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The reason for God's anger burning against Israel (v.1) is not told us: if there is no public occasion for it, then it must be due to the moral and spiritual condition of the nation. Very likely that condition was represented in the pride that led David to desire to have Israel numbered. The nation had grown from a small people of no significance in the world's eyes into a strong empire. Had this humbled the people in thankfulness for the grace of God in so blessing them? Apparently not. We too easily glory in numbers, as though our increase in numbers makes us more distinguished than others. God allowed David to follow his natural inclinations of pride in being the king of so great a nation. No doubt Israel had the same proud thoughts, and God saw that this needed some serious humbling. When David gave instructions to Joab to number the people. Even Joab, self-centered man as he was, realized that David's desire stemmed only from pride, and protested that, while it would be good to see Israel increased one hundred fold, yet to take delight in the number of the people appeared unseemly in his eyes. It is often true that an unbeliever can see through the inconsistent ways of a believer.
David insisted on his having the people numbered, though the commander of the army as well as Joab did not agree. It was they who were required to do the job, and they travelled through all the country, taking nine months and twenty days to complete their task (v.8). Yet1 Chronicles 21:6; 1 Chronicles 21:6 tells us that Joab did not count Benjamin and Levi because of being disgusted with David's order. The number given, however, is not that of all the people, but only of their military strength, 800,000 soldiers in Israel and 500,000 in Judah. Judah's population was proportionately much higher than that of the other nine tribes.
After he is told the number, David's conscience finally wakens to cause him sharp pain in reflecting on the seriousness of what he now calls sin and foolishness. It is at least good to see that he confesses this candidly to God and asks Him to take away this iniquity.
Certainly God hears his prayer, but there must be some governmental results from the wrong-doing of man of authority. God therefore sends the prophet Gad to David to ask him to choose one of three alternatives, either seven years of famine in the land, or three months of Israel's retreating before their enemies, or three days of a deadly plague in the land.
Any one of these prospects was greatly disturbing to David, but he chose to fall in the hand of God, and accept the three days of plague, because God's mercies are great in contrast to the cruelty of men. The judgment falls with terrible severity throughout the whole land, and 70,000 die in the plague. The destroying angel comes to Jerusalem, ready to inflict judgment there, and God Himself intervenes in mercy, saying, "It is enough." David had rightly depended on His mercy.
Nevertheless, when David had seen the angel and the destruction, his heart was deeply broken up in confession and self-judgment before the Lord. "Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done?" He realizes that he ought to personally suffer the consequences. But this is a lesson for anyone who has a prominent place among God's people. The people will suffer for the failure of the leaders.
There is wonderful instruction for us, however, in the plague being arrested at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. The judgment of God only goes as far as the threshing floor. In other words, when God judges, it is with the object of bringing out the grain from the chaff. The process may be deeply painful, but the resulting blessing for genuine believers is unspeakably precious. The Jebusites had been true to their name, "treaders down" of the city God had declared to be His own center, that is, Jerusalem. But Araunah is one whose character has been changed by the grace of God, a prodigal of the Gentiles, spared when the judgment was impending over his head. Indeed, he is a picture of all Gentiles who are saved by the grace of God.
The prophet Gad is sent to David to instruct him to build an altar to the Lord in the threshing floor of Araunah. When Araunah sees the king and his servants coming, he willingly takes the lowly place of bowing before the king to ask the reason for his coming to a man so insignificant. When David desires to buy the threshing floor, Araunah offers it to him without charge, as well as oxen for sacrifice and wood for its burning.
The picture here becomes most beautiful as we come to the end of this book. Israel has been spared by the grace of God, the Gentile drawn to God in such a way that his heart is opened with desire to give up his own possessions. The king, on the other hand, insists on full payment to Araunah for that which he desires to offer to God. With a full heart the king offers burnt offerings and peace offerings, a reminder of the great value of the sacrifice of Christ, both as perfectly glorifying God (the burnt offering) and as accomplishing peace between God and man (the peace offering). The burnt offering comes first, for it speaks of that aspect of the sacrifice of Christ in which all goes up in fire to God, that is, God's glory is the first and foremost object of that sacrifice. When this is observed, then the place of the peace offering is appropriate, for this offering the priest and the offerer were each given part, while another part was for God (Leviticus 7:15-16; Leviticus 7:31-32).
Wonderful will be that day when Israel turns to the Lord to acknowledge the value of the sacrifice of Christ so long ago offered. For centuries the plague of God's disapproval has been upon that nation, because of their pride in themselves and their rejection of their true Messiah and His one perfect sacrifice. It is that sacrifice alone that can remove the plague from Israel, just as, at the present time, this perfect sacrifice alone removes the guilt of our many sins, bringing peace and rest and joy. Israel will rejoice in that coming day, and we shall rejoice with them.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 24". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18