David numbers the people

1 Chronicles 21 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1 Chronicles 21&version=NIV)

It’s been a while since I last posted. Lately, I’ve been reading through 1 Chronicles and this one section has really made me pause with how intensely packed with learning it is.

In this passage (to paraphrase), Satan incites David to number the people. He fails his test unlike Job, and orders Joab to number all the people. This is the first takeaway. Not everything that seems like a good course of action, is. The motivation is key, because man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The Israelites had been numbered before at the command of God (in the time of Moses – Numbers 1:3), but this time, it was for the pride of man.

The next lesson is around wise counsel. Joab knows this is not of God, and so he pushes back against David. He says,

“May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over.. but why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” 

But David does not listen to Joab’s wise counsel and orders him to do so. Even so, Joab does not fully obey (and who knows, this may have something to do with God relenting later). Joab does not number the Levites or Benjaminites. This portion reminds us to listen to wise counsel as it may save us from harm. There is a reason God places counselors in our lives to speak in times of uncertainty. Also as leaders, our decisions affect those that we lead. David says

“I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.”

The next lesson is about the choice of punishment that God gives David. God sends Gad to David and offers him a choice – 3 years of famine, 3 months of being destroyed by his enemies, or 3 days of pestilence. Here David chooses wisely. He says, let me fall into the hands of God, and he may relent, but men will never do so. So he chooses the 3 days of pestilence and 70,000 men die as a result. And it so transpires that as the Angel of the Lord approaches Jerusalem (which was originally the city of Jebus), he stops at the threshing floor of Araunah (also called Ornan) the Jebusite.

Now we know in hindsight that this is the site of the temple mount. What an amazing parallel, and moment in history, because the temple represents Christ, and the wrath of God was held back by the sacrifice of Christ. It is at the Cross that the Angel of Death stopped, and all men could attain eternal life. Mount Moriah is also the mount where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac and where the ram was found caught in a thicket. Again this points back to the person of Christ and His sacrifice.

So it is clear that God Almighty, when the angel approached this place remembered His covenant and relented in not destroying Jerusalem, even though He would have been justified in doing so for the sin of the people.

This is the main lesson here – ultimately that Christ is the One that stands between us and the punishment we really deserve. God relented of destroying mankind because of His great mercy and remembering His faithful child, Abraham. Our faithfulness impacts not only our lifetimes, but generations to come, and maybe even humanity.

Bonus lesson: When David is instructed to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah, he approaches Araunah and offers to buy it. Araunah offers to give it to him for free (remember he is a Jebusite, a Caananite in Israel, so he likely has reverence for the King who allowed him to live in peace). David responds,

"No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.” 

A sacrifice ultimately comes at a cost. We must not sacrifice to God that which costs us nothing. This is an indictment on those who choose to do evil and claim they are doing it “for God”, and give what is not theirs to give. God has no need for money or things. So what we give we give of what He has first given us!

Thanks for taking this journey with me today. See you next week!

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