One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, June 5, 2013: II Samuel 23:24-24:25
And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” II Samuel 24:10 (NKJV)
It is not unusual for children and young people to do foolish things. We almost justify these shortcomings and sins by saying, "They are only kids" and "kids do stupid things", etc. We call them youthful indescretions, and hope that some day they will grow up and stop making such goof-ups.
But what about mature adults who do foolish things -- intentionally. In the great movie The Emperor's Club, headmaster William Hundert quotes the Greek philosopher, Aristophanes: "Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever." It is amazing how mature believers can do "stupid kids' stuff." As one great Bible teacher once put it this way, "Sadly, even as God's children, we never outgrow our worst habit: sin."
At the end of David's life, he fell for a trap of the enemy. David, the great writer of the Psalms, the most successful king Israel was ever to know -- David made a serious and foolish mistake. He sent Joab to number Israel.
Much discussion and debate has taken place over the nature of this sin. Was it wrong to actually number Israel or was it wrong the WAY it was done? How did this temptation actually take place? Did "the anger of the Lord" bring it (II Sam. 24:1) or, in a parallel passage, was it Satan who pushed David (I Chron. 21:1) -- and what is the difference? I will not attempt in this short blog to answer those important questions. They must await another day. I want to focus on what was happening IN DAVID -- in his heart. And then, the result of his sin.
1. David let his guard down.
There are several indicators. There is no reference to David praying about this decision to number Israel. Always in the past, David sought God first. It was his pattern. In II Samuel 24, he was fresh off a great victory over the remaining giants in Gath (Goliath's last relatives) (II Sam. 21:15-22). He probably felt he had weathered enough storms that he could coast now. As a result, he may have felt that he was finally in control and no longer needed to pray about it.
When we find ourselves distant from the Lord, we are in a vulnerable place. No matter how old or young, there is always an enemy who seeks to take us down wrong paths.
2. David didn't listen to his friends.
He was unaccountable. Joab tried to talk to him and tell him that numbering Israel was not a good idea (II Sam. 24:3). But David would not listen.
God places friends around us to help us and guard us from self-destructive paths. When David refused the counsel of his friends, it was a set-up for trouble. This happens when people pull away from fellowship.
The second half of this story tells how God brought judgment upon David. One of the most sobering truths is this: OUR SIN CAUSES INJURY TO OTHERS. Innocent people suffered and died because of David's sin. The lesson is simple: our sins do not just affect our own lives, they affect everyone around us. Scripture says that 70,000 died because of David's sin (II Sam. 24:15).
The last verse in II Samuel says that "David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel." (II Sam. 24:25) That altar stood as a reminder to Israel (II Sam. 24:18-25). And it is a reminder to us today, too. No matter how young or old you are, it never pays to run off into your own self-willed way. It never pays to fall for the temptations of the world.
So, here are the lessons we all need to remember:
1. Stay close to God. Never fail to pray about all that you do.
2. Listen to good counsel. Keep in fellowship with others who are walking the walk. Live your life in the light.
3. Be quick to repent. When you do make a miscue, be instant in your response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.