probably guess the fate of the man, right?!! He drowned. Then he is standing in front of the Lord, and he asked, “Lord, I prayed to you and you did not answer me. Why not? Why didn’t you listen to me?”
The Lord responded to the man, “Son, my child…I did answer you, when you first prayed, I sent you the news that there was a need to leave because it was dangerous for you there. Then when you did not leave, I sent you some police officers to make certain that you saw the authority in the order to leave. You still did not listen. So as things became more dangerous and perilous for you, I tried to rescue you once more in the form of a man with a boat, but you refused to get into the boat. Finally, I sent some other rescuers with a helicopter and they practically begged you to cling to the ladder and be flown out of there. Son, I made four attempts to show you my answer and provide for your safety, but you were so stubborn that you were only looking for the answer that you wanted. You were not really looking for the answer I was providing. I love you and it saddens me that you valued your home more than your life and more than your relationship with me. That is why you perished.”
Sometimes, we just don’t recognize the answer that God is giving to us. We are either too stubborn (in wanting our own way) to recognize it, or our prayer life and our relationship with God is taking a back seat to other “idols” in our life. An idol can be anything in a person’s life which interferes with your relationship with God. In the illustration above, the idol of the man’s life seems to be his home.
The illustration is an extreme example of someone who the Bible would describe as “stiff necked”. Think for a minute about what it means to be stiff necked. I have had a stiff neck at times, and it makes it really hard to look around. A stiff necked person in spiritual terms is someone who refuses to turn back from their own agenda, and follow God. There are many times that the people of Israel were called a “stiff necked people”. Set in their own ways, and unable or unwilling to see the truth that God reveals for them. Now a days we would call that person stubborn and unyielding.
Think about yourself…is there a time that you have been too stiff necked about what you wanted? That you haven’t been able or willing to understand that God has answered your prayer perhaps because the prayer’s answer was not what you wanted it to be? I know that I have had times in my life like that. Then there may have been times when you take an action to make something turn out the way you wanted it…ask yourself..how did that turn out for you? I know that for myself the answer would be that it usually didn’t turn out too well. In the Bible it also didn’t turn out well when God promised something, and then told them to wait upon him….there are many examples of that…King Saul, Abraham and Sarah just to name a couple of examples.
Genesis 16:1-2 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
In the case of Sarai/Sarah she came to regret her decision because it caused her to have trouble in her home and she suffered from jealousy and her slave, Hagar, started looking down upon Sarah. Sarah tried to rush the God, instead of waiting on him.
This is in contrast to David, who was told to go and make an offering to God. David had to buy the threshing floor where he was told to make the offering. How great the temptation must have been to accept the place for free when it was offered. However, David sets an example to us…if we are going to make an offering to God it should be something that belongs to us, or costs us in some way.
Sometimes we simply need to do something in order for a request to be fulfilled. If you are looking for a new home, or a new job, and you pray for God to help you with that…you cannot expect the Lord to magically beam you to the new job or the new home, right? You still have to go out and look for that new home or new job. God will guide you to the place that will fulfill the desires of your heart. He actually knows better than we do what the desires of our heart really are in life.
Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
The key thing about this verse is that you need to delight yourself in the Lord first….that way your desires will line up with the Lord’s wishes for your life and happiness.