This year I’ve been using Bible Gateway’s chronological reading plan. It attempts to organize the text by the order in which things happened. So today I read 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 back to back and found something interesting.
2 Sam 24:1 Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
1 Ch 21:1 Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.
I have not done sufficient study to understand why David should have known better, but what interests me more about these passages is the contrasting sources of his motivation. I am reminded of Job’s story, and the question arises, does it matter who did it? I don’t think I can count the number of times I’ve heard “God would not…” “God would not make someone sick.” “God would not cause calamity in a person’s life.” “God would not…supply your own ending.” Does the Bible itself not say “Let no one say when he is tempted, ” I am being tempted by God“; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13)
So what is happening here, and what does it mean? Does it mean anything to say that God won’t do this or that when He is limited only by His own choice? Many people will say, “God allows it.” That bit of semantics permits us to keep the image we have of who we thing God should be untarnished.
We are made in His image. He is not made in ours. He will not conform to our ideas of right and wrong. He defines what love is. He is truth. He is sovereign. I don’t understand Him. I question and sometimes dare to challenge Him, but I also place my hope in Him. I put my trust in Him because there is no other who cannot fail. He may disappoint me for a season when He doesn’t do what I think he should, but I know in those times that I am the one who has failed. I rejoice in His amazing mercy and grace that I can be restored to Him and live to know Him better.
However we process these two accounts, one thing seems clear to me. David made his choice. That choice resulted in consequences not only for him but for the entire nation. It wasn’t the first time. David’s sin with Bathsheba planted the seeds of his kingdom’s division. God does allow us our choices. Neither the fact that we make those choices nor the fact that we were predestined through the act of creation by an omniscient God diminish the seemingly contradictory realities of His sovereignty and our free will.