March 27, 2011

Life of David 8: What Does God Delight in David? (2)

by Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

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Last time, we explored two reasons the Lord delighted in David:

1. David had a repentant heart.
2. David had a reverent heart.

Although David was king, he maintained a heart that feared the Lord. He didn’t dare say no to God. Today, let us reflect on two more reasons why the Lord delighted in David:

3. God Delighted in David’s Grateful Heart

Gratitude and repentance are closely related. David was a man who knew how to repent of his sins and he also knew how to give thanks. Luke 7:41-43 contains a parable. “Jesus asked Simon, “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.”

Do you understand the meaning of this parable? For instance, I owe you a million and you tell me, “Rev. Cheung, I think you will find it hard to pay me, so I will simply clear your debt, you don’t have to pay me anymore.” I will be very grateful and tell you, “I don’t know how I can pay you back for your kindness.” If I owe you a hundred pesos and you say, “Rev. Cheung, I think you can’t pay me back, you don’t have to pay me anymore.” I will reply, “No need to do that. Let me pay you right now.” Or let’s say, your son gets stricken with a dreadful disease and needs to undergo surgery. In order to save your child, the doctor foregoes 24 hours of sleep. After operating 12 long hours, the doctor comes out and tells you: “The operation was successful, your son is safe.” You will hold the doctor’s hand tightly, shedding tears of relief, and say, “Thank you, I do not know how I can repay you! I am willing to serve you (like an ox or donkey) to repay you!”

However, if you cut your finger and a little blood flows, and I clean it up and bandage it for you, will you grab my hand tightly and tearfully tell me, `Pastor, thank you for your goodness, I will serve you like an ox or donkey to repay your kindness!’ I don’t think so! He who has been shown much grace will show much gratitude. David was a thankful person, because he knew how unworthy he was to receive God’s favour. David wrote many psalms of thanksgiving, the most famous one is Psalm 103. This psalm fully expressed the gratitude in David’s heart. We humans have a weakness and that is we easily forget the good things others have done for us while remembering the slightest wrong they have committed against us. Just listen to what they say whenever two people are in conflict with each other – they remember the date, the time, the place, and all the details of an offense. “Three years ago, at 10:45 am, at the church library, you did such and such to me” – they can recall every detail. However, as for the Lord’s goodness, they easily forget these. We must learn to give thanks, to count our blessings. David told himself, “Forget not all his benefits.” And then he went on to list down five blessings he receives from God:

1. The Grace of Forgiveness – `He forgives all your sins.’ The first thing David recalled was how the Lord forgives him all his sins. From the time we arrive on this earth until we leave, we commit innumerable sins. David, in Psalm 40:12, says: “My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” How much hair do you have? The Chinese say `three thousand worry strands”. Actually, there can’t only be three thousand, they are too numerous to count. Our sins are indeed too numerous to count. But the Lord forgives all our sins. How can we not be grateful! I have entered the middle years of life, more and more I understand how precious forgiveness is because I am aware that I commit a lot of sins.

John 8 records of how some men brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and asked him whether she should be stoned. Jesus did not reply and only wrote on the ground with his finger, when they kept pressing him for an answer, he replied, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The Bible says “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first”. The old men who had already dwelt 70 – 80 years on this earth would have more sins to their names and so they left immediately; the 20-30 year-old men foolishly stood by, thinking they were sinless, but upon discovering the old men gone, embarrassedly left too. If I were there, I would have quickly left too. But the Lord forgives our sins, we really must be grateful to the Lord! The precious blood of the Lord cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

2. The Grace of Healing – `He heals all of our diseases.’ Who among us has never fallen sick? When we fall sick, what do we do? Of course, we go see the doctor. You may say shouldn’t the answer to that question be `we pray’. I am not against you having such great faith, that you only pray and don’t go see the doctor nor take medicine; but if you don’t have that kind of faith, you will go see a doctor. This is what Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Doctors exist because there are sick people, but we must learn to commit the doctor and the medicine we take into the Lord’s hand, we must ask the Lord to use the doctor and the medicine to heal us. We must understand doctors can only cure our sickness, they cannot save our life because our life is not in the doctors’ hands, our life is in God’s hands. Ecclesiastes says: “A time to kill and a time to heal”. Whether we receive healing or not rests in the hand of God, it depends on his time frame. David said, “Praise the Lord who heals all your diseases.”

