David's Numbering of the People
Homiletic Magazine
2 Samuel 24:1-25
And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.…

The boldness of the expression is startling. "He moved David against them." Can it be that Jehovah stirred up the king of His choice against the people of His choice, to conceive and execute a design which so speedily called down upon them a deadly punishment? Or can we smooth away the difficulty by recourse to the parallel account in the book of Chronicles, and read the text as the margin of our English version suggests — "Satan moved David against them?" Such an explanation is, I believe, untenable. If we had only the book of Samuel before us, we should not think of proposing it. The problem must be faced, that, in some sense or other, God is said to have moved David to this sin; while, on the other, hand, it was due to the instigation of Satan. Can we harmonise these divergent statements? We tread here on the skirts of that most mysterious problem, the relation of the Divine sovereignty to the human will. We approach here, also, and that still more closely, another problem wrapt in a thick cloud of mystery: the relation of the Divine will to the causation of evil. God never compels a man to sin. If that were possible, God would cease to be God; sin would cease to be sin. The moral consciousness of man revolts instinctively from such an idea. The teaching of Holy Scripture gives it no countenance whatsoever.

1. He purposely leads His saints into circumstances of trial, that their faith may be proved and tested, and coming forth from the furnace triumphantly, shine as a witness before the world.

2. God sees a man's heart turning aside from Him, and withdraws for a time His restraining grace and presence. He deserts the sinner who has deserted Him.

3. God is said to harden the hearts of men. But not until His mercy has been set at naught, not until His long-suffering has been defied to the uttermost, does He finally pronounce this sentence. Not until a Pharaoh has hardened his own heath against judgment after judgment, is God said to harden His heart. Not until a Saul has mocked His calling and despised repeated admonitions, does the Spirit of the Lord leave him, and an evil spirit from the Lord trouble him. Not until mercy has been tried and tried in vain is a judgment pronounced in this world. And who shall dare in any easel to say that it is final? But we not unnaturally ask, Why was David allowed to sin? There was, it seems, some national transgression which roused God's wrath and demanded punishment. Nor was this the first occasion of the kind. We read, "Again the Lord's anger was kindled against Israel." Once before they had been smitten with famine for the unexpiated sins of Saul and his bloody house: what the offence was now, we are not told. The king's sin was in some way the culmination and representative of the nation's sins. It was the final offence which filled up the cup of wrath, and the punishment smote the nation, and through the nation its ruler. A still more perplexing question meets us next.Wherein lay the guilt of David's Act? The answer must be that the motive which inspired the act was sinful.

1. He designed, say some, a development of the military power of the nation with a view to foreign conquest. He wished to organise the army, and visions of self-aggrandisement dazzled his brain.

2. It was the outcome of pride: pride at the growth of the nation. He wished to satisfy the foolish vanity of his heart; to know to the full over how vast a kingdom he ruled. It may be said that the sin of the people was in essence the same: that here on the very threshold of their national existence as a powerful kingdom, they were tempted by visions of worldly glory to forget that they were not to realise their vocation to the world in the guise of a conquering secular state, but as Jehovah's witness among the nations. It this was so, if already Israel was in peril of a virtual apostasy, no wonder that Jehovah's wrath was kindled. Vet in such a case wrath is in truth but another phase of love, chastisement is mercy in disguise. Judgment is mercy when it leads unto repentance. Wisely wrote St. of this fall of David: "Let us remember how that a certain man said in his prosperity, 'I shall never be moved.' But he was taught how rash were his words, as though he attributed to his own strength what was given him from on high. This we learn by his own confession, for he presently adds, "Lord, by Thy favour Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: Thou didst hide Thy face and I was troubled." He was deserted for a moment by his guide in healing Providence, lest in fatal pride he should himself desert that guide" ("Works," vol. 6. p. 530). Observe in this history: —

1. The hidden motive determines the character of the action.

2. If it was pride which was Israel's transgression and David's sin, mark how heinous an offence it is in the sight of God.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

WEB: Again the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah."

David Numbering the People
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