1 Chronicles 19-21; Acts 22

1 Chronicles 21:1-7 A satan rose up against Israel, and he incited David to take a census of Israel. David therefore said to Joab and to the other generals of the army, “Go, number the Israelites from Beer-sheba to Dan, and report back to me that I may know their number.” But Joab replied: “May the LORD increase his people a hundredfold! My lord king, are not all of them my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord seek to do this thing? Why should he bring guilt upon Israel?” However, the king’s command prevailed over Joab, who departed and traversed all of Israel, and then returned to Jerusalem. Joab reported the census figures to David: of men capable of wielding a sword, there were in all Israel one million one hundred thousand, and in Judah four hundred and seventy thousand. Levi and Benjamin, however, he did not include in the census, for the king’s command was repugnant to Joab. This command was evil in the sight of God, and he struck Israel.

The first time I read this passage years ago, I was puzzled.  I didn’t see the enormity of a king wanting a census of his people.  It seemed a politically practical thing to do; e.g. the Assyrians are coming, so do I resist or sue for peace?  Jesus later spoke of the king who reviewed his resources, and made a decision on whether to go to war or sue for peace, based on how many soldier his adversary had and how many he had.  I see the point now: David desire for a census was rooted in pride.  At the height of his power he wanted a full sense of just how great he was; i.e. he wanted to revel in how great he was, not how great God was.  In my last reflection we see David’s great humility: “Who am I my Lord?”, and a chapter later we can see how tenuous humility can be.  As pride is the foundation of all sin, humility is the foundation of all virtue.  Prayer on our knees opens us up to God granting us the grace to be humble: when you question what does prayer change, it changes you!

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