(2 Samuel 24)
King David of Israel was undoubtedly Israel’s greatest king, whom the Lord said was a “man after His own Heart!’ (Acts 13:22) But even great men have their weak moments, and David was no exception. Although it was he who said, ‘There is no king saved by the size of his army, neither a mighty man delivered by much strength.’ (Psalm 33:16), there was a moment when David was tempted to rely on the military might of his armies for security.
During a brief period David temporarily lost the government of his kingdom. His rebellious young son, Absalom, conspired against the throne of his father by cunningly befriending many prominent men and people of Israel with his great promises and subtle, but very charming personality, The Bible says ‘he stole the hearts of the men of Israel.’ (2Samuel 15:6) However, Absalom’s rebel government was very short-lived, for there were still many loyal men of Israel who never lost faith in David’s God-appointed, faithful leadership.
Eventually bad Absalom met his end during a battle against David’s men. His armies were defeated, after which David was rightfully restored to the throne, ruling from his beloved city, Jerusalem, however after his return from exile, David, perhaps being somewhat shaken by the ordeal, forgot that God alone was his strength and shield. In an attempt to strengthen his kingdom’s defenses, He decided to build up a vast military force. So David decided to initiate a government project calling for a nationwide census to count the number of fighting men in all of Israel.
Even Joab, hardened soldier that he was, believed that David was making a mistake. And he said unto King David, “Nay the Lord your God multiply the size of your troops a hundred times over in your lifetime. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?” Joab knew that the Lord never liked His people to measure their faith by the strength of their numbers. (Judges 7:2)
But David refused to listen to Joab and insisted that the numbering be done. After nine months, the census was finished, and Joab returned with the figures. In all Israel and Judah there were 1,300,000 men who drew swords. Hardly had Joab left the king’s chamber, than David began to see his blunder. In all the years he had ruled Israel, David had demonstrated great faith and trust in God, and yet now he had fallen prey to the temptation of trusting in the arm of flesh.
As it dawned on him what he’d done, King David was conscience-stricken, and turning to the Lord, he poured out a prayer, confessing, “I have greatly sinned because I have done this thing. But now, 0 Lord, I beg of You, take away the guilt of Your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
The next morning, the Word of the Lord came to Gad, the Prophet, saying, “Go and tell David, I will give unto you three options, choose one of them for me to carry out against you.” Although David was sorry, there was a price he had to pay for his sin- three years of famine throughout all the land, or three months of invasion during which the King would be forced to flee before his enemies, or three days of pestilence with the Angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel.
It was a difficult decision to make, but finally David said, “I am in deep distress, but let us now fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great. But do not let me fall into the hands of men.” And so from that morning until the end of the three days, a great pestilence came upon Israel and 70,000 of the men which Joab had counted died.
Then it was that David saw a dreadful vision of the Angel of the Lord. The Angel stood poised between the Earth and the Heaven by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite with a mighty sword drawn in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem. It was then that David, in desperation, pleaded for God to spare the people of Jerusalem.
Taking all the blame upon himself, David cried, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? It is I that have sinned and done this evil. But as for these sheep, what have they done? Let Thy hand, I pray Thee, 0 Lord my God, be upon me and upon my father’s house, but not upon Thy people that they should be plagued.” Here we see the great love that dear King David had for his people.
And suddenly there came a message of God through the Prophet Gad, telling him to go to the threshing floor of Araunah to build an altar to the Lord there. And as David approached, Araunah and his four sons had been threshing wheat. But when they’d seen the Angel, they had hid themselves. Still trembling, they came out to meet their heavy-hearted king.
When David asked if he could buy the place so that he might build an altar there, Araunah generously replied, “Take it, my Lord, for yourself, and I will give you oxen for your burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for firewood. I will give it all unto you.” But David said, “No, I will pay the full price. I will not give unto the Lord that which hath cost me nothing!” (2Samuel 24:24)
So David paid Araunah and built an altar there and laid a sacrifice on it. Suddenly a brilliant flash of fire came out of Heaven, and the sacrifice was consumed in flame and smoke. This was a sign from the Lord that God had forgiven him. So the pestilence ended and the Angel with the sword was seen no more.

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