God will not trip you up so that He can punish you.
In the 2 Samuel narrative, Gad, David’s advisor, had a frame of reference for evaluating the situation. He assumed that God did both good and evil.
He may have been swayed by his emotional closeness to the situation, and he was undoubtedly aware of David’s recent sin of adultery with Bathsheba. He may have concluded that David was out of favor with God and that God was still looking for ways to punish him.
He faced the same problem that Job did, in that he may not have been aware that there was another force working against David and Israel. He was unaware that Satan was the force that influenced David’s decision. Gad’s situational or relative truth is what led him to conclude that God was against David and Israel.
Awareness of evil was certainly a revelation in the Old Testament, but there was very little knowledge of the central, evil personage, Satan. The book of Job exemplifies this problem and shows what resulted from a lack of understanding (see IDEOLATRY, Chapter 11, p. 119). It is no wonder that there is confusion when God, the one that they looked to for blessings, was also the one whom they expected would bring evil upon them! The reality of the situation is evidenced in Numbers 23:19. God does not change.
Numbers 23:19 (ERV)
God is not a man; he will not lie. God is not a human being; his decisions will not change. If he says he will do something, then he will do it. If he makes a promise, then he will do what he promised.
David’s situation was clearly a temptation. Satan did have some information on recent sinful activity with which to remind and convict David. If this did occur, David failed to overcome the challenge. The narrative of 2 Samuel says that God moved David to take the census and number the people. The Hebrew word translated moved is . It is referenced in Strong’s as OT:5496. It is the same word encountered in Job 2:3 when Satan moved God to come against Job without cause (see IDEOLATRY, pg. 131).
“moved” - Strong’s OT:5496 , cuwth (sooth);
perhaps denominative from 7898; properly, to prick, i.e. (figuratively) stimulate; by implication, to seduce: (Translated in the KJV as - entice, move, persuade, provoke, remove, set on, stir up, take away.)
This word in the Hebrew clearly implies a condition of provocation or temptation. For something to be a temptation, a wrong choice must lead to disobedience or sin. However, the New Testament book of James concludes that God cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt any man. James 1:13-16 provides us a good understanding of how God operates.
James 1:13-16 (NIV)
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.
James 1:13-16 (CEV)
13 Don’t blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn’t use evil to tempt others. 14 We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. 15 Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead. 16 Don’t be fooled, my dear friends.
David faltered in his actions and from his dedication to God’s direction and leading. He was tempted and drawn away from God simply because of fear and doubt. David was tempted, just like Eve was when the serpent spoke to her in the garden (see IDEOLATRY, pg. 94). His temptation from Satan may have sounded something like this:
Come on David, you don’t really think that God is going to come through for you with that huge Philistine army, do you? Don’t you remember that sin with Bathsheba. Certainly, you will have to do this on your own, and you don’t even have the manpower to pull it off, do you?
David may have thought,
“That’s right, God is not going to give me victory in this battle. I had better be sure that I can manage this situation on my own with the strength of my army. I don’t have faith in God to come through for me.”
He could have thought that either because of his sin or because of the way the odds appeared to be set against him.
Unlike David and the rest of humanity, God is always the same. He does not falter. He seeks to bless, save, and give life, rather than to curse, reject, and kill.
The problem with mankind is that it views the actions and heart of God the same way it sees itself, very fickle and untrustworthy and with questionable motives. However, even with this understanding, sometimes it is difficult to hang on to what God has promised by faith. It is easy to fall into doubt and question the covenant assurances that God has provided, especially in light of very severe circumstances.
God is certainly not trying to get us to trip up so that He can punish us.
We must be careful not to lay blame upon God when we exercise our free will choice to doubt or not believe. The motivations for disobedience and disbelief originate in fear, doubt, conceit, pride, vanity, ego, and arrogant self-will. None of these come from God. They originate within our own spirit and are self-deceptive and encouraged by our adversary, Satan.
Regardless of the motivation, all of these impulses lead straight to sin. Regardless of the degree or reasons for the sin, the penalty for that sin is destruction and death. However, forgiveness is available from God. To think that God tempts a person to sin so that He can punish that person for that sin is absurd. This is akin to an abusive parent goading a child into failure of some sort so that the parent can justify beating the child. This is blatant child abuse and will put the parent in jail. If we follow that line of reasoning, God should be locked up as a child abuser!
The narratives in 1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel affix provocation or “blame” to vastly different sources, God and Satan. David was a devout man, a man after God’s own heart, who might have assumed that God was against him at times due to little understanding of the influence of Satan as the accusing adversary. As a result, both good and evil are easily attributed to God. The observational, eyewitness bias of Gad and Nathan may have influenced their view of the reasons for the actions of David and wrongly attributed the temptation to God.
David eventually realizes the problem and comes to the full realization of his rebellious and sinful action against God and His covenant. He actually knows in his spirit that God is his savior. He immediately seeks forgiveness for his sin and asks God to relieve his burden. Both narratives record his reaction to the recognition of his sin and his request to God for forgiveness in 2 Samuel 24:10 and 1 Chronicles 21:8.
2 Samuel 24:10
And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
1 Chronicles 21:8
8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
David’s reaction is further substantiation that his motivation and temptation to take the census and to determine the physical power and strength of his armies did not originate with God.
God does not attempt to coerce man to disobey His commands and instructions to cause him to fail.
God did not do it with Adam and Eve, and He did not do it with Job. He did not do it in the midst of David’s lustful and adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and He will not do it to you!
Do you want to learn more about this subject?
Read Chapter 17, The Numbering Of Israel – A Threat Assessment
Ideolatry - God Is Not Your Problem