A visual of a devastated forest due to a calamity to indicate the need for intercession during a national crisis.
Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

(This is an edited transcript of a sermon preached at The People’s Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2017)

Good morning Friends, my message today is taken from 1 Chronicles Chapter 21 and it’s titled ‘David’s Intercession During a National Crisis’. 

I am going to speak about a major crisis that came upon Israel that is reflected in the Old Testament. But before I go further, let’s read 1 Chronicles 21:26. It says, David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.

.David’s sacrifice mentioned here was a sacrifice of intercession. It was a sacrifice of intercession in the midst of a crisis. So today, as we look at whatever crisis situations we may be going through in our own lives, may be there is something that God is leading us to by way of bringing a sacrifice of intercession towards Him.

I want to leave with you 5 points from this chapter about David’s intercessory sacrifice at this critical moment, and I pray that one, or two, or more of these points, will speak to your heart this morning. Whenever God’s Word is proclaimed, irrespective of who presents it, God speaks, and I believe that God will speak to all of you in some clear form or the other as I share from this passage.

So let’s move on to point 1. Point 1 is taken from verses 7 and 14 which says, “This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel…  So the Lord sent a plague on Israel… My 1st point is:

1) The Intercession came about in response to a national crisis 

Yes, the intercession that David made came in response to a national calamity, or a national crisis. I will trace the background of the story a little later on but this was a time when David had done something that wasn’t the best for him and for the nation.

So, I want to share a few thoughts about this intercession because a national crisis had now come upon the land. It was causing much panic in the country. It was at this time of calamity that David went and made this intercession by offering a sacrifice unto God, because as a result of his disobedience, the judgment of God had fallen upon the land. The nation was in turmoil. 

You know, friends, we live in a country that has seen its fair share of crisis situations. We went through a very serious war for many years. We also saw two insurrections  that took place in our nation. Some time ago we had a serious fuel crisis. We’ve been through other types of crisis situations too over the years, but we have seen how whenever the church has prayed, and whenever the church has interceded, that God has been faithful to our land. 

Unfortunately I think we do not have enough intercession and we need to intercede a little bit more, in fact, much more for our nation. We generally intercede well whenever a crisis is on, but we need to keep interceding continuously for our land so that God will take our nation to the place where God wants it to be. That God would take our leadership to the place God wants them to be. You will see that David’s intercession made a huge impact at that moment of crisis. 

You know, I came across a letter the other day from the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, and they had said how they were going to have a time of prayer to pray over the verses of what we call the hymn for Sri Lanka. It’s the beautiful hymn we sing at a lot of national events. The hymn for Sri Lanka was written by Rev. Senior, and as I was thinking about this hymn last night while preparing, I noticed that there is a lot of prophetic value around that hymn. It says in one of the verses,

Give peace within her borders, ‘Twixt man and man goodwill,  The love all unsuspicious, the love that works no ill, In loyal lowly service, let each from other learn, The Guardian and the guarded, till Christ Himself return.

Many more powerful thoughts are found in all the verses of that hymn! 

This morning, even as I thought of how David interceded on behalf of a national calamity, I realized that thankfully we have peace within our borders. However, there is so much more that God wants to do in Sri Lanka and who else has the authority and power to make a difference in intercessory prayer than the people of God. 

I would therefore like you to bow your hearts in prayer right now for our beloved land and I would invite Pastor Paul to lead in prayer. Let’s take a moment to pray for Sri Lanka even as we remember how David made intercession for Israel. We want to intercede as this nation needs to see the blessing of God in greater measure. This nation needs to hear the message of God in greater measure. This nation needs to see the works of God in greater measure. David’s Intercession was in response to a national calamity and we too need to keep interceding for our nation.

Prayer for the nation.

My second thought to you is that

2) The intercession came about in response to divine mercy 

“And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, the Lord saw it and relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” (1 Chronicles 21:15)

You know David was doing pretty well for himself at this time, the nation was doing pretty well too, and God’s hand was upon Israel. Sadly, God’s judgement then fell. Why? Now, there are different reasons commentators have given as to why God was unhappy with the land, but I want to just dwell on one of those reasons.

As I was reading through a couple of commentaries last night, it became evident that David’s heart began to turn away from his trust in God, to trusting in the strength of his army, and in the prosperity and the way God had blessed his nation. David therefore gave an order for his Commanders to take a census of the nation, especially of the fighting people in the land (1 Chronicles 21:1-3).

In referring to David’s decision,The NIV Study Bible says, “It is evident that his action was motivated either by pride in the size of the empire he had acquired or by reliance for his security on the size of the reserve of manpower he could muster in an emergency, or more likely both…It represented an unwarranted glorying in and dependence on human power rather than the Lord” (page 461). 

Bible commentators believe that David did this because his heart was (probably for a while), turning towards trusting in the strength of his army and the strength of all the blessings and the good things that had come upon the land, more than the Lord. It is clear that even his Commanders knew that his decision was wrong.

