PASTOR T. O. BANSO
In 1 Chron 21:1-6, David took a census of the people of Israel. There is nothing wrong about a census. God had called for a census done in Num 1-2. However, this time, David’s motive was wrong though he didn’t say it.
God knows the motive of the heart of everyone. When you’re feeling self-sufficient rather than God-sufficient, God knows. Moreover, God is more concerned about our motives than our actions. “But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jer 17:10 NLT).
Later in his life, while instructing Solomon to build the Temple, David told him, “The LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (1 Chron 28:9 NKJV). His son, Solomon, also said, “The LORD’s searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive” (Prov 20:27 NLT).
David’s motive in 1 Chron 21:1-6 for taking a census was ulterior – he was moved by pride. That was unlike David. The Bible also says that Satan was behind it. 1Chron 21:1 says, “Satan [the adversary] stood up against Israel and incited David to count [the population of] Israel” (The Amplified Bible). David had never attributed his military exploits to his military prowess or the strength of his army. He had always acknowledged the help of God.
David concluded the census. “But when it was all done, David was overwhelmed with guilt because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics” (2 Sam 24:10a The Message). Never replace your dependence on God with reliance on statistics. We should put our faith in the LORD and He will be a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1)..
Because of this census, the LORD was angry with David. 1Chron 21:7 says, “Now God was displeased with this act [of arrogance and pride], and He struck Israel” (Amplified Bible). The pestilence sent by God upon Israel for this act of David killed seventy thousand. That was an avoidable tragedy.
God doesn’t want you to put your trust in your own abilities or resources or the abilities or resources of others instead of putting our trust in Him. You must beware of promoting self-sufficiency above God-sufficiency. The Bible says in Ps 33:16: “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host, a mighty man is not delivered by much strength” (KJV). The New Living Translation says, “The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.”
Jonathan, the son of Saul, hit the nail on the head when he told his armour bearer: “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” (1 Sam 14:6 NLT).
That was exactly what God proved to Gideon, who no doubt was already self-sufficient with regard to the number of soldiers to take to the war. Thus, he was self-confident about his ability to win the war. Had God allowed him to go with the number of soldiers he had available for the war, he would have given the victory to his self-sufficiency. God reduced his army from the initial 32, 000 men to 300 men (Judges 7:1-25).
Apparently God wanted to teach him a lesson in God sufficiency as against self-sufficiency. God told him, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (verse 2 NKJV).
The Israelites defeated the Midianite army of 135, 000 soldiers through God-sufficiency, not self-sufficiency. Only God could have given victory to any nation with such a small army.
God had always wanted the children of Israel to make him their sufficiency and warned their king not to multiply war horses. “But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again’” (Deut 17:16 NKJV).
Ps 147:10-11 says, “The strength of a horse does not impress him; how puny in his sight is the strength of a man. Rather, the LORD’s delight is in those who honor him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love” (NLT). David said, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (Ps 20:7 NKJV).
In Josh 11:4-9, Israel defeated an army, which had horses and chariots. It was Solomon who introduced chariots into the Israelite army. “Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen” (1 Kings 4:26 NKJV). Solomon also had cities for his chariots and cities for his cavalry (1 Kings 9:19). Prior to Solomon’s reign, the Israelites had always gone to war without horses and chariots and God had given them victory.
Don’t make the arm of flesh your sufficiency; no man shall prevail with human strength alone. “No man shall succeed by strength alone” (1 Sam 2:9b NLT). Isa 31:3 says, “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out His hand, both he who helps will fall, and he who is helped will fall down; they all will perish together” (NKJV). God has the power to throw the horses and their riders into the sea (Exo 15:1, 21; Hag 2:22). God can break in pieces the horse and its rider (Jer 51:21).
You need, at all times, to overcome any temptation to rely on the resources available to you without dependence on God. Without God, you are not sufficient no matter the abundance of what you have. Always depend on God alone. “We depend on the LORD alone to save us. Only he can help us, protecting us like a shield. In him our hearts rejoice,for we are trusting in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone” (Ps 33:20-22 NLT).
The admonition of Solomon in Prov 3:5-6 is worth paying attention to. He says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths” (NLT).
Amaziah, the king of Judah believed that self-sufficiency was the key to success in life. God always seeks to make us shift our eyes from others or ourselves, and to fix our eyes on Him. “I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD,who made the heavens and the earth!” (Ps 121:1-2 NLT).