3. The Grace of Salvation – `He redeems my life from the pit.’ The Book of Hebrews says: “… men are destined to die once.” No one can escape death. Christians must understand that when our time is up, we must assuredly go, but Ecclesiastes 7:17 says: “Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool��” why die before your time?” What does `to die before your time’ mean? Due to foolishness one can lose his precious life. Sometimes, it is not our own foolishness, but the foolishness of other people that puts our life in danger. David said the Lord redeems our life from the pit. If our time is not yet up, we can ask the Lord to deliver us from death. David experienced this. 1Samuel chapters 21-30 record how Saul pursued David for ten long years and attempted to kill him. In those days, can any man escape if a king decides to kill him? But the Lord delivered David again and again from Saul’s hand. No wonder David said, `He redeems my life from the pit.’

4. The Grace of Glory – `The Lord redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.’ Crown means glory. Not only does God save us, he gives us glory. Glory does not belong to man, glory belongs to God. Yet those who belong to God are given glory. Just as the moon has no real light of its own, but only reflects light from the sun, so those who belong to God reflects His glory. 1Samuel 2:7-8 “The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” Whenever I read this passage in the Bible, my heart overflows with thanksgiving, for I am one poor and needy man whom God has raised from the ash heap. As a minister of God’s Word, there is nothing I can boast of, all that I am today is God’s grace and may all the glory be unto Him.

5. The Grace of Contentment – He satisfies your desires with good things. We all understand the teaching on contentment, yet many times, our hearts continue to want so much that we ourselves don’t even know what we want – we want to be more beautiful, we want to be richer… but once we get it, we want more. When will we be contented? He satisfies our desires with good things. What are these good things? Of course it may mean material abundance, but man’s heart can never be satisfied with such. I truly doubt if there is anything on this earth than can satisfy our hearts. Today you have I-phone 4, tomorrow you want an I-phone 5. There is nothing on earth that can truly satisfy us, apart from the Lord, the giver of good things.

Philippians 3:8 “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Paul considered the Lord Jesus Christ as his highest treasure, so that all other things became as garbage to him. Having Christ, he didn’t want anything else, for his heart had found contentment. David wrote in Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Having the Lord, he no longer wanted more, for his heart had found contentment. David had a grateful heart. The more David counted his blessings, the more he felt satisfied, and the more content he was, the more the Lord delighted in him.

4. God Delighted in David because of His Heart of Devotion towards Him

During Jesus’ time, some Pharisees once asked him which was the greatest among all the commandments. There are 613 commandments in the Old Testament, 248 of which are affirmative commands while 365 are negative commands. They asked Jesus which was the greatest among the 613 commandments. Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” One time, as I reflected on this, I felt it odd that the Lord would require people to love him with all our heart, soul and mind. Isn’t this an embarrassing thing to ask? If I order you to love me with all your heart, soul and mind, I believe you will think me conceited. Why then did God say so?

For example, if one day, I tell my wife, “There are 365 days in a year, I will love you 364 days a year. In those 364 days, I will not think of any another woman but you. But will you just allow me one day to be free to love another woman? 364/365 is 99.9%.” What will my wife say? “Honey, is one day enough? Let me give you one more day.” Of course not, she will kill me. Why does God want us to love him with all our heart, soul and mind? It is because he loves us very much. God delighted in David because he had a heart that totally loved God. David once said, “Lord, I love you.” But he did not just love with words, his life showed how much he loved the Lord. There are three incidences that showed of his deep love for God:

1. David remembered the Ark of the Lord – The Ark of the Lord is found in the Holy of Holies. It was a symbol of God’s presence with man. 1Samuel 7 records how Samuel had led Israel for twenty years before the Lord. However, in those twenty years, there was no ark because it had been captured by the Philistines. Later, although it was brought back, it wasn’t placed at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. For 20 years, the Tabernacle was without the ark. Saul had been the king for 40 years, but he never thought of bringing back the ark. Only David, after unifying the nation (almost after 67 years), brought up the subject of bringing back the ark to Jerusalem. In the past 67 years, no one thought of the ark because they had been used to having no ark. Being used to something or what we call habits or practice can be good yet it can also be dangerous. Good habits can bring us good while bad habits can bring us harm.