In fact, Joab the Army Commander warned David about what he was doing. He said, “why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel” (I Chronicles 21:3). Joab knew that something was wrong and told David so. David could have then turned away from his wrong decision but he still decided to go ahead anyway and take the census (1 Chronicles 21:4).

This was not about just counting numbers. I can’t help believing that David was having a battle with, and people in the nation were also having a battle with pride in their hearts. Maybe David thought, ‘we are the best in the world’ or ‘we are this and we are that’. Pride can come about so easily and sometimes pride can take over our hearts, especially when we are blessed with money, when we are blessed with a good career, when we are blessed with promotions, and when God uses us in significant ways. 

Now, if there is some area in your life that is creating pride at present and is turning your heart away from your love and your trust in the living God, humble yourself before him immediately. Joab told David ‘why are you doing this?’’ Later on it says that Joab felt repulsed because of David’s command (1 Chronicles 21:6). 

They took this census for nine months and twenty days (2 Samuel 24:8), that is roughly 300 days, where David could have repented and overturned the order. Unfortunately, he didn’t do so until the calamity and God’s judgment fell. So when David interceded, God gave him three choices to stay the judgment, or rather to decide as to how God should respond (1 Chronicles 21:10).

I won’t go into all of that but in verse 1 Chronicles 21:13, a repentant David said, “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men”  and then God’s judgment fell.  This resulted in much tragedy and suffering. It was not a pleasant situation, but David still realized that God’s mercy even in that situation was far better than the horror of facing the cruelty of men when they get into war. 

In response to the intercession he made in repentance, divine mercy came down (refer verse 27). Somebody said, ‘the righteous will love God even when it feels like He is angry or frowning on them’. They know that God is still good even though it may look like they have to go through an unpleasant situation.

Friends, I do not know what you are battling right now, but I do know that many of us need God’s mercy this morning. David truly repented and cried out to God (1 Chronicles 21:8/17). What about you? God’s grace is more than enough for our failures. Let’s all stand together and sing the well loved song, ‘Your Grace is Enough”. This song tells us that if we are willing to repent before the Lord, God’s grace will be enough for us. We want to sing this as our prayer to Him this morning.

Song: Your Grace is Enough

What a beautiful song! So, let me recap the thoughts covered so far in this sermon.

Point 1 – The intercession came about in response to a national crisis.

Point 2 – The intercession came about in response to divine mercy.

Let me now move to my third point this morning. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 21:18, “Then the angel of the Lord ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite”. My third point to you today is that, 

3) The intercession came through divine guidance

God specifically told David where he was to go and make the intercessory sacrifice. He specifically spoke to David through the Prophet called Gad and told him to go to the threshing floor of this gentlemen by the name of Araunah, and to build an altar to the Lord there. At that moment, the angel of judgment was over Jerusalem, over the threshing floor of Araunah (1 Chronicles 21:15-16)  and David was specifically guided to go there. In fact, he went there personally, and personally asked for it as well.

You know, we are approaching Christmas and if you read the Christmas story, specially about Joseph, the earthly father of our Lord, or. the father who took care of Jesus, we don’t see him as a very striking individual. But it will amaze you if you read the story carefully, that God spoke to Joseph and guided him many times over through dreams.

God gave a dream and told Joseph to leave his place and go to Egypt (Matthew 2:13). He then gave a dream and said to come back to Israel (Matthew 2:19). He also gave a dream and said not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20). He also gave Joseph a dream and asked him to go to Galilee (Matthew 2:22).

God is still in the business of guiding his children today as well. You know, there are many ‘gurus’ who are guiding people today. We call them motivational gurus, finance gurus, health gurus etc. For men they use the term ‘guru’ and for ladies they say ‘diva’. Many different terms are used and there are many people giving guidance in many fields. But if you are a child of God, always depend on the guidance of God in your life. God spoke here through a Prophet called Gad. He spoke to Joseph in dreams, He speaks to other people through his Word. God also speaks in His still small voice and sometimes through visions.

 Maybe you need guidance in some area of your life this morning. Do you? I have in my hand  this book that has challenged so many people. It’s Pastor Colton Wickramaratne’s book called ‘My Adventure In Faith’. I know all of you have been blessed by reading this book. I was going through some of the chapters even while preparing for this morning and many of these chapters have instances where God gave specific guidance to Pastor Colton. 

On one occasion it was about a travel agent in Bombay, on another occasion it was with regards to a rally of a famous preacher who was supposed to preach at a large event. Pastor Colton was guided by the Holy Spirit to go to that venue and it so happened that the well known preacher couldn’t make it for the meeting as he lost his way to the venue. As a result, Pastor Colton ended up preaching in place of the advertised preacher. 

These are powerful stories of divine guidance and if I ask many of you, you will tell me your story of divine guidance. But you know, we never lose the need for divine guidance at any point in our life. Just because you had guidance one year ago does not mean that you don’t need that guidance today.

