Almighty God was king, a theocracy established only once in history, when Israel was chosen by God Himself. Israel crowned the Lord as King of their nation with Moses (see 1 Samuel 12:12). After decades of theocracy, the nation of Israel, in vanity and comparison to other nations, cried out for a human king.
In compliance, God ordained Saul to the monarchy despite Samuel’s protests. Saul in his vanity and insecurity was a poor substitute for God Almighty as king. In contrast, Saul played favourites, shied from giants and chased down innocents, even using the nation’s military for a pathetic manhunt after David. In the end, Saul became a disorientated bitter man. A witch predicted Saul’’s imminent demise as craving for counsel drove Saul to call upon deceased Samuel for advice. The broken king sealed his fate through disobedience to a law which he had decreed (1 Samuel 28:9) and died on the battlefield, falling upon his own sword after a fatal injury by thePhilistines, a grim picture of Israel’s first king’s desperate hopeless isolation from his God.
David, second King of Israel, venerated God as his Lord (Ps. 110:1) and rarely moved from that posture. With a vibrant worshipful connect with Almighty God, David ruled wisely and with great success over Israel.
David had some great resources beyond his solid relationship with his God. In 2 Samuel 24, the Scriptures take great care to list David’s mighty men, thirty-seven in all. These warriors fought valiantly to slay the enemy Philistines in a multiple decades of war with bravery, loyalty and God-empowered military might. The list concludes, “…and Uriah the Hittite: thirty-seven in all” (2 Samuel 23:18).
Though righteous, David was not infallible. In the spring when military campaigns geared up for conquest, David remained at his palace. After Absalom’s brutal coup, David’s personal property became an obvious high commodity and th troops were not risking any further assassination probabilities. David, the warrior, remained in veritable house arrest, a costly lack of mobility which most heads of state know as reality today.
In his palace of confinement, David noticed a beautiful woman bathing down below in her backyard. Upon inquiry, David discovered the woman he desired was Bethsheba, his good friend Uriah’s wife. He requested her presence and slept with her. Their union resulted in pregnancy and David schemed to cover up his adultery. First David called Uriah back from the battlefield, but despite David’s urging, Uriah refused to seek comfort from his wife when his men were still out there fighting for their lives. After two attempts, David wrote to Joab to send Uriah in direct combat with the enemy and then withdraw the troops. Horribly Uriah died, betrayed by his beloved king.
You know the story. Nathan the prophet confronts David’s sin with an allegory of a merchant who owned the thousands of sheep herds but insisted on taking a peasant child’s pet lamb for his supper. David sought forgiveness for his evil choices but David’s child from that union still died. David kept moving forward as king, worshiping his just God and serving him with a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51). David’s revelation of repentance penned during this season continues to teach, to bring hope today for who sin and need language to find God and find hope once more.
Next, King David ordered a census of all his fighting men. In the Hebrew, there is a great play on words between being counted, being numbered, being valued and being reckoned. When David informed Joab to begin a nationwide census with the intention of forming a draft list, he stated something like: Go, number the army, so I can recognize and know whom I am leading.
Joab attempted to dissuade David from pursuing this census with this plea: “May the Lord add a hundredfold to whatever our numbers are, but why now, fresh from battle with the enemies of Israel, must we count who is on our side?” (2 Samuel 24:3)
David ignored his general and insisted.
The army spent the next nine months counting, enrolling and enlisting all the able men of Israel and Judah, returning with a report that David had over 1.3 million men in the army.
At the news, David’s heart was immediately crushed and he rushed to God, begging for forgiveness for the arrogance of numbering His people.
Hundreds of years earlier, God had explained to Moses that numbering His people was an act of worship and was not to be done for any other reason. In Exodus 30, God gave specific instruction pertaining to numbering the people, stating, “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). ”
With pain, David watched the angel of the Lord slay seventy thousand with plague over three days, crying to the Lord, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.” (2 Samuel 24:17).
From one child suffering for the king’s sin, now seventy thousand lay dead for this same king’s arrogant choices.
The sins of the heart have ongoing consequences and complications. What began as one man not counting anymore to the king avalanched into thousands of innocent Israelites perishing in a few short days as David refused to obey the living God.
Seventy thousand Israelites died from a plague within three days.
Thankfully Gad, the prophet came and painstakingly guided David through the consequences and reparations David faced as king in this tragic time. At Gad’s instruction, David ascended the threshing floor of Araunah to prepare an altar. With desperation, David sought God and He set back in order the heart of the king and restored the state of the nation of Israel.
Araunah, an original descendant of Jerusalem, had offered his threshing floor to the king without price. The heart-adjusted king responded, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.”
David atoned for his sins and the sins of the nation before God on Araunah’s threshing floor and the plague stopped.
Years later, his son, Solomon built the Temple on that very piece of property which God blessed at David’s cries of remorse and mercy. Solomon, the son of Bethsheba and David, sought God’s wisdom and God answered him richly. Our Christ the King ascended that same land and offered us all access to God with his cry, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and driink. He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” ( John 7:37-38)
Let’s Pray: Lord, today, we cry out, keep our eyes on You and keep our hearts beating passionately for Yours. May we reckon the treasures You have entrusted to each of us. May our lives count for the sake of Your kingdom. We heave with deep regret for the times when like King David, we have foolishly moved forward in life, without consideration of Your ways. Our hearts have been far from You. Thank you Jesus, King of nations, that You paid for all sin, and lifted high on that cross, established a river of mercy wide enough for all of humanity to be ransomed. Lord Jesus, rule over our hearts, minds and spirits this day, that we will be led in peace and prepared for righteousness sake for Your Glory. Amen.
This Week’s Reading: 2 Samuel 15-25
Next Week’s Reading: 2 Samuel 25- 1 Kings 5
1. The tumult in David’s life as king is intense. How do you relate to this king?
2. If a census was only to be taken to line up Israel for worship, why did David commission a census? When has reasoning brought you judgement?
3. Like Joshua at Gibeah, David failed to inquire of the Lord before setting the census in motion. Have you ever gone ahead with plans and then discovered you made a huge mistake? How did God help you in that situation?
4. David wasn’t designed to be confined. Absalom’s coup created a dynamic which clipped his wings. How can the Holy Spirit help us stay in proper alignment with God and others when life brings confinement.
5. David reigned for forty years as king, with great victories and failures. How do you see David? Champion? Warrior? Failure? How did God see him? How do you see yourself when you have failed? Can you still keep loving yourself, or do you pull back the troops on yourself like David did with Uriah?
The New King James Version. 1982 (2 Sa 24:24). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.