This is a brief but interesting excerpt from David's colorful life (2Sam 24:1-17).
It is a simple story.
Yet there are obvious questions 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 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.
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 openly admitted that he had 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 a 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 (verse 3), that it was not deemed a very good idea. The reactions of Joab and David, 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.
The Sin of Pride
Being proud is a sin because it takes glory away from the One who actually deserves it Â¡X 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 realize 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 from 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 our modern age, children are taught to take pride in their accomplishments. It is all right 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 from 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 the understanding that strength comes from God.
Hence all glory is due to Him.
David was respected by people 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 wrongdoings. Saul, on the other hand, could not humble himself despite knowing his wrongdoings. 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 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 due glory to Him. If we have erred, we ought to honor God by admitting and repenting from 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.