How do you assess success? Is it by the number of people who attend an event you planned or the amount of money collected for a fundraiser? Do you determine success by the wages you receive, the amount of money you have saved or the value of your home? Sometimes it’s hard not to look at the numbers to determine how you stack up against others.
Numbers can have a way of taking your eyes off of God. It can cause you to invest in the strength of a number and compare yourself to others. A superior number can give you a feeling of strength and make you feel self-reliant instead of God-reliant. In 2 Samuel 24, David decided to pursue a census of Israel and Judah even though his commander Joab advised against it (verse 3-4).
It’s interesting that Joab refers to Deuteronomy 1:11: “Now may the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are.” The context of this passage is Moses reminding the next generation of Israelites that God “has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number (1:10).” The focus is on what God has done, his faithfulness to the promise he made to Abraham: “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be (Genesis 15:5).”
You cannot count the number of stars in the sky, nor can you fathom the depth of God’s resources. When Joab completed the census more than nine months later, he tells David, “there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.” When I read those numbers, I immediately focused on the huge number of warriors and the fact Israel had more “valiant men” than Judah. The numbers instantly took my eyes off God. That is the danger of numbers.
David immediately realized his sin and God punishes not only him, but many of the Israelites. Everyone suffers because of David’s action. God’s word advises us to trust in God, not in our own assessment using numbers.
© 2022, Chris G Thelen