Why was David's taking a census of Israel a sin in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21? I looked up "census" in my concordance and found Exodus 30:11-13: "When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on you when you number them." But I'm still not sure why taking the census was a sin. Any ideas?

You were wise to consult your concordance, since the punishment David chose for his sin was the very punishment Exodus specified. This implies that Joab and the census committee failed to take up the census tax.

Yet the real point of the passages in Samuel and Chronicles is theological. It is wrong to rely on the flesh rather than on God, to put confidence in numbers rather than in the Spirit. There are applications for us today. When we strive for growth at all costs, we risk being opposed by God himself, just as David was some three thousand years ago. We need to learn to trust God, without trying to guarantee success through numerical games and reliance on analysis and statistics. God will bless his kingdom, steer it, and prosper it--even when circumstances are contrary, we lack a sense of direction, and times are tough.

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