It kind of comes out of nowhere. You’re reading along in 1Chronicles and David’s riding the wave. Military victory after military victory are recorded from chapters 18 through chapters 20. The chronicler recording twice in chapter 18, “And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.” No stopping him. On a roll. And then things come to a screeching halt in chapter 21 . . . “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (21:1). And David crashes and burns.
Now numbering Israel, in and of itself, wasn’t wrong if done for the right purpose. In Exodus the LORD tells Moses to take a census and, as part of being counted, each person “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” (Exodus 30:12). The numbering was for the purpose of collecting an offering for atonement which would be used in the service of the tabernacle. Count the people, collect the offering, service the tabernacle, no plague.
David’s census, however, was for a different purpose. Seems that this king who was dominating the battle field . . . this king who was crushing it . . . that this king just wanted to know how big a number he could boast concerning his military might. David wanted to know just how great David was. He wanted the numbers off the top of his head so he could drop them whenever his ego wanted some feeding. Satan, the adversary, incited David the king to count the people with one of the oldest tricks in the book, pride.
And God calls the man after His own heart (1Sam. 13:14) on it, and strikes Israel according to the word of Moses. You counted . . . no collection . . . therefore consequences.
And here’s what strikes me this morning . . . David owns it.
But God was displeased with this thing, and He struck Israel. And David said to God, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” (1Chronicles 21:7-8 ESV)
We parade pride. David confessed it as sin. We want to rewrite the rules as seems best to us. David said that by ignoring God’s law and taking matters into his own hands he had acted foolishly. We rejoice in our iniquity, David cries out to the God of redemption, “Take it away!”
And, though consequences were suffered . . . though David’s army was depleted by 70,000 men because of his arrogance (21:14) . . . through it all David casts himself upon God’s mercy. He builds an altar . . . offers sacrifices for atonement . . . calls upon the LORD . . . and LORD answers him. Relationship restored . . . all because David owned it.
And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O LORD my God, be against me and against my fathers house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” (1Chronicles 21:17 ESV)
And I’m reminded that to refuse to own our sin is to hamstring salvation. That, if there is no “bad news” concerning our transgression, there is no basis for the “good news” of His forgiveness. If there is no guilt for having raised ourselves up to be our own gods, then there is no need for grace to address the price to be paid for our iniquity. If there is no basis for a case against us, then there is no benefit from the cross suffered for us.
We need to own it. I need to own it.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1John 1:8-10 ESV)
Owning my sin . . . confessing my sin . . . knowing my sin will be forgiven by a faithful God because of the once for all sacrifice of His beloved Son.
Owning it. Even that is by God’s grace . . . and for God’s glory.