2 Samuel 24:1-25
1 Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
2 So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.”
3 But Joab said to the king, “May the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?”
4 But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel.
5 They crossed the Jordan and began from Aroer, and from the city that is in the middle of the valley, toward Gad and on to Jazer.
6 Then they came to Gilead, and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites; and they came to Dan, and from Dan they went around to Sidon,
7 and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beersheba.
8 So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
9 And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000.
10 But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”
11 And when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,
12 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’ ”
13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”
14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”
15 So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men.
16 And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
17Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”
18And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, raise an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
19 So David went up at Gad’s word, as the Lord commanded.
20 And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out and paid homage to the king with his face to the ground.
21 And Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be averted from the people.”
22 Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood.
23 All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.”
2 4 But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
25 And David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.
So we are back on our trek through the history of the kings found in the Old Testament. Lent interrupted us just as we were closing in on the end of 2 Samuel, with only one chapter left to go! And what an odd chapter it is! Remember, the events recorded here are not written down in strictly chronological order. This event probably happened at an earlier time, but was worth mentioning. For the Hebrew reader, telling something out of order was not a problem like it can be for us more linear thinkers in the west.
Clearly, Israel has done something that has brought down God’s anger upon them. This is not necessarily David’s sin, but as the leader, he is the one who gets to deal with it. The text is silent as to what has caused God to be angry. It doesn’t really matter. It is most certainly something the people knew they shouldn’t do, most likely in the arena of idolatry, as that seemed to be their favorite way to anger God throughout the Old Testament. David allows his own pride to get in the way and thus he spends time and resources counting his army. There is no reason to do so, for the country is not at war or threatened in any way at the time. He simply wanted to know how great he was. This was not typical for David, but he succumbed to the sin of pride nonetheless. What is always remarkable about David is that he is willing to repent – sincerely and completely. He shows remorse and is truly sorry for his offense against God; so much so that God withdraws the hand of punishment that devastates the nation. God relents and pulls back on His wrath.
We see God tempering His wrath on many occasions in the Old Testament. While His just, righteous, and holy nature demand punishment, He holds back and instead grants mercy. But there is one exception to that out-pouring of wrath. When Christ went to the cross for us, God did not hold back one little bit of the punishment that was due for our sins. He let is all fall upon Christ. His hand did not withdraw and ultimately, Christ died, for our sin is great. Now we live never to be punished again. God will never pour out His wrath again, until the last day, upon a sinful people. We may deserve it for sure. But Christ has paid the price and all of that punishment was meted out on Him. The one question you can never ask God is why He is punishing you. He has already punished Christ. You may be the victim of someone else's sin; you may experience the negative consequences of your sinful actions. But you will never be punished. That work is done.