Word of Encouragement (02/15/2024)

Pastor James
February 15, 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 incident began with a troubling statement: “Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah’” (v. 1). This sounds like God was causing David to sin. Interestingly, in a parallel account, we read, “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, ‘Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number’” (1 Chron. 21:1-2).

By this time, I hope you are not confused or shocked by such conflicting statements in the Bible. God is the sovereign Lord of all, even over Satan. God and Satan do not share the universe as if YHWH were only in charge of yang and Satan were in charge of ying. Satan is but a creature. Even though he is utterly depraved and rebellious, he is still under God’s sovereign lordship: he cannot do anything beyond the boundaries God has set upon his activities. God in His infinite wisdom uses Satan’s wickedness and evil schemes to accomplish His good purpose.

The dual account of this incident gives a fuller picture of what happened. We don’t know what Israel did to provoke God’s anger. But we should not be surprised by this: Israel was known to do this, more often than not. In addition, it seems that David was not in a good place, either. Quite possibly, his heart was growing proud; God saw it fit to discipline and humble him at this time. So, God allowed Satan, who always tries to tempt men and women to sin against the Lord, to incite David to take a census despite Joab’s strong opposition. We can see that all three parties—the people of Israel, David, and Satan—did what they did out of their free will. At no point did God force any of them to do anything against their will. God simply lifted His hand of common grace, by which He had suppressed the full expressions of their sinfulness. In doing so, God did not make them sin or worse than they were; He only allowed their true colors to come out, which He had known all along.

What effect is this knowledge having on you? Should it not make you tremble with fear in the face of God’s absolute sovereignty? It is not a light thing to flirt with sin and continue on the path of rebellion against God. Yes, there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ. But our heavenly Father will discipline His wayward children: we are called to be holy as our heavenly Father is. I’m not saying that we should obey God out of fear of being disciplined. We should obey God because we love Him, who first loved us.

But this knowledge should offer us great comfort as well. Nothing is outside of the sovereign control of God, who loves us deeply and is able to work all things together for our good. Let this blessed assurance propel us to pursue holiness in joyful and willing obedience to God.