David Counts the People
(1 Chronicles 21.1-6)
1The Lord was angry with Israel again, and he made David think it would be a good idea to count the people in Israel and Judah. 2So David told Joab and the army officers, “Go to every tribe in Israel, from the town of Dan in the north all the way south to Beersheba, and count everyone who can serve in the army. I want to know how many there are.”
3Joab answered, “I hope the Lord your God will give you 100 times more soldiers than you already have. I hope you will live to see that day! But why do you want to do a thing like this?”
4But when David refused to change his mind, Joab and the army officers went out and started counting the people. 5They crossed the Jordan River and began with Aroer and the town in the middle of the river valley. From there they went toward Gad and on as far as Jazer. 6They went to Gilead and to Kadesh in Syria. Then they went to Dan, Ijon, and on toward Sidon. 7They came to the fortress of Tyre, then went through every town of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Finally, they went to Beersheba in the Southern Desert of Judah. 8After they had gone through the whole land, they went back to Jerusalem. It had taken them 9 months and 20 days.
9Joab came and told David, “In Israel there are 800,000 who can serve in the army, and in Judah there are 500,000.”
The Lord Punishes David
(1 Chronicles 21.7-17)
10After everyone had been counted, David realized he had done wrong. He told the Lord, “What I did was stupid and terribly wrong. Lord, please forgive me.”
11Before David even got up the next morning, the Lord had told David's prophet Gad 12-13to take a message to David. Gad went to David and told him:
You must choose one of three ways for the Lord to punish you: Will there be seven years when the land won't grow enough food for your people? Or will your enemies chase you and make you run from them for three months? Or will there be three days of horrible disease in your land? Think about it and decide, because I have to give your answer to God, who sent me.
14David was really frightened and said, “It's a terrible choice to make! But the Lord is kind, and I'd rather be punished by him than by anyone else.”
15-16So that morning, the Lord sent an angel to spread a horrible disease everywhere in Israel, from Dan to Beersheba. And before it was over, 70,000 people had died.
When the angel was about to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord felt sorry for all the suffering he had caused and told the angel, “That's enough! Don't touch them.” This happened at the threshing place that belonged to Araunah the Jebusite.
17David saw the angel killing everyone and told the Lord, “These people are like sheep with me as their shepherd. I have sinned terribly, but they have done nothing wrong. Please, punish me and my family instead of them!”
We can all think of someone in a position of authority who made a bad decision with disastrous results.
That is David in our text today. David asks some of his leaders to count the people of Israel. It takes 9 months and twenty days. You have to honour the commitment of David’s followers and his leadership in persuading them to do something they did not see any value in doing. The problem is that God was not pleased. As a result David is given three options. Unfortunately none of the options was good and the people paid a huge price.
With great privilege comes great responsibility and sometimes the thing we think we want the most is actually not good for us and oftentimes not good for others. Because none of us really lives in isolation bad decisions hurt other people as well as us. Life is a series of dilemmas. Every dilemma requires a decision and every decision results in either desert or dessert.
Whether we are leaders by position or not, all of us are leaders by influence. Let’s walk with God enough that we don’t walk alone in the choices of life. That way we have a hope of making better decisions and helping rather than hurting.
All knowing God
You see every part of our lives. You know everything about us; what we think, why we think it, how we will act and react before it even happens. We are guilty of making decisions that have a negative impact on others. Please forgive us Lord. Please help us find a way to resolve the problems we have created. Please help us see the beam in our own eye before we criticize the beam in someone else’s eye. Please help us walk with you in dependency so not all the decisions of our lives are ours but have your influence on them. We confess we need you Lord!