This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: 2 Samuel 24:1 ‘and he moved David against them, saying, Go, number Israel

This Week’s Focus Passage: 2 Samuel 24:1

‘and he moved David against them, saying, Go, number Israel and Judah.’


    We read in 2 Samuel 24:1, basically, that the Lord moved David against his own people, saying, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’ But do we not read elsewhere that ‘Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel,’ 1 Chronicles 21:1? Well, then, who moved David to number Israel, the LORD, or Satan? While this may be an apparent contradiction upon which ‘higher critics’ may delight to lay hold on in order to deny the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and which may be difficult for the mind of the flesh to satisfactorily explain, nonetheless, the answer is not distant for the mind of faith given by God the Holy Spirit.

    If the governing presupposition is that of a ‘contest’ between God and Satan for the soul of man, in which man is the determiner of the outcome by the choice that he makes for good or for evil, then the answer must be that God moved David to number the people for His good, albeit undisclosed purposes, and Satan also moved David to number the people to satisfy his wicked purposes. However if the presupposition that controls our understanding be that of a God that exercises absolute sway over everything that takes place in the earth and under the heavens, the God of whom Nebuchadnezzar declared,

I praised and honored Him that liveth forever; for His dominion is and everlasting dominion, and His kingdom from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou? (Daniel 4:34, 35),

then the solution is to be found elsewhere. Let us seriously ask ourselves:


    Was Nebuchadnezzar correct? Does God do all things according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth? Are there any, or is there one indeed, that can stay His hand? Can anyone say unto Him, in truth, what are you doing/ Some would suggest; indeed some do, that man is the final determiner of his own destiny; some maintain that Satan is a great power that is able to do what he pleases, of his own accord, and according to his own will, apart from God. The supposedly amusing cartoon image of an angel sitting on the right shoulder of some character, while Satan, or the devil, is sitting on the left shoulder as each of them try to convince this character to do either good or evil, is not only gross wickedness, but extreme ignorance of the truth. Of course the ignorance is based upon the willingness of man insisting that the final decision belongs unto himself, and he proudly asserts with William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), that:

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

           I am the master of my fate:

    I am the master of my soul.

    This is not the teaching of the Word of God. And this is not the teaching of either 2 Samuel 24:1, or 1 Chronicles 21:1. What is taught through these two passages is primarily the same thing that we find in the book of Job, especially at the very beginning, and exemplified again and again in the experience of Job. Satan must obtain the permission of God before he can do anything whatever. He is himself among that number that cannot say unto God, ‘what are you doing?’ Satan has great power, and he goes about like a roaring lion. But every power, as well as every ability, that he possesses is a derived power and a derived ability. He is subject to his Creator, even as we ourselves.

    While one writer purporting to explain ‘Bible Difficulties’ seems to miss this reality, suggesting that both God and Satan moved David to number the people; that they each were involved for their own purposes and designs. What is stated is agreeable; the problem is what is not stated. This writer has failed to point out the limitations that confine the arch enemy of God’s people. He has said, ‘As it turned out [as though accidentally], Satan’s success was limited and transient; but in the end God’s purpose was well served and His cause was substantially furthered’ because He knows the end from the beginning, because He is the end and the beginning of all things. Yea, His purpose was ‘well served’ because in ‘the end’ Satan is only His servant and can do nothing without His authority.

    So how does this affect us; how does this truth intersect our lives? Do we have the right to excuse our evil behavior, and dismiss it tritely with a casual, ‘the devil made me do it?’ May we rather be reminded of the words of apostle, Peter, when he wrote these encouraging words in his first epistle, ‘though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,’ and, ‘wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator.’ May we know through faith that every trial, as it came to Job, only comes with the permission of our heavenly Father, but not only so, that it is for our very best good, as Paul comforts us with, ‘all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose’ and, ‘how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?’ At the same time, Peter would incite us to diligence and watchfulness, as he closes that first epistle with this warning, ‘Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom withstand steadfast in your faith.’


David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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