Let us say we stop holding holy communion starting this year. After sixty-seven years, no one will even think of the holy communion, because not observing it had been the practice for so many years. When everyone forgot about the ark, David didn’t. David didn’t forget for it was precious to him. After he united the nation, he immediately sent thirty thousand men to bring the ark from the house of Abinadab to Jerusalem. In David’s heart, he loved the Lord. In your heart, what do you love- your cheques, your children, your… or God?

2. David Wanted to Build God a Temple – When the king was settled in his own palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he told Nathan the prophet, ““Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” (2Samuel 7:1-2) What David meant was `I am living in a palace while God is living in a tent. I want to build God a temple.’ If for example, one day you become rich and move into a large luxurious house, and your parents and relatives live in a poor place, what will you do? I am sure you will invite them to live with you or buy them a nice house to live in because you love them. As parents, we all love our children. Whenever I eat out and taste a delicious dish, I would immediately think of my children and how I would love for them to taste that certain dish, too. My wife often teases me, saying, “You are thinking of bringing the children here, aren’t you?” David loved the Lord. When he was enjoying life in the palace, he wanted the Lord to also live in a palace, and so he proposed to build God a temple.

3. David Was Not Willing to Offer a Sacrifice that Cost Him Nothing – 2Samuel 24 records of David committing a great sin. He instructed his men to take a census. There is nothing wrong with taking a census, in fact, there is a book in the Bible called Numbers which is a census of the population. If the census was done so that he would have an idea of the population, in order to know how to better lead them, then it would not have been wrong. What is important is the motive behind the census, why he wanted to take a census. David took the census because of pride. He wanted to know how powerful his nation was, as a result, the Lord rebuked him. After some time, David acknowledged his sin and the prophet Gad instructed him to make an offering.

David went to Araunah to buy his threshing floor. Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up.” Araunah was giving it free to David. David’s answer became a famous line – “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” David paid fifty shekels of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen. This teaches us a very important truth – a man who truly loves the Lord is willing to bear the cost. Love which costs nothing is not true love.

October of 2002, newspapers in Italy published a piece of news. It said: `One night ten years ago, in a city in Italy, a white woman was raped by a black man. She became pregnant as a result and gave birth to the baby. This child now has leukemia and needs the father for bone marrow transplantation. Will the father, that is, the rapist, please go to the hospital and save his daughter?’ If you were that man, would you have stepped out? After this woman was raped, she and her husband didn’t want to keep the baby at first, but because they were Christians, they didn’t want to abort it. They had planned to give the baby to an orphanage after it was born.

However, the baby was so beautiful they decided to keep her. They explained to others that her color is due to their having had a black grandfather. When the child was stricken with leukemia and needed bone marrow transplant, they told the doctor the real story. The doctor said the only way to save her was to find the father. It turned out, the black man was mistreated by his white employer that day; when he came out of his workplace, he vented all his hatred on a white woman, raped her and fled to another city. There, he was able to find work in a restaurant owned by an American couple. He showed much competence such that his employers came to like him very much and even gave their daughter in marriage to him; they also gave the restaurant to this son-in-law. He managed it well, and business was good. He and his wife have three children. Also, he had become a Christian. This man and his family were eating dinner when they saw this in the news. His wife commented, “That woman is very admirable. She was so brave to have borne that child. Her husband is even more admirable in accepting that child. The most hateful is the black man (She didn’t know she was talking about her own husband).”

Hearing it, the black man suffered inside, he wanted to confess but the cost was too frightening. Eventually, he told his wife, who became very angry and left with his 3 children. Fortunately, his parents-in-law were good Christians. They counselled their daughter and explained to her that although he had raped a woman before, he is now admitting to it, and is in fact a hero. They encouraged her to support her husband. And so, she went with him to the hospital to meet the couple. At the meeting, they all wept. The man sought the couple’s forgiveness and the bone marrow transplant was successful. Later on, he wrote the couple, saying, “I must now leave. Thank the Lord for giving me a chance to seek forgiveness.” Brothers and sisters, I am not saying we must make public our every sin, what we must understand is true repentance entails bearing a cost. When we love the Lord we will bear the cost. David was willing to bear the cost, he wasn’t willing to give the Lord a sacrifice that cost him nothing. Because of his deep devotion to the Lord, the Lord delighted in David.

God delighted in David because he had a repentant heart, a reverent heart, a grateful heart and a devoted heart. How about our hearts?