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 (Manna 30: Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Our Lord)
David Taking Census
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David Taking Census

This is a brief but interesting excerpt from David’s colorful life (2 Sam 24: 1-17).It is a simple story.Yet there are obvious question not explicitly answered by the biblical account.Why would David want to take a census of Israel and Judah? God had previously commanded the Israelites on the two separate occasions to take a census of their able-bodied fighting men. But why was He angry this time? Why was David punished for taking the census? Let’s play detective and get the whole story.


I.       Christian motivation

Some months ago, I stumbled on an old note book that I sued to record some of the youth service activities way back in 1980. At that time, the youth services were attended by less than 40 youths. During discussions sessions, we would divide into smaller groups of about eight persons each. These notes of mine recorded some of the discussions as well as the names of those involved in the discussions. Going through the names I can still remember quite vividly these church members but unfortunately majority of them are no longer regular church attendees. This is indeed sad.

Is so difficult for one to maintain his zeal and faith in the Lord? To me at least, the answer is obvious since history has shown consistently that it is difficult to maintain our zeal in the Lord. Biblically, we also know from Jesus’ description of the narrow way of salvation that more will stray and less will stay. It is therefore important for us to understand our motivation behind our Christian service and get our basics right. Otherwise, we should be like trying to build a house without a proper foundation. We may stack beautiful things on top, e.g., our works may be abundant and glorious, but without the support of a proper foundation, these works will soon crumble and hurt someone in the process.


II.    Why Was David Punished?

The scriptures are not clear as to why David was punished for taking a census of his army. However, from David’s reaction in verse 10, it is obvious that he felt he had done something wrong. David is described as being conscience-stricken; he only admitted that he sinned. Since David felt that he had sinned we no longer need to question whether his action was sinful. Further, if God had not considered David’s actions sinful, He would not have punished him.

What was the Sin?

Why did David want to take census of his army? From David’s reaction in verse 10, we reckon that his motive must have been one known only to him. We deduce from Joab’s tone when he asked David why a census was needed (verse3) that it was not deemed a very good idea. The reactions of Joab and David, before and after the fact, inform us that whatever David’s motive, it must have included some measure of arrogance. That is, David wanted to show his success and power. He sought glory for himself.

III. The Servant

In Luke 12:42-43, Christian service, as the word “service” suggests, is compared to the work of a servant or slave does for his master. Why does a servant serve? He serves because the master had paid him wages. Why does a slave serve? He serves because he is the property of his master. Perhaps, the slave owed someone a large debt and by paying that someone, the master had paid the slave his life wages. Or it could be that the salve was war captive whose life had been spared in exchange for his lifetime labor. For us, we know that we serve one master, the Lord Jesus. But what wages have we received from Him that demands our service? Romans6:23 say the wages of sin is death.

 For the sin of Adam and our own personal sins, we deserve our wages of death. 1Pet2:24 tell us that when we are baptized, we receive God’s love and through his blood shed on the cross, we receive the forgiveness of sins. In this case then, the wages we receive for our Christian service is the removal of wages of sin! So like the slave who ought to have been killed, we now belong to Jesus who has paid for our lives. At the least then, our service towards God is an inescapable obligation.

IV.  A Better Motivation- Gratitude and Love

Yet there are some servants and even slaves who love their master and serve him beyond contractual obligation. Such is the services of a true Christian will deliver, a true Christian will relies and remember that the blood of Jesus was not shed easily. The sin that we have is so great that it required God Himself to come into this human world and undergo immense pain at the cross so that His sacrifice can atone for our sins. Not only was the pain physical, He also underwent spiritual death by being cut off from the Heavenly Father. Despite these, we know that he Lord did not complain or murmur. He knew that He had to face death is order to accomplish God’s will. IN the Garden of Gethsemane, in His humanity, Jesus was fearful that He would not be able to complete God’s mission. Luke 22:39-44 shows clearly how our Lord felt as He was about to pay for our sins.

Today, we may have heard many times about the great sufferings and love of Jesus. Yet how many of us really appreciate this love of our Saviour? How many of us have been so moved by this love that we are able to live no longer for ourselves but for Him who died on our behalf?

Christian service must begin within this motivation to repay God’s love. It is a natural response to love received and not just a desire to do something meaningful. It is service out of gratitude and love because He has saved us. We do not expect further payment either in terms of respect or praise or anything else because we truly understand the full implications of the phrase “Jesus paid it all”.

V.     The Sin of Pride

Being proud is a sin because it takes glory away from the One who actually deserves it-God. Even Satan knows that. We too should know this too because pride is a sin that is difficult to detect. A proud individual usually will not rely that he or she is proud.

But God loved David. Immediately after David had taken the census, he felt guilty and was conscience-stricken. He had subconsciously tried to glorify himself but ended up robbing God’s glory. Could David have won all his battles without God? Could he have had even a chance against Goliath without God? It is thus increasingly obvious that David’s act of taking census was indeed wrong.

A person as David who revered and honored God would definitely have felt that taking glory away form God was a terrible sin. Exalting yourself is a terrible sin because that is exactly what Satan sought to do exalt himself to be above God. In modern age, children are taught to take pride in their accomplishment. It is alright to pat yourself on the back once in a while because it builds confidence and self-esteem.

This, however, is where the standards and values of this world do not measure to God’s standard. True confidence comes form humility! If we adhere to the world’s definitions, this statement is contradictory, conversely, if we can transcend the secular values to uphold God’s values we will understand that true confidence develops from t he understanding that strength comes from God. Hence all glory is due to him.

