Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 26 December 2022:
1 Chronicles 21:1 — Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.
We have previously discussed the problem with David’s census when we covered 2 Samuel 23. The questions we shall briefly reconsider this morning are: 1) What was wrong with David conducting a census? And 2) What was Satan’s role in David’s actions?
What was wrong with David’s census? Though the Bible doesn’t say it directly, indirectly we can discern that what motivated David to conduct this census was pride in what David perceived to be his own personal power rather than God’s gracious provision. In those days, a census would have been conducted to levy taxes or draft an army. In this case, based on the focus on “men who drew the sword,” (1 Chronicles 21:5) we can surmise this census was primarily for conscription, and the fact that Joab didn’t count Levi because “the king’s command was abhorrent” (1 Chronicles 21:6) to him suggests that David wanted them counted, which would have directly contradicted the law of God concerning the Levites who were not to be considered military eligible (Numbers 1). David grew prideful as a king and unfaithful to the Sovereign LORD who appointed him as king, thereby losing the moral authority to rightly rule and misleading his people in a destructive way. David succumbed to pride and disobedience, but what did Satan have to do with it? Satan played upon David’s pride to provoke David to do what should not be done.
Satan’s role might be hard to understand, especially when we compare 1 Chronicles 21:1 with 2 Samuel 23:1 which says, “Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’” Is this a contradiction in God’s word? Did God “tempt” David to sin or was it Satan? 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” people by allowing them to go through various trials or challenges, but God never tempts people. We are tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
- 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.
- 1 Peter 4:12 — Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 — No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
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.
1 Chronicles 21:3 – But Joab said, “May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?”
Often people close to you can see the error of your ways better than you can. It is vital that you surround yourself with faithful Christians and establish with them relationships of mutual accountability. This, of course, requires commitment and humility on your part.
1 Chronicles 21:8 – And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”
Repentance addresses God, admits sin, accepts the foolishness of personal acts, and asks for forgiveness.
1 Chronicles 21:13 — Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
Better to be disciplined by God who loves you than to be persecuted by people who can’t love you. You can trust God’s love when He disciplines you.
1 Chronicles 21:14, 17 – So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel, and 70,000 men of Israel fell…. And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.”
Your sin may cause many others to suffer. Don’t blame God for the consequences of your sin but rather accept responsibility, and confess your sins so others can learn from your mistakes.
1 Chronicles 21:15 – And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
In His mercy, God does not give you the punishment you deserve.
Revelation 18:3 – For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.
Sin and ungodliness is particularly associated with sexual immorality – sex outside the union of marriage between one man and one woman. Of course, these verses are symbolic, but don’t lose sight of what God uses as the symbol for behavior worthy of His total wrath. The most important institution God established on earth is marriage (and family) How is the sanctity of marriage treated in America today?
Revelation 18:4 — Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.”
You must choose between the success the world offers or the final victory God promises. The church must decide between syncretism with the world along with the comforts it offers or fidelity before God and eternal life God promises. The world (‘Babylon the Great’ – the ungodly religious-political-social-economic systems created by humans contrary to God’s love; the ‘world’ which exploits and enslaves mankind) entices with offers of power, wealth, and pleasure. Are these your goals in life? God calls his people to purify themselves from the sinful world. How have you established a life-style that shows you are devoted to God and not to the world? The more entangled we become with the ungodly systems of the world, the more likely we are to compromise ourselves and lose our true power and the harder it is to free ourselves.
Revelation 18:5-6 – …for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.
God does not forget unconfessed sin.
God will treat you the way you treat others and then some. No Christian has the right to receive the free gift of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus and then withhold forgiveness from anyone else.
Revelation 18:7 – As she glorified herself and lived in luxury, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning, since in her heart she says, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.”
Glory in self is sin. Rebellious people put their trust in self rather than God, and rebellious nations to the same. Both are cursed.
Revelation 18:9 – And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail.
In addition to sexual immorality, the ungodly are also associated with luxurious living. God gives us resources to take care of our basic needs and then to take care of others in need, not to live like kings and queens on earth.
- Isaiah 55:2 — Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
- Matthew 6:25 — “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Revelation 18:11 – And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore.
The world will make money its idol, and God will tear their idols down.
Revelation 18:13 – …cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.
Slave trade is part of the evil business practices of the world. Many Christians are enslaved in debt to bankers.
Revelation 18:14 – The fruit for which your soul longed has gone from you, and all your delicacies and your splendors are lost to you, never to be found again!
If you focus on material things, life gets quickly out of focus.
Revelation 18:23 – …and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride
will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
Evil lives on deception.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 December 2022: Are you numbering your troops? Consider what is motivating you to do what you are doing and will do today? Are you motivated mostly by fear and pride or geunuine love for God and others above yourself? Are you chasing after worldly ambitions or are you truly following Jesus, one step at a time? What are you focused on today? Is is all about Jesus and fulfillment of the Great Commission and Great Commandment? Really? Take time throughout the day today to truly ask yourself, “Why am I really doing what I am doing?”
- 2 Corinthians 13:5 — Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!