The Old Testament can be tricky to read and beyond reading the big stories of the Old Testament, it’s tempting to overlook the words in between, and go to the New Testament where we feel more at home.
But there’s so much goodness in these ancient texts, so much to learn about God here. And as challenging as it can be, it’s worth pushing through and seeing what God will teach us here about who He is.
In the Old Testamnet, if you are going off of your knowledge learned in Sunday school, you might have vague memories of some of the bigger stories like the 10 Commandments or David and Goliath. You also may think that the Old Testament characters are something like heroes, and that God chose the best of the best.
If you’re familiar with your Bible, you know this is not true. At ALL. Especially with David. He was insignificant and least likely off all men to take the throne of Israel. He had a heart that reflected God’s heart. Yet, there was Bethsheba and that whole debaucle. But David still had screw-ups after this massive failure, yet over and over the Bible speaks of God’s steadfast love for him, as well as David’s heart being fully devoted to the Lord.
David always comes back to God. Always. His failure gives him great sorrow, not because of the consequences, but because He has sinned against His God. “Against you and you alone have I sinned and done which is evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:4.
Second Samuel 24:18-25 and First Chronicles 21 give parallel accounts. The account in First Chronicles offers more details of David’s failure that resulted in pestilence on the land and people of Israel.
Chapter 21 begins, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” He then told Joab, the Commander of David’s army, to carry out the command of the census. Joab disagreed with David, but since David was King, he couldn’t refuse. So the census was taken and reported to David.
“But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Isreal. And David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing.'” (1 Chronicles 21:7-8).
The King taking a census doesn’t exactly seem sinful or worthy of harsh punishment…but it wasn’t the actual census that was sinful, it was of course David’s heart in the matter. Perhaps it was David’s pride and military ambition…but either way, David did something that was not commanded by God.
In nearly all of David’s dealings, He inquires of God first. Then takes action. In this instance, he took action but did not wait for God to give the command.
With God, obedience is of utmost importance.
The land of Israel was struck with a great pestilence and many died. God also sent an 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 the the angel who was working the destruction, ‘It is enough; now stay your hand.’ And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem.” (1 Chronicles 21:14-15).
At this point, we get this tingle of a memory from another story, Abraham and Isaac. When God stops destruction and death at the very last second, a hand raised with sword in hand, the blow of death anticipated. God intervenes and relents, giving mercy.
Because David is penitent, his plea for mercy is granted. Here is where the site of the threshing floor that David purchased for “full price” is so significant. He buys the site of the threshing floor, makes an alter, and offers burnt offerings to the Lord. The pestilence is lifted and David is once again reconciled with God Almighty.
This site is later identified as Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), the same place Abraham was told to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. The same place that God chose, through David’s son Solomon, to build His holy temple.
This threshing floor location is significant to God. It is here He passes judgement, listens to His people, grants mercy and forgiveness, bestows blessing, and redeems His people.
God never wastes these words found in the Old Testament. It is so tempting to overlook the significance of these accounts, and to not put in the effort to look beyond and see the story God is telling. Even the site of this threshing floor, a place bought with a price, a place where judgement is due but God makes a way for fellowship and forgiveness with His people. A place that God chose to set up residence.
Here, in the middle of pestilence and sin, God makes a way for His children. It foreshadows the events to come almost 500 years later, when God would send His son Jesus to make a way for His children to have communion with Him, through the line of David. Judgement is imminent until the Cross. He rescues us. He paid full price. At the cross, he grants mercy and forgiveness, bestows blessing, and redeems His people once and for all. A dirty, hard threshing floor; a rough, crude cross. Each make a way for those in Christ to have forgiveness of sin and communion with our Creator.
So if you’re reading the Old Testament, ask God to give you eyes to see and ears to hear. Every part of His word allows us to learn more about Him, who He is, and His steadfast love for us .