May 27: Math: Maybe Not a Mystic Language After All
1 Chronicles 21:1–22:19; 2 Timothy 2:14–26; Psalm 86:1–87:7
In a world of metrics, it’s easy to become obsessed with statistics and start to quantify every aspect of our lives. Stats can even become a type of scorekeeping between churches or pastors: “We have more members than you do.” We may never say those words out loud, but we think them; more than one person has made the mistake of measuring a ministry based on attendance. But God has His own method for measuring success.
Prompted by an adversary (“Satan” is often better translated as “adversary” or “accuser” in the Old Testament), David decides to seek metrics—to count the people of Israel. This account illustrates the harm of seeking gratification or understanding in numbers. In 1 Chronicles 21, major problems emerge from this: including placing an adversary’s will above God’s and predicting God’s will rather than seeking it regularly.
Rather than counting our successes, we should be counting on God for success. We should also be tallying how often He is faithful rather than how many we are in number. We’re more likely to see God’s faithfulness when we’re looking for it rather than looking for probabilities. David succeeded as a warrior and king not because he deserved it, but because God chose for him to do so. In 1 Chronicles 21, David forgets God’s role, even though his (often wrong and bloodthirsty) general reminds him otherwise. In fact, God’s use of Joab as His messenger demonstrates that God’s providential will can come from the least likely places.
Keeping a tally isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and we shouldn’t avoid metrics and stats. But we need to keep information in perspective. It’s not about baptizing 200 people on a Sunday—although that’s a blessed thing. It’s about lives being transformed and people being blessed so that they can experience transformation.
How can you count on what God is doing instead of counting what you deem success?
JOHN D. BARRY
- And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. Therefore David said to Joab, and to the rulers of the people, Go, and number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring it to me, that I may know the number of them. And Joab answered, The Lord increased his people an hundred times so many as they be, O my lord the king: are they not all my lord’s servants? wherefore doeth my lord require this thing? why should he be a cause of trespass to Israel? Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab. And Joab departed and went through all Israel, and returned to Jerusalem. And Joab gave the number and sum of the people unto David: and all Israel were eleven hundred thousand men that drew sword: and judah was four hundred and seventy thousand men that drew sword. But the Levites and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the King’s word was abominable to Joab. And God was displeased with this thing: therefore he smote Israel. Then David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, remove the iniquity of thy servant: for I have done very foolishly. And the Lord spake unto Gad David’s Seer, saying, Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Take to thee, Either three years famine, or three months to be destroyed before thine adversaries, and the sword of thine enemies to take thee, or else the sword of the Lord and pestilence in the land three days, that the Angel of the Lord may destroy throughout all the coasts of Israel: now therefore advise thee, what word I shall bring again to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a wonderful strait, let me now fall into the hand of the Lord: for his mercies are exceedingly great, and let me not fall into the hand of man. So the Lord sent a pestilence in Israel, and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. And God sent the Angel into Jerusalem to destroy it. And as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and repented of the evil, and said to the Angel that desteroyed, It is now enough, let thine hand cease. Then the Angel of the Lord stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the Angel of the Lord stand between the earth and heaven, with his sword drawn in his hand and stretched out toward Jerusalem. Then David and the Elders of Israel which are clothed in sack, fell upon their faces. And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded to number the people? It is even I that have sinned and have committed evil, but these sheep, what have they done? O Lord my God, I beseech thee, let thine hand be on me and on my father’s house, and not on thy people for their destruction. Then the Angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. So David went up according to the saying of God, which he had spoken in the Name of the Lord. And Ornan turned about and saw the Angel, and his four sons that were qirh him, hid themselves, and Ornan thresed wheat. And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshing floor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground. And David said unto Ornan, Give me the place of thy threshing floor, that I may build an altar therein unto the Lord: give it me for sufficient money, that the plague may be stayed from the people. Then Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which seemeth him good: lo, I give thee bullocks for burnt offerings, and threshing instruments for wood, and wheat for meat offering, I give it all. And King David said to Ornan, Not so: but I will buy it for sufficient money: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. So David gave to Ornan for that place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings, and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord, and he answered him by fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. And when the Lord had spoken to the Angel, he put up his sword again into his sheath. At that time when David saw that the Lord had heard him in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. (But the Tabernacle of the Lord which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. And David could not go before it to ask counsel at God: for he was afraid of the sword of the Angel of the Lord.) And David said, This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar for the