Again, we’re in territory which repeats much that we’ve already read, as David establishes his kingdom, deals with other nations and is held back from building the Temple. There’s also the strange story of the census taken under David, and God’s judgement on Israel because of it.
As yesterday, there are a few things that stand out – if they were there in the Samuel-Kings account of David, I didn’t notice them! They come out in three verses that speak of David’s character.
When the LORD declares that David is not to build a house for him, but that he will build a house for David – a lasting dynasty – David responds in prayer. And his prayer is one that echoes Psalm 8 – of wonder that God has chosen to look upon him ‘as someone of high rank’. Admittedly, David was indeed of quite high rank in human terms – but the same amazing truth applies to all of us when we remember that God chooses to look upon us and see the sister or brother of his own son, Jesus. David didn’t take God’s generous assessment of him for granted, and nor should we.
Whether it was spurred by pride in his nation’s strength or by a lack of confidence in the LORD’s capacity and will to fight for Israel, David’s census led to judgement. The Chronicler mentions Satan as stirring David in this – I think it’s the first time that Satan has been mentioned by name, and don’t remember him appearing in 2 Samuel. There, it was the LORD himself who incited David to count the nation. Here it’s Satan. I’m really not sure quite what to make of this – perhaps the later writer is developing a different view of the LORD, more consistent with human ethics, and a more developed picture of the spiritual opposition which afflicts Israel. I must admit it’s a picture with which I’m more comfortable, but I hadn’t realised there’d be such a clear change of explanation between the two accounts.
David chose to throw himself on the LORD’s mercy rather than that of his enemies. And then he pleaded for his people. He took responsibility for his own actions, and asked that the judgement should fall upon him and his family, not on his people. That’s leadership.
David’s integrity in worship
Following the end of the plague, David built an altar as the LORD directed him, and offered sacrifice. The owner of the land on which the altar was built offered the land and all that was needed for the sacrifice, free of charge. David refused, with the inspiring words ‘I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’ (21:24)
That’s a challenge to all of us in worshipping God – we can only bring what is our own, and should only bring that which is of value to us. If our worship and discipleship depend only on the offerings of others, we are not offering ourselves to God, and cannot expect that, even if he hears our prayer, we will be transformed by meeting him. The more of ourselves, and the more of what we value, we offer to God, the more we will be touched and changed by his love and glory.
I will not offer to God that which cost me nothing.