The Gospel According to David

The Gospel According to David

The Gospel According to David.

“The historical David was a living prophecy of the true King yet to come. The divine promises made with respect to David’s messianic throne are fulfilled in the kingdom of Jesus, at once David’s descendant and his Lord.” (Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms).

“The David story anticipates the Jesus story. The Jesus story presupposes the David story… The David story is a gospel story. It’s a story that gets completed in the Jesus story.” (Eugene Peterson, Leap Over A Wall).

DAVID was totally unique in Scripture. Raised a shepherd boy, the youngest of eight sons, the one everyone seemed to overlook, he became a renowned musician, a legendary poet, a fierce warrior, and the most beloved King in the history of Israel. He was a faithful worshiper of Yahweh, and, the highest accolade one could receive, he was “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14). Was he a prophet? Yes. His psalms prove that, and St. Peter called him a prophet in his first sermon after Pentecost (Acts 2:30). Was he a priest? Well, he led worship and offered sacrifices when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, wearing a priestly garment at the time. Was he a king? Unquestionably, the greatest king of Israel. David’s life certainly hinted at his distant relative, the Messiah Jesus, who was the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King.

David lived from around 1040 to 970 BC.  He may be the most famous character in the Hebrew Bible, with the possible exception of Moses. We certainly know more about him than any other biblical character. He was hand-picked by God to be anointed as King while still a young shepherd boy. He succeeded in slaying the giant Goliath while a young man, already a formidable warrior. He was a skilled musician sent to comfort the troubled, depressed King Saul. He was a fugitive running for his life as King Saul turned the tables and tried to kill him in rage and jealousy. He was finally confirmed King of Israel after Saul died. He ruled as King until his son Solomon takes the throne. David wasn’t shy, he tended to be extreme and blatant in his actions. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and the Bible doesn’t try to hide any of his flaws or weak moments. It appears that David was a man of big appetites… God, war, women. He was utterly devoted to God, but he made big mistakes. He took another man’s wife in an act of adultery, and had that woman’s husband killed, for which David paid dearly. Whenever he fell into sin, he confessed, asked forgiveness, faced the consequences, and tried to learn from his mistakes. He rarely repeated his moral blunders. He was a great king, for instance, but he was a terrible parent. His family life was in shambles, but his nation was in great shape. Because of his many psalms, we know he was a man who rejoiced, lamented, prophesied, praised, wept, raged, questioned, trusted, and revealed himself to be a thoroughly complex person who experienced deep emotions and profound insights. Obviously, David was supremely gifted in many ways. He was a great King in many ways, but he had too much blood on his hands from all those wars he waged. Most important of all, David’s  family tree produced Jesus, the Messiah, who was a direct descendant of David. David was a forefather of the Lord.

BETHLEHEM. This is a little town five miles south of Jerusalem, and the homeland of David. He was born and raised in Bethlehem, and it wasn’t a well-publicized  place until the famous messianic prophecy of Micah 5:2“But you, Bethlehem, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from days of eternity.”  Well before that prophecy, Bethlehem was known as the place of David’s anointing at the hand of Samuel. The Lord directed Samuel to that little village to anoint the next king, who ended up being the little shepherd boy David. The Lord’s instructions included, “Do not consider his appearance or his height… the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Evidently, David had just the heart the Lord was looking for, for “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

SHEPHERD. A somewhat surprising symbol for leadership throughout scripture. A shepherd was pretty much at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, way below minimum wage. Shepherds were chronically underemployed, relegated to grunt work, underappreciated and overlooked by polite society. They were even considered unclean by the Temple purists. They had to sleep outdoors, make do with the weather, fight off the sheep’s predators, spend countless hours away from civilized humanity. Yet the shepherd is used as the picture of a king, a leader. An unexpected, humble picture, to be sure. What does a good shepherd/leader look like? Based on his experience as the shepherd in his family, David outlined what a good shepherd does in his Psalm 23. David extended that image to explain how the Lord is his good shepherd. Yahweh has acted as David’s shepherd his whole life. Also, the Lord unpacks the good shepherd rather well in Ezekiel 34:15-16, as He describes how a shepherd treats his people: “I myself will tend the sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” Here we see the Father as the prototype of the Good Shepherd, hinting at Jesus to come. David’s most famous psalm is completed and fulfilled in the Person of Christ, the one and only Good Shepherd in the flesh (John 10:11-15).

