“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 Chronicles 21:1–2, ESV)What's the big deal? David conducted a census of his people. Why is that so bad? It has happened many times before and many times since... so why is this situation unique? The answer may be found later in that same chapter when Joab fulfilled his commander's request.
“And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword.” (1 Chronicles 21:5, ESV)David was counting for selfish reasons. After such great success on the battlefield, David wanted to number his fighting men in order to know just how strong he had become. But David should have know that the battle belongs to the Lord. He spoke of such conviction in one of his very own Psalms.
“Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:6–7, ESV)But somewhere along the way, David let his faith get lazy. He began to attribute his success to himself. He listened to the whisper of the Evil One as he encouraged David to take pride in what he had done for the Lord. But this was not about what David had done for the Lord... this is about what the Lord had done for David. The shepherd boy who stood before Goliath understood more of God's provision than did the man who had now become king. As David's son, Solomon, would one day write:
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, ESV)How easy it is to get caught in the same trap. A trap where we pay more attention to our efforts than we do God's provision. More time charting our own course instead of learning to walk in God's will. It happens to all of us just like it happened to David. But somewhere along the line David learned his lesson. Late in his life, as he passed his rule over to his son, he took a census once again. But notice the difference.
“When David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel. David assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said, “shall have charge of the work in the house of the LORD, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the LORD with the instruments that I have made for praise.”” (1 Chronicles 23:1–5, ESV)The first time David counted, it was for pride... this time it is for praise. The first time David counted in order to bask in his own glory... and now he counts in order to give all the glory to God. Like David, may we too learn to give praise our highest priority. May we be thankful in order to stay humble. Take some time this week to count your blessings. And when you're done, make sure you give God praise for all the good things He has done!