DAVID NUMBERS ISRAEL

[2 Samuel:24:1-25].

Lesson No.: 
247
Class: 
Senior
Memory Verse: 

“There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength” (Psalm 33:16).

Cross References: 

I The Reasons for David’s Act in Numbering Israel
1. God’s anger was kindled against Israel, possibly because of another lapse into idolatry, [2 Samuel:24:1]; [Judges:2:14], [Judges:2:20]; [Judges:3:8]; [Judges:10:7].
2. David was used by God as an instrument to punish Israel, while David was also being punished by God, [2 Samuel:24:1-2]; [1 Chronicles:21:1-3]; [Matthew:18:7]; [Deuteronomy:28:50]; [Judges:3:12]; [Jeremiah:5:15].
3. God sent a warning to David, which he disregarded, so he was without excuse, [2 Samuel:24:3-4]; [1 Chronicles:21:3-4]; [Proverbs:12:15]; [Proverbs:15:22]; [Proverbs:29:1].
4. The census taken was of the military strength of the nation, indicating a possible reason for its being taken, [2 Samuel:24:5-9]: [1 Chronicles:21:5-7]; [Psalms:20:7]; [Matthew:7:26-27]; [Psalms:33:15-16]; [Hosea:1:7]; [Haggai:2:22].

II God’s Punishment for Sin
1. David repented of his sin, making full confession for it, and asked for forgiveness, [2 Samuel:24:10], [2 Samuel:24:17]; [1 Chronicles:21:8], [1 Chronicles:21:16-17]; [Psalms:34:18]; [Psalms:51:17]; [2 Corinthians:7:10].
2. God gave David an opportunity to show the basis of his trust for deliverance, [2 Samuel:24:11-13]; [1 Chronicles:21:9-12].
3. David demonstrated that God was his trust and place of refuge, [2 Samuel:24:14]; [1 Chronicles:21:13]; [Psalms:46:1]; [Psalms:118:8-9]; [Proverbs:3:5]; [Isaiah:2:22]; [Habakkuk:2:4]; [Hebrews:10:38].
4. The plague’s ravages destroyed the accuracy of the census, [2 Samuel:24:15]; [1 Chronicles:21:14].
5. The plague was stopped by God at Jerusalem, [2 Samuel:24:16-17]; [1 Chronicles:21:15], [1 Chronicles:21:20]

III The Offering at the Threshing Floor
1. God required David to make sacrifice to Him, [2 Samuel:24:18]; [1 Chronicles:21:18-19]; [Romans:12:1-2]; [Exodus:32:29]
2. David’s insistence on paying for the sacrifice and the place of sacrifice, is indicative of deep consecration,[2 Samuel:24:19-25]; [1 Chronicles:21:21-27]; [Philippians:3:7-8]; [Matthew:16:24].
3. The place of David’s sacrifice eventually became the Temple site [1 Chronicles:21:28-30]; [1 Chronicles:22:1-5]; [2 Chronicles:3:1]

Notes: 

The Man, David
David, the king, was advancing in age. His life had been a busy one, military engagements occupying a great deal of his time and attention. But he had been able, through the help of God, to bring a great deal of territory into his realm. Under his reign and that of Solomon the nation of Israel was made possessors of the land promised them by God.

In the past David had sinned. He had made mistakes. But he had fully repented of them and had found forgiveness. One of his constant prayers was that he might not be guilty of sinning presumptuously against the mercy of God -- which sin he classified as the great transgression. And because of this purpose in his heart he had been mightily used by God during his lifetime.

Through this man of God we have received many revelations of the plan of God, demonstrated in the ways God dealt with him. Such truths are also taught to us in the many Psalms, which came from David’s pen. He had held, at all times, a high regard for God and for God’s anointing. He had waited God’s time in most of the things which he felt were God’s will for him, and had thereby saved himself much suffering and anxiety. He had been a faithful servant of his God and had lived close to his God.

We might think, then, that it would be much better if this particular chapter of David’s life had not taken place. It is another sad and regrettable incident. But, because of the purpose in David’s heart, the incident ended with victory; and through his repentant attitude not only David but all of us have received spiritual lessons and benefits.

We are not told all the details of this incident. We are not told just what was the motive behind the act, or all that took place because of that act. But we are told enough to show us clearly the spiritual lessons God would have us receive. It is these known facts that we shall consider when studying this lesson.

The Condemning Sin
Scripture tells us very little about God’s prohibition against the numbering of Israel. It was, however, a very unwise thing for David to do. The fact is borne out by several statements, all clearly made in the lesson text. First, the command was obnoxious even to the usually unprincipled military man, Joab, who ordinarily seemed to have little regard for the right and the wrong of issues when they ran athwart his desires. Joan protested to David, and later events clearly demonstrate that David was wrong in ruling against the opinions of his military leader.

