Friday, November 05, 2021

2021.11.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 24:1–10

Read 2 Samuel 24:1–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What was aroused (2 Samuel 24:1)? Against whom? Whom did Yahweh move against Israel? What did He move him to do? Whom did David task with this (2 Samuel 24:2)? From where to where? With what blessing does Joab initially reply (2 Samuel 24:3)? And with what question does he follow? What does this imply about Joab’s position on numbering the people? Whose word wins (2 Samuel 24:4)? Against whose? So who go out from where to do what? Over what do Joab and the captains cross (2 Samuel 24:5)? Where do they camp? To what places do they come in 2 Samuel 24:6? And where in 2 Samuel 24:7? How long does it take them to complete the task (2 Samuel 24:8)? What does Joab do when they return (2 Samuel 24:9)? How many of what kind of man were there in Israel? How many in Judah? Who condemned David (2 Samuel 24:10)? When? To Whom does he speak about this? What does he say he has done? What does he ask Yahweh to do? 

Because we have “short” sermons on the Lord’s Day afternoons, we really can’t tackle the entire chapter at once, like we would want to do for a sermon. This chapter sits squarely at the end of 2 Samuel because the site of this altar would become the site of the temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:28–22:5). David’s story is not so much about what he did for Israel during his life as it is about his preparation for the temple, and for Him to Whom both David and the temple pointed forward. David’s story is about the God Who displays Himself by bearing wrath in the place of sinners. So the main part that our ten verses play in this is showing how very much we are in danger of the wrath, which God Himself has borne in Christ.

Yahweh is angry with sinners, 2 Samuel 24:1a. Scholars spend a lot of time trying to figure out why the Lord was angry in this particular instance. But it’s precisely because the Lord doesn’t give us that information, that when “scholars” try to do so, they have to spend so much ink on it. If we’re familiar with Old Testament Israel, we don’t really need specifics. They were constantly sinning in abominable ways. And so are we, if only we have the eyes and the honesty to see and admit it to ourselves. Perhaps the real question isn’t “why was Yahweh’s anger aroused in this instance,” but rather, “why wasn’t Yahweh’s anger always thus aroused against Israel?” The answer, generally speaking, is grace and mercy. The answer, specifically speaking, is that it was through this nation that He intended to bring that grace and mercy in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Our sinfulness is itself a judgment against us, verse 1b. It seems that many are troubled by the providence of Yahweh’s anger inciting David against Israel. How can the Lord punish for that which His providence provoked? Satan’s involvement in 1 Chronicles 21:1 doesn’t really provide much relief; that comes, after all, in the intentional providence of God in 2 Samuel 24:1. The reality is that, like Pharaoh, David didn’t need help mistrusting God’s faithfulness to multiply Israel beyond number (cf. 2 Samuel 24:3, 1 Chronicles 27:23). Apart from grace, David’s heart is full of that mistrust. It was only God’s grace that ever gave David a moment of believing the promise and not feeling the need to number the people. And the same is true of us and our sinfulness. We perpetually have within ourselves the “raw material” for God to use as a judgment upon us. And when He leaves us to ourselves, it is in fact a provocation and hardening and judgment… and one that we justly deserve.

Inability to receive correction is indicative of judgment, 2 Samuel 24:2-4. One of the ways that it comes out that this sticks out as a judgment against David and against Israel is that he does not receive correction. Joab tried to talk to David out of it. Evidently (2 Samuel 24:4) the captains of the army tried too. “The king’s word prevailed” because God’s judgment was prevailing. Perhaps you have been in situations where you were glad that your word prevailed. Perhaps you will be in future situations where you would like your word to prevail. Keep in mind that getting your way isn’t necessarily a good thing. In this case, it was a positively bad thing. Ask God to give you a soft heart, so that others’ correction can be a means of sparing you from following your own sin.

A heart that doesn’t condemn you is indicative of judgment, 2 Samuel 24:5-10. There’s a significant amount of effort and a significant amount of traveling in 2 Samuel 24:5-7. One might wonder why give us the route and order in these three verses. 2 Samuel 24:8 makes it plain: to slow down the text so that we can feel the full “nine months and twenty days” of the numbering task. Not “approximately ten months” but exactly “nine months and twenty days.” Some 295 days during which David’s heart might have slain him, as it once had done in just a few seconds (cf. 1 Samuel 24:4–7) . Only, the self-smiting function of his heart was out of order for nine months and twenty days. 

Coming right off of the mention of Uriah at the end of last chapter, this reminds us a bit of how David’s sin against him had just kept snowballing until Nathan the prophet finally visited with the story about the old man and the ewe lamb. O how desperately we need hearts that are kept tender and ready to condemn us! Ask God for a tender, swift conscience; listen to it, and keep it in good condition by quickness to repent! But we have often ignored the complaints of conscience and even fallen altogether out of the habit of listening to it. And we have often shown ourselves difficult to correct. And we have often given in rather easily to temptations that our remaining sinfulness was just waiting for an opportunity to take. All of this shows us how rightly God’s wrath might fall upon us apart from Christ. All of this shows how grateful we ought to be that He has provided a sacrifice!

What are you doing in order to maintain a tender conscience? How do you respond to correction? What are some indicators that you realize how badly you need Christ and His sacrifice?

Sample prayer:  O Lord, truly You are constantly patient with us. How rightly Your anger might be aroused against us at any time, but we enjoy mercy upon mercy from the goodness of Your hand! Because You have loved us and given Christ for us, grant unto us to be quick to see our need for forgiveness; and, make us quick to see, in Christ, Your provision for that forgiveness. Do not let us become means of our own judgment, or judgment upon our family, church, or nation. For, we ask it through Christ, Who is our Righteousness, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP51AB “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

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