Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 20 October 2022:
2 Samuel 24:1 — Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
This is a difficult Bible verse to understand, an apparent contradiction in God’s word. Did God “tempt” or force David to sin? 1 Chronicles 21:1 says, “Now Satan [rather than God] stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” And James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” Simply stated, the Lord tests and Satan tempts –
- Psalm 11:5 — The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
- Psalm 26:2 — Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
- Psalm 66:10 — For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
- Proverbs 17:3 — The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:4 — …but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
Nothing happens outside of God’s Sovereignty. He governs all things. God is perfect in holiness and cannot sin or cause people to sin, but He does use evil and evildoers to test us and to accomplish His will – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good [even evil things], for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28, 29)
God allows (actually ordains) trials in your life, and He tests your heart and mind, not to tempt you but rather to draw you closer to Him and to develop in you Christ-like character. When you are tested, it is not so God can see the truth of your character (He already knows it), it is so you can see it, both the noble and ignoble. Sometimes God needs you to see where you lack faith and need to grow. Sometimes God tests you because He wants you to see the faith you didn’t even know you had in order to encourage you, build you up stronger in faith, reveal Himself to you in a greater way, and bring glory to Himself – “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son.” (Hebrews 11:17) In fact, James said that with faith in God, we should actually rejoice in our trials – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Sometimes, as in the case with David today, God will test your heart and mind to expose your sin, idolatry and hypocrisy. God’s will in your failures is to bring you to humble repentance, to draw you closer to Him, to sanctify you, to conform you to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), and to prepare you for greater faithful service in love. His desire is not to condemn you and destroy you but rather to reconcile you – “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- Jeremiah 12:3 — But you, O Lord, know me; you see me, and test my heart toward you.
- James 1:12 — Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Temptation is another matter. Temptation is an enticement to sin and to dishonor God, and it comes from three sources: the world (2Peter 1:4, Galatians 1:4, 1John 2:15), the flesh (Romans 7:18, Galatians 5:19 – 21, James 1:14 – 15, etc.), and the devil (Ephesians 6:11, James 4:7). As James teaches, temptation, unlike testing, does not come directly from God, as it would be contrary to His holy essence.
Again, God allows the temptation in order to expose the truth of people’s hearts – you can’t really be tempted with what your heart doesn’t desire or detests. The Father allowed the ‘temptation’ of Jesus by Satan in the desert in order to expose the truth of Jesus’ righteous heart and bring glory to Him. Jesus was tempted externally by Satan, but He was not tempted internally, proving to be wholly faithful and the Son of God.
On the contrary, David was tempted both externally by Satan and internally within his own heart, exposing the pride that remained in both him and the Israelites. There was nothing inherently sinful about conducting a census, God had directed it before. What was sinful was not the conduct of the census but rather David’s motivation for conducting a census. God fully knew David’s heart and the sinful pride of the people, but they could not see it in themselves, so God had to expose it. So, when David wanted to conduct a census for all the wrong reasons, God essentially said, “Do what is on your heart,” turning David over to His own sinful desires that he would face the consequences.
When failure occurs, repentance inspired by faith in God’s grace leads us to discipline and sanctification rather than condemnation. As stated in Jeremiah 12:3, God’s intent is to test you “toward” Him and as Romans 8:29 says, so you may “be conformed to the image of his Son.” In today’s story, David repents and the plague is averted. Remember in the New Testament, both Judas and Peter betrayed Christ. Judas couldn’t bring Himself to repent and accept the forgiveness of God, and He killed himself. Peter, on the other hand, repented, accepted forgiveness, and was used mightily by God. Similarly, Paul, formerly Saul who had made a career of persecuting Christians, repented and went to his death boldly proclaiming Christ and glorifying Him. Repent when you fall short, have confidence in God’s grace, and glorify God boldly as a living testimony to the Gospel.
2 Samuel 24:3 — Why does my lord the king delight in this thing?
What was wrong with numbering the troops? Census-taking under the Law of Moses was not inherently evil. In fact, God actually commanded Moses to number the Israelite soldiers on two different occasions—once in the second year after deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and again about forty years later near the end of Israel’s wanderings in the desert (Numbers 1:1-3,19; 26:2-4). It was wrong in David’s case because of the motives behind the action. David was measuring his might in pride as if Israel’s strength was a sign of his greatness rather than God’s. God will not share the glory. It is interesting that ruthless, prideful, Joab could see the sin David could not see. Joab, yes, Joab, tried to convince David not to do this thing, but David would not listen. Have you ever been blinded by pride this way? What were the consequences?
