Well, I swear i wrote this post already, but it's gone now. So I will praise the Lord and start over. This is such a good chapter. It's worth doing twice.
Chapter 24 is the last of book and the last of the four final chapters that Ryrie describes as non-chronological appendices of scenes from Davids life. So it is not immediately obvious at what point in his reign this occurs.
David Takes a Census
I think I could do a whole post on the first verse.
It starts with, "Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel..." and then with just a comma it transitions to "...and it incited David against them to say, Go number Israel and Judah."
On my first pass, I thought this means that God incited David to take a census, but on closer reading it says "it" not "He". So the census was David's response, not God's instruction. And as a matter of fact, Ryrie says that we'll learn in I Chronicles that it was satan who incited David to take the census.
Next, from verse one we see this nugget: "...incited David against them...". We know from the conversation between God and Cain in Genesis that sin crouches at the door and it's desire is to destroy us. The anger of man will never produce the righteousness of God. So if David was making plans out of anger against his own people-it's probably not going to have results that honor God.
David wanted the numbers. But why? According to Ryrie, usually the census was for taxation purposes or to draft fighting age males. David probably wanted to know the "strength" of his potential fighting force. Which is a normal thing to do for a king who doesn't have a covenant with the most high God. He was taking his confidence in his own strength in numbers.
So, in verse 2, David Assigns it to Joab, leader of the army.
V.3 Joab, as with many military leader being asked to perform non-military duties, isn't happy with the assignment. Joab is a complex character that deserves his own study. He doesn't always do the right thing; but he always does the smart thing. And this wasn't smart.
- He points out that the Lord could multiply the people of Israel times a hundred if He wanted to- seemingly to imply that God doesn't need to know the number, this isn't for God's sake.
- He asks why he wants this? He seems to know it's for the wrong reasons.
- It's also interesting that Joab calls God, the Lord your God. One more bit of information on the man. We don't know when this was during David's reign, but we do know that means he has seen everything before David's reign and up to this point-which by any account-- he has seen a lot. And yet, it's still your God. It explains why he feels comfortable going against David's wishes. But it's such a shame. Such a smart, talented person could have a front row seat and miss the show.
Verse 4 tells us that David's word prevailed against Joab and against the commanders of the army- so they weren't happy about this either and David didn't care. So they completed their assignment in 9 months and 20 days. final count:
- Israel 800,000 (valiant men who drew the sword)
- Judah 500,000
- *Ryrie mentions that the numbers differ from this story in I Chronicles but offers a few reasons why they would vary.
So 10 months later David's heart is troubled that he numbered the people. Sometimes when our heart is troubled, it's God telling us by placing a burden on our heart. Sometimes, it our own conscience. Our own cognitive dissonance that finally gets to us. Verse 10 only says that David's heart troubled him. It is interesting to note that it took ten months to come around to that.
- Either God let him have his own way and then nudged him
- Or David waited until he had what he wanted and then tuned in to his own troubled heart.
I remember after Bethsheba, Wiersbe pointed out that David wrote Pslams where he talked about how his heart was troubled and how sick it made him- he was wasting away. I imagine that if you are the how King, placed there by the Lord most High in a covenant relationship, covered by His Spirit... when you sin- it's going to show up in your body. Which is a good reminder for us, children of God, filled with Hi Spirit, and joined in covenant through the shed blood of His Son...ongoing, intentional sin isn't going to be allowed without some sign showing up somewhere in our body or life.
Continuing in verse 10, David confesses and asks that the Lord take away his iniquity. He admits he was foolish.
The Lord sends David's seer, Gad, with a message. He tells David to choose one of three things, which He may do to David.
- 7 years of famine (Ryrie thinks this is a typist error and should be 3)
- 3 months fleeing from his enemies
- 3 days of pestilence
David is in great distress (understandably).
I thought that the only right answer was that he had to flee his enemy for 3 months. So he would be paying the price, whereas the other two put his people at risk. But I think I was thinking of his enemies as a single person, such as Saul. In truth, it probably would have been another nation state in war, which would have, once again, disrupted they whole nation and lives would have been lost as well.
