- The Explore the Bible lesson for Aug. 26 focuses on 2 Samuel 24:10-25.
Of all the ways to wrap up a book of the Bible and story of a king, this certainly is one of the most curious. As your group tries to digest the text for this lesson, be sure to only hold to what is clear rather than endlessly stir through what is vague.
Clearly, God’s anger was aimed at Israel, so he “incited” David against Israel by telling him to take a census. To prepare for launching into verse 10, be sure to read the dialogue of verses 1-9. Also keep in mind that this account is anticipated to be more in connection with 2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Robert B. Chisholm Jr., 1 & 2 Samuel, 306), which we studied two lessons ago.
For some reason, this action comes off as a “testing” of David. God told him to do something Joab questioned and later David would feel grief for doing. Evidently, David agreed to do what he never should have agreed to do. His guilty conscience met God’s wrath, and from this, there is an important lesson to learn—repentance should follow consequence.
Confession (2 Samuel 24:10)
If we compare David’s response here to his response in chapter 21, we see a clear resolve in David to make right what is wrong. His pride was not so great that it stood in the way any longer. The key is that David confessed his wrong; he did not defend himself for pride’s sake.
Ask your group: How well do we do at automatically confessing when we are wrong? We humans are defensive creatures who at a knee-jerk moment will defend ourselves, whether right or wrong. To do the opposite goes beyond our nature. Why is this?
The act of confession is not limited to the Roman Catholic understanding of a priest and congregant speaking through a latticed window. It is a healthy beginning to the forgiveness of sins. As a group, consider reading Psalm 32, and notice verse 5 in particular. Ask your group: What would help us have a healthier practice of confession?
Consequences (2 Samuel 24:11-15)
Since we are on the sideline as spectators of the story, it is only natural for us to want to “boo” God for his three options of punishment. None of these are “good” options, and we want to think confession should negate punishment. But that is not how justice works. Consequences are inevitable.
Rather than being discouraged beyond belief, notice how David responds in verse 14. Even in the hands of a wrathful God (whose mercy is great), the king felt more safe than in the hands of humans. Is God’s mercy so good that we would feel safe when he is angry with us?
Compassion (2 Samuel 24:16-17)
Ask your group: Have you ever watched someone else have to pay the price for your decision? One of the tragedies of leadership is having to see the cost of life because of one’s command. This reality should humble any good leader, as it was in the case with David.
God’s compassion was led by how grieved he was at the results of his order for justice, and David’s compassion was led by his despair over the innocent “sheep” whom he—the shepherd— could not rescue. David would offer himself that day, and God would offer himself through Jesus on another day. We cannot miss this heartfelt view of God for his people.
If there is time, consider having everyone close their eyes while one person reads verses 15-17. Having people imagine this scene can be a helpful approach to grasping the reality of this situation. Even better, we could always use a mental image of how mercy and judgment collide.
Contrition (2 Samuel 24:18-25)
This scene of the aftermath is one of the most striking scenes in the Bible, and it should remind us the cost of sacrifice. When we give, we should “feel” it. An empty sacrifice is no sacrifice at all, with which the prophet Malachi will take issue. David knew this altar and sacrifice needed to be a deep reminder of both a painful memory and a positive change.
So, do not miss his response to Araunah’s generous offer: “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). We should not settle for less than giving our best to God.
How do we treat our giving to God? If God does not withhold his best from us, why would we even consider offering less than our best to him? This goes far beyond the passing of plates in a modern church; it speaks to every bit of how we need to be generous with our whole selves.
To David, the cost of his sin was great, but the gain of confession and being restored was worth every single sacrifice. We are told that “the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land” (2 Samuel 24:25). The confession put David and Israel in the right motion to be restored to God.
Perhaps this is why the account of 2 Samuel concludes in such an awkward and seemingly negative way. The writer concludes with the most important lesson: anything and everything is worth giving to be restored to God. Following David’s life, we see this to be true.
Conclude this lesson with a time of silent prayer. Encourage everyone to pray silently for a moment, encouraging them to confess and seek restoration with God. Then, pray a blessing that will encourage them to make a priority of doing all that it takes to be right with God.
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.