Today: [1 Chronicles Twenty-One] When Satan Stands Up Against You. David wrongly decides to number the people. As a result the angel of the Lord assaults the nation and thousands perish. David is grieved at his sin and the angel instructs him to build an altar that eventually becomes the ground upon which the temple of Solomon is built. Thus we see in the midst of the greatest transgression of David’s rule the greatest blessing is brought about in the acquisition of the temple ground.
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[1Ch 21:1-30 KJV] 1 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.
Spiritual warfare is a confounding thing at times. Satan purposes to come against Israel as a nation and he does so by provoking king David. In the story that follows we find that it is not David that pays the most brutal penalty but the people themselves. Can you imagine the rebellion that would rise up in our hearts if our leader made such a rash decision that brought this dread calamity that cost 1000’s of lives? Yet – even in his failure David is God’s anointed king.
What is wrong with numbering the people? The people were numbered every year when the shekel of the sanctuary was paid – a sacred tax established by God in the time of Moses. So whatever the problem was in the action taken it isn’t strickly David putting his trust in numbers instead of God. To look to numbers or numerical superiority as a vain source of trust would be bad enough but beyond that David was intruding into the priests office. This was the king who danced before the Lord in a priest’s ephod. David also brazenly brought the ark of the covenant to Jeruselem and placed it not in the sacred tent of Moses but in a tent of his own fashioning called the “Tabernacle of David”. In all of this David intruded into the office not only of king which was his right but also priest and prophet. Yet God never chastened him because his heart was right in the allowances and conscessions he afforded himself before the Father.
There is something here that we should make note of. From a legalistic perspective king David committed many offences that kings after him and before him were removed and destroyed for. Yet God protected David and promised him an heir that would sit on the throne of David for eternity – which was fulfilled in Christ. How could God indulge David’s choices and at times outright sins yet not allow lesser offenses to go unpunished? The answer is that God looks on the heart. He knows the end from the beginning. He takes the moves aggriegious situations and turns them into cirucmstances of redemptive grace. David knew he was walking in latitude before God that others did not enjoy – yet we he numbered the people there was something in the motive that grieved the heart of God.
Joab tries to talk David out of numbering the people. Joab is David’s chief of staff and main general. Throughout his life he constantly interferes and manipulates David many times. David can never rely on Joab yet Joab constantly puts himself in a position to be indispensable to David. Do you have a Joab in your life? Someone who you never know where you stand with them – perhaps you make a decision to end the association and then as though they realize it they do something to make themselves useful and needful in your life. In this case it seems that Joab is standing up for the right – but does that make Joab righteous? Remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Joab uses the occaision to assault David and manipulate David.
The true friend of David is the prophet Gad who we don’t hear much from but yet he is called “the kings seer”. The prophet Nathan is heard of much more often but something about Gad made him the ideal choice for the assignment of bringing the word of the Lord to David in this situation. The answer is perhaps revealed in the meaning of Gad’s name. Gad was named after one of the twelve patriarchs by the same name with means “a troop cometh”. The irony of this does not go unnoticed. David wants to number the people and God reproves him by a prophet whose name commemorates the fact that Abraham’s descendants are without number!
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. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders [of Israel, who were] clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said unto God, [Is it] not I [that] commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but [as for] these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. 18 Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. 20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.
David has grieved the Spirit of God in a time when there was no advocate. We read this passage and perhaps we want to use is as a cautionary tale regarding our own waywardness. There is some value in this but remember there is a difference between David working out his salvation and our own circumstances. What difference you say? The most prominent we could suggest – even Jesus himself. David did not have a savior in the person of the son of God. All David had was his faith and the blood of bulls and goats. Because of this the scales of divine integrity must be balanced. Why? Because the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. We see by how David and the people suffer under the law the measure of the gift of grace we have in Christ. At least we should unless we erroneously apply the moral of this David story to ourselves without taking into account the shed blood of Christ.
So David’s choices are:
- 3 years famine.
- 3 months flight from his enemies.
- 3 days in the hand of God.
We know what David will do. He trusts his maker. He would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hand of man. In our ministry we have had people who presumed to “turn us over to the devil” for the destruction of our flesh to the saving of our soul. They model this after the apostle Paul but they fail to make note that shortly after doing this Paul himself was assaulted by a “messenger from Satan sent to buffet” him because of pride. When I have heard this my response is “don’t turn me over to the devil – why would I be worried about the losing team? Turn me over to God – he’s bigger and I trust him!”
The angel goes through Jerusalem and the loss of life is great. David cries out to God that he himself should suffer the consequences. The angel of the Lord hears David’s intercessory cry and directs that an altar should be set up at the threshingfloor of Ornan.
21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with [his] face to the ground. 22 Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of [this] threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. 23 And Ornan said unto David, Take [it] to thee, and let my lord the king do [that which is] good in his eyes: lo, I give [thee] the oxen [also] for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. 24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take [that] which [is] thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. 25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 26 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. 27 And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. 28 At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. 29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, [were] at that season in the high place at Gibeon. 30 But David could not go before it to enquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD.
David builds an altar and offers at Ornan’s threshingfloor. The angel stays his hand and puts his sword up in its sheath. Notice that David doesn’t just build the altar but actually buys the threshingfloor. Astoundingly in all this calamity this is where the temple of Solomon will be built. Ornan tries to give David the threshingfloor but David refuses to receive from the Lord that which costs him nothing. This is a lesson that Christian culture is largely tone deaf regarding. Many Christians rebel against giving as though everything that comes to them in the name of Christ is expected to be free of charge to them. We see this occaisionally and the quote often comes “freely you receive – freely give…” This is not what Jesus is speaking of because he says in the same passage “the workman is worthy of his hire”. The “freely” statement means “undeservedly” not without recompense in some fashion.
God hears the cry of David and in the midst of the greatest sin and resulting calamity in his rule the ground for the temple of Solomon is now secured for posterity.
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