Ryrie's take on it is that the pestilence was his only choice because God could be counted on to be more merciful than man.
Next is one of those Biblical scenes so out of the ordinary that it's hard to get our arms around at times. God sent or allowed and angel to stretch out his hand and pestilence came and killed 70,000 people from Dan to Beersheba. But as he aimed toward Jerusalem to destroy it, God relented.
Oh, wow. Side note: The wording is "the angel" twice in that paragraph, but then "the angel of the Lord". I think that phrasing is supposed to mean Jesus?!?! I did a quick search and didn't find evidence to support that; but in another translation, he was stretching out his hand (as with a sword), between heaven and earth at the spot above the threshing floor. Both of those are images of Jesus in Joshua and as many times between heaven and earth. I'll be curious if Wiersbe comments on it or if I'm just over analyzing it.
While the angel was striking down the people, David saw him and spoke to the Lord. As the shepherd he once was, he grief stricken that the sheep are paying for his sin. He wanted the sin on him and his father's house.
So, if the wording is correct this happened before the Lord relented. Meaning, to me, that although God does allow consequences, even when He forgives, He also listens to prayer and may choose to respond with even more grace and mercy amidst the consequences.
As I mentioned above, I wrote this post and lost it in the ether. But while writing the first post, I had that sensation AGAIN to avoid contemplating that God slaughtered 70,000 people for David's sin. It seems so unjust. So, as I have mentioned above. I tried to mentally gloss over that part. Why kill the sheep for the shepherd's sin. Then, this time, when I gave myself a little more to contemplate it, trusting God that there was an answer (even if I don't find it on this side of heaven), these words came to me from verse one: "Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel."
Before David did anything, Israel had done something stir up the anger of the Lord. My guess is, although it's all just theory, knowing that God is just, the famine and the pestilence might have already been theirs and David's covenant had bought them grace; but when he sinned, their protection was lost. That's a top-of-my-head thought, so I would want to dig a lot deeper before going any further down that rabbit hole.
The Threshing Floor
So after the Lord relented and the pestilence stopped, Gad told David to buy the land the angel was on (or above?). And there, erect an altar to the Lord. This was a threshing floor.
David went to buy the land, to erect the altar, in order to hold back the plague from the people. The owner bowed before the king and offered the land, oxen. and wood for free.
David gave an answer we should all remember:
I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.II Samuel 24:24
David bought the threshing floor and oxen for 50 shekels of silver.
"And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. thus the Lord was moved by entreaty for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel."
But it's not the end.
It may be the last chapter in the book, and it's a random, non chronological chapter tagged on to the end at that. But there is an essential lesson sitting at the end of this story that is invisible for the casual reader.
That threshing floor, where the angel swung that sword in menace, and the Lord relented in mercy, was Mount Moriah.
THE Mount Moriah.
Abraham willingly brought Issac to Mount Moriah as a sacrifice to the Lord; but Issac was spared.
Jesus was brought to a different part of Mount Moriah and was NOT spared, but sacrificed to appease the wrath of the Father and atone for our sin. (Note the huge parallel to this story-opening with God's anger, closing with peace with God brought about by sacrifice on Mount Moriah)
And, for the purposes of this current portion of David's history, this threshing floor on Mount Moriah, bought for the purpose of making an offering to God for David's sin, becomes the site Solomon builds THE temple. The temple David longed to build but was prevented from, because he had blood on his hands.
I sobbed when I read this. This whole thing started because of David's sin and ends with him getting to buy the property for God's house, even though he can't build it. And why? Why would David be given such a privilege at the end of his story about sinning? In my opinion, it comes down to 2 words
From the first bite of the wrong fruit in the Garden, to a manager in a barn, to Thy Kingdom Come, God had a plan. And we get to be a part of it. We can be a Peter or a David and sin; but fall on our faces in confession and repentance, in which case we end up getting the desires of our heart because our heart aligns with God. Or, we can be a Saul or Judas, and sin just the same. But won't bend a knee to God's will and God's plan. They may enjoy benefits along the way, but the journey, an eternity, won't end well for either.
God's Will will be done. That's not in question. The question is do you want to be a part of it on His terms or on your own?