Ok, so what’s the deal? In chapter 24, verse 1 we’re told that the Lord caused David to turn against Israel and to order a census of both Israel and Judah. And then, after the results of the census are given to David, he becomes ashamed of what he has done and confesses to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by what I have done!”
What’s going on here? How could he have sinned if he did what the Lord caused him to do?
First let’s tackle the question of why taking a census would be considered a sin.
Theologians have differing opinions on this, but since we have limited time, I’ll tell you which one makes the most sense to me. We know that pride is a bad thing, right? Pride is the root of many, if not most sins. For example, it was pride that caused Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Satan told them, “Eat this and you’ll be like God.”
So here, when David is an old man, he starts thinking about his life and looking at all he’s accomplished. He started out as a poor shepherd boy, and now he is King of all Israel and Judah. And just maybe his pride causes him to wonder just how many people over whom he is king. He wants to stroke his own ego by seeing how vast his kingdom is.
Now about God causing him to take the census. First, we know that God does not tempt anyone to sin. As a matter of fact we read that in James 1:13 just 5 episodes ago, episode 358.
So here’s what happened. God allowed Satan to tempt David to do this thing. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 we have another account of this very event. And there, the scripture says, “Satan was against Israel, and he caused David to count the people of Israel.”
So just as God allowed Satan to attack Job, he allowed Satan to tempt David. And because of David’s pride, he did this thing.
Now, to David’s credit, when he comes to his senses and realizes the sin, he immediately confesses it to the Lord. He doesn’t try to rationalize the sin away. He faces it, and he accepts that punishment is coming.
And then, when God tells him to build an alter on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he insists on buying the property and the sacrifice from Araunah, saying, “ I won’t offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
Friend, if your offering costs you nothing, it is not a sacrifice. It is a token with little meaning. A sacrifice must carry a cost. If you feel God calling you to make some sort of sacrifice, it doesn’t honor him if what you bring Him means nothing to you. The sacrifice He made for your sins and mine was the blood and the life of His only begotten son. My sacrifices can never match that, but when I give to the Lord, my gift should come with some sort of sacrifice. It’s just another way of honoring and worshipping Him.
What do you think?