THE CAVE. The cave system of Adullam was an unlikely place of fascinating importance; a gigantic cavern in the Judean wilderness, 12 miles from Jerusalem, on the south border of the valley where David slew Goliath. It was the secret headquarters for David and his band of merry men, probably around 600 in number. This cave has been discovered and can be entered even now. Inside the opening is a winding passage that leads to a huge room of about 5,000 square feet. There are many more passages that branch out from that room which lead to other big rooms. It is said that the entire cave system could house at least a thousand men. It is in this very cave where David later found refuge when Saul was in hot pursuit. In this hidden cavern, a scene of young David’s glory, his true colors shone as vividly as the first rainbow. “David left Bath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and the rest of his family heard about it, they came down to him there. He was joined by all those who were in difficulties, or in debt, or who were embittered, and he became their leader.” (1 Samuel 22:1-2). What kind of man, while in an outlaw’s hideout, would attract the needy like nails to a magnet? Like a man after God’s own heart. Sounds like Someone else we know. It has been suggested that David could have written his famous Psalm 34 while hiding in his stronghold in this cave. “The Lord hears his people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.”

Still later, the same David in this same cave had nostalgically voiced his longing for the sweet water from his enemy-occupied homeland. Even though three of his devoted henchmen risked their lives in retrieving that well-water, the humbled king worshipfully poured it on the ground as a sacred offering to God. (2 Samuel 23:13-17). Indeed, David broke the mold in so many ways, and in Adullam we see him at his best.

Isn’t it ironic that many generations later a Son of David would be born in a lonely cave right next door in Bethlehem, that this Son turn out to be a captain of the needy, would Himself become a ringleader of outcasts, and would offer not water, but His blood as an offering of sacrifice? And there’s something about those two caves: Neither one would have necessarily inspired a visitor to take off his shoes in awe of their holy ground. Yet no caves have been privileged like this, to house such holy, earthy men. Only a wildly imaginative Creator could have concocted the unpredictable reality of limestone throne rooms, dispossessed men-in-waiting, and beggar warriors conquering the world for their homeless Shepherd-King.

PSALM 34. “The Angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”  (Psalm 34:7). The setting for Psalm 34 is dramatic and unexpected. Even a brief look at David’s life would reveal a heart that was familiar with holy foolishness. He was foolish for taking on a fully armed giant with nothing but a sling shot and a few stones (1 Samuel 17). He was foolish for exulting in the presence of Yahweh to the degree that he danced with overwhelming joy before all the people while wearing only a loincloth on his bare skin (2 Samuel 6). And David was cleverly foolish when he pretended to be out of his mind before the Philistines in Gath (1 Samuel 21). In this scenario, David had to figure out a way to escape this city that was deep in enemy territory. So, since it was customary to leave the mentally unstable protected and unharmed, David pretended to be insane. He started scratching his feet on the doors of the main gate, and he walked around town drooling into his beard, spittle covering his face. The leaders of Gath soon dismissed David and sent him on his way unscathed. David’s shrewd act served him well. His crazy antics saved his life. And this is the backstory for Psalm 34. Since the early days of David’s anointing by Samuel, he lived out his calling, he “had the Spirit of Yahweh on him in power.” (1 Samuel 16:13). And that Spirit sometimes manifested in surprising ways. In Psalm 34, David was inspired to write down his thoughts on God’s character while in the midst of trouble. He wanted to express how God stands by His believers, and is worthy to be trusted. David highlights how He protects and guards the believers with His presence when they are down and out. In the middle of this profound call to trust in Yahweh’s love, David notes the presence of the Angel of the Lord.

“The Angel of Yahweh is the visible Lord God in the Old Testament, as Jesus Christ was in the New Testament. Thus His deity is clearly portrayed in the Hebrew Bible.” (Amplified Bible notes)The mysterious Angel of the LORD in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) appears many times from out of nowhere and in unexpected settings. This unique Angel appears as a divine visitor to Abraham, a welcome comfort to Hagar, and a wrestling opponent to Jacob. This same heavenly Messenger saved Isaac from being sacrificed, and spoke in a burning bush to Moses. This Angel of the LORD was God in the form of man, the preincarnate Christ, the appearance of Jesus according to Early Church theologians and many modern scholars as well. Since God is a Spirit, and one cannot see God face-to-face and survive the experience, He sent Jesus as His unique representative to speak His mind and accomplish His will on earth during the life and times of the Old Testament. Scholars believe that when God is seen in physical form in the OT, Jesus has made an appearance. “There is a fascinating forecast of the coming Messiah, breaking through the dimness with amazing consistency, at intervals from Genesis to Malachi.” (Cambridge Bible).

