David’s Trespass and Its Aftermath
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 11, Apr 2019
Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 21:1-27
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, 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. So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 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. 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. So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. 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. 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. 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. 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. And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 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. 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. 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. 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. So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 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. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.
At some point in David’s reign, the king decides to take a military census. The writer says that Satan incites David, and despite the urging of Joab, David commands that his people be numbered. The census is incomplete, as Joab resists, and David realizes he has sinned. The Prophet Gad relays God’s unusual command: David is to select his own punishment. David chooses a plague, and when David prays for mercy, he is instructed to build an altar on a specific site. David purchases the field on that site and offers the required sacrifice. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
1. The Spiritual World
There are two angelic personalities mentioned in this portion of scripture. Satan, found in verse 1 which says, ‘And Satan stood up against Israel’ and the other is the Angel of the LORD found in verse 15 which says, ‘And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it.’ This angel of the LORD is the means of YHWH’s judgment on David and Israel. We loved to watch the Avenger, especially the last one that is coming out at the end of this month. From the Avenger we learned there is a lot of beings in this Universe. Well, I don’t believe in other beings beside human because it is not mentioned in the bible but I believe there is a spiritual world and they are real. We have Satan who is a created being who serves God in the Old Testament. The Angel of the LORD is a personal way of showing YHWM’s presence and actions. Our planet and all matter in the universe are affected by the spiritual realm. The book of Revelation is clear that behind human history stands the sovereign creator, redeemer God. Exactly how His guidance and will are manifested is hidden. Also, from this portion of Scripture it presents God as the first cause and the only cause of all things. Yes, there is a devil yet YHWH is the first cause in that he allowed it. It is common in the Old Testament for all causality to be attributed to God as a way to express His sovereignty. But it would be going too far to attribute God as the source of evil, disease, and human tragedy! This world has been affected by sin and rebellion, both angelic and human. This is not the world God intended it to be but His actions are moving to a permanent resolution of the conflict. We are caught up in the midst of the conflict, but He is with and for His own.
Going back to the story; Satan provoked David to sin (number Israel). The devil will tempt you to sin. As a Pastor I do experience the temptation to sin. I realize that only a close relationship with God will empower you to be sensitive and stronger to reject sins. There is one thing that is very cruel of Satan. He will tempt you to sin and after you sin, he will accuse you of sin. He will go to the court in Heaven and accuse you before God. He is the adversary. The Hebrew word used here, ‘Satan’ means ‘accuser’ or ‘adversary’. In this instance, the term could refer to an anonymous human adversary. He is what we call the anonymous human accuser. He is without any name acknowledged but is the author and contributor of the accusation . He goes to the divine court and accuse you. He had his case and his case is always backed up with proof. That means you really had done something wrong. You had sinned. Going back to our experience in life, there are many times where some bad things happened to you and you know someone accuses you but you don’t know who did it. That is Satan the anonymous human accuser. Apparently, he ‘moved David to number Israel’. David wanted to know the strength of his military, because David’s entire reign has been filled with wars, but in so doing, demonstrated a lack of trust in God’s promise and presence to give victory. One wonder how this census was considered to be sin. Some commentator says it is to see the extent of his achievement and to claim glory for himself. David was proud of the multitude of his people. The sin of David here was pride. What a contrast this is to David, the shepherd boy, when he came into the camp and saw the great giant Goliath strutting up and down defying Israel. This little shepherd boy didn’t want to take a census; he didn’t number the army. He just said, ‘Let me go out after him’ Why did he have the courage to do it? Well, he trusted the Lord. He went out with a sling and five stones! My friend you don’t feel the need of God when you have one million men. The census told us there was 1.1 million soldier and the counting is still not over. When you have only a slingshot and five stones, you know you need Him. But the emphasis in my sermon is not the type of sin but that David sinned. Satan tempted David and David sinned and Satan accused him before the divine court.
2. David Accepts Responsibility
1 Chronicles 21:7 says ‘And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.’ I can be the cause of this church’s punishment. I can be the cause of my family or my children’s punishment. You can be the cause of what happened to your children.
As a parent, discipline is involved. Likewise, the same goes with God. Pastor Lily always say that that I am very fast to point out that someone is going through some punishment because of his or her sin but when it comes to me, I did not point the finger at myself. Well, she is wrong. She doesn’t know me and what is inside my mind and head. When something happens to this church or my family, I do know that I am the cause and I do confess my sin to YHWH.
