Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and [He] moved David against them, saying, Go, number Israel and Judah.
There is so much about this Scripture, and the Chapter of 2 Samuel 24, that I wish to discuss with you. But first, I want to clear up some confusion that might be associated with this particular translation, which is in the New King James version. Notice the implication (by capitalizing the "H" in "He") that it is the Lord that caused David to demand that a census be taken of the fighting men of Israel and Judah; a move that would result in judgment against the nation. So, I'm sure many have asked, "Why would the Lord move David to do something that He would later punish him for?"
So, it is important to note that 1 Chronicles 21:1 tells us, "Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel." Furthermore, other translations, such as the American Standard Version (ASV) and the 1599 Geneva Bible, render the Scripture without the capital "H", which makes it clear that there is another individual that is influencing King David. In fact, the Geneva Bible has a notation that "he" means "The Lord permitted Satan...". Now that we know the force behind David's actions, the Chapter makes more sense, and we can begin to apply its lessons to our own lives.
How would Satan have been able to appeal to David, and what was the King's impetus for knowing how many people were in his kingdom? It is the same sin that has plagued the world since the Garden of Eden, and the first of seven sins that Gods hates and abhors in Proverbs 6:16-19 .... PRIDE! We can just imagine the lies that the Devil whispered in David's ear .... "You are the King of all Israel; Israel belongs to you", and "You are a mighty warrior. You have conquered many people, Don't you want to know the strength of your army?"
Pride made David forget that Israel belonged to God and He was the Sovereign ruler of the nation. Also, David had forgotten that the power behind his military victories had been the Lord. So, had David forgotten the Lord's Word: The Land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me (Leviticus 25:23)? Had David forgotten that God is Sovereign and rules over all the nations (Psalm 22:28)? And obviously, David's pride caused him to forget the Lord's directive in Exodus 30:12: When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.
Why? We must remember that in these ancient cultures, a man only had the right to count or number what belonged to him. David forgot that Israel didn't belong to him; it belonged to God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6). God is a jealous God, and wants no man to be so arrogant as to claim what belongs to Him. That's why a "ransom" had to be paid by each man to the Lord, in order that he might be "preserved" or "redeemed" as belonging to the Lord. David took it upon himself to ignore the warning of Joab, his general, and proceeded with his plan to know the full number of his "valiant men that drew the sword" (2 Samuel 24:9). That task took nearly 10 months, and you would have thought that David would come to his senses before then. But, Pride is a seductive temptress, as Satan well knows.
We must never forget what Proverbs 16:18 tell us: "Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall." David is about to discover this in full force! The Bible says that "his heart smote him after he had numbered the people"; he was stricken with a guilty conscience. And what did he immediately do? He sought the Lord, confessed his sin, and asked for forgiveness --- which is what each of us should do the moment we realize we have sinned!
We can be assured that God will forgive us, but we must also accept that God disciplines those He loves, and it is within His Sovereign Nature to judge our sins and demand retribution. Peace and reconciliation is made between God and sinners by sacrifice. That is why the Old Testament sacrificial system was necessary before Yeshua came as our sacrifice. A price must be paid because of the preciousness of God's forgiveness, and that is what must be enacted in 2 Samuel 24 because of David's sin of Pride. His choices? War, Pestilence or Famine.
The Lord chose to send a pestilence upon the nation of Israel; an appointed time in which 70,000 men died. David is grieved that his men have paid a price for his sins, and asks God to penalize him and his house. But God had another purpose to accomplish in this affair. David is instructed to "go up" and build an altar to the Lord in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David does as he is instructed and meets the Lord there in worship. It is important for us to note that this site was on Mount Moriah; the same hill where Abraham offered Isaac (Genesis 22:2), and the same set of hills where Jesus died on the cross (Genesis 22:14). Because David met with the Lord on this spot, it would become the site of Solomon's Temple (1 Chronicles 21:28-22:50.
Although Araunah offered to give David the threshing floor, the king refuses his offer and buys it from Araunah. David knew that any sacrifice or gift to God is worth nothing in His eyes, unless it costs something. So it is with us; if we are faithful followers of Jesus, it will cost us something ... whether enmity with the world, material wealth, persecution or personal suffering. The question becomes, "How much are we willing to pay to be obedient?"
Are we willing to be mindful of our sins, confess them before the Lord, and ask for forgiveness, as David did? David knew that the deaths of 70,000 of his fighting men in the plague did not make amends for his sin of Pride against God. He knew that Atonement could only be rightly made through a blood sacrifice, so he built an altar to God and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings unto the Lord. Jesus is the blood sacrifice offered to God for our grievous sins. Only when we lay out sins at the feet of the Cross, can they be forgiven and God stay His hand of righteous judgment.
Each of us, as well as our nation's rulers, have a lot to learn from this episode in David's life. God still demands obedience to His precepts and commandments; nothing has changed in 3,000 years! Pride leads to sin; Sin must be atoned for; Jesus has paid the price for us; and He is the only Way to reconcile and regain our fellowship with God. Pray that our country will recognize this! Otherwise, I'm afraid that Judgment is in our near future... and which will it be this time? War, Pestilence or Famine?