Advent 2022: Thu 22 Dec

2 Samuel 24:15–17

So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.’

I know we are getting close to Christmas, and we want to be happy, but there are aspects of the work God assigns to his angels that we still need to cover. While the angel that brought death in Egypt slaughtered the Egyptian first-born, this angel-action is against God’s own people. God was angry with Israel, and he’d tested David by giving him an order to count his subjects. The inference is that David should have questioned God’s instructions, because David’s strength was not to be found in the numbers of men that he had in his armies, but in the protection that God gave him. Even when one of his wiser officials questioned the order, David did not change it.

The text above describes God sending a plague upon large areas of the nation. This plague was the choice that God had forced David to make in recompense for his mistrust. You might look at this as what might have happened to Israel in battle had God not protected them. Death and destruction wrought by God are not easy issues to come to terms with in the Old Testament.

We read of a plague, but it seems that this is not a pandemic but the killing of thousands at the hands of an angel of God, who’d been sent to do the slaughter at God’s bidding. To the angel this was a task to be done – perhaps the angel had some higher understanding of God’s purposes than we might, for this wholesale killing is too dreadful for most of us. To my mind, this was not an elite killer-angel – no angel is any better at slaughter than any other. God moves in mysterious, incomprehensible ways.

The angel was on a mission and hadn’t yet completed the task. Jerusalem was next on the list, the seat of David, the place where the Temple was to be built. God relented. Araunah the Jebusite didn’t know just how lucky he was.

Just like with Balaam, David was allowed to see the destroying angel. He paid a high price for his failure to trust in God’s protection. One angel – seventy thousand dead.

Did God have to test David like that?

Have you ever described someone as an angel? Is it time to rethink that?

At what other times did God send an angel on a deathly mission?

Father God, you love me and you care for me – this truth is written into the core of the Bible. I want to live in that truth and to trust you for everything I need. Do not lead me into temptation. Amen.