1 Chronicles 21:1-8
God who relents to restrain
Pastor Joshin John Houston
King David won many a victory and his army was successful in killing the 4 giants – the brother of Goliath as well as the supposedly 3 sons of the giant Goliath of Gath (1 Chron 20:4-8). The very first Philistine giant was killed by David when he was in his late-teens. After this victory, there came the offer to David to be the then king’s son-in-law which he accepted, and possibly regretted afterwards due to the despise he received at her hands (2 Samuel 6:16-21). In his later years, after the 4 giants were killed, the first giant-killer was tempted by Satan to number Israel. After each victory won over the giants comes a situation to test our motives and desires. When Satan placed the thought in the mind of David to number Israel, he should have avoided the temptation based on prior experience with Bathsheba where the sight resulted in sin through the stages of progression – sight becoming a thought, thought becoming desire, desire into planning, planning into action, and action resulting in adultery, lies, and murder. Apparently, David haven’t learned from the previous mistake of entertaining wrong thoughts. He falls for the instigation of Satan to commit sin.
Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, the duration of which is unknown. Presumably, they both fulfilled the commands God gave them concerning the garden. The same one who challenged God’s authority and superiority in heaven, challenged God’s word on earth. The cunning serpent in the Garden brought the proposition to Eve concerning the forbidden fruit, which resulted in a thought to develop in her to disobey God, culminating in spiritual death. Even though Adam and Eve enjoyed a good relationship with God till then, the thought instilled by the serpent eventually resulted in judgment to be pronounced not only on the serpent, but also on Adam and Eve who acted upon the thought caused by the words of the serpent of old. Thus, the relationship between God and man got estranged by the serpent. Estrangement of good and working relationships have a “serpent” involved. Be watchful over the serpentine spirits which brings schisms among the saints of God!
David’s decision to number Israel was not based on divine direction as was the case in the two previous instances of numbering mentioned in the book of Numbers 1 and 26. If no divine direction was provided or sought after, then it was based on the carnal mindset of pride and boastfulness. God does not tolerate pride, especially of those in the higher echelons. When David chose to number Israel, God’s anger was aroused against Israel (2 Samuel 24:1). The penalty of pride was to be chosen by David – either 3 years of famine in the land, or 3 months of fleeing by David, or 3 days of plague in the land. It is significant to note that in the judgment given by God, wherever “land” is mentioned, it comes with the prefix of “your” (2 Sam 24:13). The land belongs to God and the children of Israel; but when David chose pride over prayer (for direction), the responsibility of the land fell on him – or in other words, whatever happens in the land is a direct result of David’s actions! Concerning the judgment, David chose to “fall into the hand of the Lord”, and the Lord sent a plague upon Israel (2 Sam 24:14-15; 1 Chron 21:12-14). So, the Hand of Lord referred here is the Angel of the Lord, who brought plague in the land, killing 70,000 men.
The Angel of the Lord was intending to destroy Jerusalem – the place of worship and sacrifices. The Lord who looked upon the offering of the innocents and its place thereof, saw the blood of the already offered sacrifices; He relented of the disaster and restrained the Angel. It was the blood of the Passover Lamb which made God to restrain the Angel from bringing the 10th plague upon the houses of Israel in Egypt. When David accepted his folly, and prayed for God’s hand (or in other words the plague) to be upon himself and his family, then God instructed David through Gad the prophet, to build an altar in the same place where the Angel of destruction stood. David bought (the land), built (the altar), butchered (the oxen), offered burnt offerings, and bowed (in prayer). God accepted David (2 Samuel 24:23) and answered his prayer by sending fire on the altar of burnt offering (1 Chron 21:26).
We serve a God who relents to restrain the plague. The restraining of the Angel happens when we accept our follies of pride over prayer, haughtiness over humility, and wicked ways over righteous ones. If there is anything we possess or have attained or have received, it is only because of God’s abundant grace. Psalmist says loud and clear that “all my springs are in you” (Psalms 87:7). It means, I enjoy the flow of water because they sprang from You O Lord! If there is a multiplication of numbers from the time of Abraham with the son Isaac to the time of David with the hundreds of thousands, then it is only because of God protecting them from plagues and enemy attacks. We are where we are only because of God – for we can do nothing apart from Him! This awareness should prompt us to give what belongs to God – buying the land for His Temple; building the altar to offer to God; butchering the pride and haughtiness which need to be on the altar; offering our best in sacrificial giving; and humbling ourselves in prayer. God will then accept us, answer by fire from heaven upon the altar, and restrain the angel from further harm. We need God and His mercy now more than ever!