“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). Satan is here represented as the one who provoked David to number Israel. In 2 Sam. 24:1, the parallel account, the observation is made, “The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” God is frequently said to do that which He does not prevent.
Filled with thoughts of pride and self-sufficiency, David was led by the evil one to take this census in Israel. God did not interpose, but permitted David’s corrupt motive to be translated into action. When the Lord allows the course of evil to take its way, it is often set forth as if this were by the active intervention of God, although it is actually the force of evil that is at work producing its baneful results (Rom. 1:18, 24, 26, 28).
The census to be taken of Israel was for military purposes, a form of registration for military service. The number sought was to calculate the fighting strength of the nation (v. 5). By increasing his military might David thought to increase the prestige of Israel. By doing this, David wanted the nations around to think that Israel’s strength lay in its powerful army and not in God.
God had wonderfully blessed David and brought great prosperity to Israel. But Satan endeavored to make it appear that David’s success was due to his own prowess and the military strength of the nation, and was endeavoring to cause David more and more to rely upon human resources rather than the blessing of Heaven.
In His service,
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