From our daily Bible reading: 2 Samuel 21-24
April 11, 2019
We read here about the later years of David’s realm, and in these last three chapters we read about the good and the bad for David. Chapter 22 contains David’s song of deliverance, which is also written in Psalm 18, and contains so many familiar verses and images that David uses to express his love for God, and God’s continued protection of David throughout his life.
He opens the passage saying “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge. David recounts his near-death experiences on the battlefield, maybe referring to the story of the previous chapter, where we read about David growing tired during a battle with the Philistines and prompting his army to request that he no longer go out to battle. It says something about the army’s leader when his weakness in battle is met with the request: “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.” Clearly David had become much more than simply a king or a leader to his armies. And in chapter 22, David emphasizes that it has been God who has given him the victory over all the years of his life.
His last words are included in chapter 23, “The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel.” And David here reveals the key to his reign:
“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth. 2 Samuel 23:2-4
David’s vanity leads to sin
But we also see the David that does not always make good decisions, and in chapter 24, David gives in to his vanity and orders a census of the people, as verse 2 says “so that I may know the number of the people.” When Exodus 30 talks about a census, it instructs that every Israelite pay a half sheckel as a ransom for his life, that there be no plague among them when you number them.” This money went toward the service of the tabernacle, and was intended to direct the people’s mind toward atonement.
But even in this mistake, we see that David is convicted of his sin, and before he is even confronted with the wrong, he confesses his sin to God. The prophet Gad comes to him with a choice of punishments, and David chooses to suffer pestilence for three days, possibly thinking this was the least severe of the three options he is given. But the angel of the Lord strikes down 70,000 Israelites, before David is sent to build an altar for the Lord and appease his anger not only against David, but against the nation of Israel itself according to v. 1 of the chapter.
And when David arrives to the place where he is to build the altar, the owner of the threshing floor offers to give it to David. David’s response is “I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”
David’s penitence and faith win out
As a man after God’s heart, David understood the true cost of atonement, the nature of sacrifice, and continually had a strong desire to offer gifts pleasing to God, not to himself, and not to the people. David always sought God’s heart, and in the times where he sinned and strayed – and he did with remarkable severity at times – he always repented and came back to God.
Thanks for joining us – we’ll pick up tomorrow by starting in the first to chapters of 1 Kings.