Here is the story of Amaziah: “Another thing Amaziah did was to organize the army, assigning leaders to each clan from Judah and Benjamin. Then he took a census and found that he had an army of 300,000 men twenty years old and older, all trained in the use of spear and shield. 6 He also paid about 7,500 pounds of silver to hire 100,000 experienced fighting men from Israel. But a man of God came to the king and said, ‘O king, do not hire troops from Israel, for the LORD is not with Israel. He will not help those people of Ephraim! If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help or to frustrate.’ Amaziah asked the man of God, ‘But what should I do about the silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?’ The man of God replied, ‘The LORD is able to give you much more than this!’ So Amaziah discharged the hired troops and sent them back to Ephraim. This made them angry with Judah, and they returned home in a great rage. Then Amaziah summoned his courage and led his army to the Valley of Salt, where they killed ten thousand Edomite troops from Seir. They captured another ten thousand and took them to the top of a cliff and threw them off, dashing them to pieces on the rocks below” (2 Chron 25:5-12 NLT).
You can see from that passage that Amaziah was not satisfied with his army of 300,000 select troops and he decided to hire 100,000 experienced fighting men – mercenaries – from Israel, a kingdom God was not pleased with at that time. His purpose for hiring mercenaries was to achieve self-sufficiency.
Amaziah had already paid the mercenaries 7,500 pounds of silver for the services they would render. When Amaziah told the man of God sent to warn him not to go to war with these mercenaries as Judah would be defeated, he asked him what would happen to he money he had already paid for the services of the mercenaries. The man of God answered, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” God was able to give him more than the 7,500 pounds of silver he had paid. Obedience to God was more important than the money he had paid.
Amaziah forfeited the money he had paid the mercenaries, and God gave him victory with his 300,000 soldiers he had thought were insufficient. With God what you consider insufficient becomes sufficient. Amaziah’s underrated army won that battle. God taught him a lesson in God-sufficiency as against self-sufficiency. I don’t want to talk about what happened to Amaziah later as he mismanaged the victory that God gave him by going into idolatry.
Hear what Apostle Paul said about the thorn in his flesh which he prayed to God thrice to remove: “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10 NKJV). It is the grace of God that can make a man sufficient – not his abilities, his position, his money or other resources. It is possible for someone to have all of these in abundance, and still fail in life. Paul said, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor 3:5 NKJV).
Nebuchadnezzar ‘s arrogance
No matter what you have, who you are or whom you have, make God your sufficiency. You must always “remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut 8:18 NKJV). You shouldn’t say it is your power. Don’t be like Nebuchadnezzar who said proudly, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan 4:30 ASV). He got instant judgment for this foolish statement. “While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (verses 31-32 NKJV).
Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t have been able to build Babylon without God’s power. He should have acknowledged God’s power. But he learnt a great lesson while he was on a ‘sabbatical’ in the forest with animals!
Hear a ‘born again’ Nebuchadnezzar: “And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Dan 4:34-37 NKJV).
Cyrus’ acknowledgment of God as the source of his power
However, we see a sharp contrast between Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and Cyrus king of Persia. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus humbly acknowledged that God was responsible for the throne he occupied and the enormous power he wielded. Cyrus said, “All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me…” (2 Chron 36:23 NKJV).
Ezra 1:2 records the same statement. Cyrus, a heathen king, knew he owed everything to God. He was a man that prophecy predated his birth and major assignment. Isaiah had long prophesied concerning him: “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held — To subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: ‘I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me’” (Isa 45:1-4 NKJV).
Cyrus thus fulfilled prophecy, and he gave God the credit due to Him unlike Nebuchadnezzar. Cyrus had no hesitation obeying God’s command to build for Him a house (Temple) at Jerusalem. He released the Israelites from the captivity and put the empire’s resources at their disposal to build the Temple.
King Uzziah’s pride
Uzziah must have felt so self-sufficient that he misbehaved. He was a king whose fame spread far and wide, because he was marvelously helped by God till he became strong. But he messed up a glorious reign. He became proud. He was so full of himself that the High Priest and 80 other priests – 81 men of God – could not prevent him from intruding into the office of a priest to burn incense. He probably felt he could do and undo; he felt that after him in the kingdom, there was nobody else.
God’s judgment came upon him. He became leprous, and consequently couldn’t enter the house of God as from that time. He lived and died in isolation. He couldn’t even be buried where kings were buried (2 Chron 26:15-23).
Conclusion: Beware of that aura or feeling of self-sufficiency; beware of pride. One of Job’s friends, Zophar the Naamathite, said of the wicked: “In his self-sufficiency he will be in distress; every hand of misery will come against him” (Job 20:22 NKJV). This won’t be your portion. Always remember that your sufficiency is in God, not in yourself, the things you possess or some connections you have.You should be able to say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13 NKJV).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing and Bible teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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