And Joab reported to the king the total number of the troops. In Israel there were 800,000 valiant warriors who drew the sword, and in Judah there were 500,000.
I. THE DEVOTED LOVE OF CHRIST'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS TO HIMSELF.
1. They show sincere and practical regard to his every wish. They do not need explicit commands in detail, still less accompanying threatenings. Enough if they can ascertain what he desires; and their love for him and converse with him enable them to know his wishes without definite verbal revelations or laws. A large portion of the life of many modern Christians, especially in the departments of Christian zeal and benevolence, is founded on no express command, but springs from love and sympathy - from that participation of the Spirit of Christ which produces intuitive discernment of his will, and that devoted attachment which prompts to the gratification of his every wish.
2. They are ready to encounter danger in his service. The work of Christ makes at times great demands on love, zeal, and courage. It cannot be done without hazard; but his true-hearted friends are prepared to endure the toil and brave the peril. Not a few in our own day may be described as "men that have hazarded their lives for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26). This spirit of Christian heroism is not confined to the more hardy races, but among' the softer tribes of Polynesia and India, the knowledge, of Christ has produced a similar courage. Converted natives offer themselves for service in the most dangerous fields of missionary enterprise; and when some fall at the hand of savages, or through attacks of deadly diseases, others eagerly press forward to take the vacant places. The language of St. Paul is still the language of faithful Christians, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself," etc.; "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die... for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13).
3. They are sometimes moved to extraordinary manifestations of their regard. Like the three heroes whose exploit is here recorded. Like Mary in her lavish anointing of her Lord (John 12:3). Warm love prompts to generous deeds and gifts. There is need of these in the service of Christ; and if ardent love to him were more common, they would be more frequent. Love should, however, submit to the guidance of wisdom, lest it become wasteful or injurious. Our Lord will accept mistaken offerings, but it is well that the offerings should themselves be such as he can approve. One safeguard against mistake is the remembrance that he desires no display of love which is fantastic or useless, no self-denial or daring which answers no proportionate end in the advancement of his kingdom and the promotion of the good either of our own souls or of our fellow men. There is abundant room for all possible generosity, self-denial, and bravery in the practical service of Christ and man; to expend these in fruitless ways is to expose our works to condemnation, however good and acceptable may be our motives. We are to serve God with our reason as well as our feelings.
II. THE REASONABLENESS AND RIGHTNESS OF SUCH LOVE. Because of:
1. His self-sacrificing love for them. "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Corinthians 5:14) is their sufficient answer to any who allege that they are "beside themselves" (2 Corinthians 5:13). His love requires and justifies the utmost consecration to him of heart and life.
2. His injunctions. He claims from all who follow him that they should love him more than their nearest relations more than their own life (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26), and that, in serving him, they should be fearless of death (Luke 12:4).
4. The effects of such love. In purifying and ennobling the character of those who cherish it, and promoting through them the well being of mankind. It is love for all excellence, stimulates to its pursuit and greatly aids its attainment. It is the inspiration and support of the highest and most persistent benevolence; for he who is loved is the Incarnation of Divine holiness and love, and the great Friend and Benefactor of the human race, and the return he asks for his love to us is not a barren, sentimental devotion, but practical obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23), and especially a fruitful love to our brethren (John 15:12-14; 1 John 3:16-18), whom he teaches us to regard as being himself (Matthew 25:35-45). Love to Jesus Christ has been, and still is, the strongest motive-power in the world in favour of all godliness and goodness.
5. Its rewards. Love to Christ is not mercenary, and makes no stipulation for recompense. It is its own reward. Yet in the midst of a cold and unbelieving world it needs all supports. These are to be found in the assurance of the approval and affection of Christ himself, and of the Father (John 14:21, 23; John 16:27), and the prospect of sharing the glory and joy of Christ forever (John 17:24; 2 Timothy 4:8; Matthew 19:29; James 1:12; James 2:5). On the other hand, to be destitute of love to Christ is to be lost (1 Corinthians 16:22). - G.W.
And David built an altar there unto the Lord.
