“Once again God’s anger blazed out against Israel. He tested David by telling him, ‘Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.’ So David gave orders to Joab and the army officers under him, ‘Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number.’

But Joab resisted the king: ‘May your God multiply people by the hundreds right before the eyes of my master the king, but why on earth would you do a thing like this?’

Nevertheless, the king insisted, and so Joab and the army officers left the king to take a census of Israel. They crossed the Jordan and began with Aroer and the town in the canyon of the Gadites near Jazer, proceeded through Gilead, passed Hermon, then on to Dan, but detoured Sidon. They covered Fort Tyre and all the Hivite and Canaanite cities, and finally reached the Negev of Judah at Beersheba. They canvassed the whole country and after nine months and twenty days arrived back in Jerusalem. Joab gave the results of the census to the king: 800,000 able-bodied fighting men in Israel; in Judah 500,000. But when it was all done, David was overwhelmed with guilt because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics. And David prayed to God, ‘I have sinned badly in what I have just done. But now God forgive my guilt—I’ve been really stupid’.” 2 Samuel 24:1-10 (MSG)


God was testing David to see whether or not he would take a census. Apparently there wasn’t a need to count the people at that time. Joab tried to deter David from the task, as it would be a burden for his men and the whole nation. Yet, David wouldn’t be persuaded against the idea. Nine months later when the task was completed, David regretted his decision. David’s motivation had more to do with placing his trust, security, and confidence in the number of people under his jurisdiction rather than God. There were consequences for David’s actions and an epidemic broke out among the people, resulting in over seventy thousand people dying. Within twenty-four hours, David was vividly reminded that his security and position didn’t come from the people.

It’s easy to point the finger at David and think that his actions were unreasonable, but how often are we guilty of the same thing? We may not be taking a census of a country, but we are taking count of the things that will make us feel important or secure. When we do that, we start looking for something we can’t find. David didn’t need to know how many people were in his country. He learned that security doesn’t come from what we have; it comes from knowing God holds everything. Misplaced trust will leave us searching, and our numbers will always come up short.  Instead of counting, start trusting.

Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002.  Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. 

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About Hona Amer

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