Characters such as Jacob, Moses and Joshua have received the honor of having their “last words” recorded. Jacob addresses his sons with a mix of observation, promise, and warning. Moses and Joshua each recount the favor of the LORD on the children of Israel and remind Israel to honor their covenant with Him.
In our first chapter today, David speaks the word of The Spirit of the LORD, reminding the next generation that, “when one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, He dawns on them like the morning light…” This oracle is followed by a register of David’s mighty men, recounting their importance in protecting David and securing the kingdom.
The final chapter of Samuel once again visits an earlier episode in David’s reign. The basic synopsis is this: the LORD’s anger was kindled against Israel, so He incited David against them. David calls for a census; Joab protests, sensing something is amiss, but David overrides him. God then uses this to inflict punishment on Israel, the instrument of which David has to choose. The angel of death sweeps Israel, stopping just short of Jerusalem, and David worships.
Everybody got that?
Don’t read this story without absorbing the first line, that the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He incited David against them… Everything that happens next is secondary to this premise. There don’t appear to be hidden meanings or arrangements here, and no amount of linguistic gymnastics avoids the assertion that the LORD caused David to sin in order to have a reason to punish Israel.
This is not unprecedented. The LORD demonstrated His supremacy over Pharaoh by grabbing Pharaoh’s heart and compelling him to recklessness. It is not impossible that the moments when Moses intervened between the LORD’s anger and Israel in the wilderness tests similar to this moment with David. This could plausibly fit the author’s story arc showing the ability and integrity David had lost after his sin with Bathsheba.
Also of interest is the reason for which the plague was halted: When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” This could perhaps be a primary lesson for the author, showing the LORD’s continued favor for David’s capital and presenting hope for protection for future generations.
But this is all speculation. As I’ve said many times, the primary character of this book is the LORD, and we have to add this event to our map of the LORD’s character. Read it slowly and carefully.
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
2 Samuel 23 and 24. Now let’s read it!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.