With today’s reading we finish the book of 2 Samuel, and 95% of David’s life. The writer of 2 Samuel gives us here, at the end of the book and toward the close of what is known about David’s life, an inspiring summary of the man after God’s own heart. David certainly had his weaknesses — adultery, deceit, murder, violence, a surprising permissiveness toward his own household, and sometimes an even a greater faith in politics and military might than in God — but his heart still belonged to the Lord. His failings, as serious as they were, weren’t typical of his life; rather they were the exceptions. And that should give courage to all us Christian strugglers.
Chapter 22 is essentially Psalm 18 — a beautiful psalm that expresses David’s great faith and love for God. It is, in fact, the basis of a song that you are likely to sing in worship or a youth group devotional, “I will call upon the Lord”. Part of its beauty is its background and context in David’s life, at the pinnacle of his reign, before his sin with Bathsheba. David had seen more than just a little struggle in his life — not only on the battlefield, but as an outlaw, as a new king with a rival, as the leader of a rising regional power, and more. But through them all, David had overcome by relying on God and doing what was right.
Now, of course, it must be realized that righteousness is no guarantor of protection (witness: Job), however, righteousness, being the wisdom of God, quite naturally has good and positive outcomes for those who obey. And there is no better way to please the One who has the power to protect, to deliver, to rescue, and to reward than to be obedient from the heart out of love. This is David’s praise to God and wise counsel to all of us. There is no praise as elegant in God’s eyes as obedience offered in love. Conversely, there is no praise as empty, there is no proclamation of love as hollow as that offered by the disobedient.
In chapter 23 the focus switches to David’s mighty men. There are some great mini-stories here, not the least of which is the relatively famous story of the water his loyal men fetched for him from Bethlehem as a gift. Sometimes readers have difficulty understanding why David would pour it out on the ground and refuse to drink it. From our perspective it looks a little like ingratitude to a virtual herculean task. But actually, this was a high compliment to both his men and to God. The water brought to David at such great risk was considered by David to be too precious by far to be consumed in a gulp. By giving it to God in a libation offering, David expressed to his men how very, very much he appreciated what they had done and in what high esteem he held their gift — only the very best was good enough for the LORD. And David was expressing to God how much he loved Him — offering to the LORD something so highly esteemed and rare. What have you offered to the LORD lately?
Finally, David “stumps his toe” one more time in his faith. That was what was wrong with the census; it was a failure of faith in God. 35 to 40 years before this David would have been saying,
“Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.”” 1 Samuel 17:45-47, NAS95.
For this unfaithfulness, God (to make a long story short) sent a plague on David’s kingdom, which would among other things make David’s previous census meaningless. In a desperate attempt to stop the plague that was ravaging his people, David (on advice from Gad, the prophet) sought to buy the threshing floor of Araunah, just to the north of the City of David (the older part of Jerusalem) to build an altar and offer a sacrifice. When Araunah found out why David wanted to buy the threshing floor, he was “all in” and wanted to give David the threshing floor, the oxen, and threshing sledges to perform this offering. But David, showing his older and truer spiritual sensibilities, refused:
“…“No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.” 2 Samuel 24:24, NAS95.
David would only offer to the LORD what cost him something. There’s no “re-gifting” for David, when it came to the LORD. There was nothing second-hand or second-best or discounted for God — God deserved the best, the most precious.
And by the way, part of the reason that this story is told is because the offering was effective and this was the place where the plague stopped. Therefore, it became the place for the Temple of Solomon, the hill just to the north of old Jerusalem. Which is also the traditional spot of Moriah, the place where Abraham offered Isaac.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.