2008-06-04 - Crunching Numbers
Numbers 23:10, "Who can count the dust of Jacob?"
In Genesis 15:5, we have the well-known passage where the Lord tells Abram (before his name was changed to Abraham) to look up to the sky and try to count the stars, if he were able to do so. The promise made to Abram is that his descendants will number, in a like manner, those stars that were so many they were without a number. The verse given above is part of the blessing of the Prophet Balaam, which he gave when Balak sought to obtain a curse against Israel.
Balaam was unable to curse Israel, and much to Balak's frustration, ended up blessing them instead. One of the blessings (there were three) contains this verse about the great number of the children of Israel, or Jacob. Who can count the dust of Jacob? We might see in this the blessing of God to Abraham after the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22:17, "Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which in on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies." Surely God makes it clear in His Word that His people are beyond numbering. The passages we have looked at here are only a taste of many more we could use as examples.
In 2 Samuel 24, we read of David's great sin of numbering the people. It is punished greatly in a pestilence that killed 70,000 men, 2 Samuel 24:15. We might wonder what the big deal was in counting heads. We might think God is a little unfair to kill 70,000 men for the sin of counting. We fail to realize, when we think this way, the history given above - that God's people were numberless. But even more, if we think this sin a little sin with a large punishment, we fail to realize the utter sinfulness of sin. We are not really told exactly what David's sin was in numbering the people, besides the act, but we can consider several sins that seem likely and should cause us to ponder, and to examine our own lives.
It could be that David was overly curious. Curiosity is not always wrong, but when we look into places where we don't belong, or seek things that we are not to know, it is a sin. Many of those who are obsessed with the study of the end times fall into this sin of curiosity. We are told that we will not know the day of Christ's return (Matthew 24:42). All attempts to determine the day He will return fall into the camp of sinful speculation - and David's sin of curiosity, with its punishment, is a warning to all who pretend to know what day Christ will return, or when other prophetic events will happen. David's numbering the people might have been pride, or vain-glory. It could have been that he had a false confidence in power of numbers, rather than the power of God, for his security and protection. All are great sins, and his sin was greatly punished.
I don't know where your struggles are. We see here that improper curiosity, pride, or overconfidence in self rather than the Lord may have all had a part in David's great sin here. These are not little sins, even taken by themselves, because there are no little sins. If you have sins you feel are small, and don't strive against because they seem small to you, understand that there are no small sins. The punishment for this transgression of David was great upon others. Others suffered for his sin, and knowing this, David suffered great brokenness himself. Sin is never small. Let us all seek to put it to death, and to live more and more unto Christ. "Since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed," Colossians 3:9, 10.
Soli Deo Gloria,