And so David, as inspired as ever, talks about Jesus in this Psalm, the preincarnate Christ who provides a circle of protection around those who worship Yahweh with reverence and awe. David points to Jesus, who will encamp around those who fear Him, surrounding and defending those who live a life of devotion to Yahweh. The Angel of the LORD is offered as a rescuer, a spiritual guard who encircles the believer in times of trouble. The character of Jesus is on display in Ps. 34:7, purposefully and personally caring for the followers of God. It appears that the Spirit of Jesus has long arms, surrounding and protecting our souls from any harm. The spirit of each believer is safeguarded within the presence of Christ, and nothing can overwhelm His love. Once we are in His encampment, our very soul is destined to live in Him all through eternity. This verse refers directly to Jesus Christ, our spiritual security system when we are broken-hearted, in distress, or under attack. The long arms of Jesus encircle each of us during our times of trial. He is our Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is our soulguard, not necessarily our bodyguard, and He is worthy of our worship and trust.

1 CHRONICLES 16.  Soon after David was confirmed as King of Israel, he yearned to have the forgotten Ark of the Covenant, the historic symbol of God’s presence, brought to Jerusalem for a more permanent home. The first time David tried to transport the Ark, it was disastrous. He didn’t have the Levites carry the Ark as instructed, but had it carried unceremoniously on an oxcart. On top of that major mistake, a well-meaning Israelite touched the Ark, the sacred Ark of God, “which is called by the Name of the Lord Almighty, enthroned between the cherubim.” (II Samuel 6:2). A mere man was not to touch the Ark as if it were a piece of furniture. The man died and the Ark was not moved after all.

David decided to try to move the Ark again. This time, David is more careful to follow the Lord’s directions, and he wants to transport the Ark successfully in a big way. David wants to truly celebrate, to be raucous, boisterous, and loud in the celebration. So he appointed a choir of singers and musicians “to sing joyful songs to the accompaniment of harps, lyres and cymbals.” Then he appointed a large group to march before the Ark and blow their trumpets loudly, as another group blew their shofars, their ram’s horns, with great joy. All of Israel was shouting and cheering as they brought the Ark to Jerusalem in their holy parade. What could David do in this environment but dance? He was twirling, skipping, dancing ecstatically to demonstrate his elation at having God’s presence brought to his home city, this historic chest containing the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s budding staff. Here it was, the Jewish holy relic, built at the foot of Mt. Sinai by Moses and his craftsman, the very Ark that brings the Lord’s presence as He reveals Himself between the cherubim on the Mercy Seat! How can one contain oneself with this miracle?

The Ark was placed in a special tent, a Tabernacle, that David set up in Jerusalem. And what did he do immediately after housing the Ark? David proceeded to continue the joy, continue the worship, continue the music! He appointed a group of Levites to bless the Lord with lyres, harps, cymbals and trumpets in front of the Tabernacle. And David gave to these musicians a special song he wrote, just for this occasion. This was the first time that the appointed musicians blessed the Lord with music in David’s musical program before the Ark, music to be offered daily in worship of the God of Israel. “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness,” began David’s song. “Let the whole world know what He has done!”

David’s song of Thanksgiving is a high point of praise in Scripture. It is quoted in many psalms, and it reveals David at his best, as “Israel’s singer of songs.” This song is ecstatic in praise of Yahweh, and shows the heart of David in his element, his joy in praising the Lord with exuberant music.

David’s song is a heavenly mouthful. We’ll all be singing this song around the throne in Paradise. David’s song focused on who God is, and what we are to do in response. Notice David’s words in their praise of God…

Attributes of God: Miracle-worker; Wonderful deeds; Greatness; Holy; Strong; Just; Covenant-keeper; Faithful; Savior; Glorious; Amazing; Worthy; Creator; Honorable; Majestic; Joyful; Splendor; Reigns; Merciful; Good; Everlasting.

Our Response:Give thanks; Proclaim; Sing; Tell; Exult; Rejoice; Seek; Remember; Publish; Recognize; Fear; Glorify; Enter into; Worship; Praise.

In verses 31-33, David gives a sneak preview of when creation is no longer groaning, and is freed from the curse. There will be a day when creation is transformed, and David anticipates that day in this song of praise. David intuitively knew “the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. All creation was subjected to God’s curse.” (Romans 8:20-22). So in his joy David invites all of creation to praise God along with him, highlighting the Day of Redemption in nature, when the heavens will be glad, and the earth will rejoice. When the sea and everything in it will shout his praise. When the fields and their crops will burst with joy. When the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord. David wants all of creation to join him in this song, and he poetically anticipates the Day when all creation will lose its shackles and praise the Lord.

