Book 3: Psalm 75 of 89 – The Scales of Justice

If there is one image that represents Psalm 75, is the image of the scale.  The scales of justice which tip could tip either way.  The pagan culture teaches us that ‘Lady Justice’ is often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition.  Such depiction dates back to ancient Egypt, where Anubis was frequently depicted with a set of scales on which he weighed a deceased’s heart against the Feather of Truth.

The distinction between the scales of the world and of God is clearly stated at vv2 and 6.  Firstly, for not from the east or from the west, and not from the wilderness, comes lifting up; but it is God who executed judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.  In other words, there is no ‘justice’ that is meted out at random, or that the ‘fate’ of the world wills it, or that one meets a particular ‘destiny’ of a passionless and distant God; the living God is directly involved with our lives, consciously putting down and exalting men.  All the while the boastful and the wicked are exalting themselves (vv.4-5), God is the one who lifts up the horns of the righteous (v.10) as the Lord cuts off the horns of the wicked.

Secondly, such judgment with equity is handed out at the set time that the Lord appoints.  We are often questioning whether the Lord exists, whether He would be handing down judgment on the wicked, whether He even cares.  This Psalm of Asaph reminds us that not only is He present, but that He deliberately withholds judgment until the right time.

Indeed, the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  If we were the ones determining when justice should be handed out, I do wonder whether the Lord’s merciful character would shine through us.  I wonder if we would be patient with our brothers and sisters?  Would we, perhaps, even wish that they should perish?  That is why the scales of justice are not weighed on our own perceptions and judgments, but on his divine timing and discernment.

Even in the days of Moses did the Israelites require constant reminder that vengeance is the Lord’s (see Numbers 31:3; Deuteronomy 32; Joshua 22:23; 1 Samuel 20:16; 2 Samuel 22:48; Psalm 94:1, 149:7; Isaiah 34:8, 35:4, 59:17, 61:2, 63:1-4, Jeremiah 51; Nahum 1:2; Hebrews 10:30).  Not only that – the Lord has a specific day of vengeance appointed.  Because on that day, the Lord will display all the equity and justice that should have been meted out the moment creation was brought into chaos by Satan.  The moment man fell to temptation, His creation was no longer ‘good’.  The gift of salvation and new creation is a work of complete restoration to right the wrongs since the beginning of the world.

The Day of Judgment; the Day of the Lord’s Vengeance, will be terrible and fearful.  V8 foreshadows it.  The cup with foaming wine, the cup of wrath.  As Spurgeon describes it:

For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup. The punishment of the wicked is prepared, God himself holds it in readiness; he has collected and concocted woes most dread, and in the chalice of his wrath he holds it. They scoffed his feast of love; they shall be dragged to his table of justice, and made to drink their due deserts. And the wine is red. The retribution is terrible, it is blood for blood, foaming vengeance for foaming malice. The very colour of divine wrath is terrible; what must the taste be? It is full of mixture. Spices of anger, justice, and incensed mercy are there. Their misdeeds, their blasphemies, their persecutions have strengthened the liquor as with potent drugs;

“Mingled, strong, and mantling high;
Behold the wrath divine.”

Ten thousand woes are burning in the depths of that fiery cup, which to the brim is filled with indignation. And he poureth out of the same. The full cup must be quaffed, the wicked cannot refuse the terrible draught, for God himself pours it out for them and into them. Vain are their cries and entreaties. They could once defy him, but that hour is over, and the time to requite them if fully come. But the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.Even to the bitter end must wrath proceed. They must drink on and on for ever, even to the bottom where lie the lees of deep damnation; these they must suck up, and still must they drain the cup. Oh the anguish and the heart break of the day of wrath! Mark well, it is for all the wicked; all hell for all the ungodly; the dregs for the dregs; bitters for the bitter; wrath for the heirs of wrath. Righteousness is conspicuous, but over all terror spreads a tenfold night, cheerless, without a star. Oh happy they who drink the cup of godly sorrow, and the cup of salvation: these, though now despised, will then be envied by the very men who trod them under foot.”

Our Lord Jesus drank from the cup.  The Day of Wrath and Vengeance will pass over us as He has satiated the Father’s wrath.  True justice has, on a cosmic and spiritual level, been achieved when we committed ourselves to become children of God through the Christ.  The question that remains is not if justice will be given to us.  No – that has already happened in Moriah.  Rather, the question is when God reveals to the world the true state of things; that the humble will be exalted, and the self-righteous shall be put in their place.  In God’s economy, that has already happened.  It is just a matter of when that would be revealed.

Book 3: Psalm 75 of 89 – The Scales of Justice

Job 4-7: the Innocent One

After the opening humility led by Job’s three friends, Eliphaz is the first of the three to speak from chapters 4-5, with Job responding in chapters 6-7.

Before we begin scrutinising the words of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, the LORD noticeably stays silent for the majority of the book of Job – until chapter 42:

“7  After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8  Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9  So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

10  And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11  Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold. “

It is important to understand at the outset of studying this book that none of the three friends (we shall speak about Elihu when we come to him later in the book) have spoken what is right of the LORD.  Au contraire, Job has spoken rightly and is appointed the mediator of his friends, interceding on their behalf.  “And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly.  For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (emphases included) 

In this context, we now turn to Eliphaz’s incorrect words which oddly sound reasonable – if only from a worldly viewpoint.

Chapter 4

The opening verses (2-4) lift up Job as a “righteous” man (righteous as defined by his moral uprightness, as righteous is defined by the world), but quickly tears him apart as a man of contradiction.  Verse 5 begins, “But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.” – as if accusing Job of losing not only faith, but failing to fear God (v.6).  The crux of his chapter, however, is girded by v.7 – “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?  Or where were the upright cut off?”  This is where Eliphaz’s error lies.  Our Christ, the Meek and Innocent One, indeed shall perish to bruise the head of the Satan (Genesis 3:15), a promise which not only Adam and Eve but certainly their descendants were very familiar with.  This offspring shall himself be attacked by his heel – and why should he be attacked, why should he perish even, for being the Man of Righteousness defeating the evil one on our behalf?  Because of grace which is not cheap nor free.  Christ was the price, in spite of his innocence.

Thus, the remainder of this chapter is Eliphaz preaching works righteousness, the covenant of works – and not the Christian grace which God rebuked Eliphaz for failing to preach.  Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same (c.f. Proverbs 22:8, Hosea 8:7; 10:12-13, Galatians 6:7-8), by the breath of God they perish?  Indeed they do – but so does the Innocent One, on behalf of those who plow iniquity!  So does the Innocent One, on behalf of those who would otherwise have perished!  Eliphaz has completely removed Jesus from the equation, and sought to place all men before God as if we could be righteous outside of Christ!  Such is the blasphemy which required Job to repent on Eliphaz’s behalf for.