burnt offering of Israel. And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel, and he set masons to hew and polish stones to build the house of God. David also prepared much iron for the nails of the doors and of the gates, and for the joinings, and abundance of brass passing weight, And cedar trees without number: for the Sidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David. And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and we must build an house for the Lord, magnifical, excellent and of great fame and dignity throughout all countries: I will therefore now prepare for him. So David prepared very much before his death. Then he called Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the Lord God of Israel. And David said to Solomon, My son, I purposed with myself to build an house to the Name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed much blood, and hast made great battles: thou shalt not build an house unto my name: for thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. Behold, a son is born to thee, which shall be a man of rest, for I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: therefore his name is Solomon: and I will send peace and quietness upon Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my Name, and he shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom upon Israel forever. Now therefore my son, the Lord shall be with thee, and thou shalt prosper, and thou shalt build an house to the Lord thy God, as he hath spoken of thee. Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge over Israel, even to keep the Law of thy God, as he hath spoken of thee. Then thou shalt prosper, if thou take heed to observe the statutes and the judgments which the Lord commanded Moses for Israel: be strong and of good courage: fear not, neither be afraid. For behold, according to my poverty have I prepared for the house of the Lord an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver, and of brass and of iron passing weight: for there was abundance. I have also prepared timbber and stone, and thou mayest provide more thereto. Moreover thou hast workmen with thee enough, hewers of stone, and workmen of timber, and all men expert in every work. Of gold, of silver, and of brass, and of iron there is no number: Up therefore, and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee. David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying, Is not the Lord your God with you, and hath given you rest on every side? for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand, and the land is subdued before the Lrod, and before his people. Now set your hearts and your souls to seek the Lord your God, and arise, and build the Sanctuary of the Lord God, to bring the Ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God into the house built for the Name of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 21:1–22:19
- Of these things put them in remembrance, and protest before the Lord, that they strive not about words, which is to no profit, but to the perverting of the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, dividing the word of truth aright. Stay profane, and vain babblings: for they shall increase unto more ungodliness. And their word shall fret as a canker: of which sort is Hymenaeus and Philetus. Which as concerning the truth have erred from the mark, saying that the resurrection is past already, and do destroy the faith of certain. But the foundation of God remaineth sure, and hath this seal, The Lord knoweth who are his: and, Let everyone that calleth on the Name of Christ, depart from iniquity. Notwithstanding in a great house are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some for honor, and some unto dishonor. If any man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Lord, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also from the lusts of youth, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with them that call on the Lord with pure heart, And put away foolish and unlearned questions, knowing that they engender strife. But the servant of the Lord must not strive, but must be gentle toward all men, apt to teach, suffering the evil, Instructing them with meekness that are contrary minded, praying if God. 2 Timothy 2:14–26
- Incline thine ear, O Lord, and hear me: for I am poor and needy. Preserve thou my soul, for I am merciful: my God, save thou thy servant, that trusteth in thee. Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry upon thee continually. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good and merciful, and of great kindness unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, Lord, unto my prayer, and hearken to the voice of my supplication. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou hearest me. Among the gods there is none like thee, O Lord, and there is none that can do like thy works. All nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy Name. For thou art geat and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. Teach my thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth: knit mine heart unto thee, that I may fear thy Name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all mine heart: yea, I will glorify thy Name forever. For great is thy mercy toward me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought my soul, and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a pitiful God and merciful, slow to anger, and great in kindness and truth. Turn unto me, and have mercy upon me: give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid. Show a token of thy goodness toward me, that they which hate me, may see it, and be ashamed, because thou, O Lord, hast helped me and comforted me God laid his foundations among the holy mountains. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion above all the habitations of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah. I will make mention of Rahab and Babel among them that know me: behold Palestine and Tyre with Ethiopia, There is he born. And of Zion it shall be said, Many are born in her: and he, even the most High shall stablish her. The Lord shall count, when he writeth the people, He was born there. Selah. As well the singers as the players on instruments shall praise thee: all my springs are in thee. Psalm 86:1–87:7