In verse 34, David offers for the first time in the Hebrew Bible a lyric that is probably the most repeated refrain in Scripture: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His mercy endures forever!” The refrain “His mercy endures forever” became a centerpiece in the worship liturgy in the spiritual life of Israel. The refrain was repeated at Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, for instance, and in a number of other times in Biblical history. The Hebrew warriors even used that refrain as a war cry before battle, which eventuated in an Israelite victory. This affirmation of God’s mercy appears 34 times in the Psalms alone. According to author Michael Card, this refrain practically turned itself into a national motto. Circling back to this first song of praise, David is rejoicing in front of the Ark of the Covenant, which has the blessed Mercy Seat as its cover, where the Lord reveals His glory. God’s glory is His mercy. The light of His presence is found in His mercy. And God’s supply of unfailing love and compassionate loyalty is eternal, everlasting, forever. David wants to make sure all the people remember that His mercy will never run out, that mercy is a central part of God’s eternal character, His divine essence. It seems that often in David’s life, he saw his mission as reminding his people of God’s pure mercy.

Immediately after this amazing song is sung to completion, the people all declared, Amen! in verse 36. Yes! That’s the truth! May it be so! I agree! So be it! The people were one in heart with the words of David’s song. This is a high point in the history of worship with the people of Israel. To agree wholeheartedly with David’s song is not a light matter. It is the heaviest of matters… As heavy as the weight of glory. God’s glory.

KINDNESS. Soon after David established his kingdom, he asked a question that would delight his descendant Jesus… “Is there anyone in Saul’s family around here, so that I can show him mercy for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1). David was eager to show kindness to the family of someone who was once his enemy! David and Jonathan had long ago promised a covenant of loyal love to each other, a promise that would extend to their descendents. Jonathan was David’s dearest friend in the world, his bosom buddy, and David wasted no time to show some of that loyal love to any descendant of Saul. It turned out that a disabled outcast, an exile, was actually a son of Jonathan. David’s quest was rewarded by locating this son of Jonathon who went by the name of Mephibosheth. This man was lame in both feet because of an acccident when he was five years old in which his ankles never healed properly. David’s generous, unexpected love was unbounded. His integrity in honoring his promise to Jonathon was straight from the heart of God. Rather than clean house and ridding himself of anyone connected to his arch enemy Saul, David turned the tables and embraced Mephibosheth as one of his own. David restored to him all the lands of his grandfather Saul, and David assigned a worthy servant to manage the estate, assuring the farmland of providing support. David enabled Mephibosheth to thrive at a time when he was floundering without any means of support for a living. Then, David treated him like a prince, including him at the king’s table for all his meals, providing his daily bread. This event in David’s life was the gospel story in miniature, good news for the broken and rejected and undeserving. And Jesus expects us to be like David here. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has poured love into our hearts to enable us to wake up each morning and ask David’s question, “Is there anyone around to whom I can show kindness for Jesus’ sake? Like David, we can keep our eyes peeled for anyone who needs the generous love of Christ.

TEMPTATION. The Biblical story of David’s sinful census starts right off with somewhat of a mystery. In the 2 Samuel 24 account, God is angry with Israel for unnamed reasons, and decides to use David to punish them. So God incited David to take a census, apparently of all the fighting men of Israel. In this account, God tested David and David failed the test. The account in 1 Chronicles 21, however, states that Satan, the Adversary, incited David to take the census. This apparent difference in the story lines can be explained by noting that God can certainly use Satan to do His will. God wanted to punish Israel, probably for disobedience or the national sin of pride, so He allowed Satan to test David, to see if he would commit the grievous sin of taking a census of his army. God certainly seems to give Satan a limited free hand sometimes. Remember Job? God gave permission to Satan to test Job, to incite Job to sin and compromise his integrity before the Lord. God allows temptation to come into our lives to test us, much as Jesus Himself was tested by Satan in the wilderness. Our job is to resist the temptation, in God’s strength. In Job’s case, Satan was not successful, and Job maintained his integrity before the Lord. Unfortunately, David did not pass the test like Job did. For all the wrong reasons in a very weak moment, David complied with Satan’s suggestion to take a census, which greatly angered God and brought judgment upon Israel.

CENSUS. What did David do that was so sinful? Why was taking a census such a grievous sin? There are several reasons David’s census brought judgment upon Israel, and upon David:

  1. In ancient cultures, a leader only had the right to number or count his people if they truly belonged to him. Taking a census was a sign of ownership. God had made it clear to this point in Israel’s history, though, that His chosen people belonged solely to God. Israel was God’s possession, and no one else’s. In taking a census, David made a statement… He considered Israel to be his possession. He actively took the place of God regarding Israel’s ownership and ultimate leadership. This was not God’s divine plan for Israel;
  2. Yahweh made it clear in Mosaic Law (Exodus 30:12) that there was only one condition in which a census was acceptable to God… Each person being counted must pay a census tax to the priests, a half-shekel of silver, as a kind of ransom payment to God to underline God’s possession of each life. If there was no ransom paid, God stated that He would send a plague upon the people. This of course is exactly what happened with David’s census;
  3. David took the census as an expression of his pride. Look what I have accomplished! Look at my great army! We can defend against any enemy! See how powerful I am? David’s pride and hubris reared its ugly head at this weak moment in David’s life. David committed a sin all too common to those in leadership. Nebuchadnezzar was the poster child of this frailty when he said, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). It appears that David was prone to that same self-glory at times, like all of us.
  4. Because David thought he could trust in his big army for protection, he broke his trust in God to protect Israel. The census was a big no-confidence vote against God. In his self-sufficiency, David decided to trust in human forces, not God’s. With this census, David didn’t trust God, he didn’t depend on God. He compromised his belief in God for provision and protection. David lost the simple trust in the Lord as his shepherd as he expressed in Psalm 23.

