Lesson 20: a heart that accepts responsibility

We have already noted David’s sins of adultery and murder in 2Samuel 11 and also saw how he took responsibility for those actions (see 2Samuel 12.13). However, those were not David’s only sins. So, as we conclude our study of David, let’s look at another of his failures and see how he accepted responsibility for his actions.

David’s sin (1Chronicles 21.1-6)

Our passage begins with the statement, “Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.” The events described in this chapter would have occurred after the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba (2Samuel 15-20), so it would seem that Satan was preying on David’s fears. What if there was another rebellion? How many men could David call to his defense? Thus Satan moved David to number Israel.

It is standard procedure for kings to number their troops, to know exactly how many men they could send into battle. But this was not supposed to be the way Israel’s king behaved: “Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself…’” (Deuteronomy 17:16)  Israel’s king was not to place his trust in military might, whether that might was quantified by horses or by men.

Joab’s route for the census

Joab understood that David was erring, even pleading with the king that he would not “be a cause of guilt to Israel” (vs. 3). David insisted, but Joab did not number two of the tribes (Levi and Benjamin) because “the king’s command was abhorrent” to him (vs. 6).

The Lord’s punishment (1Chronicles 21.7-15)

David’s actions displeased the Lord and he was given three options for his punishment: three years of famine, three months of being pursued by his enemies or three days of “the sword of the Lord,”i.e. pestilence (vs. 12). David placed himself and the people into the Lord’s hands, “for His mercies are very great… do not let me fall into the hand of man” (vs. 13). Pestilence came and 70,000 of Israel fell. However, the Lord halted the pestilence as His angel came to Jerusalem: “David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.” (vs. 16)

Why must so many die because of David’s sin? First, if David placed his trust in numbers then it would be fitting that God’s punishment struck those numbers. Second, we read in 2Samuel 24.1, “Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’” Perhaps the Lord was angry with Israel because they rebelled against David, but regardless there was some national sin which displeased their God.

David accepts responsibility (1Chronicles 21.16-27)

As opposed to when David sinned with Bathsheba, no one had to confront the king with his sin. David readily acknowledged his sin and mourned over his actions (vss. 8,16-17). Furthermore, he readily submitted to the Lord’s command to build an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan (vss. 18-21). But of the greatest significance was David’s response when Ornan offered to give him the threshing floor as well as all that would be required to construct the altar and make sacrifices: “I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing.” (vs. 24). This is the picture of a man whose heart was moved to accept full responsibility!

David provides a powerful example for those of us who’ve experienced the Lord’s mercy: we should be willing to pay the full price in response to His mercy and grace. Yet, we often try to offer the Lord bargain level service instead of paying the full price. Whenever we complain about worshipping Him twice on Sundays, we are offering less than He deserves. We should be ready to pay full price (Hebrews 10.19-25). Whenever we offer the Lord anything less than our whole being, we are offering less than He deserves. We should be ready to pay full price (Romans 12.1-2). Whenever we make the standard of morality anything below the nature of God Himself, we are offering less than He deserves. We should be ready to pay full price (Matthew 5.48).

Postscript (1Chronicles 21.28-22.1)

David offered his sacrifice on the threshing floor of Ornan in Jerusalem. And it was from this spot that David declared, “This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” (1Chronicles 22.1) Thus, David chose this spot as the place to build the house of the Lord.

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