Why in the world would God incite David to do something that would later bring punishment? Clearly, we have no way of understanding God’s motivation here. You might recall when God “hardened Pharoah’s heart” leading to more and more plagues. That’s another example of not truly understanding God’s motives.
This is the final story, and you can see some parallels to the story of punishment in Chapter 21, the bookends to the closing chapters of 2 Samuel. God often works in patterns as we have seen during the time of the judges.
We see David trying to protect his own flock of people, just like he would have protected his sheep as a shepherd for his family. He pleads with God, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”
If the census was a sin, why did God incite David to sin? We’d also want to know what good did the census bring? It gave David information on how many fighting men he had available in Israel and Judah. Was it like the “market research” we do today to gather evidence and information to be better leaders and sellers of goods and services?
David’s character is again revealed to us as being respectful and obedient to God. He has stumbled a time or two, but his intention is to follow God closely and seek God’s counsel before acting. In this case, he had done so, and was now regretting it. I can think of times when my own judgment has brought me strife. It’s hard to imagine God doing so!
So, what do we take away from this? Perhaps that every sin should have a prayer of repentance tagged to it. What happens when we’re not even aware of our sinfulness? To me, that’s the scariest kind of sin – the one I don’t even realize I’m committing.
Like David, we can trust that God’s mercy is great. He never sets us up for failure without a way out. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
Maybe you’re walking through something right now that has you confused or unsure. Are you doubting God? God is faithful. It’s easy to get caught up in the world’s messaging. Try to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
Let’s pray …
Lord, I thank you for your promise of redemption. Give me wisdom to know when to repent if my sin is hidden from me. Reveal my weaknesses and help me to grow stronger, relying on you for all things. Forgive my doubting mind as I walk forward on the path you’ve given me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.