REPENTANCE. Any way one looks at David’s census, it was a great sin and “was evil in the sight of God.” (1 Chron. 21:7). So God was determined to hold David and the people of Israel accountable. David’s own general Joab was highly offended at the idea and resisted the census strongly, but David’s stubbornness resulted in the census being taken regardless. The census took about ten months to complete, so David had plenty of time to reconsider the plan, but he didn’t. By the time the census was completed, though, David  came to realize he had done a grave wrong. “Then David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly by doing this. I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (1 Chron. 21:8). The other account stated that David was “conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men.” (2 Sam. 24:10). David’s confession to God and his plea for God’s forgiveness reveals what is great about David. He was humble enough to accept responsibility whenever he did wrong. Sinning before God truly left him broken-hearted, and he unfailingly repented his wrongdoing, whether it was concerning Bathsheba or the census. David was repentant, and he remained a man after God’s own heart.

CHOICES. But now it’s time for David to accept the punishment that God will surely give him. Speaking through David’s counselor/prophet Gad, God decides to give David three choices for punishment. God wants David to choose one of the three alternatives and receive what’s coming to him and his people. All three are mentioned in Deuteronomy 28 as punishments or curses for disobedience and failure to keep God’s covenant:

  1. Three years of famine. The king’s palace and those with means probably have plenty of food stockpiled, so this famine will punish mainly the poor and those without resources. The famine might also result in Israel’s dependence on neighboring nations for food;
  2. Three months of military defeat.  This would result in a punishment of fighting men, and not the general population. Everyone knew there was no such thing as mercy when it comes to warfare. Enemies do not show compassion. David surely knew this, as he was a rather bloody soldier in warfare himself.
  3. Three days of plague. This punishment would be personally given by the Lord Himself at the hands of the unique Angel of the Lord. Whoever was struck by the Angel’s sword would die of plague, “ravaging every part of Israel.” (1 Chron. 21:12).

ANGEL OF THE LORD. There is a unique and mysterious Messenger that appears and disappears throughout the Hebrew Bible. This one-of-a-kind Messenger is known as the Angel of the Lord, the Messenger of the Lord, the Angel of Yahweh, and the Angel of Presence. This Angel is distinguished from other angels and is considered by most biblical scholars as a divine representative of Yahweh to do His bidding on earth. In the Orthodox and early church tradition, this particular Angel was an appearance of none other than the eternal Jesus Christ before His incarnation. We see the Angel of the Lord appear to many in Hebrew Scriptures: Hagar in Genesis 16; Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22; Jacob in Genesis 32; Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3; the terrified Israelite people in Exodus 14; Balaam in Numbers 22; Joshua in Joshua 5; Gideon in Judges 6; Elijah in 1 Kings 19; in the Babylonian furnace in Daniel 3. So we see Jesus, the Angel of Yahweh, acting as God’s mouthpiece and the doer of God’s will at His bidding. “There is a fascinating forecast of the coming Messiah, breaking through the dimness with amazing consistency, at intervals from Genesis to Malachi.” (Cambridge Bible)This Angel is an encourager, inspirer, intimidator, protector, commissioner, deliverer, short order cook, and even a wrestler. This Angel is sent from heaven to accomplish what God wants done on earth at particular moments. This Angelic Messenger represents God in His actions, and is the face of God when seen in physical form. “The Angel of the Lord is the visible Lord God of the Old Testament, as Jesus was in the New Testament.” (Amplified Bible notes).

