A series of battles with the city states surrounding David’s kingdom result in defeats for enemies in every one of Chapter 18’s opening verses: success described as a gift from God in 18:6. What an encouragement for those seeking the re-establishment of God’s people in ruined Jerusalem.
In these chapters David’s army and its leaders defeat the threats to the kingdom by acting collectively, planning for danger and resistance (18:12-13). Those building the wall and later the new temple itself would be encouraged to see all these little skirmishes and even times of humiliation (19:1-9) could be used to move the building project forward. The chronicler shows David to be a good and just king – showing grace and kindness even when the unexpected happens. LaSor (“Old Testament Survey”) writes: ‘Chronicles tells its readers how and how not to live’ leaving out some of the details of David’s personal life in order to emphasise the good choices he usually made, and God increases the reach of his power. ‘David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people’ 18:14.
The success of the military campaigns continues in 1 Chronicles 20 and then things start to go wrong. Why is David’s census-taking sin? Because the people he’s counting are not HIS people but God’s special chosen people: it wasn’t his job. There is census guidance in Exodus 30: very specific reasons and interestingly the promise of protection from plague if they followed God ‘s rules (Exodus 30:12). David may have been relying on numbers of soldiers to keep winning battles (so forgetting or refusing to acknowledge the battle belonged to God), he may have been relying on getting taxes (so forgetting or refusing to acknowledge that God was the provider of everything) – the message here is about trusting God’s provision and power.
And so the punishment is plague, plague that can only be stopped by personal sacrifice. Jerusalem is about to be destroyed and God steps in to tell David what to do. God steps in to provide salvation and a solution. It has to cost David. Araunah would have gladly provided everything but David recognises there has got to be a cost. This is the site on which Solomon’s temple is built. The place where David’s eyes are opened to the cost to the people of his individual arrogance and sin.
Listen to ‘Lord Turn Your footsteps’ by Godfrey Birtill.
Work your deliverance in this place, Lord Jesus, at this time of sickness in our land, in Your world. We pray for Your forgiveness and restoration both for our world and for ourselves. Amen.