Saturday, July 15, 2017

July 15

1 Chronicles 19:1-21:30; Romans 2:25-3:8; Psalm 11:1-7; Proverbs 19:10-12

Our story in 1 Chronicles is familiar.  We read it six weeks ago in 2 Samuel 24, but the post that day touched on other readings.  I'm glad, because it gives me a chance to think about it today.

It raises a ton of questions for me:
1. Joab, who seems to play fast and loose with God's laws (he's bloodthirsty, power-hungry, and conniving, in my humble opinion), here understands the seriousness of what David is ordering and pushes back against David's ruling.  How can a man with such a dim view on the value of human life honor God in such a way (1 Chr. 21:2-3)?
2. If they're counting fighting men, I can understand why Levi would be left out of the census, but why is Benjamin absent (vs. 6)?
3. Does David repent because he's been directly rebuked by Gad, or does he come to repentance on his own, or is he convicted by seeing the consequences of his actions (vs. 7-8)?  In connection with option #3, it seems like the consequences haven't yet started (see vs. 10).
4. Do the options God gives David in verse 12 force him to look squarely at what he's done?  Why give the options in the first place?

It raises questions, but I'm also led to some thoughts:
1. Notice how completely, fully, and immediately David accepts the responsibility of his actions ("I have sinned greatly...I have done a very foolish thing..." [1 Chr. 21:8]), and how deeply pained he is by the outcomes ("I am in deep distress" [vs. 13] and "What have they done?...Let your hand fall upon me and my family" [vs. 17]).  Can you imagine the guilt?  David owns it.  He doesn't quibble or argue or point out extenuating circumstances (unlike his predecessor, Saul [see 1 Sam. 13 and 15]) - he turns immediately to penance.  Note David's accoutrements of grief: he's in sackcloth (1 Chr. 21:17).  He knows he has caused this destruction and he is mourning the situation.  And, per his usual response, he turns toward God (vs. 17).  Instead of hiding in shame or pretending ignorance, David pleads for mercy - not for himself, but for his people.
2. Notice, too, how David reacts when given God's command.  He promptly goes to the threshing floor "in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the Lord" (vs. 19).  I love that!  God speaks, David hears and obeys.  So clear, so simple.  David moves forward in hope of God's love and faithfulness.  He has a way to re-establish his relationship with the Lord (that is, building an altar), and he's acting on it.  He hears and obeys.  How I want that to characterize me!
3. Even in the midst of this costly, costly error in judgment, David has an inherent integrity: "I will not...sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing" (vs. 24).  Because this debacle rests on David's shoulders, he recognizes his responsibility to make it right and doesn't allow himself to hide behind another's generosity.  While Arauanah is willing to absorb the whole cost himself (which I can understand, being that the angel of the Lord is standing with drawn sword nearby - I'd do what I could to expedite the end of the situation, too!), David is adamant.  
4. Think about the other times that fire falls from heaven.  In Leviticus, when the priesthood is established, God ratifies the moment with fire from heaven (Lev. 9).  Demonstrating that he alone is God, fire falls from heaven to consume Elijah's water-soaked offering (1 Ki. 18).  Gideon asks for a sign, and fire is his answer (Jdg. 6).  Aaron's sons are destroyed for their arrogance by fire from the Lord (Lev. 10).  In these significant moments, whether to set himself apart or to confirm his identity or to affirm his covenant (as we see today, in 1 Chr. 21:26), God responds with fire.

And while it leads to some thoughts, I'm mostly pushed to marvel at the God who is so mighty and powerful, yet so readily accessible.  Truly, his mercy (vs. 15) triumphed over his judgment (vs. 12, 14; see James 2:13 for the biblical concept).  Praise God that the same is true for me!

- Sarah Marsh

How did God speak to you in Scripture today? Click here to share your reflections on God's word or read past posts. We'd love to hear from you.

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