V.12-17 seems to be a vision which Eliphaz received, as if to grant Eliphaz more authority for speaking these words.  It culminates with the climactic v.17 – “Can mortal man be in the right before God?” which Adam Clarke translates more powerfully as “Can the poor / weak / sinful man be justified before God?” – thankfully, for Job who understood the gospel, this is a resounding YES!  Though we dwell in houses of clay, we are given a renewed body (1 Corinthians 15) – the hope we hold in our faith, dying with wisdom in Christ Jesus (v.21).  

Chapter 5

Eliphaz continues his words of folly – “Is there anyone who will answer you?  To which of the holy ones will you turn?” (v.1) To the Holy One of course.  To the sacrificial Lamb.  Yet, Eliphaz’s words (v.2-7) continue to sting, continue to make reference to the “punishments” which have been dealt on Job for his alleged sinfulness.  He contrasts these words with his reverential words of God in v.8-27.  However, as God indicated in chapter 42, are these words also folly? 

Indeed, it would appear such words are folly, where they are applied inappropriately.  Here, Eliphaz’s error is that the LORD is reproving Job for his sins – yet, at the outset of the book of Job, the LORD already stated that Job is without sin.  The episodes happening against him are permitted of Satan, to display the LORD’s protection of Job against even the evil one’s doomed schemes – a shadow of the Satan’s greatest scheme against mankind being foiled by the death and resurrection of the Innocent One.  V.17 should therefore not describe Job, but describe the Christ – blessed is He who is reproved by the Father, for it is only Christ who is shattered and healed (v.18), not us.  To emphasise the Father’s exaltation, v.19 is reminiscent of Proverbs 6:16 – deliverance from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you; so also, there are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him.  The number seven indicating completeness and rest, the LORD’s day.  So his deliverance (as in Job) and his wrath (as in Proverbs) are two sides of the same coin – that on the LORD’s day, likely the Son’s second coming, such deliverance and wrath will be fully realised.  Such words, indeed, are true – but true of the Son, and not of Job himself.  Eliphaz has quite simply missed “the point” – Jesus.

Chapter 6

Thus begins Job’s response – a response which the LORD weighed as accurate of the LORD’s words and intentions (see chapter 42). 

Firstly Job does not “blame” Satan – he very much understands that it is the LORD who is sovereign even over the evil one.  Thus, it is the LORD’s arrows and poison which are in Job, not Satan’s.  Yet, the words of his brothers are described as trecherous (v.15).  As Adam Clarke describes, “the approach of Job’s friends promised much of sympathy and compassion; his expectations were raised: but their conduct soon convinced him that they were physicians of no value; therefore he compares them to the deceitful torrents that soon pass away.”  Job’s questions are also relentless from v.8 onwards.  Just as the caravans of Tema look, and the travelers of Sheba hope – yet are failed:

“The caravans coming from Tema are represented as arriving at those places where it was well known torrents did descend from the mountains, and they were full of expectation that here they could not only slake their thirst, but fill their girbas or water-skins; but when they arrive, they find the waters totally dissipated and lost. In vain did the caravans of Sheba wait for them; they did not reappear: and they were confounded, because they had hoped to find here refreshment and rest.” – Adam Clarke

Job challenges his friends.  V.22-23

  • Have I said, ‘Make me a gift’? Or,
  • ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’?  Or,
  • ‘Deliver me from the adversary’s hand’?  Or,
  • Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless’?

Indeed, Job states that Eliphaz’s words are misdirected.  “How forceful are upright words!  But what does reproof from you reprove?” (v.25) – for Job’s speech is that of a despairing man, which is wind.  What use is Eliphaz rebuking the wind?  (c.f. Mark 4:39 for an accurate rebuke against a storm).  Job maintains his righteousness (v.30), as already stated by the LORD at the outset of the book of Job.  Adam Clarke states – “As you have proved no fault you have consequently reproved no vice”.

Chapter 7

Job changes his tone drastically in chapter 7, for he now emphasises that his life is but a breath (v.16), in line with the end of chapter 6 where he says the words of a despairing man is like wind.  He seeks some rest in the midst of his temporary pain (v.13-15), a result of the sin of Adam (v.1).  Yet, Job is made a scapegoat of sorts (v.19-21) – when Job is saying that though man goes down to Sheol and does not return (v.9), he is emphasising the weakness that is fallen man.  This is the fallen nature of man now, as described by Job in this chapter.  Eliphaz is no different from Job in this respect – yet Job at no stage is saying that such iniquities are a result of Job’s sin.  Quite the contrary, this is the result of the Fall – experienced equally by Eliphaz and Job.  The key question for Eliphaz is this: “Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?  For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.” (v.21)  Adam Clarke comments:

“If I have sinned, then why should not I have a part in that mercy that flows so freely to all mankind?

That Job does not criminate himself here, as our text intimates, is evident enough from his own repeated assertions of his innocence. And it is most certain that Bildad, who immediately answers, did not consider him as criminating but as justifying himself; and this is the very ground on which he takes up the subject.  Were we to admit the contrary, we should find strange inconsistencies, if not contradictions, in Job’s speeches: on such a ground the controversy must have immediately terminated, as he would then have acknowledged that of which his friends accused him; and here the book of Job would have ended.”

Again, Job states that Eliphaz has missed the point.  The Fall caused the period of iniquity; the Son caused the period of new creation.  Eliphaz focused on man, but Job focuses on the Son; Eliphaz focused on Job’s sins, but Job focuses on his righteousness in Christ.  

 

 

 

Job 4-7: the Innocent One

2 Chronicles 4-6: Solomon’s understanding of the gospel

Chapter 4

See my commentary on the making of the temple from here onwards.

Let me re-emphasise the importance of distinguishing between Solomon delegating the work of building the temple and being described as actually, first-hand, building it.  As was the case in 2 Chronicles 3:1 – “Solomon began to build the house of the LORD…”, chapter 3:8 – “And he made the Most Holy Place…”, followed by chapter 4:1, “He made an altar of bronze…”, v.6 – “He also made ten basins…”, v.7-9 – “And he made ten golden lampstands as prescribed… He also made ten tables and placed them in the temple… He made the court of the priests…”.

Compare this immediately with Hiram’s contribution to the temple building – “Hiram also made the pots, the shovels, and the basins.  So Hiram finished the work that he did for King Solomon on the house of God” (consisting of the pillars, the latticework on the pillars, the stands, and the equipment – see v.12-16).  This is a firm reminder that the foundation of the temple, just as the foundation of the gospel, was not laid down by an Israelite – but by a person of mixed heritage, perhaps even a non-Israelite – such that Abraham himself was not even an Israelite, a time long before the nation Israel even existed.  However, apart from the materials and a skilled man (see chapter 2:13-16), Hiram’s fundamental contributions are not symbolic to the same extent as Solomon’s role in the temple building which the LORD has clearly reserved for this typological son, more fitting even than David.  Solomon’s contributions and the things he has built (the Holy Place; the temple furniture; priestly court) are of substance to the meaning of the temple, and Hiram’s service is but a setting up of the scene for Solomon and His LORD and Father to receive the first and last credit.

