1 Chronicles 21:1-4
New Living Translation (NLT)
|David orders a census.|
V. Gilbert and Arlisle F. Beers
David Takes a Census
21 Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the people of Israel—from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north—and bring me a report so I may know how many there are.”
3 But Joab replied, “May the Lordincrease the number of his people a hundred times over! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this? Are they not all your servants? Why must you cause Israel to sin?”
4 But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab traveled throughout all Israel to count the people. Then he returned to Jerusalem
Before I start, let me apologize for my absence the last several days. I made an unexpected trip out of town to attend the funeral of my last remaining uncle. While we grieve here on earth, heaven is rejoicing, and Uncle Frank is finally at peace, surrounded by the glory of God. So to catch up, I'm reading in double time and posting in half-time!
Many times I've read about David's census, and never really understood what the big deal was. At one point in time, God had wanted a census done of the Israelites. But when David decided it was a good idea, God didn't agree, and got really mad about it! Why?
King David was a devout man of God, no doubt. But no matter how much he loved the Lord, he was still human, and he still made a lot of mistakes. I like David, because his life is such a portrait of all true Christians; we can never be good enough. We can love the Lord with all our hearts, serve Him single-mindedly, but we're still not going to be perfect, we're still going to sin, we're still going to beg forgiveness, and we're still going to learn that even when God grants forgiveness, He doesn't exempt us from consequences.
So what was David's sin, here? Well, to start with, it wasn't entirely his sin. David's sin reflected the sin of israel, who had become a little too big for their britches, thinking they deserved to have a king they could see with their own eyes instead of allowing God to be their King. They'd lost their focus, and had let pride get in the way of better judgment. So in 2 Samuel 24:1, scripture says
"And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah."So there ya have it. David was human, and God used his sin as a vessel to bring about His discipline on a sinful nation. And He accomplished this by allowing Satan to rise up and goad him into doing something stupid. And being the fallible human being that he was, David fell for it.
This census was never God's will. It was David's. He was king of the hill and he was feeling pretty good about it. He didn't want the census taken for God's glory, he wanted the census taken for his own! He had thirty warriors that made up the membership of an elite "club", the best of the best, and even more exclusive than that were his "three muskateers", the mighty warriors who commanded the thirty. But as awesome as that group was in battle, David knew that he ruled over way more than that, and he wanted bragging rights. So he told Joab and the other commanders to go find out how many warriors he had.
Joab was a little wiser than David this time around. He knew this was going to be bad, and even tried to warn him. He told David God would grow his army even a hundred times bigger, if he'd just give God the honor instead of letting the numbers go to his head. But David didn't listen, and he sent them out to count.
The numbers came back, but only partially. Joab failed to count the tribes of Levi and Benjamin. So he gave David an incomplete count to try to keep his already inflated ego in check. The numbers were still impressive though. Over a million swordsmen in Israel, and half as many again in Judah alone. And David was apparently pleased with himself over how strong his armies were.
God, on the other hand, was anything but pleased. Through Gad, David's seer, God gave him three options to choose from as punishment for his pride. He could choose three years of famine, or three months of slaughter at the hands of his enemies, or three days of plague as an angel of the Lord brought devastation to the land.
Not being able to read God's mind and know exactly what that meant, I think I would have gone with door number three, just like David did. And just like me, I don't think David really understood that three days wasn't going to be a slap on the wrist! During those three days, 70,000 people died in Israel, and then God sent an angel to destroy the city of Jerusalem. As the angel stood next to the threshing floor of a Jebusite named Araunah (because the angel had to stand somewhere!), sword raised and ready to strike, God relented and said "Ok, that's enough, for now!". The angel didn't lower his sword though. He was ready should further action be required.
Araunah looked up from where he was threshing wheat, and saw what was going on in the spiritual realm. I wonder if he took it in stride, or if he stood there gawking in fear and awe. We know it scared the daylights out of his four sons though, because scripture says they ran away and hid. Their daddy didn't, though. Whatever he was thinking at the sight of this great, big, huge warrior-angel standing over his threshing floor weilding a sword, his reaction isn't noted until David approached, humbled and dressed in burlap, and asked to purchase the threshing floor to build an altar to God so He would stop the plague. Araunah bowed before the king and offered to give him not only the floor, but the oxen to sacrifice as well. David was starting to smarten up though. He told the man he could not take what cost him nothing to make amends with God, and insisted on paying for it. The transaction cost 600 pieces of gold.
Ya know, I can't count the times I've heard believers quip "i'm not perfect, just forgiven". Nor can I count, sadly, how many times I've heard believers say that because we are forgiven, we're exempt from consequences. What a total misunderstanding of God's nature! He's a loving God, yes. He's a forgiving God, yes. But above all, He is a just God. We don't get a free pass when we screw up, and God's discipline is often a bitter pill. It's pretty important that we realize that our lesson isn't learned until we've accepted the discipline, humbled ourselves, and made things right with our Father.
That's it for Sunday and Monday. I'll have to combine blog entries for two days at a time for a few days while I catch back up. In the meantime, I hope you got something out of this. And if you didn't, well, I did.