For those old enough to remember there was a popular evening network television game show in the 60s and 70s called “Let’s Make A Deal.” The main feature of the show was where a randomly-chosen audience contestant would choose between three curtains which curtain they wanted. Everyone knew that behind two of them there were nice prizes, such as a car, a furniture set, or a Caribbean vacation, and one usually had a “zonk,” or dud (like a burro or llama or some useless item). Sometimes the contestant would get the big prize, and sometimes they’d get the “zonk.” But before network television had their “Let’s Make A Deal” format, the Almighty gave King David three choices, and all of them were zonks. In the twenty-first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Chronicles we have the original “Let’s Make A Deal.”
1 Chronicles 21:1-15 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. 2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. 3 And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? 4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. 6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. 7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. 8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. 9 And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. 11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me. 13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man. 14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. 15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.
This is an instructive passage of scripture. Let us consider some principles and learn thereby.
1) The Devil Is Still In Business 1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
Jesus called the devil a liar when confronting the religious leaders of his day, John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. The devil does no one any favors, and he works through deception. He is the enemy of the Christian. He is our adversary. He rises up against us, as he did from the beginning in the Garden of Eden, and with David, and to this day. David was a good man, a man after God’s heart, one who heard from God, who ministered to the Lord, and still the devil came against him, and he listened to him, and provoked David, and David fell for the bait. The Christian who is unaware of the Devil’s ways, and is unaware of God’s ways, will for certain be deceived by the Devil, and pay a price for it. Satan provoked David, and David took the bait. Here’s the Deal: Know how to recognized the voice of the Devil. Consider these four principles:
- The Devil will distort scripture – therefore know scripture for yourself; be a person of study.
- The Devil will appeal to your lust – therefore walk in the Spirit and be a person of prayer.
- The Devil will appeal to your pride – therefore be humble before God and men.
- The Devil will appeal to your fear – therefore rely on God and be a person of faith.
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
2) Authority has to be tempered with understanding. 3 And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? 4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab.
Joab was a military leader in David’s army. He recognized David’s error immediately, yet David was in authority and prevailed upon Joab to carry out his command. All persons have blind spots – businessmen, pastors, husbands, anyone and everyone. Over the years I have watched good people make mistakes that could have been avoided, but they were in authority and no one could tell them anything because they wouldn’t listen. Here’s the Deal: You aren’t the only one with wisdom and insight, put yourself in a position to benefit from the wisdom and insight of others. Here are four principles to mitigate blind spots:
- Be part of a Christian fellowship. Being accountable to others is a great safeguard.
- Be part of a Christian ministry – those engaged in ministry recognized the value of teamwork.
- Have an inner circle of advisors you trust and who have permission to speak into your life.
- Be a servant leader – Jesus said the greatest among you will be servants of all. Listen to others.
Proverbs 11:4 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
3) There is always a consequence to sin. 7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. 8 And David said unto God, I have sinned…
There are sins of commission and sins of omission. There are the “big” sins like murder and armed robbery, and there are “modest” sins like lying and cheating, and there are “small” sins like gossip and envy, but all are sins and all come at a price. There is always a consequence to sin, always, no matter how educated, accomplished you are, or how large your staff is. Don’t believe it? Think you can get away with sin? Here’s the Deal: No one in the history of the world has every gotten away with any sin, ever, and you won’t either. Here are four principles for avoiding sin:
- When the Bible says to do it and you’re not doing it, then start doing it.
- When the Bible says to not do it and you’re doing it, then stop doing it.
- When you sin, quickly acknowledge it, repent, and forsake it.
- Know and understand that if you play footsies with the devil and participate in sin you’ll get your head handed to you one-hundred percent of the time.
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
4) Sin is the result of poor choices and results in lousy options. 11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.
God is showing his “pro-choice position.” David is faced with three choices, none of them good. No easy way out. No winking at sin. No free pass. All choices are “zonks.” Unlike the game show where there’s good things to be had, David is staring down the barrel of a cannon. Sin leads to relationship disaster, financial disaster, health disaster, emotional well-being disaster. The county prosecutor gives a young man the choice of a plea bargain for a lesser charge resulting in 15 years imprisonment, or a jury trial that could result in life imprisonment. In either case he’s going to be separated from his family for a long, long time. How is that for a choice? The financially ruined husband who has the choice of bankruptcy and ruined credit, or confiscation of all he’s ever earned and facing a sea of debt that looks insurmountable. How’s that for choice? The girl who thought party time was freedom, only to be faced with a STD, or pregnant with no husband, or terminating the pregnancy with the accompanying emotional grief that lasts a lifetime and risking never being able to bear children again as a result, or giving the child up for adoption and wondering for life what ever became of the child. What kind of choice is that? Here’s the Deal: Sin gives you options, all of them lousy. Here are four realitites of sin:
- The word “sin” is in the Bible 1,016 times.
- The word “iniquity” is in the Bible 262 times.
- Everyone, everyone is guilty of sin – missing the mark regarding the will of God.
- Whatever the source of your sin – Satan, ignorance, circumstance, choices, deception, misunderstanding, someone else – you are the one responsible when you follow through and sin.
James 1:14-15 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
5) God is a God of mercy. 13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.