The second and real proof of the error is found in the words of God, through His Prophet, and the punishment that came because of David’s willful act.

The fighting men of Israel were numbered at only two other times in their history, so far as we know from the Scriptures. But in these two other times it was at the word and command of God. This incident was David’s idea, instigated by Satan, and may have been a part of a plan in his mind concerning some future military ventures. This action by David was used by God, however, as a means of bringing judgment upon Israel. The reason for this judgment is not told us, either; but perhaps it was because of another lapse into idolatry, as was the usual pattern of failure on the part of the Israelites.

The value of the census was brought to nothing by a single stroke of divine justice, for the pestilence fol-lowed the same route as the census takers and left many dead in its wake. If David’s sin was the putting of his trust and reliance upon the strength of his people -- upon the arm of flesh -- he had no statistics upon which he could take pride after God’s judgment-hand had struck. The nation was terribly and tragically weakened in a few short hours.

On the other hand, if David’s sin was the deliberate making of a plan to undertake some venture that was not in accord with God’s will, he was held back from this foolish thing by the hand of God. After the pestilence David had nothing that is ordinarily thought of as security. He was forced, by divine mercy, to depend upon Almighty God. The necessity of his walking by faith and in obedience only to the voice of God was brought to his attention by this series of terrifying events that have known no equal in either sacred or secular history.

Finally, if David’s sin was that of pride, then he could have been grateful to God that that heinous sin was exposed so he could rid himself of it before it was too late. Satan uses pride most often in his attempts to entrap men. But God hates this sin and He punishes it most severely. We can well guard against every entrance into our heart and nature of this soul-destroying sin.

David’s Wise Course When In Trouble
We can see, from the account, that, God spoke at first through David’s conscience. God brought to his mind and heart the knowledge of the sin he had committed; and David cried to God for deliverance. We read that our merciful God forgave him.

But David had conditions to meet before the forgiveness was made complete. With most individuals these conditions will be the making Of restitution -- righting those wrongs where they have in some way injured someone else. God does not fully forgive sin that we can make right ourselves. Both the Law and the Gospel teach the necessity of restitution if we are to be forgiven by God. However, there are some sins against man for which amends cannot be made. Slandered, or otherwise gravely injured, persons may have died before the sinner comes seeking pardon from God. Forgiveness can no longer be secured from them, and in these cases God forgives the offender.

There are definite results that inevitably follow a life of certain kinds of sin, even though the guilt of that sin is removed and the person is fully justified before God. Sometimes a certain degree of these results is left to remind the pardoned individual of the pit from whence he was dug. Sometimes the results that follow a life of sin are physical infirmities or deformities brought on by the life of sin. And sometimes these results are chastening judgments allowed or sent by God to remove some other bit of dross or spiritual impurity from the life of the born-again person. David found that seeking forgiveness from God at this time was not all that he must do. He was given the choice of three possible judgments against him and the nation.

In making his choice we can see that David acted very wisely and as a man should act. He chose to fall into the hands of God, for he said, “Very great are his mercies.” He did not ask for an escape from the punishment that was justly his. He chose no easy way for himself. He only wanted his punishment to come direct from God and not through man. David knew the love and mercy of God, and he also knew the unprincipled hatred and jealousy of man. He was extremely wise in preferring the chastisement of the Lord.

If David had chosen war, he, personally, would have been safe, since the people had already passed an ordinance forbidding him from going to the battle any more. Had he chosen famine he would not have suffered, for many of his loving subjects would rather have suffered, themselves, than to see their king do so. Also, he was a wealthy man; and even if food were not given him, he would have been able to purchase it. But he showed the greatness of his heart and mind in choosing to fall into the hands of God and suffer the effects of the pestilence.

David knew that God does not have respect of persons in His judgments and would direct the punishment where it should go. He knew that no human hand or palace wall could stop God’s judgment hand, to safeguard him or his family. David voluntarily placed himself on an equal basis with the humblest of his servants, so far as God’s judgment is concerned, by acting in this manner. There is no doubt that God saw and noted this attitude on the part of His repenting servant.

Trust in God or Man
David’s secret, in choosing to fall into the hands of God, was a dependence on and trust in the living God. There are many people who would rather fall into the hands of man than to trust God when a crisis comes into their lives. They never see the countless thousands of people whom God comforts, heals, saves, and delivers. They see only the ones who fail to receive some of these blessings from God. Those who depend upon the arm of flesh never see the formerly lame man leaping and praising God. They see only the occupied bier or some suffering one who has not received that which God has to give. They also fail to look on the other side of the picture, to see the parade of miserable victims of human error and short-sightedness -- products of experimentation and perhaps well-intentioned but nevertheless fatal or crippling mistakes.

Human mercy and consideration possessed by even the greatest and most honourable individuals can certainly not compare with the infinite mercy and love of our God. Earth has no sorrows that Heaven cannot heal; but earth has many sorrows that have been, and are, aggravated by the best efforts of well-meaning finite man. Let us be like David, who preferred rather to fan into the hands of God than into the hands of man, and to trust in the deliverance of God rather than in his own ingenuity or sagacity.

