Today’s reading (from the One Year Chronological Bible [NLT]) is from 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21 and 22. Both passages describe where David takes a census of his people. God did not like that David took the census. Yet in verse 1 of 2 Samuel 24, we see God “causing” David to take the census:
1 Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him.
Does God cause us to sin?
I was very confused by this, so I consulted my trusty footnotes:
footnotes: God does not cause people to sin, but He does allow sinners to reveal the sinfulness of their hearts by their actions. God presented the opportunity to David in order to deal with a disastrous national tendency, and He wanted this desire to show itself. First Chronicles 21:1 says Satan incited David to do it. Hebrew writers do not always distinguish between primary and secondary causes. So if God allowed Satan to tempt David, to them it is as if God did it.
I didn’t understand why taking a census was wrong. Again, I consulted my footnotes and it said that it amounted to a draft or conscription for the army. So David’s sin was pride and selfish ambition: glory in the size of his army and power he had built. David had always counted on God for protection and security before – now he had pride in his own accomplishments. His sin was trusting in his army rather than God.
The consequences were great. David cried out to God to forgive and God gave David the choice between three punishments:
12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.'” 13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
David chose the three days of plague and as a result, 70,000 people died of severe plague. The angel of the Lord came to destroy Israel, but God had mercy and stopped him.
Once again, we see David, after realizing his sin, going on his face before God, repenting. In 2 Samuel 24 we see that famous passage where David purchases the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and builds an altar before God.
The lesson for me today is to observe how David, while not perfect, always stops immediately once he realizes his sin and confesses and repents before God. I believe this is why God called David “a man after God’s own heart.”
Lord, thank You for Your Word. Help me to realize my sins and the consequences involved. Help me to be like David and stop immediately and repent before You. Thank You for Your mercy and grace, without which I would be ruined. -amen