Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
2 Samuel 24:1-2 (NIV)
Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”
2 Samuel 24:1-2 (MSG)
Once again God’s anger blazed out against Israel. He tested David by telling him, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” So David gave orders to Joab and the army officers under him, “Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number.”
“Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He incited David against them to say, “Go, count [the people of] Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan [in the north] to Beersheba [in the south], and conduct a census of the people, so that I may know the number of the people.”
This passage of Scripture and part of David’s life is difficult for us to understand. We are going to take some time to dig into what happened in order to understand why things happened.
The first thing that we pick up on in verse one is that God was angry with Israel as a whole. We are NOT told why, but whatever the reason, suffice it to say God had His reasons. (Knowing Israel’s track record we should not be surprised.)
Next, we are told that the Lord tested David. This testing would be a means or catalyst to punish the people of Israel for their sin. Now, we need to remember that God, Himself, is not a tempter; but He does allow us to be tested. It was James, the brother of Jesus who wrote these words of reminder to us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” [for temptation does not originate from God, but from our own flaws]; for God cannot be tempted by [what is] evil, and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion).” -James 1:13-14 (AMP)
If we look at 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 we can find WHO the Tempter was, it was Satan, the Enemy of our soul. “Now Satan entered the scene and seduced David into taking a census of Israel. David gave orders to Joab and the army officers under him, “Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number.” (MSG)
You may be wondering what the big deal was??? Normally taking a census would be a regular procedure for a nation. A census provides necessary information needed for tax and military purposes. In Israel’s case though things were different. God had explicitly told them NOT to take a census unless He commanded them to do so.
At this point in time David took it upon himself to take a census. Why? To appease his sense of pride and ego. (Look what I have done!) He took his eyes off of what God had done and turned them onto himself, pride. To his credit, David eventually realized what he had done and came to God in repentance.
“As in the case of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7; cf 1 Cor 5:5), God sometimes accomplishes His purposes by allowing Satan to inflict injury or cause trouble.” -AMP footnote for 2 Samuel 21:1
We find David giving these orders to Joab and his commanders; “Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number.” (MSG)
Joab tried to talk David out of taking the census, but David insisted. Scripture tells us, “But the king’s order held, and Joab and the other leaders of the army left the king’s presence and went out to count the people of Israel. To begin, they went over the Jordan River and camped at Aroer south of the city that is in the middle of the valley there. Then they moved on toward Gad and Jazer. After that, they traveled to Gilead and to Tahtim-hodshi; then they traveled on north to Dan-jaan, and from Dan they went west to Sidon and then to the fortified city of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites. Then they went south to the wilderness of Judah at Beersheba. At last, when they had traveled through all the land, they came back to Jerusalem after 9 months and 20 days. Joab reported these astonishing numbers to the king: Israel had 800,000 soldiers and Judah had 500,000.” -2 Samuel 4-9 (VOICE)
Now we get to the kicker. David finally realized what he had done. (Have you ever done something foolish and realized after the fact how stupid it truly was?) Once again we turn to Scripture and learn this, “But when it was all done, David was overwhelmed with guilt because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics. And David prayed to God, “I have sinned badly in what I have just done. But now God forgive my guilt—I’ve been really stupid.” -2 Samuel 24:10 (MSG)
We will continue exploring the outcome of David’s very bad choice tomorrow and look at the consequences that came with that choice. Today, let us take time to remember the importance of being quick to obedience when it comes to the things of God. Remember, “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” -1 Samuel 15:22 (NLT)
Lord, I know there are times that I am not quick to obey. I have, sadly, chosen to ignore that still, small voice that has prompted me to do something. I have, in pride, chosen to do my own thing, and I have deliberately disobeyed you. I messed up. I knew it too. Forgive me, please. Help me to be quick to obedience; for it is the right thing to do. Help me to realize that by choosing to ignore your voice I am setting myself up for failure and I am searing my conscience. Lord, today I choose to obey.