1 Chronicles 20 continues from the previous two chapters to show how David’s military victories prepared the way for Solomon’s peace and prosperity.
Chapter 21 recounts events from 2 Samuel 24… It’s a powerful story of sin, repentance and redemption. David sinned by demanding a census and God sent a great plague on Israel as punishment for David’s sin. And then God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem!
Now let’s think about this… Didn’t God just promise David that his son would build Him a house and He would establish his rule forever??!! And now God is about to destroy the “City of David.” It seems as if God’s covenant promise is in jeopardy because of David’s pride.
God gave David the ability to see the angel “standing between heaven and earth and in his hand a sword stretched out over Jerusalem.” And David realized that his sin had put all the promises of God at risk. He fell to his face and cried out to God…
Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people (1 Chronicles 21:17).
God did relent and spare Jerusalem…But – there had to be a substitute – something to receive the punishment intended for Jerusalem.
This story harkens back to Abraham lifting the knife over the body of Isaac – and just in time, God provided a ram.
In this case, God commanded David to build an altar and offer a sacrifice at a specific place. The sacrifice would be the substitute.
And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath (1 Chronicles 21:26-27).
David’s repentance led to God’s relentance (yes, I just made up that word :)
But consider this detail in the text… In order to build that altar, David had to buy the land on which to build it. And this piece of land would be the site of Solomon’s temple. Because of David’s repentance, God orchestrated the circumstances by which David bought the plot of land on which the future temple would be built.
Somehow, God redeemed a genuine repentant heart and brought about a greater and more powerful good.
This story not only points back to Abraham and Isaac but points forward to God’s only Son. There must be a substitute. Our sin demands it. But thankfully… God’s goodness overrules our sinfulness!