1. At the beginning of the chapter it is said, "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, go number Israel and Judah." In the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 21.) it is said "Satan provoked David to number Israel," i.e., (as Bishop Hall remarks) God did so by permission, Satan by suggestion; God as a judge, Satan as an enemy.
2. It has occurred to some as difficult to see exactly wherein David's sin consisted.(1) Distrust. God had said Israel should be as the dust of the earth, as the sand on the sea shore, and as the stars in the heavens — why count them then?(2) Pride. David thought no doubt he would appear more formidable by a display of numbers, like Hezekiah afterwards, he wished to make a display of his power.
3. Observe, again, "David's heart smote him after he had numbered the people; after, not before. Sin leaves a sting behind, though it may give a momentary gratification.
4. Remark David's sorrow and confession and guilt: "I have sinned and done very foolishly." Ah! here was grace; this was unnatural, it was supernatural; it was the very opposite of fallen nature to take all the blame to himself.
5. David was, on his repentance and acknowledgment, charged to rear an altar and to offer a sacrifice which was intended, no doubt, to represent that "without shedding of blood, there is no remission."
I. THE ALTAR AND SACRIFICE represent the sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the only sacrifice God will accept as an atonement for sin.
1. David offered "burnt-offerings and peace offerings." The burnt-offerings represent God's justice; the peace offerings represent God's mercy — a striking emblem of our great sacrifice I Here, in Jesus, "Mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other." Here, God's justice is satisfied, and His mercy manifested. Here, we see God "a just God," and yet "a Saviour" — "just, and the Justifier of all who believe." Where shall we look for the great proofs of God's righteous displeasure against sin? The great proof is found in the sufferings of God's own Son. Again, where shall we look for the great proof of God's mercy? You remind me of the ark in which Noah and his family were saved, or of Zoar, where Lot found refuge? Yes; but the great proof of mercy is to be found in the same garden, and on the same cross where we found the other
1. In one sense, and that a very important sense, our acceptance with God cost us nothing — it is free. Nothing we can do is meritorious: salvation is God's free gift through Christ. This is the vital pulse of a sinner's hope — "By grace he is saved."
2. The other point is: our redemption cost God much. "Ye are bought with a price," said St. Paul to his Corinthian brethren; how great a price he did not say; he could not. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "God so loved." Who can say how much? There is no mercy out of Christ, and "no condemnation to them who are in Christ."
II. DAVID'S RESOLUTION AND CONDUCT on the occasion of God's mercy to him. David's conduct by no means implies he regarded his offering as meritorious. (Psalm 51:16, 17,) "For thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering; the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt act despise." It proved two things as regarded David's peculiar case, viz., sincerity and thankfulness. Sincerity — unlike the ruler mentioned in the Gospel, he wanted a religion which would cost him nothing, and therefore "he went away sorrowful." Thankfulness. David longed to show what he felt, like the leper (Luke 17.), he "returned to give glory to God." Oh! what a spring it would give to charity, to feel as David felt. Observe, in the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 21.) it is said, David bought the threshing-floor for 600 shekels of gold. We can reconcile the two accounts by merely supposing the author in the book of Samuel stated the price of the oxen, while the author in the book of Chronicles mentioned the price of the threshing floor. Let me now mention a few particulars which the Gospel claims as proofs of gratitude, and God's Word proposes as tests of sincerity.
1. Coming out of the world.
2. The Gospel demands the sacrifice of every known sin — not one, but all; not in part, but entirely.
3. The Gospel demands of us to deny self. "Of all idols," says one, "idol self is worshipped the longest."Let me close with a word or two of direct and personal application.
1. I address those who suppose, by offering to God what cost them much, thereby to merit heaven. Turn, my brethren, to 1 Corinthians 13:3. "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." This exactly meets your case.
2. To such as, Gallio like, "care for none of these things," I would say your case is an awful one. A religion which costs you nothing — which allows you to keep your sins — to be conformed to the world, and to indulge the flesh, is not of God.
(W. E. Ormsby, M. A.)
And the plague was stayed from Israel.
