2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30
Both the chapter in Samuel and the chapter in 1 Chronicles begin with the story of David deciding to take a military census to see how many fighting men were in his land. This was a grievous sin…even his military commanders questioned the wisdom of doing such a thing…but why?
Why was it wrong to take a census? It must have had something to do with the concerns of David’s heart. Was he puffed up and proud? Counting his fighting men like the giant counted his gold in Jack and the Beanstalk?
Then, because this sin required punishment…the Lord sent a plague that struck down seventy thousand people within three days. Can you imagine the panic? Last year’s swine flu outbreak had people buying masks and lysol and rubber gloves, and nowhere near seventy thousand died.
David appeals to the Lord to stop, saying that the sin was his and that the people were just his sheep. Perhaps the Lord was teaching him a lesson? Does the Lord judge a nation by the actions of its rulers still today?
A big question I have is the discrepancy at the beginning of both chapters. In 2Samuel, the Bible says that the LORD incited David to do the military census. In 1Chronicles, the Bible says that Satan drove him to it.
They can’t both be correct. This is one of those back burner issues that burn in my heart. I keep pushing them to the back of the stove, thinking that they aren’t important. Jesus is what’s important. But it’s precisely this kind of thing that makes non-believers and skeptics scoff at those of us who do trust in the Lord. I really want to know how to answer any questions that could arise out of this discrepancy!
I checked Strong’s concordance, and sure enough, the translation couldn’t be plainer. The two accounts of the military census are nearly identical except that one says the anger of the Lord was stirred up against Israel, and he incited David to take it….the other one says that Satan incited David.
The difference is…what? Does the Lord provoke us to sin and then punish us when we do sin? That doesn’t seem to be in His nature, does it? Or…was it perhaps a test? Maybe the Lord gave David the idea much like he gave Abraham the idea to go sacrifice Isaac…to see what he would do?
In the end these questions of mine don’t matter to the bottom line, which is this: the Lord sent Jesus so that he would no longer have to send terrible plagues down on the earth in punishment for sins of leaders and individuals. And because of this bottom line, I can say these words from Psalm 30 with confidence:
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
Notice that David didn’t write that he was able to overcome his wailing. He didn’t “buck up” and stoically endure. The Lord is the one who did the action. I need to remember that the next time I am freaking out…remember that the Lord is the one who does the action. He’s the subject of the sentence…he’s the ultimate Word.