“Then Satan… incited David to number Israel. David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, ‘Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.’ 3 But Joab said, ‘May the Lord add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not… all my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt..?’ But the king’s word prevailed. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem. [He] gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David… all men who drew the sword… But… the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.
“God was displeased, and he struck Israel. And David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. Please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly…’ ‘I am in great distress. Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great…’ ‘Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people…’ When David saw that the Lord had answered him.., he sacrificed.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-8,13,17,28
We cannot be certain David’s motive in wanting a census taken of his soldiers, but we can imagine there was pride fueling his compulsion. His skilled, brash commander Joab recognized the foolishness of such an exercise, and told him it would be a waste of time. There was no benefit to tagging a number value on the Lord’s immeasurable blessing.
But David ignored the check. And by ignoring it, he eventually saw and sought the grace of God. Pushing through with sin brings hard consequences, yet God in His patience uses the very pain to reveal His mercy and take us higher. This man after God’s heart was still in God’s school, and the Lord is a persistent Instructor who would not let him fail. (Acts 13:22; Hebrews 12:10-11)
Are we tuned in to God’s checks? How receptive are we when challenged or warned? With whom are we open about struggles, and willing to take correction? Where have we let pride puff to superiority, rudeness, and ‘I’ll do this my way’? (James 5:16)
When the loving Lord convicts us of sin and we repent, we open ourselves to healing and transformation from the weakness that got us there. We see anew His mercies in painful correction, and trust more deeply His ongoing grace in our sanctification. We worship more meaningfully because we see Him more clearly. And being touched, and changed, we want to give that grace to others.
Do we love them enough to do so? We may pretend we shouldn’t judge, or offend, or impose on another’s preferences, but that can prove cowardice or a protection from being confronted ourselves. Sometimes the most compassionate (and bravest) decision is to challenge, “Why should this be a cause of guilt?” Whether or not that person receives our admonishment, we have honored the Lord. He will deal with them directly.
Lord, thank You for Your grace in checking me- through others and by Your Spirit. Keep me tender to Your conviction, and filled with grace to be Your check for others You love. (John 16:8)