2 Samuel 24:10, 11 — But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” And when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer.
In 2 Samuel 23, David received and recorded the direct word of God. However, now in his guilt, David could only feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit but could not hear God’s word. This time, God spoke to David through a prophet.
2 Samuel 24:11-16 — Repentance doesn’t mean you will escape God’s discipline. God’s discipline is not a form of revenge but rather God’s chisel to shape a hard heart. The amount of discipline required depends upon the hardness of the heart. True repentance accepts God’s discipline without resentment.
2 Samuel 24:12 — Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.
Within His Sovereignty, God gives us freedom to choose, and He accomplishes His will regardless of our choices.
2 Samuel 24:16 – And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
God does show mercy in discipline.
2 Samuel 24:17 – Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”
Other people do suffer because of your sins. Though God allows this suffering, it is not unjust. All are deserving of eternal death. In his discipline, God simply applies less grace to those who justly deserve none. And, He promises to bring all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. In discipline, even discipline unto death, one should remain grateful that any grace remains.
2 Samuel 24:24 — I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.
True love is a true sacrifice.
2 Samuel 24:25 – And David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.
God honors your prayer of intercession for the sufferings of others when you repent and obey Him.
2 Peter 3:3, 4 — Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?”
Do you know any scoffers today?
2 Peter 3:9, 10 — The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.
God’s patience will not last forever, and there will be no warning when judgment comes. God’s timing is perfect. Only the Father knows the time of the End as he patiently provides mercy and salvation to sinners who would perish eternally without. Meanwhile, God has commanded us to preach the Gospel and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all His commands.
2 Peter 3:11 – A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.
“When God told Abraham He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham’s life was immediately and radically affected. Noah could not carry on business as usual once he knew what God was planning for his generation. Knowing that God is preparing judgment brings a sobering reality to Christians, helping us recognize what is eternally significant and what is not. Peter cautions us that a catastrophic time of judgment is coming. On the day of the Lord there will be a great noise, and the elements will melt with a fervent heat. On that day, he warns, the earth will be consumed. Peter assures us that this is not mere speculation; it is certain and imminent. He then asks the crucial question that applies to each generation: “What kind of persons ought you to be?” With judgment pending for us and countless millions of people facing destruction, how should we live our lives? Many Christians attach great value to temporal things. Hobbies and possessions consume us, leaving little time or energy to invest in what is eternal. More than anyone else, Christians should be sensitive to the times in which we live. We should walk so closely with God that if He were preparing to bring judgment upon people, we could warn those in imminent peril. Since Christ has been long-suffering in His return so that no one might perish (2 Pet. 3:9), should we not invest our effort in building God’s eternal kingdom? Should there not be an urgency about us to complete the tasks that God gives us?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
2 Peter 3:14 — Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
Are you diligently pursuing purity, holiness, and peace with God as you eagerly await His return?
2 Peter 3:17, 18 — You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Grace is not freedom to live lawlessly. Grace affords you the opportunity to pursue and even higher degree of obedience which is motivated by genuine love rather than fear or duty. Many view salvation as freedom to sin without fear of punishment. However, this is a misguided, selfish, and false view of Grace. The one who has been saved from God’s wrath through the blood of His son desires above all else not to continue in the very sins for which Jesus suffered — this is unthinkable. How could anyone be so flippant with such sacrifice of love from God Himself? Peter warns not to get trapped by this false teaching or by the practices of lawless ‘Christians.’
A popular teaching today suggests that grace renders the Law obsolete. Gods warns us against lawlessness. Grace frees us and empowers us to grow in obedience which is the natural response of love for Jesus. The more we know Jesus, the more obedient we are, and the more we grow spiritually.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 October 2022: Examine the motives behind your actions today. Why do you do what you do? You could be doing the right things for the wrong reasons, sinning against God in your apparently good deeds because of selfish motives. You may be motivated by fear, pride, ego, or a sense of duty, but above all of these, God wants you to motivated by selfless love. How many of your decisions are wholly selflessly loving? Of course, our motives are never wholly pure in love as we are not yet perfected in love through our sanctification. But make pure love your goal, search your heart, and pray that God will help you grow in pure love, which is closer fellowship with Him, The God who IS love (2 Samuel 24) “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) Today, make this your focus: “Be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:14)