1 Chronicles 21:1-4 (New International Version)
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?” The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem.
In 2010 we had a census here in the United States. Our constitution mandates that we take a census every ten years. The data collected is used to calculate the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives, the allocation of federal funding, and much more. The census is just an expected part of our lives.
So it could be surprising for us to read this from 1 Chronicles 21:1: “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” Why would Satan be interested in encouraging David to take a census? What’s the big deal? Why would it be sinful for David to do this?
It was sinful because it showed a dependence on earthly resources, instead of divine. David was chosen by God to be the king of the Israelites, and he had learned to rely on God’s strength, not his own. The taking of a census showed an increasing reliance on the measurable, the quantifiable, the material and mortal. David’s adviser Joab knew this when he cautioned him not to take this action: “Why on earth would you do a thing like this — why risk getting Israel into trouble with God?” (The Message translation).
It must have been hard for God to see this lack of trust from David, a man who had written these bold words: “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident” (Psalm 27:3).
And now this from David, who as a young man stood in front of the giant Goliath, armed only with a sling, a few stones, and an unshakeable faith in God’s presence.
How easy is it for you to forget that God is with you in life? How easy is it for you to put your trust in temporary, earthly things instead of God?