Friday, August 7, 2009

King David’s Deadly Census (cont.)

In a previous post, I examined a story about King David and how pride leads one to count things. The verses I quoted ended with the Lord smiting Israel. The rest of the story is how the story of smite-age worked out.
8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing [in numbering Israel]: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
9 ¶ And the Lord spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying,
10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee
12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.
13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man. (1 Chronicales 21:8-13)
What a terrible choice David had to make!
  • 3 years of famine or
  • 3 months of being destroyed and beat by his enemies or
  • 3 days of pestilence in the land.
At first it seems like David made what seemed to be the most faithful and trusting choice as he said it was better to depend upon God’s mercy than man’s. He already had plenty of experience with being a fugitive of King Saul’s implacable jealousy, and I don’t blame him for not wanting to go through something like that again. And three years is a long time for famine. Perhaps he also thought it was best to get the punishment over as quickly as possible.

The trouble was, David still made a mistake. “I am in a great strait” “let ME not fall into the hands of man” “let ME fall now into the hand of the Lord” He was making a choice that would affect his whole kingdom (mass starvation, or mass war casualties, or mass disease) and he was still only thinking about himself.

It took him a while to figure that out.
14 ¶ So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.
15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. (1 Chronicles 21:14-16)
Only when David sees the angel of the Lord with the sword of pestilence, only when he sees the painful and tragic effects of his choice does it truly start to sink in.
And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. (1 Chronicles 21:17)
Here’s where David finally begins taking responsibility and acting like a king by pleading to the Lord on behalf of the people. “It’s all my fault. I was the one that sinned, not anyone else. Kill me and my family, but not Israel.” David realized that the right answer to the choices that the prophet Gad had given him should have been to plead that the people not be afflicted and that he only be punished.

This suggests that he also became a type of Christ. He remembered that he had responsibility over the kingdom to keep it safe, just as he had once had responsibility over his father’s flocks of sheep, so he compared his nation to sheep in his care. (“as for these sheep, what have they done?”)

So how does this apply to us today? This seem to suggest how real concern for others (charity) motivates us to take full responsibility for our actions. Like David, we need to discern how our pride has a negative impact on others and allow our compassion for others’ suffering (suffering that we cause) to move us to take responsibility and change.

So how did David change? In order to change, David had to sacrifice.
18 ¶ Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the Lord.
20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.
21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.
22 Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the Lord: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people.
23 And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all.
24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.
25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.
26 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
27 And the Lord commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. (1 Chronicles 21:18-27)
David’s change required him to sacrifice, and in his day, that was done according to the law of Moses by making an animal sacrifice. In our day, changing still requires sacrifice; we sacrifice the animal in us by offering a broken heart and contrite spirit. We also have to sacrifice the problem behaviors.

“And it came to pass that Michaela offered up her nagging and resentful speeches as a sacrifice to the Lord, and prayed fervently for forgiveness, and the plague of arguments and bad feeling in the Stephens household was stayed.”

What would you write in your journal?

“And it came to pass that _______ offered up his/her ___________ as a sacrifice to the Lord, and prayed fervently for forgiveness and the plague of ____________ was stayed.”