Summary: David makes a disastrous mistake toward the end of his life that has grave consequences. A number of lessons can be learned from this about accountability and humility in the face of temptation.


A. Let’s start with a knock knock joke.

1. “Knock Knock” “Who’s there?”

2. “Census!” “Census who?”

3. “Census summer time kids don’t have to go to school!” Good news for kids, bad news for parents.

B. Maybe you have heard the old adage – we count people because people count.

1. How true that is and as a nation we have been counting people for over 200 years.

2. In fact our nation’s first census was begun in 1790, and took 217 people 9 months to finish.

3. What do you think the total population was in 1790? Answer: 3,929,214.

4. The present population of our country is 304 million.

5. Our next census will be taken next year – 2010.

C. So what is a census and why do we take them? A census is a very thorough survey.

1. A census is a way of finding out many facts about the citizens of a nation.

2. A census reveals things like total population, percentage of men and women, people of different ages, races, education, income – so all kinds of data is collected and analyzed.

3. Based on the information a census reveals, governments can plan programs and provide for the needs of their constituents.

D. Let’s compare some interesting information that was revealed in recent censuses about New York State, Onondaga County, and the cities of New York and Syracuse.

1. Population: NYS – 19.5 million, up 3% from 2000; NYC 8.2 million; up 2.6%; Onondaga County 453 thousand; down 1.2% from 2000; and Syr. 141 thousand; down 4% from 2000.

2. Persons per square mile: NYS – 400; NYC – 26,000; Onon. County – 600; Syr. – 5900.

3. Mean household income: NYS – $53,000; Onon. County - $49,000; Syracuse - $25,000.

4. Mean travel time to work: NYS – 32 minutes; NYC – 40 min.; Onon. County – 19 min.; Syracuse 17 minutes.

5. Language other than English spoken in the home: NYS – 28%; NYC – 48%; Onon. County – 9%; Syracuse – 13%.

E. So, why am I introducing today’s sermon with a discussion of census information?

1. Because David made a very foolish and sinful mistake that had to do with a census.

F. I wish I could tell you that age alone guarantees maturity and freedom from error, but that is not the case.

1. As we grow older, we do not automatically grow up, nor do we automatically grow closer to God, nor more like God.

2. We will never be immune from sin’s appeal, no matter how old we are.

3. Not until we are “with the Lord” will we be what we ought to be.

4. There is no such thing as outgrowing sin.

G. Here in 2 Samuel 24 and its parallel in 1 Chronicles 21, we are given a vivid account of a tragic example of this when David, in the latter years of his life, committed a sin that affected thousands of lives.

1. This event probably took place on the heels of a war between Israel and her age-old enemy – the Philistines.

2. David won this battle against the Philistines, which was his last, just as he had won his first battle, against the Philistine giant – Goliath.

3. After the battle and the victory, David was vulnerable.

4. As I said in an earlier sermon, we are often most vulnerable immediately after a victory.

5. That’s when Satan often sets his traps, and when we often step into them.

I. The Story

A. The Bible says: Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” (2 Sam. 24:1)

1. The text doesn’t explain why God was angry at the time with Israel, but God’s anger somehow incited David to take the action that he takes.

2. The parallel passage from 1 Chronicles says: Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. (1 Chron 21:1)

3. I have to admit that this is a confusing passage, because there seems to be a contradiction - What is the relationship between God’s anger and Satan’s prompting of David to take the census?

4. I’m not sure, but I know that however it works, it is beyond my ability to understand.

5. I believe in a God who is altogether good and holy, who always does what is right and just.

6. God and His ways exceed our understanding; we cannot confine God to what we can figure out about Him. God is a sovereign mystery.

B. So David gives the command.

1. The Bible says: So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.” (2 Sam. 24:2)

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