God was displeased with this thing
1 Chronicles 21 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring me word that I may know their number.” 3 Joab said, “May the Lord add to His people a hundred times as many as they are! But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” 4 Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore, Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 5 Joab gave the number of the census of all the people to David. And all Israel were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword; and Judah was 470,000 men who drew the sword. 6 But he did not number Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.
7 God was displeased with this thing, so He struck Israel. 8 David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”
9 The Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 “Go and speak to David, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I offer you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”’” 11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Take for yourself 12 either three years of famine, or three months to be swept away before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, even pestilence in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now, therefore, consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” 13 David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
14 So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel; 70,000 men of Israel fell. 15 And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, “It is enough; now relax your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 Then David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, covered with sackcloth, fell on their faces. 17 David said to God, “Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O Lord my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father’s household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.”
18 Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 So David went up at the word of Gad, which he spoke in the name of the Lord. 20 Now Ornan turned back and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. And Ornan was threshing wheat. 21 As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out from the threshing floor and prostrated himself before David with his face to the ground. 22 Then David said to Ornan, “Give me the site of this threshing floor, that I may build on it an altar to the Lord; for the full price you shall give it to me, that the plague may be restrained from the people.” 23 Ornan said to David, “Take it for yourself; and let my lord the king do what is good in his sight. See, I will give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for wood and the wheat for the grain offering; I will give it all.” 24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing.” 25 So David gave Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site. 26 Then David built an altar to the Lord there and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And he called to the Lord and He answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering. 27 The Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back in its sheath.
In today’s text it says: David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, “Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring me word that I may know their number.” Joab said, “May the Lord add to His people a hundred times as many as they are! But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore, Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. Joab gave the number of the census of all the people to David. And all Israel were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword; and Judah was 470,000 men who drew the sword… God was displeased with this thing, so He struck Israel. Many times David had experienced God fighting for him and for all of Israel. In many of his great victories he was outnumbered. Clearly when he fought Goliath, when he was a boy he was at a great disadvantage physically. At that time though he said: “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-46) Now David was taking pride in what he had built. He was placing confidence in the numbers of men in his army, not in the Lord. It was his pride, his valuing the earthly kingdom more than the kingdom of God, which displeased God.
How often do individuals, churches and ministries today fall into this same sin? How often does the focus become on the numbers rather than on the Lord? Success, in our culture is measured in terms of how much we have and how much we’ve done. When numbers become the focus of ministry, God can no longer be the focus. There can only be one thing which is first. If building a kingdom on earth becomes the focus, the kingdom of heaven is not first. When we think of this, we naturally tend to think of the mega-churches and powerful ministries which fill arenas and stadiums. In Matthew 19:23-24 Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” In Matthew 6:24 He says: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Surely the more earthly things are involved with a church or ministry the more difficult it becomes to keep God first. But the struggle is not limited only to those who have achieved success by earthly standards. We all need to daily keep our focus on God, not on the things of earth. In Matthew 6:33, when Jesus said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” He was speaking about daily needs, food, clothing and housing. The kingdom of God must be the focus of all that we do no matter who we are or what we have accomplished.
When we place the things we have above the God who has blessed us with them, they become ours and not His. The problem is that now those things can only be as big or as successful as we can make them. They become a burden, something we strive to build and maintain rather than a blessing. In today’s text it was the numbers that David focused on. It says: The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel; 70,000 men of Israel fell. It was in the very thing that David put first that he suffered loss. There is a tremendous responsibility that comes with being a leader of God’s people. David was chosen, called and anointed by God to be a leader. Even when he failed, God still had a purpose for him. He was still called to be a leader. It was those who were under his authority who suffered. In the same way, those who are God’s chosen leaders today bear the responsibility for those who they lead. The lives of everyone they touch are in their hands. Jesus says: “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matthew 18:4-7) It is indeed a great responsibility to keep God first.
David recognized and repented of his sin. The text says: “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”… “I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hand of man.”… “I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing.” If we, like David, will repent and submit ourselves to the mercy of God, if we will give back to Him an offering from that which He has given us, we will be forgiven. We will be restored and we will be blessed. When we keep our focus on God, we will receive beyond what we can accomplish or achieve on our own. What we build with Him will be greater, both here on earth and in the kingdom of heaven, than anything we could do on our own.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the examples of those who have gone before us. Thank You for Your great mercy and Your promise that if we seek You, You will give us all we need. Thank You that it is impossible that we could outgive You. In all that I do and with all that You have given me I choose to focus on You. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, both in and through my life. Amen.