Chapter 5

Finally, the most important furniture of the temple, being the Ark of Covenant, in which are the two tablets of Moses (v.10) and brought to its resting place – symbolically, “Zion” (as opposed to its common name, Jerusalem) – the city of God (Hebrews 12:22) though often referred typologically as the city of David (c.f. 2 Samuel 5:7).  The movement of the Ark to the temple mount at Moriah upon the completion of the Temple, with cherubim spreading out their wings over the place of the ark (v.8) is thus foreshadowing of Christ’s second return and the Father finally coming to meet us face-to-face in New Creation at the end of Christ’s on-going work in the current end-times:

“The “Mercy Seat”, the gold used for the entire structure (made of wood) should also be considered as a throne – in 1 Samuel 4:4 the language used is that the ark of the covenant is enthroned between the cherubim.  No doubt, this ark also symbolised the throne of the Father in heaven – c.f. Daniel 7:9-10 and Revelation 4:1-3.  The former book speaks of the Ancient of Days, whose throne was flaming with fire, and wheels were all ablaze.  The latter letter speaks of the throne in heaven where a rainbow, resembling an emerald encircled the throne.  Although the throne was spoken of in two different manners, the lake of fire coming out from the throne is akin to the lake of fire referred to in Revelation 20:15.  However, the throne of the Father in heaven, if speaking of the covenant rainbow established after the global diluvian punishment, then the message spoken of is that of peace and eternity, rather than contention and eternal hell. Then there is Isaiah 37:16 who speaks of the LORD who dwells between the cherubim; and Ezekiel 1:4-5, 26-28 speaks of four living creatures and the throne of God…” (taken from here)

The whole picture is of the Father meeting us at Moriah from Zion, the city of God, founded on the Son’s sacrifice on the cross as witnessed by the laws and tablets of Moses (John 1:45; Acts 26:22, 28:23) as kept by the Ark of Covenant (c.f. chapter 6:11).  This is indeed the whole gospel – not just that of Christ on the cross, but what the event points towards, which is our fellowship with the Trinity in New Creation.  It is this reason that the Levitical singers praise Him – “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (v.13).  And what is “love” if not Christ the Person (as commonly misunderstood in 1 Corinthians 13!)?

Chapter 6

Hence the beauty that is chapter 6 – Solomon’s actual understanding of what the Temple represents.  This should very much characterise Israel as a nation and whether it fails or continues to act as the ordained national priesthood for other nations (Exodus 19:6) just as the Levites are to Israel.  The LORD would only dwell with us through the Temple, through the various symbolic messages communicated in the Temple furniture, all of which is a “multimedia representation” (stated by Paul Blackham, in his explanation of the tabernacle to a Bible study meeting in All Souls in 2007) of the gospel.  Solomon is writing in a format slightly similar to that of the Book of Proverbs, a question followed by an answer, a statement followed by a seemingly contradictory statement.  See v.5 where he recites that the LORD has brought His people out of Egypt but chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel, and chose no man as prince over Israel; yet He has also chosen Jerusalem (admittedly, not a name of any of the tribes of Israel) and has also chosen a man, David, as prince over Israel (1 Samuel 13:14; and now Solomon – 1 Chronicles 29:22) as described in v.6.

This if followed by a re-statement that the LORD shows steadfast love to His servants who walk before Him with all their heart (v.14), and that Israel will not be without a man on the throne is only the LORD’s sons would pay close attention to their way (v.16).  As revealed by 1 and 2 Kings, such “sons”, princes and kings have failed miserably and have led Israel into captivity, and only the Anointed, Elected and Chosen Son and Prince of the Father could truly walk before the Father and cling onto His bosom tightly (John 1:18).  Almost as if it were a response to this, Solomon declares – “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth?“.  The Hebrew seems to indicate a rhetorical question demanding a “No – God cannot dwell with man on earth surely!”, although Young’s Literal translation assists in rephrasing the sentence as “For is it true? — God dwelleth with man on the earth!“.  The latter translation in fact, even if not entirely accurate, is closer to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel and the workings of the temple, as revealed in the remainder of chapter 6:

v.19-21: Opening:  Solomon opens with pleading the LORD to have regard to the prayer of His servant (Solomon) and to Solomon’s plea, as well as the pleas of the Israelites (v.21) when they pray to the Temple (which is clearly a novel practice given the Temple is a new creation in itself!);

v.22-23: Sinning against neighbour:  the man with the false oath shall be punished, and the righteous vindicated, as exposed before the altar;

v.24-25: Israel’s defeat due to its sins:  turning once again to the LORD at the temple and His house, where He shall hear from heaven (note: not the house) and forgive the people’s sin;

v.26-27: No rain due to Israel’s sin:  will lead to forgiveness if they pray toward the Temple and acknowledge the LORD’s name and turning from their sin;

v.28-31: Famine in the land due to pestilence / blight / mildrew / locust / caterpillar:  whatever prayer / plea made by any man or by the Israelites, knowing their own afflications and sorrows, shall be granted the LORD’s protection;

v.32-33: Foreigners:  should they go to worship the LORD at the Temple, the LORD may fulfill his prayers to expedite the conversation of neighbouring nations;

v.34-35: Battling against enemies:  should Israelites go out to battle against their enemies, the LORD shall have their cause maintained by their prayer to the chosen city and Temple;

v.36-39: Sinning against the LORD: as an umbrella to all that above, if any man sins against the LORD, and the LORD is angry with such a person and gives him/her to the enemy as captive, v.37-39 – “yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly, if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their captivity to which they were carried captive, and pray toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name… maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you“.

The repeated refrain that the LORD hears from heaven His dwelling place is, on the one hand, Solomon’s understanding that the LORD could never see the Temple as His actual shelter; a fitting pretext to the entire chapter’s devotion to people praying towards the Temple for the LORD’s mercy.  In this sense, Solomon is stating time and time again that the Temple is but a shadow to the LORD’s true dwelling place, which is heaven.  Yet, at the same time, the LORD has chosen Jerusalem and David to be the respective city and prince where His Name is sealed – both being “mortal” city and man.  In the various scenarios outlined above, it is the final few verses which hit the heart of Solomon’s message – that the LORD’s steadfast love means no man shall ever fear of being apostate due to their own sin (a fitting interpretation of Hebrews 6), except the unforgiveable sin of continual rejection of Christ, the Person witnessed by Moses’ law in the Ark of Covenant.  Though heaven be the LORD’s dwelling place, His acts are clearly incarnate in His gracious dealings with men in spite of their sin, which could not be possibly dealt with save for the saving work symbolised in the Temple.  Solomon does not even mention the need to go through the offerings detailed in Leviticus, but pleads with the LORD that a proper Christological understanding of the Temple is sufficient for them to see that the object of faith for Old Testament Christians is Christ the Person, not Ark / Altar / Lamb the shadow.  It is only in this sense that the LORD’s “priests… be clothed with salvation… [and the] saints rejoice in [His] goodness” (c.f. language in Isaiah 61:11 – the garment of salvation as a gift from the LORD), undergirded by the LORD’s steadfast love for David as contingent upon him remaining face to face with His anointed one, predominantly Jesus Christ the Anointed One.