In this story of David, God wants to hold the people of Israel accountable, so He sent the Angel of the Lord to bring judgment. It’s difficult to conceive of Jesus wielding a sword and bringing a plague to Israel that would kill 70,000 people. This is the same Jesus who during His incarnation did nothing but heal all those who came to him. This is a different side of Jesus, acting as executioner rather than life-giver. This is a mystery, to be sure. But nonetheless we see a Jesus here who is obedient to the Father’s orders. Jesus can be the Redeemer and Sustainer, but He can also be the Judge, as everyone will see for themselves at the Last Day. Yes, we see in scripture Jesus as the Angel of the Lord who would appear as a welcome refuge to Hagar, a savior to Isaac, a burning presence with Moses, a protector for the fleeing Israelites, and a tender bringer of food to Elijah. But we also see this unique Angel in the role of judge and smiter of the people here with David. How do we reconcile these different sides of Jesus? It comes down to trusting in the unchangeable character of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

FATHER. These three options are all extreme judgments that would profoundly impact Israel. Isn’t it interesting that God offered three choices for punishment? Why doesn’t God simply choose a punishment Himself and go with that? Doesn’t this strategy of God’s sound like something a thoughtful parent would do with his child? Yahweh comes across like a shrewd Father here, knowing it’s more likely the person being punished would accept ownership of a punishment if there was a choice and the wrongdoer chooses the punishment for himself? All three punishments were serious, but it was wise and merciful for Father God to give David the freedom to choose for himself.

METAPHORS. The Orthodox note that these three options are metaphors for what God offers to each of us. We could choose spiritual famine, in which we would spiritually starve without the Bread of Life; Or we could choose defeat, remaining captive to sin and death, vulnerable to the spiritual warfare of Satan our enemy; Or we could offer up ourselves to God’s mercy, deciding that death with hope in God’s mercies is better than death with no hope at all.

THE CHOICE. David chose the plague to be the punishment. His response to the choices revealed a heartfelt trust in God. “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is very great.” (1 Chron. 21:13). David decided to entrust himself to God, because he knew God to be merciful and compassionate. He would rather trust in God than in the merciless famine or the brutality of warfare.

PUNISHMENT. So God brought a plague to Israel for the designated three days, and 70,000 people died. The Angel of the Lord brandished His sword from the north to the south and the result was devastating. By the time the Angel came to Jerusalem wielding His sword, God changed His mind and halted the plague. God relented and showed mercy to David and all those living in Jerusalem. When the Lord stopped the plague, the Angel was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan. When David looked up, he saw the Angel “standing between heaven and earth with His sword drawn, reaching out over Jerusalem.” (1 Chron. 21:16).

SACRIFICE. When David saw the Angel of the Lord ready to strike Jerusalem, he fell face down on the ground before God and offered himself to God’s judgment. “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! These people are as innocent as sheep! O Lord my God, let your anger fall against me and my family, but do not destroy your people!” (1 Chron. 21:17). In accepting responsibility for this whole debacle, David offered himself as fodder for God’s judgment. David once again reflects Jesus, who offered himself for sacrifice for the people.

THRESHING FLOOR. The threshing floor of Ornan in Jerusalem is significant in many ways. In Biblical history, threshing floors became a sacred place. It was where Gideon met with God over the fleece of wool (Judges 6). And it was where Jesus’ distant relative Ruth met with Boaz, her kinsman redeemer (Ruth 3). Thus, the threshing floor was perceived as a place of blessing, where miracles happened. And because the busy threshing floor meant a full harvest, it was seen as even more of a blessed place. The fact that the Lord stopped the plague at a threshing floor maintains that symbol of the threshing floor as a site of blessing.

The threshing floor was primarily a place of separating the grain from the husk, the good from the bad, the valuable from the worthless. So it became a symbol of judgment, a place where God judges good and evil, the faithful is accepted and the unfaithful are rejected. The threshing floor is thus a place of discipline, when God puts one in a situation where one is asked to separate good behavior from bad behavior, the wheat from the chaff of one’s character. When one is on a personal threshing floor, God has placed that person in a place of decision, refinement, and self-discipline, of separating the true from the false. Finally, the threshing floor has been seen as a symbol of Calvary, of the place where Jesus Christ defeated death, where he separated the sin from mankind and trampled down Satan, relegating the Adversary to the refuse pile of history.

It is even more astounding then, that this particular threshing floor of Ornan is on Mount Moriah, the site where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. This threshing floor now becomes a symbol again of redemption. And this very threshing floor, of a pagan Canaanite no less, became the site of Solomon’s Temple (2 Chron. 3:1). Not only that, but this very threshing floor became the site of the Holy of Holies in the Temple, the very spot where the Ark of the Covenant was placed!

While the plague was being stopped by the Lord, that unique Angel of the Lord, the preincarnate Jesus, instructed David to build an altar at that very threshing floor. So David purchased the land surrounding and including the threshing floor from Ornan, and David proceeded to build the altar according to the Angel’s command. He offered sacrifices in gratitude there, and called upon the Lord, and the Lord answered by sending fire from heaven to light the sacrifices. It was at this time that the Angel of the Lord “returned His sword to its sheath.” (1 Chron. 21:27). And this tragic but redemptive episode in our history of faith is finally over.

