David was nearing the end of his life and he decided to take a census of his army. We may think that this is no big deal, but it reveals that pride had crept into his heart. David may have wanted to see how big his army was so that he could boast in his achievements. However, God had already given strict instructions about the way to take a census (Exodus 30:11-16) and it appears that David did not follow these instructions.
The consequences for David and the people of Israel were a terrible plague. David admitted that he was wrong and pleaded for God’s mercy. The place where the angel of the LORD stopped the plague was at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
2 Samuel 24:18-25
On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”
“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”
Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.”
But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
David wants to thank God for his mercy in stopping the plague. Araunah, probably terrified of the plague and overawed by the king, tries to persuade David to take the land for free. But David insists on paying the full price for the land.
David’s words ‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing’ are a challenge to us when we think about our response to God’s mercy. We cannot earn God’s mercy and we don’t deserve it. But now that we have been forgiven, how do we respond to God?
When we gather together on a Sunday, do we turn up at the last minute and go through the motions of singing familiar songs or do we come prepared to listen to God, and to serve others?
When we go to work, do we do the absolute minimum and moan about our boss or do we do everything to the best of our ability, even when nobody is looking?
The story of David: Part 11 Read 2 Samuel chapters 20 to 24.