Solomon therefore clearly understood the gospel as we understand it today:

1.  The Father shall dwell with us upon the completion of the work of the Son;

2.  His true dwelling place was never in the shadow of old creation, such as the temple, but in his current heavenly dwelling;

3.  No man could have his sins pardoned except by praying to the LORD through the Temple, symbolising the work of Christ on the cross;

4.  God could not possibly forgive any such men without remembering first the steadfast love for David, and remaining face to face with the anointed one.  Or in the better words of Matthew Henry:

“We may plead, as Solomon does here, with an eye to Christ:–“We deserve that God should turn away our face, that he should reject us and our prayers; but we come in the name of the Lord Jesus, thy anointed, thy Messiah (so the word is), thy Christ, so the LXX. Him thou hearest always, and wilt never turn away his face. We have no righteousness of our own to plead, but, Lord, remember the mercies of David thy servant.” Christ is God’s servant (Isa. xlii. 1), and is called David, Hos. iii. 5. “Lord, remember his mercies, and accept us on the account of them. Remember his tender concern for his Father’s honour and man’s salvation, and what he did and suffered from that principle. Remember the promises of the everlasting covenant, which free grace has made to us in Christ, and which are called the sure mercies of David,” Isa. lv. 3 and Acts xiii. 34. This must be all our desire and all our hope, all our prayer and all our plea; for it is all our salvation.”

2 Chronicles 4-6: Solomon’s understanding of the gospel

2 Kings 15-16: Conspiring against Jesus

II Kings 15:

1 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign.

2 He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.

3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done.

4 Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.

5 And the LORD touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land.

6 Now the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

7 And Azariah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son reigned in his place.

In continuation of these chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah, we now come to king of Judah Azariah the son of Amaziah, whose mother’s name was the LORD’s power of Jerusalem (Jecoliah), doing what was right in accordance with his father’s name.  Yet, he became a leper thorugh his own arrogance, fully described in 2 Chronicles 26:16-20.  Although defeating the Philistines by seeking the LORD (2 Chronicles 26:6-15), given much strength and wisdom, his pride preceded him and led him to inappropriately burn incense on the altar of incense – forgetting that despite his righteous acts, he – like us – are born as sinful men.  Only the sons of Aaron are consecrated to do the job of burning incense; only the Messiah, the Priest-King, can do this.  Thus he decided his own future as the leper king:

16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.

17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor,

18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”

19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.

20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him.”

 

Thus the king’s son Jotham, perfection of the LORD, reigned in Uzziah / Azariah’s place.

8 In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months.

9 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

10 Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place.

11 Now the rest of the deeds of Zechariah, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

12 (This was the promise of the LORD that he gave to Jehu, “Your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” And so it came to pass.)

Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, walked in the sins of Jeroboam (in similar fashion to the kings of Israel), ending the bloodline of Jehu on the throne of Israel.  This is in fulfillment of the prophecy to king Jehu, the ancestor of Zechariah (2 Kings 10:30), whose kingdom shall not reign forever due to his sins at Jezreel (Hosea 1:4), unlike the Messianic kingdom (2 Samuel 7:13).  The bloody coups of these kings of Israel, the supposed priesthood to all nations, is now becoming more often – such conspiracies repeating itself time and time again (v.10; v.14).  The violence also knows no bound – the conspirator against the conspirator, ripping open all the women in it who were pregnant because of Tiphsah’s refusal to open to the dictatorial king of Israel (v.16):

13 Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned one month in Samaria.

14 Then Menahem the son of Gadi came up from Tirzah and came to Samaria, and he struck down Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria and put him to death and reigned in his place.

15 Now the rest of the deeds of Shallum, and the conspiracy that he made, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

16 At that time Menahem sacked Tiphsah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on, because they did not open it to him. Therefore he sacked it, and he ripped open all the women in it who were pregnant.

17 In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem the son of Gadi began to reign over Israel, and he reigned ten years in Samaria.

18 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart all his days from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

19 Pul the king of Assyria came against the land, and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that he might help him to confirm his hold on the royal power.

20 Menahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy men, fifty shekels of silver from every man, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back and did not stay there in the land.

21 Now the rest of the deeds of Menahem and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

22 And Menahem slept with his fathers, and Pekahiah his son reigned in his place.

Menahem was not a king who followed Christ; he was a king who followed his flesh, securing his royal power through ungodly alliances with the king of Assyria, exacting the money from his body, his people (v.18-20).  Unsurprisingly, Pekahiah (“eyes opened by the LORD” walked in the same sins:

23 In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah the son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years.

24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

25 And Pekah the son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty men of the people of Gilead, and struck him down in Samaria, in the citadel of the king’s house with Argob and Arieh; he put him to death and reigned in his place.

26 Now the rest of the deeds of Pekahiah and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

Irony that the son of the conspirator (Menahem) against the conspirator (Shallum) is now in turn conspired against by Pekah, the son of Remaliah – Pekahiah’s captain!  Such is the failed ungodly leadership that conspiracies and falsehood reign more than the kingdom of heaven on earth.  The open-eyed one, destroyed the one whose eyes were opened by the LORD – irony upon irony.  Yet, the pattern of these kings is that though they walk in the sins of Jeroboam, they still seek the LORD’s blessings through their names.  Yet, it is Immanuel who will bear the true Name that brings blessings upon Israel, granting peace with neighbours (Exodus 23:21).  The conspiracies (fourth one this chapter) thus continue through Hoshea, son of Elah (v.30):

27 In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years.

28 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

30 Then Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah and struck him down and put him to death and reigned in his place, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah.

31 Now the rest of the acts of Pekah and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

In a fresh change of perspective, we turn back to the kings of Judah – free of conspiracies now, Jotham the son of Uzziah and Jerusha (daughter of righteousness, Zadok, the LORD’s possession) walks with Christ, his life described more fully in 2 Chronicles 27.  Yet, although Jotham walked ever so briefly in the LORD’s presence, Judah is now subject to what would soon become the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity of the chosen nation – subject of much of the prophetic books in the remainder of the Old Testament:

32 In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign.

33 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok.

34 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done.

35 Nevertheless, the high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the LORD.

36 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

37 In those days the LORD began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah.

38 Jotham slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Ahaz his son reigned in his place.

II Kings 16:

1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign.

