The Expository Files



 David's Example of Worship

2 Samuel 24:18-25


Toward the end of his reign, David committed a sin by commanding Joab to number the people, demonstrating trust in his military might rather than in God. However, David came to understand his error, confessed his sin, accepted his punishment, and then made an offering to God as an expression of worship to stop the plague. We understand that the forms of worship under the New Covenant are different from those under the Old, but there are certain principles which are true in both. Therefore, we want to see what lessons we might learn from a consideration of David’s example of worship in 2 Samuel 24:18-25.

Preparation, v. 18

First, we see preparation. “And Gad came that day to David and said to him, ‘Go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’” Before David could engage in an act of worship that was acceptable to God, he needed to prepare properly for it. We know that God wants us to worship Him. “Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10). “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

While in general, worship is not limited as to time and place, God has specified a day on which He specifically authorizes His people under the New Covenant to assemble that they might worship Him. “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). While we may assemble at other times, it is important to remember that certain aspects of our worship do involve an assembling together. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
Therefore, just as David needed to prepare for his act of worship, so it is helpful for us to prepare for our times of assembling for worship. We should get plenty of sleep Saturday night so that we may be well rested. Also, we ought to get up early enough Sunday morning so that we do not have to be rushed. And if we have a Bible lesson or a part in the service, we need to prepare these things the day before if at all possible. By doing these things we can be prepared to worship in a way that pleases God and have the attitude that David expressed in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

Obedience, v. 19

Next, we see obedience. “So David, according to the word of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded.” David had previously disobeyed, so now in his repentance, he understands the importance of obeying the commandments of the Lord as revealed by the prophet Gad. In all ages, God has required people to obey His will and keep His statutes to be acceptable to Him. This was certainly the case under the Old Covenant. “And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).

This same principle is true under the New Covenant—whether in our daily lives, the organization of the church, the work of the church, or the worship of the church, the Lord expects us to obey Him. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

So, how do we today obey the commandments of the Lord in worship? We sing and make melody in our hearts (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). We pray (Acts 4:23-31). We teach and study God’s word (Acts 11:26, 14:27). On the first day of the week, we observe the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). On the first day of the week, we give of our means (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). And we strive to do all these things in exactly the way the Lord has instructed us in His revealed word.

Sacrifice, vs. 20-24

Then we see sacrifice. "Now Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming toward him. So Araunah went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. Then Araunah said, 'Why has my lord the king come to his servant?' And David said, 'To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.' Now Araunah said to David, 'Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing implements and the yokes of the oxen for wood. All these, O king, Araunah has given to the king.' And Araunah said to the king, 'May the Lord your God accept you.' Then the king said to Araunah, 'No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.' So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver." Araunah offered to give David the threshing floor, oxen, and implements, but David refused because he was making a “sacrifice.”

We do not offer animal sacrifices today, but we still have sacrifices to make. “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). Just as animals were sacrificed to God in worship under the Old Covenant, so our worship to God under the New Covenant may be viewed as a sacrifice. “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).

So how do we “sacrifice” to God in worship today? We give Him our time. We could be doing other things such as working, hunting, fishing, sleeping, watching television instead of spending time in worship, but we remember what Paul said in Ephesians 5:16, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Also, we offer Him our abilities. We could be devoting these talents to other causes, but we must put the Lord first. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). And we even donate our money with which we could be buying other items simply to satisfy our selfish desires. “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Reverence, v. 25

Finally, we see reverence. “And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.” Reverence means godly fear and awe, something that must characterize the entire lives of those who wish to please God. This has always been so. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

The New Testament teaches the same principle. “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’” (Acts 10:34-35). Thus, all of our service to God, including our worship, must be done with deep reverence and godly fear. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).
David showed reverence by offering the sacrifices just as God commanded. We show reverence by our preparation, obedience, and sacrifice in worship, but we must also be careful to behave reverently in our worship services. “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20). The idea of silence here is not that of making no noise whatever. Obviously, when we are singing, we are making a “joyful noise.” Rather, it is a spirit of quietness that shows reverence and awe


Worship is not a spectator sport where people come to sit as an audience in the pews and be entertained by the efforts of the Bible class teacher, the song leader, those who lead in prayer and wait on the table, and the preacher. Instead, it is a time for which we need to prepare so that we might come together in obedience to offer the sacrifice of praise to God by everything we do in a spirit of deepest reverence. Even though David lived under the Old Covenant, there is much that we can learn from his example about the proper attitude that we need to have in our worship.


  By Wayne S. Walker
From Expository Files 22.5; May 2015