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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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”.
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.
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.
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.