2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done,

3 but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

4 And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

Note that “walking in the way of the kings of Israel” is already a proverb in itself, the kings of Judah distinguishing themselves by doing what is right in the LORD’s eyes – walking in the way of David the type of Christ.  Such is the king of Israel, the false leader who would burn his son as an offering (c.f. Leviticus 18:21; 20:2) according to the despicable practices of the Christ-less neighbours.  Thus, the king of Israel and the Syrians come to possess the land of Elath from the possessor Ahaz.  The work of Azariah is thus undone (2 Kings 14:22), for the LORD is not helping the kings of Judah as He did Azariah.  Yet, Israel’s union with Syria against Judah too is an act of disobedience despite God using them to humble Judah (2 Chronicles 28:8-15):

8 The men of Israel took captive 200,000 of their relatives, women, sons, and daughters. They also took much spoil from them and brought the spoil to Samaria.

9 But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out to meet the army that came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven.

10 And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God?

11 Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.”

12 Certain chiefs also of the men of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against those who were coming from the war

13 and said to them, “You shall not bring the captives in here, for you propose to bring upon us guilt against the LORD in addition to our present sins and guilt. For our guilt is already great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel.”

14 So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the assembly.

15 And the men who have been mentioned by name rose and took the captives, and with the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.

5 Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him.

6 At that time Rezin the king of Syria recovered Elath for Syria and drove the men of Judah from Elath, and the Edomites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day.

Yet, instead of turning back to Christ, Ahaz turns to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria.  What blasphemy and heresy!  “I am your servant and your son” – indeed, the follower of Satan is indeed his son (John 8:44)!  What is the LORD’s is now given to the king of Assyria!

7 So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.”

8 Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria.

9 And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin.

The victory is thus not the LORD’s – but the victory is that of Tiglath-pileser, overcoming the king of Syria with the sword rather than the love of the Father poured out through Christ.  The treasures found in the house of the LORD (v.8) was exchanged for the model of the pagan altar, its pattern and details (v.10).  Christ worship is exchanged for Satan worship:

10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details.

11 And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus.

12 And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it

13 and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar.

14 And the bronze altar that was before the LORD he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of his altar.

15 And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.”

16 Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.

The offerings were thus made on the altar of Damascus, the bronze altar of the Temple of the LORD removed from the front of the house and instead was placed on the north side of this false altar (v.14), quietly ignored.  It was thus removed from the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite where Jesus stood (2 Samuel 24).  See the extent of his idolatry in 2 Chronicles 28:

22 In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD—this same King Ahaz.

23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.

24 And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem.

25 In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, provoking to anger the LORD, the God of his fathers.

26 Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from first to last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

27 And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem, for they did not bring him into the tombs of the kings of Israel. And Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.

17 And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands and removed the basin from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a stone pedestal.

18 And the covered way for the Sabbath that had been built inside the house and the outer entrance for the king he caused to go around the house of the LORD, because of the king of Assyria.

19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.

 

Because of the king of Assyria, he modified the temple structure and closed the way to the Holy Place, forcing idol worship in the heart of Jerusalem.  Note Matthew Henry’s view of Ahaz’ acts of degradation:

He removed the covert for the sabbath, erected either in honour of the sabbath or for the conveniency of the priests, when, on the sabbath, they officiated in greater numbers than on other days. Whatever it was, it should seem that in removing it he intended to put a contempt upon the sabbath, and so to open as wide an inlet as any to all manner of impiety. 3. The king’s entry, which led to the house of the Lord, for the convenience of the royal family (perhaps that ascent which Solomon had made, and which the queen of Sheba admired, 1 Kings x. 5), he turned another way, to show that he did not intend to frequent the house of the Lord any more. This he did for the king of Assyria, to oblige him, who perhaps returned his visit, and found fault with this entry, as an inconvenience and disparagement to his palace. When those that have had a ready passage to the house of the Lord, to please their neighbours, turn it another way, they are going down the hill apace towards their ruin.

Israel is, indeed, entering its darkest time.

2 Kings 15-16: Conspiring against Jesus

2 Samuel 24: Costly grace

2 Samuel 24:  Costly grace

As if the end of chapter 23 does not already indicate and maximize the sin of David as the shadow-king of Israel by referring to Uriah as among one of David’s thirty mighty men (murdered by David’s lustful adultery and scheming), once again David’s weakness is the subject of chapter 24.

2Sa 24:1-25  Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”  (2)  So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.”  (3)  But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?”  (4)  But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel.  (5)  They crossed the Jordan and began from Aroer, and from the city that is in the middle of the valley, toward Gad and on to Jazer.  (6)  Then they came to Gilead, and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites; and they came to Dan, and from Dan they went around to Sidon,  (7)  and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beersheba.  (8)  So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.  (9)  And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000.

v.4 – “presence of the King”; began from Aroer to Gad to Jazer to Gilead to Kadesh (land of Hittites) to Dan to Sidon to Tyre to Hivites / Canaanites to Negeb of Judah at Beersheba.  Why, again, is the “anger of the LORD kindled against Israel” (v.1) (chapter 21:15-20)?  There is no explanation in the narrative, but it is apparent that Israel has succumbed to disobeying the LORD.  Let us turn to 1 Chronicles which explains how this has happened:

1Ch 21:1-7  Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel… (5)  And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword.  (6)  But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.  (7)  But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel.

Note how Satan is the one who stood against Israel; but it is the LORD’s anger which was kindled against the visible church.  Neither narrative explains exactly what had caused Satan to be permitted to stand against Israel (c.f. Job 1-2) but one thing is clear.  This chapter is a fitting end to the two books of Samuel: while Samuel began with the unexpected election of this young priest over the House of Eli, we move quickly to the unexpected election of the young shepherd David over the House of Saul, and now we move once again to the House of Araunah the Jebusite (v.16) over the House of David.  In each instance, we see how God has narrowed down the elected offspring through whom the Christ would come; from the form of priesthood and kingship firstly rejected and then typologically portrayed by its replaced shadow, as a witness to the true fulfillment of the priesthood and kingship by the Angelic Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5-7).

Under this overarching and underlining agenda of the 2 books, it is important that Satan stood against Israel, and that God permitted Satan to do so.  Though it is not explicitly explained as to why Satan stood against Israel, what is displayed is the act of sin which David commits by numbering the visible church as incited by Satan.  In this act of listening to the enemy, David has identified himself as a type of Christ and not the promised King Himself.  It is therefore important to see man’s struggle with Satan since the books of Genesis to 2 Samuel, for no man has struggled successfully against Satan and crushed him definitively.  Even David and his mighty men only defeated Satan’s children, be it the great Egyptian, the remnant of the Rephaim, the Goliath, amongst other fear-inducing enemies – but The Enemy could only be bound (Matthew 12:29) by The One Chosen to crush him truly at his head (Genesis 3:15).  The victories of David are but shadows of Christ’s victory against the Satan; but they are at most shadows.  David is not the Christ Himself, for David must also rely on Christ as His Second LORD and Mediator (Psalm 2; 110 ; c.f. his Christ-centered in chapter 22).