David’s Attitude Toward God’s Plan
David kept his heart directed toward God, even when he was in the depths of remorse and trouble as at this time. This was the great difference between him and his predecessor, Saul. The mercy of God was taken away from Saul because he utterly forsook God and turned away from Him. In his time of need, toward the end of his life, Saul sought God only in a nominal sense and he died the death of a complete apostate.

On the other hand, when David was in a crisis he never forsook his God but, instead, ran to Him. God was his refuge in time of trouble. God was the first one to whom David went to acknowledge his sins, and the first one to whom he went for help and deliverance. David backslid, but he was restored because he repented and threw himself upon God’s mercy. Saul apostatised and was lost forever because he forsook God and refused to repent of his sins and rebellion.

David did not reject God as did the Jews of Christ’s day. He did not want to do a thing that would thwart or hinder God’s plan. “Thy will be done” was the spirit, if not the actual words, of his prayers. And this time was no exception. He saw the terribleness of his sin and told God to let His hand of judgment be against him and his father’s house. That meant that David’s brothers and sisters were to share with him the punishments by God.

How unusual that request! The Jews of Christ’s day had quite a different prayer. They requested that “His blood be on us, and on our children.” They had no interest in God’s plan for them as a nation. They wanted no part in the will of God concerning them. They cared not if their children were placed under a curse and rendered unfit for carrying out God’s plan. They chose for themselves and for their children the guilt of a capital crime -- a crime of infinite extent since it was the rejection and condemnation to death of the Son of God. This curse and guilt brought dispersion and complete defeat to their nation.

But we can see here that David guarded the will and plan of God very carefully. God had said that from David’s house the eternal Kingdom would spring. For him to have said, “Let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my house” -- the prayer one might expect instead of that which David prayed -- would mean that he was withdrawing from the covenant that God had made with him concerning his house. It would have meant that God’s plan would have been hindered -- or diverted to another avenue, if not actually hindered. The correctness of his attitude is demonstrated in the fact that God heard his prayer and kept the covenant that stated David’s kingdom would be that Kingdom which will never end.

The Devout Jebusite and David’s Sacrifice to God
We can now see also the wonderful traits of another man who was interested in the proceedings. No doubt there were several reasons why Araunah made his offer to David: He feared for David the king; he felt for the people; he was anxious for his own personal safety; and he, too, manifested a concern for the honour of God. Araunah was wining to make a huge and costly sacrifice. He was waling to do his share -- and more than his share. He was wining to give up his all to save both his life and the lives of others of Israel.

But the events demonstrated the character of David’s heart. He would not offer to God something that had not cost him anything. If he had accepted Araunah’s offer, the sacrifices would then be Araunah’s and not his. God had asked that David make the sacrifice, and David was not interested in looking for any other way but God’s way in the matter. He was willing to pay the entire price.

Any other course would not have been pleasing to God, who expects implicit obedience to each of His commands. As it was, even though David paid the full price for the land and the sacrifice, there was still a sacrifice made by Araunah. He was deprived of his homestead, and the livestock that he had used and depended upon. He had to start his life anew in some other place. But he surely would have considered his sacrifice more than worthwhile if he lived to see the day in which was revealed God’s plan for that particular plot of ground.

It has been said that the “place of deep consecration will become the temple of the living God.” This is true in a spiritual sense as well as in this literal, earthly sense. The place where this sacrifice was offered was Mount Moriah where the Temple was later built by Solomon. This place of sacrifice became the place where countless thousands of people prayed and received an answer to their prayers.

Think of the hundreds of thousands of sacrifices that were brought there, and received there by God! Think of the countless thousands of people who felt their sins forgiven there! Think of the many who were sanctified! Think of the many who were blessed! Ample payment, indeed, for the sacrifice made by both Araunah and David that a place might be provided for the worship of God.

God’s fire fell from Heaven on the offering David made there. The sacrifice was accepted. Forgiveness was complete. The plague was stopped there. God’s peace and approval was once again upon the nation, Israel, and upon their king, David. How wonderful the forgiveness and mercy of our God!

Questions: 

1. What sin did David commit at the time of this incident?
2. What motives were probably behind that sin?
3. How many times does Scripture record that a numbering of this kind was undertaken in Israel?
4. How did the hand of God change and render ineffective any false trusts that may have been David’s?
5. How was the sin punished?
6. What supernatural things took place concerning the punishment?
7. What traits of David’s character are shown in his choice of the methods of judgment?
8. Contrast the attitudes of David and Saul when they were each in trouble.
9. What commendable traits do you see in the attitude and conduct of Araunah?
10. Name two other events that took place on Mount Moriah, and tell what spiritual significance the three have.