1. The great danger of prosperity, and the folly of coveting riches and honours as the chief good.
2. The deceitful nature and the terrible consequences of sin. David's heart smote him after, not before, he had numbered the people. This is Satan's method of dealing with his prey, and this is the way he succeeds in beguiling men to ruin. He blinds the eye to the guilt, until the evil deed is done. How deeply is this felt by the penitent, when brought to loathe himself for his iniquity! What a sting is left behind by sin, though it may have been committed with very little alarm, and with scarcely any sense of its malignant nature! What a picture is displayed in this history of sin's terrible consequences — the angel of God running to and fro through the land with the sword of vengeance, and slaying seventy thousand men in less than three days! How it exhibits the Almighty's resolve not to let iniquity go unpunished!
3. The great and invaluable efficacy of the sacrifice of the death of Christ. The Almighty God, who is "angry with the wicked every day," and who has declared that all the nations that forget Him shall be turned into hell, has, nevertheless, made with them who believe in Christ, "a covenant well ordered in all things and sure," and, in that covenant, we have a Divine promise made, and the Divine veracity pledged, that they shall never perish, who rest their hopes on the offered propitiation.
4. The importance of promptitude in applying for mercy, and in deprecating the Divine wrath through the appointed sacrifice.
5. Finally, learn hence the duty of activity, liberality in the service of God, and for the benefit of your fellow sinners. It is a Scriptural precept — "Honour the Lord with thy substance." He who has a religion which costs him nothing has a religion that is worth nothing.
(H. Hughes, B. D.)
I. THE STRICT REGARD PAID BY THE ALMIGHTY TO THE CONDUCT OF HIS CREATURES. This is a consideration which ought ever to impress our minds. The want of it is one of the causes of the misconduct of men. All are not openly infidels; they do not deny a God; nor do they allow His existence, and deny His omniscience. All do not confine Him to His own heaven, and make it part of His greatness and grandeur to avert His eyes from earth. All do not make Him indifferent to sin. and say, with the unbelief of those of old, "The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it." But though we may not, say this, we may be influenced by the very principle from which it proceeds. All who sin forget God; act as though there were no God, or He had no omniscience, or that He is indifferent to their conduct. To awaken us to a consciousness of the regard he pays to our actions, to His ever-bending, ever-watchful eye, it is, that he has so often specially interposed to punish sin, and in a manner which could leave no doubt of His agency. For this, among other purposes, the histories in the Old Testament have been preserved; that observing the displays of His power and justice, we might "sanctify the Lord in our hearts," and that the whole earth might "tremble and keep silence before Him." Does any one suppose that because He is but an individual, one amidst the myriads of the human race, he shall pass in the crowd, and escape the notice of his Judge? Let him learn that David was an individual, yet his individual sin was noticed, dragged to light, reproved, and punished.
II. WE ARE INSTRUCTED BY THE HISTORY TO CONSIDER SIN AS AN EVIL FOLLOWED BY THE MOST DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES. The pride, and forgetfulness of God, of which David and his people were guilty, might appear, if sins at all, sins of a very venial kind, the common infirmities of human nature; yet they were followed by the dreadful choice of evils, and with the destruction of seventy thousand persons. One of the most fatal habits of mind is to treat sin lightly or with 'indifference. It is exhibited as a mark of eminent folly. "Fools make a mock at sin."