The most important thing here is David confessed that he had sinned greatly. Although David sinned, he was quick to confess and humble himself before the LORD. David’s response was much better than most believers show when caught in some major sin or disobedience. This should be the habit of our life. There are many of us here that when something is done wrong or when we have sinned there is always an explanation and he or she is never in the wrong. There was a sister who stole something from Pastor Lily and initially the confession was ‘wai eh’. Later when something bad starts to happen to the family, she finally came to see Pastor Lily and yet the explanation is ‘a voice in my head told me to steal this thing’. What she is saying is that the devil made me do it. That is not true confession. Learn to accept responsibility. Two points are important here. First, while others incited David, and thus were responsible for their acts, David remained fully responsible for his moral decision. While others encourage, goad you, and true they were responsible for their acts but you remain fully responsible for your moral decision. We can never honestly say, ‘The devil made me do it’ for ultimately, we make our own free choice, and are responsible for what we do. Second, the motives from none of the parties are clear. Satan, the persistent enemy of God’s people, may have been motivated by nothing more specific than general hostility. David’s motives remain a mystery too. It is like saying the sin of David is not that great or not that clear. This chapter deals with the greatest sin that David committed. It is the kind of sin about which folk say, ‘Well, I can’t see why this is such a great sin,’ ‘I can’t see why this is such a big deal.’ Everyone seems to think that the matter of Bathsheba is a terrible sin, and I’m in that number: I agree it was an awful sin. But in Chronicles God did not record David’s sin with Bathsheba but He does record this sin of numbering the people because it is a greater sin and on the spiritual level. The sin of David in numbering Israel won’t affect David’s salvation one whit, but it certainly is going to affect him and the nation of Israel in their personal relationship with God. Many of us commit a grave error when we do wrong we say, ‘I can’t see why this is such a great sin.’ To be honest, when preparing this message, I was very convicted and remined of the purchase of this land without the approval of my ex organization. There was one person who says to me ‘I don’t see what is the sin in your purchase of this land.’ I kind of believe him. I was wrong. When I prepared this message, I realized this is probably the greatest sin in my life. Because it is on a spiritual level. It affects many people in this church and our ex-organization in their personal relationship with God. I know it affects my children, my wife, my staff, all the workers of JECPP and many members of this church who are no more here. Whatever motive caused you to do wrong, true confession is ‘I have sinned greatly.’ Concerning the purchase of this land that was kept from my boss, I think untold times I come to YHWH and say, ‘YHWH I confessed that I have sinned against you. That I have done this thing. I beseech you. Do away this thing. Do away this punishment. I have done foolishly.’ But this morning I begin to see more clearly the gravity of this sin.
3. A prophet
I Chronicles 21:9-10 says, ‘And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, Go and tell David saying, Thus said the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.’
Gad is a seer. A seer is a prophet in the Old Testament. A seer is also considered a wisemen. A seer can also be a scribe, like Jabez a person knowledgeable with the Torah, the bible of the Old Testament. How does God point out your sin? Through the Prophet, Pastor and even a Christian well versed with the word of God. Sis Kabayao, I noticed that she had a tremendous respect towards her first pastor in Iloilo Baptist Church. Every time she mentioned about Pastor Acosta, there is nothing but respect that came out of her mouth. At times she would pity her pastor. The pressure on her pastor at times was unbearable and he did break down in the pulpit at one time. But the point I want to bring out in this example is at times after the service, members would approach the pastor and accuse him to talking bad about them in the pulpit concerning some thing these members had done that was wrong. Of course, the Pastor was not giving example of them on the pulpit. It was the conviction of the word of God that pointed out the sins of these people. To me if a prophet pointed out a sin in your life or a sermon from the pastor pointed out your sins, then be like David, ‘I am sinned greatly, YHWH I confessed that I have sinned against you. That I have done this thing. I beseech you. Do away this thing. Do away this chastisement. I have done thoughtlessly.’ Then YHWH will relent. But if you continue to deny and even accuse, well, I think you are in for big trouble. I can tell without finding out that those members that accuses Sis Kabayao’s pastor, that they had been dealt severely by God in life’s journey. The Prophet, the Pastor and the wisemen that came into your life to speak to you something; they have one thing in common; they have the prophetic anointing.
4. 3 Choices
I Chronicles 21:12 says, ‘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 hall bring again to him that sent me.’
This is the only place in the Bible where God gives someone options on punishment. Because of David’s lack of trust, publicly demonstrated, we see
1. Israel as a whole can have three years of famine
2. Israel can be defeated by her enemies militarily for three months
3. Israel can be struck with a pestilence for three days
Actually, all forms of punishment affects your family as a whole. Your sin affects your family. Even though the Old Testament affirms the consequences of corporate sin, here it highlights the seeming unfairness of it. The corporate aspect is retained in the fact that David’s sin will affect his own family. Sin will affect your family.
David wouldn’t want to fall into the hands of the enemies. I don’t think anyone of us wants to fall into the hands of our enemies. Some of us experience years of famine.
