Word of Encouragement (02/14/2024)

Pastor James
February 14, 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)

It seems that David knew taking a census (for the reasons he had) was wrong. That was why he felt guilty soon after the census was taken. Maybe he knew it from the beginning. Or maybe Joab’s opposition triggered something in him. If so, he tried to silence it by arguing with Joab. And argue, he did: “But the king's word prevailed against Joab...” (v. 4). We know how that works. We are not so sure whether what we think or try to do is right. When someone raises an objection, we raise our voices and fiercely argue against him as though, if we won the argument, that would prove us to be right. But we know from experience that’s not true. We can win the argument but know deep inside that we are still wrong.

The power of sin is real. It is also seductive and sinister. When there is no resistance, it will swallow us whole. But if we put up any resistance, it will beguile us to give in one inch at a time, starting with something that may not be obviously sinful, only questionable. Theoretically speaking, there is a difference between what is obviously sinful and what is only questionable. But practically, speaking, there isn’t much difference. Sin is not like a solid object, which needs an open door to get in. It is more like a gaseous entity, which needs only a little crack to invade our hearts. A questionable decision or action is enough to poison our conscience and cause our minds to fall into sin.

Against his better judgment, David went ahead and commissioned Joab to take a census. He went beyond doing something questionable. He crossed the line and walked into the realm of sin. Maybe he convinced himself that it was not so bad. Maybe he was testing God by pushing the envelope. We get curious about certain sins. We just want to taste it a little or “smoke without inhaling.” Prompted by curiosity, enticed by the thrill of the forbidden, and against the warning of our conscience, we proceed. But the moment we cross the line, the wave of regret crashes against our conscience. We quickly realize that whatever the seduction of sin offered was not worth it at all. That’s what happened to David: “David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people.”

When a temptation comes, we must nip it in the bud. Since nothing good can come out of temptations, we should avoid them like a plague. The moment we engage it and allow it to come close enough to whisper into our ears, “Has God said...?” it may be too late. Temptations cannot make us sin if we don’t want to. The problem is that we like flirting with temptations. We think we can tell temptations, “You may come this far but no farther,” not realizing that they have invaded our hearts far more deeply than we think.

Of course, we cannot nip temptation in the bud if we are not already in the right frame of mind, vigilantly guarding our hearts and minds against the invasion of worthless images and thoughts. We must not overestimate our piety; we must be intentional about abiding in Christ at all times: “Temptations lose their power / When thou art nigh.” The surpassing beauty and knowledge of Christ should be at the forefront of our minds. That this is difficult to do does not matter. We must find a way to do it for the well-being of our souls. Let us begin by asking the Lord to increase our desire for holiness by showing us His surpassing glory and beauty.