The Day David Counted Israel’s Army

King David and the dangers of church growth.

29 SEPTEMBER 2018 · 11:00 CET


What was it that made the Lord rage when King David numbered Israel’s army?

After David had ordained the census, the Lord spoke to David via the prophet Gad saying that He would send one of three judgments upon the land.

Either seven years of famine or Israel fleeing from her enemies or three days of pestilence (a.k.a. the rapid spread of a deadly disease). Eventually, it was the pestilence which was selected. Seventy thousand Israeli men died (1 Chronicles 21:14).

So why did God get so angry? How come seventy thousand ‘innocent’ men had to die due to a run-of-the-mill military census?

Well, it seems to me that for the first time in his up-and-coming career that King David got his eyes off the Lord. Rather than relying wholly upon the strength of the Most High’s arm to deliver him from his foes, Brother David delved into the world of mathematics. 

He started to believe that numbers meant muscle. It was a moment of glorying in the flesh. But such carnal boasting marked an evident departure from the pattern that had characterized so much of his life up to that point, namely, a fervent and jealous trust in the Word and the Spirit of the Lord.

His census, then, was a symbol of rancid unbelief. The message he conveyed to his officials was: “Don’t worry, lads, we can do it without the Lord! We’ve got numbers and plenty of ‘em!”

When I read this passage I cannot help applying it to our church situation today. How many churches base their influence on the amount of saints sitting in the pews week after week?

Let me ask an even more radical question: where does this inordinate desire stem from? Why do we just want more, more and more? Does this zeal find its source in the fiery glory of God or the corrupt glory of man? What is the real ‘spirit’ at work in such vain aspirations?

The Bible teaches that the armies of Israel and the church of God are not built by human philosophy but by the power of the only Almighty One.

Maybe we should get back to believing these verses rather than our church growth textbooks.

Psalm 127:1, “Except the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain”.

Isaiah 31:1, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!”

Acts 2:47, “... And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”.

1 Corinthians 3:6, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase”.

My advice for you all today is: don’t bother about counting your armies. Seek your strength in the Lord alone.

Published in: Evangelical Focus - Fresh Breeze - The Day David Counted Israel’s Army