May I suggest a passage of Scripture that you might like to hang out with for an extended time of study? It is the intriguing story found in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. You might recall reading or hearing it before. King David decides to take a census of all the fighting men in Israel, despite the objections of his highest general. This act angers God, for David is trusting his military might rather than placing his trust in the Lord. God sends his prophet Gad to see David. The king is told God offers him 3 different punishments for his sin, and David gets to choose which one. His choice results in 70,000 men of Israel dying. God stays the hand of the angel enforcing His judgment as he approaches Jerusalem. David repents and God tells him to build an altar on the threshing floor of Aruanah the Jebusite, located outside of Jerusalem. David then has a conversation with Aruanah about purchasing his winnowing floor. Aruanah wants to donate it to David and the king wants to pay him full price. In the process David makes that powerful statement, “I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing” (1 Chronicles 21:24b). Once the sacrifice is offered God sends fire down to consume it and tells the angel of judgment to sheath his sword.
As you read both passages you’ll find differences in the numbers counted in the census and in the price David paid for Aruanah’s land. It is fascinating to study how scholars try and explain those differences. But I hope you delve deeper into the areas of sin, judgment, sacrifice, grace and mercy as you analyze this story. For me I spent some time thinking about David’s sin of not trusting the Lord. That happens quite often as I trust in my strength, my ingenuity, and my wisdom. As I think about my financial responsibilities I often look to my bank account before talking to the Lord. I worry instead of casting my care on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). Maybe you, too, are guilty of not putting all your trust in the Lord.
I spent some time considering God’s punishment for David’s sin. That took me in several directions. God sees my sin as more serious than I do. All three choices David was presented with were severe judgments. In addition, God has truly blessed me with mercy in that none of my grievous sins has received a similar punishment as was poured out because of David’s sin. God stayed the sword of the angel because of His love and compassion; things could have been far worse.
David’s statement shared above drew a lot of my attention – that he will not offer sacrifice and worship that costs him nothing. Wow, that eliminates much of my so-called praise and worship. What should it cost you and I to worship? Hear the heart of David. “I won’t skimp”, he said. “I won’t cheat God. Yes, I failed Him in the past. But my heart is devoted to Him.” Our forgiveness cost Jesus everything. Our worship should be filled with humbling of ourselves before God, of repentance, of expressed praise, of generous giving, of living our lives out for God’s glory, and of stepping out of our comfort zones to reach others for Christ.
I also noticed that 1 Chronicles 21 is tied in with 22:1 and following. David not only bought Aruanah’s threshing floor, but probably his whole estate. The threshing floor was enough land to build an altar and to sacrifice to the Lord. Why buy the whole land? Because upon that land eventually the temple built by Solomon would stand. A little study reveals that Aruanah’s land rested on Mount Moriah. Remember where you’ve heard about that place before? Yes, that is where Abraham took his son Isaac and offered him to the Lord as a sacrifice – only to be stopped by God (Genesis 22). So Solomon’s temple and the temple in use when Jesus walked this earth were both sitting on Mount Moriah. Let the Spirit lead you in thinking about that for a while.
One last truth became emphasized for me. David’s sin – ugly and serious – brought about great tragedy with the death of so many. David’s true repentance resulted in God’s forgiveness (fire consuming sacrifice and angel sheathing his sword). And then out of this disastrous situation God’s temple would be erected at the place of sacrifice. Can God really work all things out for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28)? The answer is an overwhelming “Yes!” Out of the ashes of David’s sacrifice would rise a temple where God would be continually worshiped and where individuals would be continually blessed. A look at these two passages will truly underscore how great and awesome is our God. I hope you can hang out with this enthralling story sometime soon.