2 Samuel 24:1-10 Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain
2 Samuel 24:1-10
1 Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him.
2 So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel—from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south—so I may know how many people there are.”
3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God let you live to see a hundred times as many people as there are now! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this?”
4 But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab and the commanders of the army went out to count the people of Israel. 5 First they crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, south of the town in the valley, in the direction of Gad. Then they went on to Jazer, 6 then to Gilead in the land of Tahtim- hodshi and to Dan- jaan and around to Sidon. 7 Then they came to the fortress of Tyre, and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went south to Judah as far as Beersheba.
8 Having gone through the entire land for nine months and twenty days, they returned to Jerusalem. 9 Joab reported the number of people to the king. There were 800,000 capable warriors in Israel who could handle a sword, and 500,000 in Judah.
10 But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, Lord, for doing this foolish thing.
At the height of David’s career, he saw darkness he never knew existed. David’s census aims at gauging the strength of Israel’s national militia, which points to a deeper problem of the human condition – a basic instinct that yearns independence from God’s righteous rule. David begins to see the darkness that he never knew existed when he acts out of his fleshly aspirations to create his own empire. He is in danger of taking Israel towards the path of self-destruction by seeking independence from God’s rule. In today’s passage, we learn about the pitfalls of power and God’s desire to promote faithful men to positions of authority in order to rule with them. A life of godliness with contentment is the best defense against the pitfalls of success.
Go and count the people of Israel and Judah – God had intended on bringing calamity upon Israel as He was angry with them for reasons not suggested in the text; for God had wanted to create an occasion to punish Israel. The text: “he caused” David to harm them by taking a census, can be interpreted as God allowing David to be tempted as in the case of Job. There existed however, unknown to David, an open door to temptation – a base desire for self-sufficiency and independence from God’s rule. In all of David’s battles, Israel never had to worry about the strength of their army because God fought on their behalf and defeated enemies much bigger than them. Thus, David ordered a census to be taken in order to gauge the strength of his army paving the way towards self-rule and independence.
But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this? – In the days of David, Israel’s military is less structured and men are conscripted into the army on a demand basis. Hence, they are called men as opposed to soldiers. In the lure of self-sufficiency, David intends on creating a more deterministic military structure; an enrollment of fighting fit men so that he could plan and initiate military campaigns. Joab protests against David’s action because he sees the census as unnecessary having seen that all of Israel’s victories are not attributed to the prowess of her army. Perhaps, Joab sees the census as an emergence of David’s ego that spells trouble.
I have sinned greatly by taking this census – Having ascertained Israel’s military capabilities when it is previously known only to God, David comes to his senses. Realizing the seriousness of his actions, he seeks God’s forgiveness. It is not so much as the need to understand Israel’s military capabilities; but the pride of self-sufficiency and fleshly aspirations. Now, with Israel’s military capabilities established, he could make plans to fulfill his personal ambitions.
- Success stirs up evil desires that otherwise would have stayed dormant. Most people had no idea of the evil they are capable of until they reach some level of success; the evil they thought as non-existent suddenly appears. The desire for self-sufficiency embedded in pride is responsible for most of humanity’s evil. People have no qualms depending on God and obeying Him when they have little resources, but when they achieve some level of success, they yearn for self-sufficiency and distant themselves from God’s rule. Self-sufficiency gives men a virtual sense of control, supposing they no longer need to defer to God’s ideals that so often run counter to theirs. David in taking the census seeks to ascertain Israel’s military capabilities so that he could feel confident to accomplish his personal ambitions. History shows us in multiple scenarios that nations fall as soon as they rise to a level of success and prominence. Success has a knack of stirring the evil desires of men that otherwise would have lied dormant: But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. David apparently is not aware of the evil at work until his conscience stirred within him.
- To those whose hearts are tested and approved of God, He entrusts with greater authority. Despite the pitfalls of success, it has been God’s plan to entrust faithful men with authority so that they could rule with Him. Hebrews 2:7-8 says,
“And (You) have appointed him (men) over the works of Your hands; You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
However, humanity is yet ready to take on this full responsibility because of his base desires. Nevertheless, for those whose desires are purified by the word and the spirit, and to those who have proven themselves faithful, God entrusts with greater authority. Each level of empowerment comes with its own trappings and dark desires that lie hidden. That is one reason why God promotes a person in gradual steps so that he could adjust to the changing landscape of temptations and deal with the enemy within.
- Godliness with contentment is great gain. Resources, even though they fall within our virtual control belongs wholly to God, for we are but mere stewards of it. Thus, we should never worry about the amount of resources we possess. As God sets our goals, He is also responsible to provide needed resources to accomplish them. Men’s basic instinct for independence and fleshly ambitions pushes for control over these resources in order to further his own agenda. However, as long as we remain contented in submission under God’s purview, we will always be in a position of supremacy and live abundantly. However, David is not contented with what God has given; his heart eyes territories beyond the borders God has determined for Israel. Thus, the act of initiating the census betrays David’s greed; he replays the sin of discontent when he took Uriah’s only wife even though he possesses the entire harem. Perhaps, the best defense against the trappings of success is to practice godliness with contentment regardless of our degree of accomplishment. Godliness is living with the chief purpose of being a blessing to the community. Contentment, on the other hand is an attitude of thanksgiving and fulfillment from the things we already possess.
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 1 Timothy 6:6
The apostle Paul teaches: the attitude of godliness with contentment exalts men to positions of influence that is non-destructive but enduring bringing blessings to all. Therefore, God promotes and grants success to those whose hearts are steadfast and unmoved by the pleasures of the world.
- Do you hope to attain a position of authority and influence? We desire to be promoted not for fame or monetary returns, but to influence the community to live according to God’s truth.
- Are you bitter that the undeserving are promoted in place of the righteous? Be at peace that God is in control. We could still influence the community for good without the use of titles. Ask God for wisdom and authority to speak the truth in all circumstances with patience and wisdom.
- Are you contented with all that you possess and living life in peace and quiet? Are you contented with your wife/husband, the state of your career advancement, and your wealth? One area that we should rightly feel discontent is the state of our character development and the moral state of our community and nation.
Dear Lord, reveal to me the secrets of my heart and put a righteous motive within me. I reject the lure of power and above all seek your favor. Discipline me and mold me so that I can in time be a person of influence for your kingdom’s work. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.