Bible Order: Psalms 45–50
Chronological Order: 2 Chronicles 9, 1 Kings 10-11
New Testament Only: John 20:11–31
Stay Away From The Edge
“Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). Where has Satan been? Has it dawned on you that we haven’t heard from Satan since the Garden of Eden? In fact, this is the first place in scripture we hear his name. In Genesis he was referred to as the Serpent. Granted, we hear a lot about Satan in Job which is chronologically prior to this time but as we read through the Bible book by book, this is the first time we have heard his name.
As I read that first verse of today’s reading I thought to myself “Now where has he been?” Think about it, God is creating a people through whom He intends to bless the world, and in fact through whom He Himself will be born of a virgin in order to save all of humanity, and Satan, the enemy of God, is nowhere to be found? How does Israel go unchallenged for so long? Brothers, let me tell you, Satan can only do as much as God allows him to do. God has not allowed Satan to mess, in any meaningful way, with Israel until now.
If that is true then why are we hearing about Satan now? We first read of this sinful census in 2 Samuel 24:1. There it was said that God was angry with Israel and He incited David to take the census. The discrepancy on instigation is pretty easily explained. God takes full responsibility for His creation. Satan can only do that which God allows. Therefore, while God did not order David to take the census, He allowed Satan to incite David to do so. God allowed it so He is responsible. Since Chronicles is focused on the spiritual issues of the history covered by 1 & 2 Samuel and Kings we are getting a little more specific detail about this episode.
Why was God angry with Israel? I wonder if this was during the time that David was lusting after Bathsheba and conspiring in the murder of her husband. No way to know. This occurrence, however, is not really out of character for David. Remember his first attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem? Someone died because David did not inquire of the Lord and handle the Ark as God had commanded. David had gotten a little big for his britches. He was going to do something for the Lord, and his way of going about it seemed right in his own eyes. Disaster.
What is the big deal with a census? We know that Moses had a couple of census’ done at the beginning and end of the wilderness days. Those census’ were done at the command of God not instigated by man. Even so, God gave a warning about census taking:
Exodus 30:11-12 ESV
“The Lord said to Moses, “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.”
I’ll admit, when I first read about David’s census I wasn’t real sure where the problem lay. It doesn’t seem like much. But why would God require a ransom for life against a plague just for counting the people of Israel. There seem to be some good reasons to do a census. That’s the problem, and again, it is the same problem of bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. The census makes sense if you want to know how many men you have to fight your wars or if you want to start taxing the people so you can provide for your royal household. The census is a sin if you are rejecting God’s provision for you and taking matters into your own hands. By that act you are saying “I can be like God”.
Wasn’t that the same sin of which Adam and Eve were guilty? Isn’t that the same line the Serpent fed them way back at the beginning? Here is a guy that, as a very young man, stood before Goliath with a sling and a stone with no fear and complete trust in God. Now he is king with a slew of military victories behind him and a mountain of treasure beneath him and he is starting to think that he had something to do with it. David has gotten too big for his britches and he’s got a spanking coming.
Why did God allow Satan to incite David to this sin? Because David’s heart was already headed in that direction. Let me tell you something. A little nudge by Satan is meaningless unless you’ve brought yourself to the edge of the abyss with your toes hanging over the edge. Don’t tell me the Devil made you do it. He just told you what you wanted to hear! David had been walking in that direction already. The episode with the Ark showed us that. God finally said, okay if you aren’t going to learn the easy way, I’m going to let you learn the hard way.
I find myself doing that with my daughter sometimes. I’ll warn her not to do something and she keeps pushing in that direction. I finally get to the point where I say “I’m done talking. If talking were going to cause a change you would have changed. Since you will not listen to me I’m going to allow you to suffer the consequences.” It’s funny how when I say “Okay, if you’re going to do it I’m going to allow you to suffer the consequences” how she suddenly doesn’t want to disobey anymore. I think we do this as Christians as well; we lean on grace so heavily that we think we can push things and still be forgiven. I’m afraid we forget that because God loves us He will discipline us for bad behavior. Grace doesn’t mean you get to disobey and play God.
Fellas, we’ve got to stop walking to the edge of the abyss. “The Devil made me do it” excuses just aren’t going to fly. When you walk to the edge Satan will give you a nudge. It’s just that simple. You don’t want to suffer the consequences of falling over the edge? Stay away from the edge. Don’t go near it. If you have a problem with pornography then do what you have to and stay away from that which leads you to that particular edge. When you go out of town on business you tell the person at the counter at check-in to block the adult movies. When you work on a computer install blocking software. If you can’t do that then make sure that your computer screen is positioned so that anyone walking past can see what is on your screen. If you get tend to go online late at night then don’t.
Ultimately it comes down to making every thought captive to Christ. Every action we take starts with a thought. The moment a sexually tinged thought comes to our mind we must crush it. Think about baseball, or taxes, or politics but get your mind in a different gutter – just kidding – get your mind in a better place. If that isn’t working, exercise. If a little exercise isn’t working then exercise until you throw up if you have to. Of course, the best thing you can do is pick up your Bible and read; get on your knees and pray.
As a Christian, God loves you. Because He loves you He will discipline you. If you won’t learn the easy way He will let you learn the hard way. Brothers, please take the easy way! Please!!! Stay away from the edge and keep your eyes on Jesus!
Have a blessed and Mighty Man day! In His strength you can conquer all!
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!
(Originally posted 5/11/10)