The other day I was reading 2 Samuel 24 where King David ordered a census of Israel and Judah. In this chapter it says that God incited David to take a census because He was angered with Israel:
“Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” – 2 Samuel 24:1
The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles gives even further detail by saying it was Satan who incited David, which God allowed:
“Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” – 1 Chronicles 21:1
So what was so bad about David taking a census? Rather than trusting in the power and might of the Lord, David was putting his trust in the number of his subjects and the manpower available to serve in his army. David was his father’s youngest of eight sons and started out as a lowly shepherd, yet God had raised him up to be a powerful king. It was ALL because of God. David should have been trusting in God completely! David also knew from Exodus 30:12 that only God could order a census and that a ransom was required to atone for the counting. However, David went ahead with the census anyway, even over the objections of his normally-unscrupulous military commander, Joab. The Lord subsequently punished David and the Israelites with a severe pestilence, which was halted at the threshing floor of Araunah, which David had bought and where he had built an altar of repentance. The location later became the site of Solomon’s Temple.
We’re quick to criticize David in these passages, aren’t we? What a dummy! What was he thinking? But the reality is we act just like David all the time. Churches are always checking the numbers these days. How many attended this year compared to last? Baptisms? Offerings? Today, it’s ALL about the numbers. Churches have adopted the world’s latest marketing methods to reel in the “unchurched” rather than leading lost souls to the Lord. A pastor is “successful” only if he has at least a thousand coming through the turnstiles every Sunday.
But what about me? What am I trusting in? Well, it’s certainly not my looks. But what about my health? My job? My 401K? My upcoming twenty years of happy retirement that’s due to me? All of it could be gone in the blink of an eye. As I get closer to retirement, I confess that I check my 401K balance about once every couple of weeks and it’s not doing too badly. But that rug could be pulled out from under me in an instant.
What about this illustrious WordPress blog? More than once I’ve looked back and thought to myself, Wow, I’ve done a good job for the Lord over the last 14 months with this blog. How many posts have I written? How many people have visited from how many countries? Good thing the Lord has me standing in the gap for Him here at WordPress! Argh! No, it’s pretty hard for me to point the finger at census-happy David. 2 Samuel 24 resonates strongly with me because it hits so close to home.
There’s only one sure thing in this world; only one solid foundation. Instead of trusting in our bank accounts and our abilities, we need to recognize it’s the Lord Who is sovereign and we need to put our faith in Him. Everything else is just sinking sand. Whatever we have is only because He provided it. He’s the Potter. We’re the clay. All glory and honor to Him!!!!
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit” – Jeremiah 17:7-8