Therefore, when you are at your wits’ end, before you try anything else, just get on your knees and ask God to guide you and to give you some sense of guidance in your life. God speaks in so many different ways and I believe the time is coming in the church when we will see more and more of the prophetic word of God coming out in guiding people. Where the Word of God itself will come alive in a new way, where people will also experience guidance through dreams and visions.

God has guided us all to His great salvation and placed us in this church. I thank God that this was where God wanted me and guided me to salvation. We however never lose the need for God’s guidance in our life and as Pastor Colton often says, “where God guides, He provides”. 

If you are therefore looking for guidance today, although there is nothing wrong in getting advice from other people and counselors, first get on your knees and ask God to guide you. He will surely help His children. Let’s also remember to pray for God’s continued guidance upon our country and its leaders.

Before I take you to my 4th point, let me recap points 1-3.

No 1 –  The intercession came about because of a national crisis

No 2 –  It came in response to divine mercy

No 3 – The intercession came through divine guidance

Let me move to point 4.

4) The intercession recognized divine value

“But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” (1 Chronicles 21:24)

David went to this man called Araunah and David probably said, “I want to buy your field because God told me that this is where I need to sacrifice”. Araunah probably said, “you can have it free of charge. I will also give you the oxen and everything you need for the sacrifice”. (1 Chronicles 21:21-23).

What a lovely response! Just look at his response. He bowed down before David and then he said, “Take it… I will give the oxen,… the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering” (verse 23). He was willing to go all the way to help David with this intercessory sacrifice, but look at David’s answer in verse 24 as shown above. David recognized divine value, and understood that value has to be placed on the things of God. 

Sadly, in my ministry, I have found quite often that because God’s grace is free, that people treat it as something cheap. Please, don’t ever cheapen the grace  and works of God. Give great value to the things of God, whether it’s in your career, whether it’s after your promotion, whether it’s with your money, and very specially with your children and family. Help them as well to place value in the things of God and in loving Jesus.

Sadly, a lot of people place their values on worldly things. They even inculcate that into their children so that their children feel that it’s ok to place priority in other things over God. There’s nothing wrong with some of those things, but priority should always be placed on value for the things of God above all else. David realized that he needed to give value to God so he paid in full (1 Chronicles 21:25). 

So, what value have you placed on the things of God in your life this morning? How much value have you inculcated in your children towards the things of God? May God help us in this! How much value have you placed on giving to the work of God?  

David too  placed great value on what he was going to do before God. He was willing to pay in full.

Finally, and I close with this, My 5th point.

5) David’s intercession would lead to divine glory 

As the fire burned on the sacrifice, it says that  God sent fire on to the altar (1 Chronicles 21:26), and as that fire was flickering into a final flame, God was already planning something bigger and unique. All it takes is a spark for God to do something greater.

I will come to that in a minute, but what are the areas of your life where the fire has died down? Where you have faced failure and it looks like the spark cannot come back? Where it looks like you only have the ashes remaining and you are ready to do the final rites, ‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ and you have given up. But God always has something better ahead. He had something better planned from the ashes of that altar and sacrifice.

Let’s look at  chapter 22:1 Then David said, “The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” Yes, from that altar, from that plot of land that David refused to accept free of charge, ( he paid the full cost and he placed divine value over it), from that altar and from that land would rise the mighty, majestic edifice that Solomon would build to God in the future, for the glory of God. Yes, it was built on the same land (refer also 2 Chronicles 3:1). God answered by fire and he can similarly turn any failure, any ruin, into divine glory!

we used to sing a chorus that had these lyrics:

Something beautiful, something good All my confusion, He understood All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife  But He made something beautiful of my life. 

God still wants to make something beautiful out of the ashes, out of any part of your life that has been a failure. It is said that when a lot of the work of the famous inventor Thomas Edison went up in flames, that he made this inspiring comment. He said, “we will build bigger and better on the ruins”. If a human could think and believe for that, how much more can we believe for when the Kings of kings and Lord of lords is with us? Can you believe for that to happen in your life?

Maybe you are struggling with past failures, maybe you are struggling with some sense of ruination, or ashes, or something that is dying in your life. Maybe it has to do with the vision for your life dying, or that in your family. God still wants to build something that is great and powerful there.

Are you therefore willing to allow God to do that this morning? He is waiting to do so. Why? Because God loves to intervene in the middle of crisis situations! What about you this morning? Will you trust Him to do the same for you?

Shall we all stand together and what I would like to do today is to have prayer interaction in the congregation. We prayed for our nation earlier in this service and I would like you to now join with somebody else for just a minute and pray for each other. Would you just take a moment please to do that. There is great power when the people of God pray together. So would you pray that God will bring His divine glory into that person’s life today? Let’s pray prophetically over each other and over our children today.

God bless you abundantly! (For further reading on this subject, please click on the link below)

https://www.preachingplatform.org/devotionals/devotional-prayer-pointers-nehemiah

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