Today is census day! We’re told that this enables the gathering of “vital information to help plan services such as transport, education and healthcare”, although it seems to me that a particular new area of questioning has been introduced and made prominent this time.
The above objective of the UK census is good and we should all complete our ‘forms’. We remember, of course, that God fulfilled the prophetic words concerning the birthplace of the Messiah via a census. However, it is important to note that not all censuses are commended in the Bible – perhaps the most notorious example is when King David takes a census of Israel’s fighting men (2 Samuel 24).
We live in a world obsessed with numbers – I confess that I love them and Gill often notes that I can remember prices and figures far more easily than names and experiences. But why was David so wrong to take a census? Perhaps there were at least 2 related lies hidden in David’s urge to count:
- “strength is in numbers” – do we number our forces (finances, friendships / popularity, potential futures etc) rather than numbering God’s promises? It may not be wrong to count, but the issue is whether we’re counting from a place of security in our God, or in order to find some security apart from Him. Ultimately, the fundamental issue is whether I’m trusting God or the numbers.
- “I am lord, not servant” – whilst the Old Testament law contained provisions for taking a census, these were very much on the basis of the people belonging totally to the Lord, with everyone having to offer a ransom payment for his life to Him (Exodus 30v12). David makes no mention of the ransom, nor even the Lord – rather the census is so that “I may know how many there are.” Perhaps this is a particular danger for church pastors in focusing on membership numbers, viewing figures etc! But whoever we are and whatever we count, may it always be that we are numbering the Lord’s people, His harvest, His gifts, over which we are appointed solely as servants, not lords!
Peace and Grace