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Joab and the other captains went forth to do his bidding. It took them nearly ten months to number the people, and then David found that in Israel and Judah he had thirteen hundred thousand valiant men ready for battle.
But David was no longer inclined to rejoice in his pride and strength. The prophet Gad came to rebuke him in the Name of the LORD for his selfwill, and David's heart smote him. He cried unto the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in that I have done, and now I beseech Thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have done very foolishly."
Doubtless He Who never refuses forgiveness to those who seek it with their whole heart, forgave His chosen servant with that free full pardon on which David loves to dwell in his psalms. But as before in the matter of Uriah, the punishment of his sin was yet to be borne, although the anger of the LORD was turned away. And we know also that GOD willed to punish the people as well as David. So GOD told the king how the LORD gave him his choice of three things. Either seven years of famine should come upon the land; or he should flee for three months before his enemies, or there should be three days' pestilence.
David chose the last, saying, "Let us fall now into the Hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great, and let me not fall into the hand of man.'
The pestilence therefore came upon the land, and during those three days seventy thousand men died. And when David lifted up his eyes, he saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, with a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel put on sackcloth, and fell on their faces, and when David saw the fearful effects of the pestilence, he humbled himself before GOD, saying, "Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? let Thine hand, I pray Thee, be against me, and against my father's house, but not on Thy people that they should be plagued." The destroying angel yet had his hand stretched out upon Jerusalem, when the LORD had pity upon His people, and sent the prophet Gad again to David, to bid him raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing-floor, near to which the angel stood bearing the avenging sword. Araunah, (or Ornan as he is called in the Chronicles) and his four sons saw the angel, and Araunah
went forth to meet David. Then the king said, "Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD; thou shalt grant it me for the full price, that the plague may be stayed from the people."
Araunah with quite a royal spirit of generosity wanted to give all, both the ground, and the threshing instruments for wood, the oxen for burnt sacrifices, and the wheat for a meat offering; saying, "The LORD thy God accept thee." But David refused to take them as gifts, saying, "I will not offer unto the LORD my GoD of that which doth cost me nothing. So the king bought the threshing-floor of Araunah for six hundred shekels of gold, and he built an altar, and offered peace-offerings, and burnt-offerings, and called upon the LORD, and the LORD answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar. And the LORD commanded the angel, "It is enough, stay now thine hand." Then the angel put up his sword again into the sheath thereof, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
DAVID'S LAST DAYS.
ALTHOUGH King David was not allowed to build a noble house for the LORD as he had desired, he never ceased to long for it, and make preparations that such might one day be built. He set masons to hew wrought stones in readiness, and he prepared iron for the nails, and brass, and cedar wood in abundance, saying, "Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries, I will therefore now make preparation for it." David also told Solomon all his mind, saying, "My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house unto the Name of the LORD my GOD, but the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars; thou shalt not build an house unto My Name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in My Sight. Behold, a son shall be born unto thee, who shall be a man of rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about, for his name shall be Solomon," (which means Peaceable,) "and
I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My Name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his FATHER; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever."
David showed Solomon all the preparations he had made for building the LORD's House, gold and silver, precious stones, and marble in abundance, and patterns for everything, for the Building itself; and for the various vessels of service, the altar, candlesticks and lamps, tables, flesh-hooks, bowls, cups and basins. Nor were these unimportant trifles, for King David expressly told his son, "All this the LORD made me understand in writing by His Hand upon me, even all the words of this pattern." Thus GOD Himself was pleased to teach men that nothing is unimportant which concerns His service, and that nothing can be too precious to be offered up for that service. David charged him, saying, "Now my son, the LORD be with thee, and prosper thee, and build the House of the LORD thy God, as He hath said of thee. Only the LORD give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the LORD thy GOD. Then