God does not judge of sin as we do.
What appears to us to be but a small offense,
may be a great sin in the eyes of God who knows men’s principles,
being a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
His judgments are according to the truth.
II Samuel 1
1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
2 For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.
3 And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?
4 Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.
5 ¶ And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:
6 Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtim-hodshi; and they came to Dan-jaan, and about to Zidon,
7 And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beer-sheba.
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 up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
10 ¶ And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
11 For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,
12 Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.
15 ¶ So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men.
16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.
17 And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.
18 And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.
19 And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.
20 And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.
21 And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.
23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.
24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
25 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
II Samuel 1 – J. Vernon McGee
2 Samuel 24:1-14 – A Proud Heart Humbled
The sin of numbering the people lay in its motive. David was animated by a spirit of pride and vainglory. He was eager to make a fine showing among the surrounding nations, and to impress them with such a conception of Israel’s greatness that they would not dare to attack any point of the long frontier line. He yielded to the temptation of trusting in chariots and horses, instead of in the victories of faith.
When the enumeration was nearly complete, David’s heart smote him. He saw how far he had swerved from the idea of the theocracy, in which God’s will was the sole guide of national policy. He had substituted his own wisdom for the divine edict. A night of anguish followed on this self-discovery, but David submitted himself to God’s dealings.
It was wise to choose to fall into the hands of God. They are very loving and tender hands, but David viewed them as punitive and not redemptive; and the plague, which devastated the people, cut him to the quick.
2 Samuel 24:15-25 – Judgment Stayed by Sacrifice
The pestilence swept through the land like cholera or the black death in modern times. At last it approached the Holy City. It seemed as if the angel of the Lord were hovering over it, sword in hand, awaiting the final order. All this is spoken after the manner of men. It is clear, however, that, in answer to David’s penitent faith, a great change came over the scene. If the same faith had been exercised before the plague reached Jerusalem, may we not believe that an arrest would have come previously? As soon as David was prepared, as in II Samuel 24:17, to suffer instead of his people, his love and contrition and faith were accepted on their behalf.
Then, on Mount Moriah, where centuries before Abraham’s uplifted knife was stayed, the angel now stayed his act of judgment. The threshing floor of Araunah became the site of an altar, while afterward on that spot stood the Temple, the center of national worship and the scene of the manifestation of the Son of man. The lesson for us is that, when we take the true attitude toward God, we can exercise, by our faith, prayer and self-sacrifice, a wonderful influence in behalf of cities and nations.
2 Samuel 24:24—Neither will I offer burnt offerings… of that which doth cost me nothing.
God’s love to us cost Him something. He spared not his own Son, and that Son spared not his blood. But how little our love to Him costs us! Let us understand that where there is true, strong love to Jesus, it will cost us something. Love is the costliest of all undertakings.
It will cost us Self denial. Christ and self are perfectly incompatible; to have the one we must be prepared to surrender the other. The heart subtly schemes to hold both; but it does not deceive Christ. He knows in a moment when we have preferred to spare ourselves and to sacrifice Him, or to obey Him and sacrifice ourselves. We know it also. At first we may find it an effort to count all things but loss for Him; but as we go on doing it, and drink in the fresh air that breathes about the mountains of self denial above all, as we see the smile of pleasure on his face our hearts leap with joy, and we love to give Him everything, not thinking of the cost, any more than Mary did when she broke the alabaster box of very precious ointment. After all, it is but fitting that we offer our bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).
It will cost us Companionships. Those who knew us will pass us with averted faces. It will cost us hard earned money; for we shall realize that we have no property in anything that we possess. It will cost us high repute amongst our fellows. But what shall we mind if we gain Christ? You cannot give up for Him without regaining everything you have renounced, but purified and transfigured. Did not the Lord say so? And did He not add a hundredfold, with persecution. Let us heartily respond, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:17).