Our reading today begins with the last words of king David (23:1). Note in verse 1 that David was exalted and anointed, like the coming Messiah would be. David ascribes to himself the office of prophet (v. 2). The Holy Spirit speaks by him. We have seen already how David fulfilled the role of priest during his reign. This makes David the prophet, priest, and king of Israel – another picture of Christ. But God doesn’t just speak through David, He speaks to Him. The prophet, priest, and king of God must fear God and rule justly (v. 3). Such are showered with the grace of God (v. 4). David’s house – a metaphor for his offspring – stands with God. Why? Because God has made it so through the covenant He made with David of the One Who would come from his house (2 Sam 7). God has said it, and He will do it (v. 5). But the wicked will be thrown into the fire (vv. 6-7 – see John 15:6).
We then get a historical record of David’s “mighty men,” beginning with the three mightiest (v. 8). The mighty men are those who showed great valor in battle. Note in verses 10 and 12 that these victories were all brought about by the Lord. The valor these men exhibited was rooted in faith in God. The story of the water from the well of Bethlehem in verses 13-17 shows us two things. First, David’s people were loyal to him. Second, David loved his people. In the remaining list, note that among the mighty men were Abishai (v. 18), Asahel (v. 24), and Uriah the Hittite (v. 39). If you count, there are 36 men spoken about, though the total is 37. This is probably because Joab would (naturally) be included in the list (see vv. 18, 24).
The book ends with the account of David’s census of Israel. David’s desire to know the number of Israelites comes from a place of pride. It could be that David wants to know how great his kingdom is. Given that the census is of the men who can go to war (24:9), it could be that David is unsatisfied with the territory he has. Either way, his intentions are sinful as we see from Joab’s response (v. 3) and David’s repentance (v. 10). Note that verse 1 states that God incited David to do this because He was angry with Israel. If we compare this with the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 21, we see in 1 Chronicles 21:1 that it was Satan that incited David to do this. The mystery of God’s sovereignty – even over Satan and over the sin of man – may be difficult if not impossible to understand. But there is no doubt that the Bible teaches it.
After David repents of his sin (v. 10), God says through the prophet Gad that David may choose from three different punishments. Note that, once again, sin always has consequences. Notice also that the three choices God gives David are: famine, war, or pestilence (v. 13). These are used in the Old Testament as pictures of general judgment for sin (see 1 Kings 8:37, Jer 14:12, Ezek 6:11-12). They are also used by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse to talk about the time between His comings (Luke 21:10-11), and used in the book of Revelation the same way (Rev 6:8). What God is doing is punishing Israel for sin (2 Sam 24:1), but using it as a picture of what sin has done to the world.
In the same way, David’s repentance (v. 10) and worship of God (vv. 18-25), and God’s subsequent relenting from judgment are a picture of God’s salvation of His people who repent in faith. This is a fitting end to the book. We have followed the story of David, the Christ-figure – prophet, priest, and king – and his unjust sufferings in this world, his humility, and his trust in God to judge justly. We have also seen the sinner who through God’s sovereign choice – and his own repentance and faith – has found salvation in God in spite of his sin. And we have seen Israel, the sinful nation to which God has shown His favor, but whose sin has tried God’s patience so many times. We will that eventually, God will judge justly.
And how amazing that the book ends at the threshing floor of Aruanah (Ornan), the very site upon which God will have the Temple built (2 Chr 3:1) – the Temple that represents His presence with His people. The very spot where God called for the sacrifice of a beloved son (Gen 22:2) and where He provided a substitute to save (Gen 22:13-14). So we have the picture of Christ the Savior. We have those of faith who are in God’s presence and for Whom God provides. And we have those who receive grace upon grace upon grace until God must judge and remove them from His presence. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel are indeed our story. They are everyone’s story. All that matters is which side of the story is yours…