III. THE HISTORY ALSO EXHIBITS TO US THE ONLY MEANS OF FORGIVENESS AND ESCAPE FROM PUNISHMENT. The altar was built unto the Lord: "David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings; so the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed." In other words, sin was expiated by the intervention of a sacrifice. This is the doctrine of every book of Scripture, of every age, and of every nation. Let us, then, observe that the testimony of the Church of God, from every age, is that the anger of Him whom we have offended can only be propitiated, and that He only can be approached, by sacrifice. When man became a sinner, then an altar marked the place in which he worshipped, and his offering was a bloody sacrifice. When Noah left the ark, his first act was to erect an altar, to reconcile God to a world which bore so many marks of His wrath; and at the Smell of the sweet savour of the offerings, He gave the promise, "I will no more curse the ground for man's sake." When the first-born of Egypt fell beneath the stroke of the angel, it was the blood of the lamb sprinkled upon the door-posts that guarded in safety the offspring of Israel. When the plague broke forth against the rebels in the wilderness, Aaron ran between the living and the dead with his censer and incense, and the plague was stayed; but it was incense inflamed by fire from the altar of sacrifice. Thus, on ordinary occasions by stated, and on extraordinary displays of the Divine anger by extraordinary sacrifices, did the Church show forth the intended death of the true Sacrifice. This is our method of salvation: "We are saved by His blood," and it is important for us to know that, in this single doctrine of a substituted sacrifice, the whole method of our salvation is included. The manner in which sacrificial rites were performed illustrates even now the method of salvation. The offerer confessed the fact of his offence by bringing his victim; and he that believes in Christ, by assenting to this method of expiation, confesses the fact too: "I have sinned, and therefore I fly to Christ as my atonement." The offerer was prompted by the fear of punishment to slay his victim, and sprinkle the blood; so David in the text. If we are properly alarmed at our, danger, we shall haste to the only refuge of a Saviour's bleeding side. The sacrifice was the instrument of sanctification; it supposed a covenant with God; the sacrifice was eaten; the parties were made friends; and sin, which only could make them enemies, was renounced for ever. Thus, the appointment of sacrifices supposes the confession of sin; a salutary fear of the terrors of a holy God; a just apprehension of the desert of sin, death in its most painful forms; and a reliance and trust in God's appointed means of salvation, and the renunciation of all sin, and the recovery of His blessing and friendship. All these are taught you and enjoined upon you by the death of Christ; and on these terms we invite you to receive pardon and salvation.
IV. WE OBSERVE THAT THE ERECTION OF THIS ALTAR BY DAVID WAS A PUBLIC ACT, an act in which the public were interested; and in this respect it agreed with the practice of all ages. The building of an altar was ever a public act; the place was separate from common purposes; and it stood as a religious memorial for the instruction of mankind.
1. The erections themselves, and more especially the acts and observances of worship, are memorials of religious facts and doctrines. They keep a sense of God upon the minds of men; they turn She thoughts of the public, whether they will or not to serious subjects.
2. Our worship is public, and the places we erect are places of public resort.
3. Besides this, our places of worship are to be considered as the places where the Gospel, the good and glad tidings of salvation, are announced to men. They are the places of treaty and negotiation between God and man. Ministers are the ambassadors of God. Clothed with authority by Him, they enter His house, and a rebellious world is summoned to hear from them God's gracious terms of pardon, and His authoritative demand of submission.
4. They are houses of prayer, and remind us of our dependence upon God, and of His condescension to us. They are houses of shelter from the storms and cares of life; the places where we cast our care on Him, and prove that He careth for us; the place where He is known, eminently known, for a refuge.
V. THE ZEAL AND LIBERALITY WHICH GOOD MEN HAVE EVER DISCOVERED IN THE ERECTION OF HOUSES AND ALTARS TO GOD. The words of the text are an instance. When Araunah saw David coming, he went to meet him; and, when informed of the occasion — "to buy the threshing-floor, to build an altar to the Lord" — he spontaneously makes him the offer of his threshing-floor.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Century Bible.The last entry in the appendix to Samuel consists of a document which may be described as the charter of the most famous of the world's holy places. By the theophany here recorded the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite received a consecration which has made it holy ground not only for Judaism and Christianity, but for Islam as well. Upon this spot, we can scarcely doubt, stood the great altar of Solomon's temple. To-day, as all the world knows, the site is covered by the magnificent mosque, the Kubbet es-sahara, or Dome of the Rock, the most sacred of Mohammedan shrines after those of Mecca and Medina.
(Century Bible.)Aquinas; it was the pillar of Luthers soul, toiling for man; it was shapen into intellectual proportions and systematic symmetry by the iron logic of Calvin; it inspired the beautiful humility of Fenelon; fostered the devotion and self-sacrifice of Oberlin; flowed like molten metal into the rigid forms of Edwardss intellect, and kindled the deep and steady rapture of Wesleys heart... All the great enterprises of Christian history have been born from the influence, immediate or remote, which the vicarious theory of redemption has exercised upon the mind and heart of humanity.".
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