2 SAMUEL 22 (Ps. 18). King David probably composed this song around 1018 BC, near the end of his life. By the time he died around 1015 BC, he had been king for 40 years, and he passed away when he was 70 years old. Historians have hailed him as the greatest king of Israel. He was able to unite the separate tribes of Israel into one unified nation, he was able to secure peace with all his neighboring nations, and he maintained Israel as a God-fearing, God-centered nation. By the end of his life, after nearly 400 years of division and of disjointed tribes, he was able to enjoy the unified nation in the Promised Land under Yahweh. Finally, under David, the kingdom was one and at peace, and devoted to the Lord.

Unfortunately, David was kept from fulfilling his heart’s desire to build a permanent Temple in which all of Israel could worship God and experience His presence. But David had too much blood on his hands, he loved to wage war to the degree that God found him to be unacceptable as the Temple builder. So David accepted God’s decision, and took part in getting everything ready for his son Solomon… David drew the plans, gathered the materials, and prepared everything for the builders. David died a relatively quiet death, and Solomon succeeded him as king of Israel (II Kings 2:10).

COVENANT. God made an eternal covenant with David, that salvation would come through his family line. God promised him that the saving Messiah would be a direct descendant and would establish God’s throne forever. The Messiah would be known down through Jewish history as the Son of David. During Jesus’ time on earth, when he was declared Messiah, it was often through that formula, the Son of David. “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (II Samuel 7:12-13). And David humbly accepted this covenant with God. “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. O Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have given this good promise to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight.” (II Samuel 7:25-29). And among David’s last words was this triumphant affirmation, “Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant arranged and secured in every part?” (II Samuel 23:5). Jesus the Messiah, the Anointed One, proved to be the fulfillment of this ancient covenant between David and Yahweh.

CONTEXT OF SONG. David composed this song near the end of his life when all is at peace with the world. There were no troublesome wars with his neighboring nations, and he even exalts in the fact that his long ago flight from Saul is but a distant memory. What begins as a picturesque song of thanksgiving develops into a victory song, and then concludes with his fervent reliance on God’s “everlasting covenant” with him and his throne. David starts by extolling God’s attributes, moves into the triumphant interventions of God, then exults with his messianic expectations for the future. David seems to sum up his life with an energy known only to David at his best. Here at the end, David undoubtedly once again embraced the truth he uttered long ago, that “Surely goodness and mercy (have pursued me) all the days of my life. (Ps. 23). The Orthodox Church has labeled Ps. 18, the identical song to II Samuel 22, as “the victory of David fulfilled in the Messiah.”

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD. David was so utterly convinced of God’s divine goodness and character that he stretched his vocabulary to include numerous, effective word pictures of God. David seems like he wanted to test the limits of his imagination. David truly loved God with all his heart, and this Song of Praise in II Samuel 22 underlines that fact to an amazing degree.

Attributes:“Rock; Fortress; Deliverer; Refuge; Shield; Horn (Strength); Stronghold; Savior; Worthy of Praise; Attentive; Brightness; Most High; Rescuer; Support; Faithful; Blameless; Pure; Shrewd; Lamp; Helper; Perfect; Flawless; Preserver; Alive; Avenger; Kind.”

INTERVENTION. David’s personal moments of distress in verses 4-5 lead quickly to his crying out to God for relief. The Lord’s power is described with poetic license as he exults in God’s dramatic intervention. God is described by David as an active volcano to come in support of David against his enemies, as he is surrounded by evil. God’s power is evident, but so his gentleness (v. 17-20), when he is saved from drowning in his troubles, and is brought into a spacious place because God “delighted in me.” David’s God is an intervening God, ready to rescue at a moment’s notice.

INNOCENCE. Prophetically, David is speaking of the innocence and righteousness of the coming Messiah, Jesus. But David is referring to himself as well. After all of David’s ups and downs, after his grievous sins, he has maintained a clean conscience. In verse 21-25 he claims that he is righteous, blameless, clean and faithful. His conscience has been washed clean because of his habit of confession and his recognition of God’s mercy. David doesn’t wallow in guilt, he instead trusts in the overpowering mercy of God. St. Paul also served God with a clean conscience, despite the evils he did against the Christian church. (I Cor. 4:4). Keeping a clean conscience is a confessional act of faith that God will cleanse us of all sins, even the most terrible, because His mercy is stronger than any mistake. Confession is the humble act of renewing your innocence.

RESURRECTION. Verses 16-20 were acknowledged by the early church as a prophetic description of Jesus’ resurrection by the Father. Once again, David prayed more than he knew. It is easy to picture Jesus referring to the sweet, life-giving Father God as “He reached down from heaven and rescued me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies… He led me to a place of safety; He rescued me because He delights in me.

ELOQUENT. Proceeding on, David waxed eloquent again as he claims that God is his lamp, his light in the darkness. God equips him with strength and confidence, able to challenge any enemy and scale any wall. God makes him like a sure-footed deer prancing high on a rock, protected and well-positioned to view his environment and what lies ahead.

