Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.”2 Samuel 24:17
The historical accounts given in 2 Samuel 24:1-17 and 1 Chronicles 21:1-17, are stark reminders to man that communal leadership that falls into sin, results in severe consequences and dire aftermath to those involved in the fracas that angers God.
But in the case of David, it was bewildering to even consider that after following what appears to be God’s instructions to conduct a census on the people of Israel (2 Samuel 24:1), it concluded with him falling into sin (2 Samuel 24:10) and subsequently leading to the death of 70,000 of his own people, part of the community that perish from a plague sent by God (2 Samuel 24:15).
Biblical scholars have for many centuries tried to provide an explanation why a seemingly harmless act of carrying out a census to count the people, could develop into an iniquitous outcome that warrants the death penalty. There are various possible comments explored, and still it is within anybody’s guess why what David did was essentially classified a sin. But we shall disregard this unexplained enigma for another day, and take it at face value; that by conducing the census, David did sinned against God as what the Bible stated. We shall then look at the consequences of sin, as the basis of our discussion today.
We understand from Scripture that God’s anger was aroused against Israel, and David was moved to conduct the census and to number his own people. Joab became suspicious, and asked why it would be desirous of having this done (numbering the people). But nevertheless, David’s decree prevailed, and the census was instructed and carried out.
After the laborious task was completed, Joab returned to David and gave him the numbers he requested. And the next thing we knew, David realized he sinned and was in prayer, pleading with God to take away his iniquity.
The Judgment on David’s Sin
During the incident, God sent Gad, a prophet and a seer in David’s circle, telling him to choose between 3 outcomes, (1) seven years of famine on the land, or (2) allow his enemies to pursue him for three months, or (3) three days of plague on the land. Then we read that David was greatly distressed. From his own words, we understand that he prefers to be dealt with by God and not man and so 70,000 men from Dan to Beersheba died, after a plague was sent to invade Israel, as a result of David’s choice.
And in 2 Samuel 24:17, David said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.”
Clearly, from his reactions and his negotiations with God in prayer (2 Samuel 24:17), David had never expected the plague on the land, being the option chosen by him given by the prophet Gad, could have resulted in the death of so many men in Israel. David’s prayers were one of remorse and great regret that he even suggested to God to take his life and the lives of those in his family, instead of sentencing the sheep to destruction.
What Went Wrong?
It is already perplexing enough to try and figure out why David’s decree to count the people would have resulted in sin against God, leading to the death of 70,000 men.
However, the morale of the story here is also undisputed and obvious that the conduct of those in leadership are serious affairs to God that man should not take lightly. The sin of one common man may only result in judgment on himself alone, but the same is not true for those who shepherd the flock. But why did God allowed so many to be killed? Why did God “moved” David’s heart to conduct the census that caused him to sin?
For a better understanding of this event, there’s a parallel Scripture found in 1 Chronicles 21:1-17, that we can use as comparison. From the way I see it, there are likely two pertinent facts that possibly caused God to become angry and consorted to judgment on David’s people. Initially, the first part of 2 Samuel 24:1 stated the anger of the Lord was aroused against David’s people. Clearly, the people sinned and God is not happy with that, resulting in anger. And secondly, as we read in 1 Chronicles 21:1, IT WAS SATAN WHO STOOD UP AGAINST THE PEOPLE, AND NOT GOD, AND IT WAS THE DEVIL WHO MOVED DAVID TO COMMIT THE SIN OF NUMBERING HIS OWN PEOPLE.
The Wages Of Sin Will Always Be Death
This is also undoubtedly a conspicuous case of David having mistaken the devil for God. He thought it was God who instructed him to conduct the census, but no, it wasn’t God but the devil who disguised himself as God. If David knew it was Satan who suggested the census to him, chances is more likely that he would not have done it. And David fell for the devil’s deception.
Whereas God allowed it, because of His desire to bring punishment to the people for their sins. God used the devil to work out the details and to bring forth His divine judgment. It was a clear cut case of evil men being delivered into the hands of those more evil than themselves.
The difficult consequences is evident and inevitable. Other than being led into deception by the devil, there’s nothing David could have done to avert judgment. The source of the problem stemmed from the sins of the people and not David. As a result of sin, God allowed evil to deceive their leadership. Under these circumstances, the best possible way to avoid God’s wrath, is still none other than to refrain from committing sin.
Pandemic = Plague
In the context of the modern church, this historical account of sin and judgment is also very much valid and applicable to believers today. However, the argument is back to the allegorical dilemma of which one comes first; the chicken or the egg. What have the leaders done to warn believers that the Bible is clear on this age old fact; that the wages of sin is death, and what have pastors and church leaders done to preach against sin.
While we are beginning to see positive developments across the world, with NGOs and people-driven initiatives to highlight the truth about the current global pandemic, but from the Biblical perspective, it is our pastors’ and preachers’ duty to highlight the underlying rot (sin) that causes the circumstances that the world is presently facing today. And if church leadership is not going to speak up or promote the truth, the church will be subjected to very heavy cleaning up as described in 1 Peter 4:17, where tough measures to decontaminate the church from lies and liars, will begin from inside all of God’s houses of prayer.
Pandemic is merely the modern description that shares identical meaning to the ancient word known as plague.