Even Joab, the man who was not mentioned among the David’s mighty men, this schemer and murderer found David’s decree abhorrent (v.6).  For how can David puff up his pride in counting the visible church when the LORD has left a true holy remnant in Christ?  Such is the reason why Levi and Benjamin are not counted amongst the census – according to the Hebrew of these two tribes’ names, the Levites who are joined to the priesthood are not to be joined to this unholy census, just as the Benjaminites, the children of the right hand should not be equally included.  Yet, it is the Benjaminites and the Levites who are among those who receive the most ominous prophecies of Jacob in Genesis 49.  Where do they actually stand?  Are they really the joy of Christ’s childbirth, or are they truly riddled with warfare and ravenous wolves?  It is perhaps likely that focus on the lack of inclusion of these two tribes is to highlight the seeming confusion of the silver lining between the unseen and seen Church – very much the subject of this chapter.

It is then clear in v.10 that David’s heart struck him (or, more viciously, killed him – nakah נכה) after he had numbered the people – that the Holy Spirit grieved (Isaiah 63:10 / Ephesians 4:30), and quite right that he accepted how he had sinned greatly and pursued the LORD to take away David’s iniquity.  David did not, nor through a priest, sacrifice an innocent animal according to the Levitical laws for his sin.  He knew very well that these animals could not take away people’s sins (Psalm 51; Hebrews 9:23) – only the LORD could take away the iniquity (Mark 2:7).

(10)  But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”  (11)  And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,  (12)  “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.'”  (13)  So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”  (14)  Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”

So in verses 10-14 we see the LORD presenting three choices to David – all of whom will be done to David by the LORD Himself: three years of famine, three months of persecution, or three days of pestilence (v.13).  Though in the first two options we see the LORD withholding his provision (be that provision of natural resources in the famine; or his protection from external or internal strife), it is only in the third option that the LORD is directly and positively inflicting pestilence on Israel.  David would rather “ fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but… not fall into the hand of man”.

How interesting it is that David still sees the LORD’s mercy in the midst of these three options which will afflict the nation as a result of David’s failed mediation as the righteous king of Israel.  David saw ahead that the LORD’s mercy in the three days; but he did not see any comparative benefits from the other two choices which will result in a combination of the LORD’s and men’s wrath.  Only in the third choice will we see sin personalized as between the church and the LORD (Psalm 51:4), the breaking of the covenant affecting first and foremost that God-man relationship.

(15)  So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men.  (16)  And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  (17)  Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”  (18)  And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

What is interesting is that the LORD’s pestilence has spread from “Dan to Beersheba”, the same geographic spread of people from David’s census in v.2; and it is akin to the pestilence elsewhere in Scripture, be it in the days of Noah by the global flood (Genesis 7); in the days of Abraham by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24); in the days of Moses by the ten plagues (Exodus 8-12); and this is but another way of sifting the spiritual Israelite from the visible Israelite, the symbolic sweep over the same people who had been counted part of David’s church in the earlier verses of this chapter.

Yet, we must not forget the imagery of what is shown here – and this is the very crux of the consolidated message and thrust of the two books of Samuel.  The Angel of the LORD by the threshing floor (quote) of Jerusalem – this place is symbolic not only because it is the Hebrew for the “city of peace”, but that commentators have recognized this place as Moriah, the place where the Christ would be crucified and where Abraham had foresaw that the LORD would provide a lamb for the burnt offering (Genesis 22; 2 Chronicles 3:1):

“This place is supposed to be Mount Moriah: on which, according to the rabbins, Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices; where Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac, and where the temple of Solomon was afterwards built.” – Adam Clarke

(19)  So David went up at Gad’s word, as the LORD commanded.  (20)  And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out and paid homage to the king with his face to the ground.  (21)  And Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be averted from the people.”  (22)  Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood.  (23)  All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.”  (24)  But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.  (25)  And David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.

And thus the chapter ends not on David’s victory; not on Israel’s faithfulness; but rather quite an opposite note.  The plague, caused by David, and inflicted upon Israel (upon whom the perfect rounded number of 70,000 were taken away from the visible church), could only be propitiated by the burnt offerings and peace offerings given on Moriah on the third day of the pestilence.  What a grand gospel picture that has been underlying 1 and 2 Samuel’s message!  It isn’t men who inflicted our Christ on the cross; it isn’t Satan who induces the wrath and punishment on David for he is but a tool of the Father in tempting David to sin; it is, in actuality, the Father in heaven who inflicts this wrath on the Son!

It is on this second altar, far away from the legitimized altar of the tabernacle but instead is placed on the exact location of Christ’s crucifixion, that we see the light of the world – the Son of God – break into the dim pestilence and wrath of the Father which would have otherwise continued to wipe out the visible church.  Yet, the Father had planned for the Angel to have mercy upon arriving at Jebus (the ancient Jerusalem) for this is where election is displayed for the world to see – the alpha and omega of election in Jesus Christ to be risen on the third day on the cross at Moriah.

The brazen altar which Moses made was at Gibeon (1Ch_21:29), and there all the sacrifices of Israel were offered; but David was so terrified at the sight of the sword of the angel that he could not go thither, 1Ch_21:30. The business required haste, when the plague was begun. Aaron must go quickly, nay, he must run, to make atonement, Num_16:46, Num_16:47. And the case here was no less urgent; so that David had not time to go to Gibeon: nor durst he leave the angel with his sword drawn over Jerusalem, lest the fatal stroke should be given before he came back. And therefore God, in tenderness to him, bade him build an altar in that place, dispensing with his own law concerning one altar because of the present distress, and accepting the sacrifices offered on this new altar, which was not set up in opposition to that, but in concurrence with it. The symbols of unity were not so much insisted on as unity itself. Nay, when the present distress was over (as it should seem), David, as long as he lived, sacrificed there, though the altar at Gibeon was still kept up; for God had owned the sacrifices that were here offered and had testified his acceptance of them, 1Ch_21:28. On those administrations in which we have experienced the tokens of God’s presence, and have found that he is with us of a truth, it is good to continue our attendance. “Here God had graciously met me, and therefore I will still expect to meet with him.” – Matthew Henry

And standing by this cross is not easy.  It is not cheap.  It is in fact very expensive – Luke 14:27.

