2 Samuel 24:1-25
1 Chronicles 21:1-22:19
1 Chronicles 21:1, "Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel."
2 Samuel 24:10-11, "But after the census, David's conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, Lord, for doing this foolish thing.' The next morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad ... This was the message: ‘Go and say to David, ... "I will give you three choices. Choose one of these three punishments, and I will inflict it upon you."‘"
The devil tempted David to do a seemingly benign task - to take a census of Israel. Why would God take such umbrage when he followed through with counting the Israelites? Let's explore!
The census was meant to count what belonged to man. Israel belonged to God - not David - and God didn't command His people to be numbered. It was a prideful act, and, afterward, David's conscience condemned him.
When we choose to sin, we have no say in the consequences. But God allowed David to "pick his poison" from the following three judgment options:
- Seven years of famine - but David was wealthy and, therefore, would not be affected.
- Three months of fleeing before Israel's enemies - which would mostly result in the death of soldiers.
- Three days of plague - that would affect all of Israel, the rich and poor alike.
By selecting the last option, David knew that he, too, could fall victim to the devastating plague. He even asked God just to punish him and his household, but God had other plans in mind. And due to David's sin, over 70,000 people died. David atoned with burnt and peace offerings. God accepted David's plea for mercy and relented as He consumed the offering with fire from heaven. By giving the three options, God tested David's wisdom and heart after His foolish error in judgment, and this time he passed the test.
This is a graphic but beautiful picture of sin and repentance. God is willing to forgive us when we admit our failures and turn back to Him. Like David, God wants us to be in fellowship with Him and keep short accounts of sin. No matter our offense before Him, if we truly desire to follow His heart, we will be blessed in the end. So, seek God, obey, and repent immediately. And remember, the devil tempts us to do wrong, but God tests us to make us strong!
Heavenly Father, I want to obey Your commands. I turn from my failures and towards You as I seek to stay on track with Your will for my life. Amen.