Posted by: arieliondotcom | April 18, 2013

An Uncomfortable Peace (2 Samuel 24)

An Uncomfortable Peace
(2 Samuel 24)

The book of 2 Samuel ends on an uncomfortable note. First, it’s out of sequence. The last chapter had David making his last prophetic words and suddenly he’s in another adventure. As we saw in the last chapter, though, it’s as if David is flashing back over his life. There were no chapters or verses in the original Scriptures. Those were only added thousands of years later when the common people had copies and could read and follow along. So this chapter is really an extension of the last chapter. It’s another memory David has, as he remembered the men who’d fought by his side and devoted themselves to him. Now David is remembering something painful. Perhaps after thinking of Uriah the Hittite at the end of the last chapter. Uriah was among David’s valiant warriors yet David betrayed Uriah and had him killed over lust for his wife. That may have stirred this memory of another judgment on David for another reason.

We’re not told what the reason was. That’s another reason this chapter is uncomfortable. Perhaps because it’s a memory, we’re told GOD is angry again but no reason behind it. He always seems to be angry. David had been praising GOD a while back but here it’s like GOD is the strict disciplinarian again. What’s more, we’re told GOD stirred up David’s heart to do something wrong. What?! That’s against everything we know about GOD. GOD tempts no one. But He does allow evil spirits to tempt (as He allowed Satan to tempt JESUS, though JESUS never took the bait, in the desert and allowed evil spirits to deceive kings GOD was about to destroy). Here he allows David to indulge pride and count how big his kingdom really is. He’s not adding evil to David but allowing natural evil in David to act without stopping it. Pride of the flesh is always at work and sometimes GOD allows the barrier to be lowered so we fall into it.

Even Joab, David’s dishonorable commander, knows this is wrong. He’s uncomfortable doing this because GOD doesn’t like censuses. It smacks too much of thinking the king had grown or won battles from his natural power rather than by GOD. But Joab “cooks the books”, so to speak. Rabbi interpreters say there are discrepencies in the numbers here and elsewhere because Joab, always treacherous, wasn’t sure why David was doing this. So Joab had different systems of counting to give David different answers depending on what David wanted to hear. Having David acting so irrationally would have been terrifying to Joab. David had plenty of reason to kill him already and could, like Saul before him, have wanted to kill for no reason at all. Not giving the king what he wanted, right or wrong, was death.

It’s only after nearly 10 months, when Joab gives a reply to David, that David comes to his senses and repents before GOD, asking what he should do as penance.

Notice several things. First, this repentance is not only for David allowing his pride to run wild when GOD had allowed the fence to be lowered. That had only happened to get David’s attention for the unmentioned offense GOD was planning to judge Israel for anyway. So as David is praying in repentance GOD sends a prophet to tell him three choices for punishment. All three involve all of those people he just counted (because GOD had always intended to punish all of Israel for what offended Him, not just David for succumbing to pride). But notice too just saying “sorry” isn’t enough. Sometimes we must sacrifice in order to make things right. And GOD demanding anything of us also makes us uncomfortable.

David chooses the third choice, not only because it’s the shortest (three days opposed to seven years or three months) but because it was purely from the Hand of GOD. GOD is always more merciful than our fellow humans are. It may not seem that way but even the judgment of GOD and death by His Hand is more merciful than the so-called kindness of sinful humans who are either acting from self-interest or allowing your sin to increase.

So David chooses having the Angel of Death kill Israelites for three days. Seventy thousand men, a potential army, were killed. It was as if GOD said “Now you can subtract 70,000 from that big army you just counted.”

We are uncomfortable with this side of GOD. We only love the GOD of pleasure. We love the Daddy of candy. We don’t want to love the GOD of the punishment. We scream “You’re not my Daddy!” when He picks us up to spank us when we touch the oven He told us not to touch. But David knows even the horror of death is merciful because GOD is merciful. We forget when we see people die that Life is GOD’s idea. We blame Him for taking the good we don’t deserve and assume what He has for us afterward is worse because we don’t believe He intends the best for us.

But though all Israel deserves to die, GOD stops the Angel of Death as it hovers in the air over the threshing floor of Araunah.

If you’re familiar with Scripture that phrase threshing floor should be familiar. It was on the threshing floor of Boaz that Ruth and Boaz made a pact to marry if a closer relative would’t take her. The city of Jerusalem had been called Jebus (with a “b”), which means threshing floor, before David conquered it and renamed it City of Peace. It was here the wheat was seperated from the inedible chaff, the good from the bad, the useful from the nonuseful. And it was here that GOD told the angel to stop killing the people of Israel.

This angel literally hovered in the air and could be seen. We’ll learn more details in Chronicles about how Araunah (or Ornah) who owned the threshing floor and his sons hid seeing from the angel.

David called out to GOD to have mercy (that GOD was already showing, by the way). Remembering his time as shepherd, David offers himself in the place of the people, his sheep. GOD sends him to the threshing floor where the angel is hovering and the owner is cowering to buy it and build an altar.

David won’t accept the place for free from Araunah and pays for it to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to GOD. And an uncomfortable peace is made with GOD. It’s like when a child snuggles, still shaking from sobs, in the arms of the father who spanked him for disobeying.

We don’t like seeing GOD in this chapter but we should love Him for it. Because it shows that He meets us at the threshing floor. David’s altar will later become the very spot where the Temple is built and sacrifices are made to make peace with the GOD of all comforts. The threshing floor, like discipline, removes the unprofitable. And one day thousands of years later, the Prince of Peace will stand in that Temple, on that threshing floor. He will call the wheat to be gathered to Himself to escape the angel of death. He will allow Himself to be beaten on our behalf though there is no sin to remove of His own.

David’s memory is of an unconfortable peace with GOD. But he knew, through tears, that discomfort was merciful.

Perhaps it was on the very threshing floor in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, where Ruth and Boaz made their pact that a manger was built for an inn. A manger where what had been gathered from the threshing floor was usually lain for cattle to eat. Now it held the baby whose Life would be the Wheat grown into JESUS the Bread of Life. Until we accept what Christ has done the angel of death hovers. Only The sacrifice of JESUS, once and for all for us, can give us true comfort and peace. Not as we expect or want, but as He is and wants us to be.

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