Cheap grace is not the king of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin.  Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has.  It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.  It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.  Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.  Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “Cost of Discipleship”

2 Samuel 24: Costly grace

2 Samuel 23: The Three and the Church

From David’s prophetic song of Christ in 2 Samuel 22, we move to David’s last words, which once again can point only away from himself. V.5 in particular – “he has made with me an everlasting covenant”: is this covenant broken when the house of David has been scattered and dispersed?  No – we are indeed grafted in the house of David by Christ Himself.  For David’s last words, by the Spirit of the LORD, proclaims the Son of God as the Man who secures one’s eternality in the everlasting House of Israel.  To His children, He is the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth (v.4) – yet to those standing outside of Christ, these worthless men are subject of a consuming fire (v.7 – Genesis 19:24; Daniel 3:27; compare Genesis 2:5 and Genesis 7:4).

2Sa 23:1-39  Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel:  (2)  “The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.  (3)  The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God,  (4)  he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.  (5)  “For does not my house stand so with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. For will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?  (6)  But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away, for they cannot be taken with the hand;  (7)  but the man who touches them arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they are utterly consumed with fire.”

What is interesting to note is that honorific verses following David’s praise of the LORD is key to understanding David’s theology when he describes the good works of the saints; the righteousness of the saints; the cleanness of the saints.  The praise song of David in the previous chapter recognizes that it is the LORD who rebukes the waters; it is the LORD who forgives men of sins; it is the LORD who lights the dark path which David would have otherwise trodden.  Similarly, it is the LORD who has made with David an everlasting covenant – ordered in all things and secure (v.5).  Such assurance of faith is not the same as one who is relying on his “clean” hands for salvation; rather, it is salvation which came first, then came these mighty men.

Note in particular verses 3 and 4 which is currently translated in the ESV as:

3The God of Israel has spoken;

the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
4he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

Adam Clarke notes that v.3 should be far more theocentric – “He that ruleth over men must be just” (מושל באדם צדיק  moshel baadam tsaddik), or “He that ruleth in man is the just one”; or, “The just one is the ruler among men”.  It is clear that from Clarke’s rendition of the Hebrew, we cannot escape that this “ruler” is not speaking of any men; it isn’t speaking as if David should aspire to be the alpha and omega of the meaning behind this “ruler”.  Rather, this ruler is the just one.  Clarke goes on to say regarding the latter half of v.3, “It is by God’s fear that Jesus Christ rules the hearts of all his followers; and he who has not the fear of God before his eyes, can never be a Christian”, explicitly referring to this “ruler” whom David refers to as Christ Jesus.  If so, the verses following make more sense – this Ruler, the Light of the world, shall be “like the morning light” (c.f. Genesis 1, “Let there be light” – light is not created on day 1, but is the first Word proclaimed by the Father).  Clarke also continues in the same vein of thinking: “As the Messiah seems to be the whole subject of these last words of David, he is probably the person intended. One of Dr. Kennicott’s MSS. Supplies the word יהוה  Yehovah; and he therefore translates, As the light of the morning ariseth Jehovah… He shall be the Sun of righteousness, bringing salvation in his rays, and shining – illuminating the children of men, with increasing splendor, as long as the sun and moon endure.”

Yet, it is important to recognize that not all of these mighty men were cut from the same cloth as we turn back to them from v.8 onwards.  We begin with the three:

(8)  These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite; he was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time.  (9)  And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew.  (10)  He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the LORD brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.  (11)  And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines.  (12)  But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the LORD worked a great victory.  (13)  And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.  (14)  David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem.  (15)  And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!”  (16)  Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the LORD  (17)  and said, “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did.

Note how David, upon the willing sacrifice of these three loyal men (c.f. event of v.13 was recorded in 2 Samuel 5:17), poured out what David had considered to be their blood (v.17) to the LORD (v.16) – and such is the definitive picture of the Christ, poured out and anointed (the Hebrew for “poured” in v.16 is nasak, נָסַךְ, which could mean both “poured out” and used in the context of the anointing of a king) before the LORD to fulfill that true thirst of David (Matthew 26:28; John 4:10-11; Revelation 7:17), the water which came from the house of bread the birthplace of the incarnate Son of God.  These three are akin to the missional Trinity, working as one family of different roles and Persons to fulfil the salvific work glorified through the Son; the wise Tehchemonite, the aided Eleazar, son of love and rest, and Shammah born of desolation, inflicting judgment and wrath.  Is this not the united truth of the Triune Elohim, the wisdom of the Spirit leading us to the beloved and aided Son of the love and Sabbath rest to come from the Father who inflicts both his overflowing love and wrath through His God-man Elect One.

(18)  Now Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief of the thirty. And he wielded his spear against three hundred men and killed them and won a name beside the three.  (19)  He was the most renowned of the thirty and became their commander, but he did not attain to the three.  (20)  And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.  (21)  And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  (22)  These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men.  (23)  He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard.  (24)  Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,  (25)  Shammah of Harod, Elika of Harod,  (26)  Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoa,  (27)  Abiezer of Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite,  (28)  Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai of Netophah,  (29)  Heleb the son of Baanah of Netophah, Ittai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the people of Benjamin,  (30)  Benaiah of Pirathon, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash,  (31)  Abi-albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth of Bahurim,  (32)  Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan,  (33)  Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite,  (34)  Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai of Maacah, Eliam the son of Ahithophel of Gilo,  (35)  Hezro of Carmel, Paarai the Arbite,  (36)  Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite,  (37)  Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah,  (38)  Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite,  (39)  Uriah the Hittite: thirty-seven in all.

And it is from v.18 to 39 that we see the church formation – from David the pastor, to the three elders / deacons (Numbers 11; Titus 1; 1 Timothy 3), to the church.  Here we see the hierarchy of the early ancient church which had begun in Moses’ time, which truly stems from the Trinitarian creator Elohim who had commanded Adam to populate the earth with His children (though it seems the mandate came after the fall in His promise of the Son as Messiah – Genesis 3:15-16), rather than children of darkness.  It is in the names of these 37 (including David), that we are brought to recognize the might of these heroes of David’s league – from Abishai (father of gift) who as chief of the thirty won his name in walking victoriously before the three hundred men, to Benaiah, the man whom Yahweh has built up and struck down the heroes of Moab ( ית תרין רברבי מואב  yath terein rabrebey Moab, “The two princes of Moab.” – according to Adam Clarke’s translation) (v.18-20); he who also struck down a lion and approached the man of appearance, the powerful seemingly supernatural (as the Hebrew would describe it) man of Egypt with his seemingly feeble staff, only to turn on the enemy with his own weapon (Habbakuk 3:14).

