1 Chronicles 21:1-22:1.
1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.”
7 But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel.
15 And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.”
18 Now the angel of the Lord had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite... 25 So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site. 26 And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. 27 Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.
22:1. Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
Advent is full of temptations.
When you’re waiting for God’s Messiah to arrive it is easy to lose sight of waiting for the arrival of your Savior and to start looking at what you already have that can save you. And this is especially true when you’re winning at life. That was King David’s situation in 1 Chronicles 21. He could do no wrong. And so he disobeyed God and counted his army. He counted his own greatness, He put a number on his hope and peace.
This is our same temptation isn’t it? We forget that we are waiting for something, actually SOMEONE, far greater than anything we already have. But why would we wait for Jesus if Jesus has given us all we want in this life?
And so we count. We count our money. We count the shopping days until Christmas. We count the presents and the decorations and the lights. We long for more of the temporary. The earthly. But our hearts are made for something more. Something eternal. Something heavenly and divine. Our lives are joined to Christ’s. He is our desire. He is our greatest hope. Not our “army.” Not whatever it is that gives us status, security, and strength today. David learns this lesson the hard way.
God gave King David a choice of three punishments for his sin: three years of famine, three months of being attacked by enemies, or three days of being attacked by the Angel of God. David chooses God – “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
In what happens next we see the merging of God’s judgment and God’s mercy. Every sin must be punished. But every sin can be forgiven. But only if there is a sacrifice. And so God, as with Abraham on this same exact mountain, stays the hand of the angel – but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.”
And then something fascinating happens. David turns from king to priest. He purchases the threshing floor of Ornan and offers sacrifices to the Lord there. The fire of God comes down consuming the sacrifice of David without consuming David himself.
One thousand years later the Angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven will put his sword in his sheath and he will leave heaven to enter earth. Not to demand a sacrifice, but to BE the sacrifice. He will be crucified at this same place, the threshing floor of Ornan, outside of Jerusalem. The King of Kings will be threshed like wheat for us.
David’s heart was changed that day. He went from longing for the power of an army to longing for the presence of God – “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” David’s new advent focus is not army building but temple building. Not a building of hs own pride but the longing for the presence of God.
Now may we in our advent turn our focus from counting to building God’s temple, his church. Arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord God.
- What have you been counting lately? What things are you counting on to bring you security, or status, or strength?
- How can you turn your attention this advent to building God’s church instead of building your own kingdom?