VI.  A Necessary Motivation- A Sense of Sin

One important reason for our weak response towards God’s love is our failure to understand the gravity of our sins. We examine ourselves and whilst we do not claim to be perfect (because we know the saying that one is perfect), we also do not feel that we have grossly transgressed against God. In fate, we would grade ourselves as avocet average. Therefore, when we say or sin that Jesus forgives our sins, we are not unable to feel greatly indebted to god for our forgiven sins nor do we feel the need to repay Him.

The more we relies our sins, the more we would feel grateful towards God for forgiving us and the more we want to serve Him. In Luke 7:40-49, Jesus remarked thus on the sinful women, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are May, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to who little is forgiving the same loves little.” But how are we realizing our sins? For a start, we need to have a better understanding of the word of God ad be more sensitive to His righteousness. Hebrews describes the word of God as a two edged sword that is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. We must believe in the word of God.

Once, a friend in a discussion commented rightly that the pace of our evangelistic worked is really slow. Many of us do not have an evangelistic orientation despite our numerous evangelistic activities. Even youths who are the more evangelistic lot appear to be flagging in this fervor. Before we look at others, we must introspect and ask ourselves when we last preached to someone and how many we have preached to this year. Do you believe the words of God in Ezekiel 3: 18-19 that the wicked e.g., sinners, including our loved ones who have not believed, shall surely die? Sometimes, we unconsciously doubt God’s worked. Maybe we think that since they are also quite nice people, God will not be so heartless as to put them to death. On the other had, if we do not believe that they shall surely die, why are we not motivated to preach to them? Again, we many not really believe that God shall require his blood of us. After all, we may have served God in other areas of work. Surely God is not so unreasonable as to punish us? The discounts we give to God’s words and the use of our human concept to rationalize them has made us insensitive to God’s righteousness.

Do we not relies the number of times in which we have failed in the sight of God; our pride in believing we are good enough, our selfishness in continuing in our own comfortable lifestyles oblivious to the sufferings of the world, our unholiness by allowing ourselves to be exposed to sounds of impurity hand images of immorality. Yet each time, when we kneel before God and ask Him to forgive us, the blood that He shed for us is used to forgive our sins. So many times we repeat our sins despite telling God that we will change. Yet each time we ask Him to forgive, He truly forgives. Do we not realize our repeated sins are manifestations of our lack of understanding of the Lord’s love and the sufferings He underwent to shed His blood for us? We are like the sheep in Hymn 29 that asked, “Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way that mark our mountain’s track?” We do not realize that they are shed for one who has gone astray so the shepherd could bring him back. We asked, “Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?” without realizing that they were pierced tonight by many a thorn.

David was respected by peopled of all ages not because he was perfect. David’s greatness lay in his ability to admit to his own transgressions and repent before God. For example, after he had sinned with Bathsheba, Prophet Nathan rebuked him David immediately admitted his sin to God and repented by submitting to God’s punishment.

The striking difference: David honored God enough to face his wrong doings; Saul on the other hand, could not humble himself despite knowing his wrong doings. It is one thing to know about doing good, but it takes much more to admit one’s faults. David’s secret for always being able to admit to and to repent from his mistakes comes from his genuine reverence towards God. He never knowingly lost sight of his position with respect to God. And David was a king. Who are we? It ought to be even easier for us to subject ourselves constantly to God.

It is easy to fall into the trap of pride especially after one has accomplished something significant. However, we must keep everything in perspective. In everything, it is God who gives us what we have; it is He who enables us to do what we do. He not only gives us life, He also sustains it. In all things, we ought to give glory to him. If we have erred, we ought to honor God by admitting and repenting form our wrong. Ask Him for forgiveness. If God is always in that exalted position, our lives would surely prove to be as successful as David’s.

The modern man does not like others to tell him of his wrongs. He says it assaults his dignity. If we find it difficult to accept the loving constructive criticism of others, we must learn to examine our ways before God. The great servants of God are those who understand the greatness of God’s love in consideration of their grave sins. Paul said, “I am foremost of all sinners.” He could not understand why God had decided to choose him. Today, we too must realize the greatness of God’s love. If it wasn’t for His love in choosing us, in using His blood to redeem us, we will perish in our sins. We will be in the world, arrogantly announcing that there is no god and pursuing our own way of life. We will continue to be the hands of Satan enjoying the feeling pleasures of sins. There is nothing in that is worthy of God to suffer and die. The only worth in this sacrifice in His love. Try singing meaningfully Hymn 30 Stanzas 2 and 3.

VII.           Conclusion

Christian service needs to be motivated by God’s love. When we serve out of gratitude and to repay God’s grace, there is not murmuring in our work. As long as our work is beneficial to humankind, we serve even in the face of difficulties. We do not expect any returns for our labour because the Lord has already paid us with His life. In fact, we are so grateful that God has decided to use us despite our lowliness. On the other hand, if we do not serve Him nor strive to serve Him with our heart and soul we have received God’s love in vain.

Today, we have been entrusted with much and much is expected of us. Of the millions of people in the world, God has chosen us to be His children, to be in the true church and to have the hope of salvation. Many have spent their years searching but they have not found the truth. Many have spiritually nurtured themselves but works of righteousness cannot save a person. Today, for you and me who have been given this grace, much is expected of us. We must not be deceived into thinking that the abundant gifts we have and the many favorable factors and comforts we may enjoy are God’s blessings for us enjoy materially. They are the blessings of God, no doubt. But if we thank God with the intention of enjoying ourselves until our ripe old age, we have sadly missed the purpose of God for these blessings. God gives us the opportunities today to serve Him. We are given both time and ability. Having received these, we must understand and remember.

Both riches and honor come from Thee and Those rules over all. In Thy hand is power and might: and in Thy hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29: 12.

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