"Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel" (1 Chron. 21:1). David orders Joab to take a census of Israel's army. At the end of nine months, Joab reports his final tally, minus the tribes of Levi and Benjamin. Immediately, God confronts David for his foolishness--it isn"t pretty!
David's moral failure of adultery and his cover-up attempt have tarnished his greatness as Israel's king. Satan offers a new and enticing bait. Perhaps David has begun assessing the success of his reign and Israel's greatness and given credit to the size of Israel's army instead of Israel's God. Perhaps David is beginning to think about "my" kingdom, instead of "Thy" kingdom. Either way, Satan hacks into his mind and inserts tempting ideas that will appeal to David's vulnerability.
David swallows Satan's bait, hook, line, and sinker. Why is taking a census of Israel's army such a grievous sin against God? And why does David take the bait?
Everyone has a metric he uses to assess personal greatness—education, career, bank account, address, clothing labels, ministry, luxury automobile, vacation home, jewelry, fitness. Where do you stop, and when do you know that you"ve arrived?
Everything that a man has, he has received from the Lord—health, ability, position, place of birth. No man can claim personal greatness. Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised. Everything else is fading and foolish.
The previous conflict between David and Absalom should have predicted just how foolish this kind of assessment would be. Absalom too, sought greatness. He and David's counselor conspired to take David's kingdom for themselves. They almost succeeded. During Absalom's betrayal, David had stated, "If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me both it [the ark of the covenant] and his dwelling place. But if He says thus: 'I have no delight in you," here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him" (2 Sam. 15:25-26). David is back where he should have been all along, which indicates God's favor. Numbering the tribes of Israel as an indicator of favor is therefore unnecessary. The only true metric of God's favor is faith (Heb. 11:6). This faith requires a steady belief in God's goodness and the truth of His word, and it does not result from assessing numbers.
This scene of David's life reveals a truth that strikes a chord in every heart: those who assess personal worth by anything other than God's pleasure upon their life have swallowed Satan's bait—hook, line, and sinker.
Great is the Lord and worthy to be praised! No man may glory in his presence.
What role does Satan play in David's temptation to number his army? What does this reveal about Satan's goal for David?
What does David's choice regarding the consequences of his actions reveal about his understanding of possible outcomes? About God? About human nature?
How does David's decision impact Israel as a nation? What does this reveal about the decisions made by leaders?
What does David's foolish decision teach him about God?
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