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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: 2 Samuel 24:16-25, God’s Intense Mercy, provides deep theological insight into how the Lord used the disastrous census to become a key part of God's overal redemption plan. Mount Moriah becomes the place of the temple as well as the place Jesus would offer up His life. This section is part of David's Great Failure (2 Samuel 24).
David found the mercy that he had so desperately waited for (2 Samuel 24:16).
“When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity, and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (2 Samuel 24:16).
What follows is a bit unclear. We are not sure of the time sequence. There seems to be a definite time limit appointed. “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time...” (2 Samuel 24:15).
However, we find in 2 Samuel 24:25 that the Lord was moved by entreaty for the land.
“And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the LORD was moved by entreaty for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel” (2 Samuel 24:25).
It seems quite evident from David’s heart (2 Samuel 24:17) that he was seeking God’s mercy from day one. When the angel approached Jerusalem, the judgment had already largely been carried out. At a certain point God’s mercy could be activated by David’s prayer and so revealed the angel to him.
We are to conclude that God wanted David to respond in such a way so to entreat God so that He would stop. To further this purpose the Lord showed David the angel striking down the people and so David, humbled in heart, admitted blame and begged the Lord to not strike the people.
“Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, “Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Thy hand be against me and against my father’s house.”” (2 Samuel 24:17).
It appears that this view of the angel striking down people instigated David to a yet deeper confession. Was it because of this more sincere confession that God decided not to strike Jerusalem? We are not sure because David’s prayer is placed after the Lord’s decision was made. On the other hand, the angel was still striking people down (24:25) so there is some indication that David’s prayer preceded and influenced at least some aspect of God’s decision.
David found the mercy that he had so desperately waited for! Never think your prayer is of no purpose. It is never too late to pray. There still might be some judgment, but mercy can make it not so bad. Diligently seek God’s mercy.
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￼The place, the altar and the occasion all were no accident. God brought abounding mercy in the midst of judgment.
The sacrifice directed by the prophet became a type portraying the kind of sacrifice that would later be offered on that very spot.
Christ would later give up his life on Mount Moriah. David insisted that he pay for the altar and sacrifice. He built the altar (and later the temple) there on Mt. Moriah.
“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared, on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” (2 Chronicles 3:1).
Mount Moriah was, of course, the place Abraham was directed to offer up Isaac (Genesis 22). It also would be the place the temple would be built. Though David could not build it, he still used his last years to prepare for the temple. It was on Mt. Moriah that Jesus was offered up as the sacrifice.
Only in the very end do we see God’s wrath abated. It was the prayer and the altar with the sacrifice that appeased God’s anger (which affirms the root problem of taking a census). The plague was held back.
This is meant to provide a glimpse into the work of Christ. Through Christ (the Messiah), God’s wrath is appeased and we go free. “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2). While this sacrifice managed to spare some from the wrath of God, Christ’s sacrifice would be a propitiation (satisfying sacrifice) of people from all over the world.
The place of this last chapter and its last verses is meant to focus our attention to the greater sacrifice and temple that would be made someday in Christ.
Israel has matured since the beginning of 1 Samuel. The people rejected the Lord as king and wanted their own king. Saul and David were not real solutions, however! God was so patient with His people.
David did not qualify to be that great King to lead the people. His decisions brought death. David’s little altar abated this one swing of God’s scythe of wrath, but would it be sufficient to hold back God’s mighty wrath toward the nations? Indeed not. They hoped for a Savior in the Messiah.
Reflection: Share one warning and encouragement you gained from your study of Samuel
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988