David sees he’s in a “great strait,” that is, he’s in deep weeds with no way out. He’s up the creek with no paddle. God has pronounced his judgment, and judgment is coming. David was provoked by the devil, yes, but he’s the one responsible for his actions and there’s going to be a payday. You may not like this, you may think it’s not fair, but judgment is coming. David has the choice for Israel: thee years of famine, or three months of getting blasted by enemy armies, or three days of the Angel of the Lord bringing plague and destruction. Some choice. David picks door number three – he is relying on the mercy of God. Yet the results were still disastrous – 70,000 men of Israel died, property was being destroyed, wealth was being dissipated, peace and prosperity were out the window, and sorrow and heartache were Israel’s portion. Then God relents of the judgment – maybe during the first day. David didn’t even ask to call it off, God Himself called it off. Here’s the Deal: Mercy is a hallmark of God Almighty, and he’s been known to turn away from his wrath many times. Here are some principles regarding the mercy of God.
- The word “mercy” (like the word “iniquity”) occurs 262 times in the Bible.
- God delights in mercy; the devil is the one that condemns.
- God’s great mercy is something that is absolute and universal.
- Like grace, no one deserves mercy. We receive mercy because it is an attribute of God.
2 John 1:3 Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.
May I recommend you read all of 1 Chronicles 21? Read it a few times. See what the Lord says to you as a result. Believe this too – we’re in the New Testament times. Mercy was shown to us in Jesus Christ the Righteous. Jesus is grace, truth, the way, and the life. Mercy is so much better than getting what we deserve.
In the old television show some contestants won and some lost. Audiences cheered when they won and groaned when they got stuck with a zonk. No one really wanted to lose, but some did. But then it was all in fun, it was a game of chance, and no one was hurt. But life is not like that. God has not made this a random world where some win and some lose with no rhyme or reason.
On the next page are seven subjects. There are more, but this is a good start. Let’s see what God’s winning curtain looks like for these subjects and also see what the devil’s zonk behind his curtain looks like. Let’s not make any deals with the devil. Let’s go God’s way. No one ever did more for you than Jesus. No one. He died for you. He’ll not disappoint. He’s the truth. The devil is the liar. Remember that.
|It is God’s way and normal that a man and a woman would be married, bring children into the world, love them and raise them successfully. Enjoy family closeness, family time together, with a life of purpose, accomplishment, peace and joy. Even single persons living righteously have purpose and fulfillment as God is near and they are well-liked and welcomed anywhere and by anyone. Friends.||Man and woman jump the gun and live together outside of marriage. Who needs a piece of paper? Minimum commitment. A child comes and it’s aborted because it’s not wanted. The man and woman become unfaithful, pick up an STD, and eventually split. The man dies 30 years before his time; the woman is a pass-around until she’s 50, then wakes up, but the opportunity for marriage and family has passed. Heartache.|
|The Entrepreneur – long hours of diligence, play by the rules, build up a business over time, succeed.
The Professional – earn college degree, work with mentors, apply their learning, advance, succeed.
The Tradesman – gain specialized training, apprentice produce, succeed.
|Take shortcuts. Skip school. Squander money. Look for the next party. Particpate on every sports team for 30 years. Wake up one day at 50 years old and have no property, no skills, and no prospects. Know every batting average and every score of every game dating back to high school, but then realize no one is paying anyone to know that.|
|Receive a call from God by the Holy Spirit. In faith answer the call. Apply yourself diligently. Find mentors. Take on more responsibility and one day be a mentor. Feel the pleasure of God as you are in the center of His will. Make a difference in the kingdom of God.||Have tools and advantages but think you can coast. Enjoy worldliness. Live off what others have done who have gone on before you. Never step out in faith, always play it safe, never believe God’s promises, just pay them lipservice. Make no difference in the kingdom of God.|
|Honest recreation. Physical exercise. Healthy habits. All things being equal, live a long life and be a contributor.||Substance abuse. Promiscuity. Party-er. Poor habits. Neglect. Irresponsible risks. Wilfully ignoring common sense. Die young.|
|Have friends that will do anything for you; come to your aid, tell you the truth, understand when you fail, help you to be a better person, love you. Ask you to join organizations that are honorable.||Hang around you when you have drugs or money and split when you’re busted. See your life going off the deep end but won’t confront you. When you’re ill they don’t come around.|
|Finances in order. Live according to godly principles. Have enough to give to others. Have enough to participate in life.||Broke for the long term. Debt ridden. Don’t pay bills but use resources for personal pleasure versus personal responsibility. Long nights with no sleep due to worry.|
|Intellectually stimulated, sound mind, not given to worry, clear thinker, problem solver, logical decision maker, good judgment, committed to lifelong learning, creative, able to relax. EQ high.||Perpetual confusion. Irrational. Rambling on and on. Ashamed. Can’t sleep well. Not improving themselves. Not sharp anymore. Too much television and entertainment and not enough challenge and thinking activities.|
Is everything as clear cut as I’ve shown it on the chart? No, it’s not. Hardships do come. Unexpected setbacks can happen. Natural disasters, national economic disasters. But the message is that there is no “Let’s Make A Deal” with real life. You can embrace the Gospel of Christ and live according to both kingdom principles and being led by the Holy Spirit in the supernatural, or you can call your own shots and sooner or later get the zonk. Live a life of sin, selfishness, hedonism, laziness, dysfunction, chemical abuse, deviancy, immorality and you will be faced with choices that are all poor and all regrettable. Here’s the Deal: Go God’s way and get God’s results. You get the winning curtain. You win. Those around you win. The kingdom of Heaven wins. God will give you a choice. Remember David?