The Chronicles reading today highlights David’s folly in instructing Joab, the commander of the army, to count the number of men in Israel’s armies. “But God”, we read, “was displeased with this thing and he struck Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:7). Why was God displeased? What motivated David to number the strength of his army? The text does not say explicitly, but does the strength of an army depend on its size, from God’s point of view?
Had David forgotten the lessons of the past, how God restricted Gideon to three hundred men to fight the Midianites? Even his close friend Jonathan, Saul’s son, had set out to fight a large band of Philistines with his armour bearer, saying, “It maybe the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6).
David’s conscience later smote him as he realized he had done wrong. After all his experiences strengthening his faith his vision of the ways of God momentarily lapsed. He was getting older and it is a lesson for us, whatever our age, not to let slip our vision of Godly ways. We must never forget that we do not walk alone, if we have committed our lives to God through baptism into Christ.
Another lesson is that we are not fighting with literal swords! When we are committed to the service of Christ, we fight spiritual battles. Let us never think that the “enemy” – whatever form that enemy may take – is too strong for us, for we do not fight alone.
Note in 2 Samuel 24:1 that God was angry with Israel, so He used this occasion of David’s pride getting the better of him, to teach David a lesson as well as to bring judgement on Israel who may have become elated and proud because of their battle successes over their enemies.
As we read God’s word we will often see situations where God uses human mistakes and follies. He weaves these situations into His overall plan and purpose. We will see that more clearly if we try to step back and see the big picture.