David knows what it means to lead a nation for God, even if his reign was marred by failure (vv.1-4). He also knows the indescribable blessing of being a man whose life and family know God’s covenant love (vv.5-7). This love is such an undeserved gift: with all of David’s sins, he can yet be sure that the God who has taken hold of him will never let him go. This is Gospel grace, afterall.
And then, as the book draws to a close, a list of David’s valiant soldiers. Deeds of faith are mixed with deeds of derring-do (vv.8-39). Their courage matches that of David in his prime (for example, note v.21), but now that he is ageing, these men are essential to his safety, and remind us that every ruler has his day.
But this book will not close in a nostalgic glow. Instead, its fire flares up, in this desperate narrative of David’s sin and its consequences (ch. 24). The passage is troubling in theological as well as emotional levels. Whay was God angry? Is David responsible, therefore, for this decision to number his men? Why does a nation suffer the consequences of God’s anger, and David’s foolhardiness? And to the mix, is this anger ultimately directed towards a nation which did in fact choose Absalom in his rebellion, rather than stick with their King, David? If the writer were putting pen to paper in order to win fans – or if God were out to broaden His fanbase – then the chapter fails. But our historian has to write is as it is. And God? Well, He has His reasons. He is God, you know.
The result of David’s sin is a satisfaction for sin which kills seventy thousand (v.15). David is heart-broken – “let Your hand fall upon me and my family” (v.17). And how we remember the King who prayed that He, and He alone, would take the wrath of God for God’s straying sheep. This passage gives us no neat answers for how God works, and for how sin is dealt with. It does remind, us, though, like all of this book of 2 Samuel, of the true, sinless King, who was also the stricken shepherd. He has taken our sin, our plague, and our death. In Him is life, forevermore.
So ends a largely very sad book. God is always good in 2 Samuel. He is not always easy. Sin, of course, is never easy. It always bites, wounds and brings death. David’s God is preaching His Gospel to us. Will we seek grace, and find life?
A Prayer to Pray
Father God, You are never less the God You were in David’s day. You are always wrathful where sin is present, and always merciful where broken sinners cry out. Give me David’s humility before Your Lordship, and a fear of sin which drives me to You. Amen.