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The story of King David taking a military census to his nation is found in 2 Samuel 24. King David ordered Joab, his army commander, to “Go, number Israel and Judah” (verse 2). David had increased pride and self-confidence because of his newly achieved national success. He was determined to reach worldly greatness and had a hope to be like the neighboring nations. These reasons moved him to take a military census of his people.
It was actually Satan who prompted pride and ambition that led Israel’s king to take measures to increase the size of his army for the purpose of extending the boundaries of Israel by new military conquests. David forgot how God has delivered him from all of his enemies (2 Samuel 22).
God convicts David of his sin
As the census was taking place, David began to contemplate over the consequences of what he had done and he knew that he was making a mistake. It was the Spirit of God that convicted him and revealed to him the error of his decision. For his strength was not found in numbers but in God’s mighty power of deliverance. It was the hand of God that brought the nations’ success and not the arms of men.
David asks for forgiveness
David was convicted of his sin of taking a census and he confessed his mistake before God and asked for forgiveness saying, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly” (verse 10). After the census, the number in Israel was eight hundred thousand brave men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men (verse 9).
God’s judgement of David’s Census
Then, the Lord said to him through the prophet Gad, David’s seer: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you … Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land?” (verse 11-13). David answered, please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man. So the LORD sent a plague upon nation and seventy thousand men died (verse 14-15).
The reason behind God’s judgement
If David’s sin was not punished by God immediately, the whole nation would have fallen prey for pride and unbelief. By David taking a census, the people, following the example of their beloved king, would have put their faith in themselves and relied on their own strength rather than in God. And this very sin would eventually have led to their defeat before their hostile neighboring nations. Therefore, the nation’s sentiment needed to be corrected by God.
In His service,