Word of Encouragement (02/13/2024)

Pastor James
February 13, 2024

But David's heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly." (2 Sam. 24:10)

This is David’s prayer of confession, acknowledging his iniquity before the LORD. What was his sin? He conducted a census. When he commissioned Joab, one of his generals, to do it, he opposed it by saying, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing” (v. 3)? He didn’t give the reason. But in a parallel passage, Joab adds, “Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel” (1 Chron. 21:3).

But was it sinful to take a census? God Himself commanded Moses to take a census of the Israelites, twice—at the beginning of their wilderness journey (Num. 1:2) and at the end, after the exodus generation died out in the wilderness for their sin of unbelief and a new generation arose (Num. 26:2). The LORD even gave instruction on what to do when a census was taken (Ex. 30:12). And we are told in 2 Chron. 2:17 that Solomon took another census “after the census of [the resident aliens who were in the land of Israel] that David his father had taken.” Was this better because Solomon took a census only of the aliens in Israel, not the Israelites? But it seems like another census was taken when some Jews returned to Canaan from their Babylonian captivity (Ezra 2).

Then, why did Joab oppose (v. 3) and David feel guilty after taking the census (v. 10)? Rick Phillips suggests, “The record in Chronicles places this right after a great victory over the Philistines, so the sin was probably related to a problem with pride and self-reliance. A census was preliminary to a draft of soldiers and a levying of taxes. It seems, therefore, that David’s intent was to increase the royal power in a way that contrasted with humble reliance on God” (https://www.tenth.org/resource-library/articles/why-was-davids-census-a-great-sin/). If true, this act of taking a census was akin to the rich man in Jesus’ parable, saying to himself after a plentiful harvest, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19).

We can understand this, can’t we? We have experienced our desperate reliance on the Lord lose its sense of urgency when life gets comfortable. Our reliance shifts from the Lord to our checkbooks and assets. We constantly check the balance of our accounts to see how much we have so we can relish the sense of relief that comes from how much we have. How dangerous that kind of mindset is for our spiritual well-being!

As we begin a new day, let us examine ourselves to see where we put our trust. What are we trying to obtain and achieve? Where do we think we will be spiritually once we achieve our goals? Are we trying to get to a place where we don’t have to rely on God as much? How should we discipline our minds along the way so we don’t become spiritually complacent and apathetic once we accomplish our objectives? Christ calls us to abide in Him (John 15:4), not just because we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5), but also because He is the true Vine and our life is in Him. The goal of our life should be to abide in Him always: the fruit we bear—what we seek to accomplish—is a byproduct.