Sunday, May 24, 2009

Confusing


Today's story does not make sense to me...

Here's how it starts in 2 Samuel 24.
1 -2 "Once again God's anger blazed out against Israel. He tested David by telling him, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."

Each of those three phrases is confusing. God's anger blazed against Israel? You have to assume they were worshipping idols again, but it doesn't say that. At the end of the story a very large number of people are killed. So God's anger is pretty serious.

He tested David by telling him... My greatest intrigue all along has been how we hear from God. How we know it is Him. And how when we obey His voice His blessings follow. So this flies in the face of all of that. God TOLD David to do something bad? And David obeyed? And something terrible happened? THAT is confusing...

"Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." That was the great crime? Find out how many people are in the kingdom? Every nation does that on an ongoing basis. So how is it wicked and deserving of great punishment? THAT is confusing...

"David gave orders to Joab and the army officers under him, "Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number." THAT was the great sin. I don't get it...

Somehow Joab, the mighty general, David's faithful warrior, knows that this is a bad thing. How did he know? What am I missing?

3 "But Joab resisted the king: "May your God multiply people by the hundreds right before the eyes of my master the king, but why on earth would you do a thing like this?"

Of course, the king is the king. 4 -9 "Nevertheless, the king insisted, and so Joab and the army officers left the king to take a census of Israel." It takes them over 9 months (didn't they have a computer network back then?) and they report back.

10"But when it was all done, David was overwhelmed with guilt because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics. And David prayed to God, "I have sinned badly in what I have just done. But now God forgive my guilt—I've been really stupid."

A couple of things. If David knew this was wrong, why did it take his consciense nearly a year to kick into gear? Did he know somehow that it was wrong, but lived by the latin american phrase, "Its better to ask forgiveness than ask permission?" The other thing - how did he know it was so wrong?

11 -12"When David got up the next morning, the word of God had already come to Gad the prophet, David's spiritual advisor, "Go and give David this message: 'God has spoken thus: There are three things I can do to you; choose one out of the three and I'll see that it's done.'"
13 Gad came to deliver the message: "Do you want three years of famine in the land, or three months of running from your enemies while they chase you down, or three days of an epidemic on the country? Think it over and make up your mind. What shall I tell the one who sent me?"

The result is that God's angel killed 70,000 people. That's more than all the US soldiers killed in Vietnam in the 10 years we were over there. That is a pretty big deal!

During the rest of this story, God never speaks directly to David again. Only through this never-before-mentioned prophet - Gad. But David knew it was God, speaking to him through this man.
So in this story, God talked to David directly to test him, and talked to him through a faithful friend and also through a spiritual leader. Does this indicate that David's relationship with God had cooled as his reign progressed? Did prosperity and ease dull his spiritual edge?

I have way more questions than answers from this story. I find it confusing...
ps. - 1 Chronicles 21 sets up this story with a different beginning. 1 -2"Now Satan entered the scene and seduced David into taking a census of Israel." THAT certainly makes more sense to me...

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