After David had reigned may years, he numbered the people of Israel. This was wrong; and God sent a pestilence which destroyed seventy thousand men. David was grieved, and prayed that God would punish him and spare the people. God stayed the hand of the destroying angel; who stood by the threshing-floor of Araunah, whither David was told to go and offer sacrifice. David went. He purchased the threshing-floor of Araunah, also oxen and wood and offered a burnt sacrifice to God. The following verses describe the scene: --
Beside Araunah's threshing-place
The awful angel took his stand,
When from high heaven came words of grace --
"It is enough; stay now thine hand."
For David's penitential prayer
Had enter'd God's compassionate ear;
And where the angel stood, even there
God bade the King and altar rear.
Araunah offered ground, and wood,
And oxen for the sacrifice:
David stood noble wish withstood,
And bought them all at full price.
His answer has a royal ring;
Its lesson high shall not be lost:
"Burnt offerings I will never bring
Unto Jehovah without cost."
The altar rose, the victims died,
The plague was stayed, and lo, there fell --
Token that Heaven was satisfied --
A fire from God, and all was well.
'Twas like a finger from the skies --
That falling fire -- to show God's will,
That here the Temple should arise
And crown Moriah's sacred hill.
And still God marks the faithful prayer,
The careful work, the costly pains;
The Spirit's fire descendeth there,
And there, as in a shrine, remains.
RICHARD WILTON, M.A.
[Illustration: DAVID AND ARAUNAH.]