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The right kind of pride

Since we’re not told in either 2 Samuel 24 or 1 Chronicles 21 why it was wrong for David to number the army of Israel, we’re left to come up with a reason.  We know that taking a census wasn’t wrong in and of itself (i.e., the book of Numbers), so that points us in the direction of his motivation.  Was David guilty of doing the right thing for the wrong reason?

This appears to be the case.  Joab, never known for his moral discernment, nonetheless finds David’s proposal “repulsive,” (21:6), and tries to talk the king out of the census.  We’re also told that Satan had “incited” David to take this action (21:1).  It’s possible, perhaps even likely then that David’s sin consists of numbering his army for prideful purposes --- so he can “see” how great his power is rather than leave them unnumbered and trust in God (see Psalm 33:16-19).  He is like the rich fool building bigger barns and squeezing God out of sight in the process.

To his credit, this is a momentary lapse of judgment rather than a lifestyle and David realizes almost immediately after the census has been taken that he has sinned and “done a very foolish thing,” (v. 8).  A plague of judgment ensues and 70,000 men (soldiers?) die.  When the angel executing judgment reaches the threshing floor of Aruanah, God suspends the plague and instructs David to build an altar there. 

When David arrives to build the altar, Araunah offers him everything that he needs ---free of cost to the king (2 Samuel 24:22-23). David refuses his offer.  At first glance, it’s easy to think that he is still being prideful and he should accept Araunah’s generosity.  But upon reflection, it becomes clear that if this is pride it is the good kind.  David recognizes that God told him to build the altar --- not Araunah.  Jehovah wants the man who temporarily put his trust in men and horses, to put his faith in Him and the altar is part of that process. 

David’s heart is reflected in his statement, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (v. 24).  Giving (financial or otherwise), can take the any of the following forms:

  • I will not sacrifice,” --- some won’t give at all,
  • “I will not sacrifice to the Lord,” --- some will give to anything but God.
  • “I will not sacrifice to the Lord offerings that cost,” --- some will give to God only in a peripheral manner. They’ll sacrifice for Disneyworld, cars, houses, and college for their kids, but not for the One who provides them with all things. 
  • “I will not sacrifice to the Lord offerings that cost me nothing,” --- some are content only when they give as they have received (Matthew 10:8).  They won’t let anyone else do their giving for them.  It is personal with them.
It seems to me that we need more of this kind of pride.  
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