And these are but the great deeds (c.f. v.20) of two of the thirty, let alone the God-made (Asahel) to He has saved (Helez); from milk and full richness / fatness (Heleb) to whom God is salvation (Eliphelet); but also from my God rejects (Elika) to shady (Zalmon); from desolation and astonishment (Shammah) to scabby (Gareb).  We do not merely have men of renown, but also men of disrepute; men of Israel, but also men who have newly joined Israel (e.g. Ittai); and in this thirty we see the great mixed multitude of the church brought out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38), of the prophecy fulfilled (Genesis 9) and the Gentiles and Israelites fulfilling the commission of the Trinity in the same tent (Isaiah 54:2).  Note especially Matthew Henry’s words in closing of this chapter:

“The surnames here given them are taken, as it should seem, from the places of their birth or habitation, as many surnames with us originally were. From all parts of the nation, the most wise and valiant were picked up to serve the king. Several of those who are named we find captains of the twelve courses which David appointed, one for each month in the year, 1 Chr. 27. Those that did worthily were preferred according to their merits. One of them was the son of Ahithophel (2Sa_23:34), the son famous in the camp as the father at the council-board. But to find Uriah the Hittite bringing up the rear of these worthies, as it revives the remembrance of David’s sin, so it aggravates it, that a man who deserved so well of his king and country should be so ill treated. Joab is not mentioned among all these, either, (1.) to be mentioned; the first, of the first three sat chief among the captains, but Joab was over them as general. Or, (2.) Because he was so bad that he did not deserve to be mentioned; for though he was confessedly a great soldier, and one that had so much religion in him as to dedicate of his spoils to the house of God (1Ch_26:28), yet he lost as much honour by slaying two of David’s friends as ever he got by slaying his enemies.

Christ, the Son of David, has his worthies too, who like David’s, are influenced by his example, fight his battles against the spiritual enemies of his kingdom, and in his strength are more than conquerors. Christ’s apostles were his immediate attendants, did and suffered great things for him, and at length came to reign with him. They are mentioned with honour in the New Testament, as these in the Old, especially, Rev_21:14. Nay, all the good soldiers of Jesus Christ have their names better preserved than even these worthies have; for they are written in heaven. This honour have all his saints.”

It is also important for us not to forget the refrain in v.19 and v.23 – “but he did not attain to the three”.  There is something special about the three which is fundamentally different from the thirty.  Though they had enjoyed the equal fellowship of David the King, they were not of a compromised quality like the son of Zeruiah – let alone that Joab has not even been mentioned amongst these great men (1 Kings 2:5); but the key difference lies in them pouring out their life for David as if pouring out their blood before the LORD.  In the three, we see a picture of the Trinity working through the Son in achieving that great picture of redemption in the pouring out of the water.  This is not a duty which the sons of Zeruiah can do.

Finally, what a sting it is that Uriah should be mentioned at the end of the thirty, as if to highlight once again that David is but one of these men and not the true centre of the three, nor the true king of the great thirty or of the chosen nation Israel.  He is no different and is redeemed from his humble youth and anointed king despite being the grand schemer, murderer and adulterer who had been promised to be given an eternal kingdom through his offspring (2 Samuel 7), just as Adam had (Genesis 3:15) the moment he subverted Christ’s headship and replaced it with the serpent’s.

2 Samuel 23: The Three and the Church

1 Samuel 6: Who can stand before the Father?

The Old Testament is rife with examples of foreign nations speaking of Israel as light to the nations.  Does any nation have the privilege of Israel being the receivers of the Torah?  Does any nation have a God who is defined by salvation, the Hebrew action and noun by which His Son is named in His incarnation (Yeshua; c.f. Daniel 3:29)?  And here this truth is highlighted amongst the Philistines, who look back on the Exodus and Passover with fear.  “Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharoah hardened their hearts?  After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed?” (v.6).

Yet this is half the gospel – the gospel is the punishment of the Father towards the Son, and the love of the Father towards the Son (Isaiah 53:5; John 17).  What they saw was the death of the firstborn, and they only saw Yahweh as a mere God of Israel (v.5).  Their purpose was to provide golden images of creatures to save themselves (Exodus 20:23), just as the Israelites had created the golden image of the calf as the gods (Exodus 32:1) of their salvation.  They did not see the God of Rahab, she who preached the God of heavens and the earth; the God who saved, chose and loved, Israel and gave them Canaan (Joshua 2) the land of Promise, the nation which was given the law to display their transgressions after they were saved from Egypt (Galatians 3).  Their guilt offering is not a covenant enacted and purified by blood (v.3, v.8; c.f. Hebrews 9:20-22), but a guilt offering provided of golden idols.  What blasphemy it is to place images of pestilence next to the Ark of the Covenant which is also laden with gold!  This is why the Philistines, even having the Ark of the Covenant within their midst for seven months, is the subject of wrath – just as the beauties of His creation in the heavens and earth are poetry proclaiming Christ in the eyes of Israel (Psalm 19), but is exclaiming His wrath to all those standing outside of Christ (Romans 1:18-32).  Just as we are destined to walk into the Holy of Holies in Christ, yet the Philistines will forever stand their distance and refuse to join to Israel even after witnessing the joy of the Israelites when the throne of God is in their midst (v.16).  Instead of joining under the tent of the House of the Sun (Beth-shemesh; Malachi 4:2), they return to the House of eradication (Ekron).  Though they know it is not a coincidence (v.9), yet they fail to trust in the object of the true blood-guilt offering of the milk cow on which there has never come a yoke.

And so the Israelites carefully retrieved the ark by the hand of the Levites, the priests who are ordained and anointed to be privileged with this duty; and by the Stone of the House of the Sun in the field of Joshua, the chief typological Saviour between Moses and Samuel, these burnt offerings were truly given to the LORD in rejoicing (v.13) rather than in trembling fear.  These Philistines returned to Ekron, only to await their true eradication by the hands of the King of Israel, for even in the time of Joshua the five lords of the five cities (Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, Ekron) were already the subject of wrath awaiting to be devoted to destruction (Joshua 13:3).  This true destruction is symbolized in the return of the Ark after seven months, intimating the seventy years after the Babylonian captivity whereupon the LORD will send the staggering cup for these nations to drink where the Philistines, amongst others, are to drink the cup which Christ has drunk (John 18:11):

Jer 25:12-27  Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste.  (13)  I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.  (14)  For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”  (15)  Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.  (16)  They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”  (17)  So I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it:  (18)  Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day;  (19)  Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, all his people,  (20)  and all the mixed tribes among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod);  (21)  Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon;  (22)  all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea;  (23)  Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair;  (24)  all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes who dwell in the desert;  (25)  all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media;  (26)  all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon shall drink.  (27)  “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’

Therefore, it is this same cup in which we are crucified in Him; it is this same cup in which the world is condemned through His mediation of creation (Colossians 1).  Yet our sacramental communion provides also the bread of life upon Whom we feed, and until then, the wrath of the Father will continue to impartially display His wrath upon all those standing outside of Christ (v.19).  Indeed, “who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?  And to whom shall he go up away from us?” which is an echo of Job’s question (Job 33:23).  The answer has always been Christ Jesus, the commander of the LORD’s army; but it is seen for now through the actions of David, the typological mediator who worships the LORD at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 110) – he is the only one, not Saul, nor Samuel, to take the Ark back from Kiriath-jearim to the city of David in Jerusalem, the city of Peace.

1 Samuel 6: Who can stand before the Father?