It was described by Josephus that when David chose the pestilence for three days, they did not die in one and the same manner. Now the disease itself was indeed miserable, but it was carried out in ten thousand causes and occasions. Those afflicted could not understand, for one died upon the neck of another, and for another the terrible malady seized them suddenly. Some gave up the ghost immediately and other endure great pains and bitter grief. There were those that were worn away with nothing to burn. Some were choked and others lamented their case. Also, there were others while burying their dead were suddenly stricken without finishing the burial. All this disease began in the wee hours of the morning and last till the evening with 70000 dead in three days. Wow! What a large number of fellow covenant brothers dying and suffering for David’s sin. This corporate aspect of Judgement really bothers modern believers.
5. God Can Transform our Sins and Failure and Bring Good out of Evil
1 Chronicles 21:15 says, ‘the LORD saw and was sorry over the calamity.’ David threw himself into the mercy of YHWH. In 1 Chronicles 21:13 he says ‘for His mercies are very great.’ The term ‘mercies’ is also translated as ‘compassion.’ The Hebrew word is ‘rachamin’ which refers to God’s deeply felt compassion. David knew this aspect of God. David chose to fall into the hand of God before he knew God was merciful. In Psalms 51 David related his sin with Bathsheba and his premeditated murder of Uriah. David also knew YHWH’s judgment well; the death of his son. It is very painful to see the death of your loved ones and the death of 70000 people. The punishment for sins are always painful. Yet the bible says that YHWH beheld and he repented of the evil and said it is enough. Obviously, it affected God also!
I always felt that God spared Etab in 2012. I mean Etab could have been taken by our ex-organization which Pastor Lily and I would have been prepared for, because we were not building our own kingdom. I believe if that happened, the whole church would have split into multiple parts. It is so interesting that after three days, when the angel of death was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, YHWH said ‘it is enough’. The Angel of Death stood between heaven and earth floating in the sky, having a sword drawn in his hand. The bible says in 1 Chronicles 21:16 the angel ‘standing between earth and heaven’. This would denote just above the earth’s surface. This is similar to Daniel’s powerful angelic visions. The sword stretch out in His hand was toward Jerusalem. David was in sackcloth a symbol of humiliation and repentance. The Threshing floor was one of the 7 mountains in Israel. This same threshing floor was Mount Moriah where Abraham offered up Isaac for sacrifice. This threshing floor became the site for the future Temple designed by David and built by Solomon. In 2012 we lost a lot of things but YHWH spared Etab. YHWH in the midst of the judgment YHWH helps us build Etab. YHWH moved us to come over to this plot of land and built a tabernacle to gather and worship him.
1 Chronicles is interested in YHWH’s involvement in the site of the temple. YHWH was definitely involved in the construction of Etab. David realizes that the LORD has used his sin redemptively, for God has chosen this very site for the temple. God can transform our sins and failures and bring good out of evil. This is what happened to Etab. YHWH wanted the site and Etab to be a place for sacrifice, for forgiveness of sin and for atonement. Many people in this world and even the church people need this place, Etab, to be a place for forgiveness of sin, for atonement, for sacrifice.
God directed David to build an altar there and to offer sacrifices. We are told that David would not offer burnt offering that cost him nothing. Verse 24 is an important spiritual principle: effective sacrifice is always costly. I have been studying the bible lately and I found out that one of the aspects of real worship is sacrifice. You notice that before YHWH gives a blessing, he wants a sacrifice. He asked Abraham for a sacrifice at Mount Moriah before the descendant of Abraham can be permanently blessed. He asked Gideon for a sacrifice before He blesses Gideon by giving him victory over his enemies. He ask Elijah for a sacrifice at Mount Carmel before He send rains. Here he ask David for a sacrifice. And David will not offer offering that cost him nothing. You cannot serve God without offering a sacrifice. If you want blessing from God, YHWH will ask you for a sacrifice. If you want a permanent blessing, victories over your enemies, shows of blessings, God ask for a sacrifice. Most likely your blessing has not come yet because the sacrifice has not been undertaken yet. I told YHWH, ‘YHWH lily and I offer the $115000 for the construction of the tabernacle. Lily and I offer another sacrifice of $115000 for the payment of the land. You cannot pretend you love God and have never really given a sacrifice for God. When the money was not enough to finish the construction, Pastor Lily lent another 600,000 pesos for the construction. Yes, YHWH paid back by the free tuition of Jan in France. David gave 600 shekels of gold. It must have been a very expensive land that David purchased. Today the temple mount is the most sought-after land in the Middle East. The Middle Eastern people will be willing to pay hundreds of billions if it can be sold.
The bible says YHWH answered by fire upon the altar. Something miraculous happened. If you want miracles for your situation, maybe YHWH is asking for a sacrifice. The answer by fire is a symbol of acceptance of YHWH on the sacrifice. This is also the only time YHWH calls for the construction of an altar to Himself. This site became ‘the place which the LORD God shall choose’ This site will later become the site of Solomon’s temple on Mount Moriah. This special place is illustrated as the place of forgiveness and atonement. Etab is to be a place of forgiveness and atonement for sins. And YHWH acceptance of the place and the sacrifice is demonstrated by fire from heaven and sword returned to the sheath.