Quick! Look around you and take stock. Fortify your weaknesses. Muster your troops. Prepare for the battle we call spiritual leadership.
Maybe that’s not such a good idea. David offended the Lord by counting the number of “fighting men” in Israel (2 Sam 24:2). Even his not-so-righteous military commander, Joab, had to ask (v.3), “But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
No sooner than David had finished counting the fighting men, we are told that he was “conscience-stricken” (v.10) and said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done.”
Wow! “Knowing where you stand” doesn’t seem like sin, yet we are told that it was Satan himself that inspired David to take this census (I Ch 21:1).
As humans, we have the hardest time trusting God when we are doing the “best.” This event took place at a time when David’s kingdom was at peace and his political power was at a peak. We get a very different picture of David back when he was a young boy and no one would stand with him to defeat the giant.
God used this passage to speak to me personally in this past week. The timing was clearly purposeful on the Lord’s part (as it always is), since we begin our annual KidZ At Heart board and staff retreat tonight. (We would covet your prayers as people travel from quite far today and we gather for God’s guidance through the weekend.)
Annual meetings are a natural occasion to “take stock” or perform SWOT (Strength Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) evaluations of our ministries. And, while I believe the Lord wants us to conduct careful evaluation and implement well-thought out plans, these too can be an affront to our Lord.
How? The NIV study notes describe David’s issue well:
David’s military census does not appear to have been prompted by any immediate external threat. Since he wanted to “know how many there are” (v.2), it is evident that his action was motivated either by pride in the size of the empire he had acquired or by reliance for his security on the size of the reserve of manpower he could muster in an emergency or, more likely, both.
I beg the Lord to continually remove both of these issues from my life (a never-ending process to be sure). This has been our best year of ministry – ever – so I certainly don’t want to “count troops” now! We will, instead, attempt to count God’s blessings as we gather.
I challenge you to lead spiritually, i.e. trusting that it is God who musters the troops, and the wisdom, and the answers, and the resources…as He so wills and as He knows they are needed to accomplish His purposes for His kingdom.