SPIRITS OF WAR. Many early Christians claimed that verses 38-43 describe the spiritual warfare that is an inevitable part of every believer’s walk of faith. The enemies described in David’s song here are demonic spirits, the fallen angels challenging the Christian warrior. The church believes there is a “deeper malice” than mere human enemies. But through Jesus, we can say with David, “I have wounded them, so that they could not rise. They have fallen under my feet. For you have armed me with strength for the battle. You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.”  And in truth the righteous are spiritually to have no mercy on their demonic foes, they are to “beat them as fine as the dust of the earth, pounded and trampled like mud in the streets.

GENTILES. In verses 44-50, there is a call from David to the nations, the Gentiles, to be saved, to come to God and find salvation. St. Paul quoted David’s words in Romans 15:9, “So that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” (II Sam. 22:50). David was once again praying into the future.

MESSIAH. David closes this song with messianic overtones, as he declares, “He shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” David senses in the Spirit that there is great significance to God’s covenant with him, and he triumphs in that knowledge.

2 SAMUEL 23:1-5. This Scripture passage offers insight into what was on David’s mind during is last days. “These are the last words of David: ‘David, the son of Jesse, speaks – David, the man who was raised up so high, David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. The Spirit of Yahweh speaks through me; his words are upon my tongue. The God of Israel spoke. The Rock of Israel said to me: ‘The one who rules righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is like the light of morning at sunrise, like the morning without clouds, like the gleaming of the sun on new grass after rain.’ Is it not my family God has chosen? Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me. His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail. He will ensure my safety and success.”  We find David speaking prophetically in this version of his last words. He at first rejoiced in his status before the Lord… He was raised up high by the Lord; he was hand-picked and anointed by the God of Israel; he was enabled by God to become the “sweet psalmist of Israel;” his tongue was filled with the words of the Spirit of Yahweh; he was even on speaking terms with the God of Jacob. David’s whole identity was wrapped up in his Lord. His last words are exultant in what God had done through him and for him.

There is a phrase in II Samuel 23:1 that has been interpreted two different ways. Both versions are interesting and instructive. In the first version, he called himself the “sweet psalmist of Israel.” After a dramatic life of tumultuous ups and downs, it appears he still at the end saw himself primarily as a musician of the Lord, the one who instituted the music programs for worship with 4,000 musicians, the one who composed countless psalms for the God of Israel. It seems that at the end of his life, David circled back and saw himself as the young boy playing his harp and singing for his sheep and for his Lord God.

The other version of his final self-identity is translated as having David view himself as “the favorite of the Mighty One of Israel.” David saw himself at the end as someone like St. John the gospel writer, who viewed himself as the “one whom Jesus loves.” David comforted himself in believing that he was a favorite of Yahweh, a servant beloved by God Himself. In I Samuel 13:14, God told Samuel He was looking for a man after God’s own heart. God found that man in David.

Also in his final words, David gloried in the fact that the Lord inspired him, that the Spirit of the Lord spoke directly to him, that Yahweh’s word was “on his tongue.” (II Samuel 23:2). In the end, David was confident that he had been an inspired mouthpiece for God.

After rejoicing in the blessings of God, David then spoke with messianic purpose. He highlighted a “righteous ruler” in his family line, which we know would be fulfilled by Jesus Christ much later down the line, when He comes to earth to rule in perfect peace and justice. David poetically describes what the righteous ruler will be like: a morning sunrise, a cloudless sky, the sun’s rays gleaming on new grass after a rain. Beautiful imagery that describes the presence of Jesus in the world. David then prophetically refers to God’s everlasting covenant with his family. Because of this eternal agreement, out of David’s house will come salvation through the Messiah. Out of David’s line will come Jesus, known forever as the Son of David.

FINAL THOUGHT. Looking back on David’s life, it seems that it was David’s heart that set him apart. It wasn’t his artistic excellence in word and song, it wasn’t his physical beauty, it wasn’t his military valor as a warrior. Nor was it his astounding success as a king. There was something about his heart that caused Yahweh to accept David so intimately. Remember the Lord’s words at David’s early anointing… “Man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). That’s what God was looking for, and in David that’s what He found. Because of his heartfelt trust and confidence in Yahweh, David was unafraid to play the fool. Perhaps David is the greatest holy fool in all of Scripture. The only competitor for this would be his descendant, Jesus Christ. In this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. There is no question that Jesus was the Son of David.

“The single most characteristic thing about David is God. David believed in God, thought about God, imagined God, addressed God, prayed to God. The largest part of David’s existence wasn’t David but God.” (Peterson, Leap Over A Wall.)