By Randy Dillon
2 Samuel 24:13 “And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.”
King David of Israel was a man after God’s own heart, yet three times as king he failed God and brought punishment on himself and his nation.
First, he committed adultery with Bath-sheba, wife of the warrior Urriah.
Then, when she was found pregnant and David could not deceive her husband into action that would signal the child was his own, he committed a second grievous sin by ordering Urriah to be placed on the front line of battle and left without support of the Israelite troops. Urriah was slain as David knew he would be. Thus, adultery led to the even worse second sin of murder which was hidden until revealed by the prophet Nathan.
The third great sin of David is not so well known as the first two, but it has a lesson even for us today.
In the final chapter of 2 Samuel we find that David ordered that a census take place of Israel and Judah to determine the number of people in the nation, but more specifically the number of warriors available to David. Joab, his general, realized that this was an act of folly and an affront to God since it was a clear indication that David was giving greater weight to the size of his army than he was giving to the power of God. Joab followed orders and determined that in Israel there were 800,000 valiant warriors and in Judah there were an additional 500,000 men of war. At this point David realized his sin and repented. But there was to be a consequence. David’s prophet and seer, Gad, came with the word of God that David was to choose from three options as a consequence of his sin.
One, there would be a seven year famine in the land.
Or David could choose to flee for three months from his enemies.
Last, he could choose a pestilence in the land for three days. David chose the three day pestilence. As a result, 70,000 people died. David’s choice was a wise one, but it was still devasting. As noted in the scripture above, David chose the option which allowed God to show his mercy and the option which was the shortest in duration. Indeed, God did reveal his mercy by staying the angel of death as the steps of Jerusalem
This event may be instructive for Christians today. We should be cautious that we do not base our security on the temporary things of this world, but rather rely on God for our safety. A census is not necessarily a sin, but in David’s case he demonstrated that the number of fighting men he had at his disposal was more meaningful to his sense of security than his reliance on God. It also demonstrated an egotistic and arrogant disregard of everything that God had accomplished in David’s life.
As Christians, do we take our “census” of money, possessions, knowledge, power or influence as a matters of security in times of trouble or do we rely on the faithful promises from God for our security? If we do so, should be not expect God’s displeasure as much as David?