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King David & Servant Gehazi: Problems with Numbers
King David had a problem with numbers. In 2 Samuel 24:2, King David commands the captain of his army and his commanders to “Go throughout the tribes of Israel … and enroll the fighting men so that I may know how many there are.”
The numbers were fantastic! A total of thirteen hundred thousand men were at his disposal. Possibly his thoughts were these: What a strong and powerful army I have! I’ve done a pretty good job with my army as king. We are strong; we are mighty; look at all we can accomplish! David had faced many enemies in the past, and had fought many battles before. At other times in his life, requesting to know how many men were in his service might have been a wise and strategic thing to do. However, David was enjoying a time of peace in his rule. It seems his motive for counting the fighting men was pride — to glory in his troops and to take satisfaction in all he had and would be able to do.
Certainly Joab, his captain, questioned his motives. In a parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:3, Joab says he believes this will bring guilt upon Israel, and later this is proven to be true. The Bible says the “command was evil in the sight of God, so he punished Israel” (1 Chronicles 1:7). David is conscience-stricken after making the request (2 Sam 24:10). Soon afterwards the Lord caused a terrible plague to come upon Israel, and thousands of his people, including the army he gloried in, died.
Gehazi, servant of the prophet Elisha, also had a problem with numbers. In 2 Kings 6:8 we read that the King of Aram was at war with the King of Israel. Over and over again, Elisha, the prophet, sent word to Israel’s king, warning him of his enemy’s schemes. When the King of Aram discovered Elisha was thwarting his plans, he devised a new strategy: kill Elisha. Quickly he discovered Elisha’s whereabouts and sent enough soldiers, horses, and chariots to surround the entire city.
The numbers were overwhelming! Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was dismayed. Possibly his thoughts were these: We only have two and they have hundreds, maybe thousands. This is a disaster! We should just surrender now. What good is there in going on? The Bible says he asks, “Oh my lord, what shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15)
Although the situation was overwhelming to Gehazi, it was a simple matter for the Lord. Elisha prayed that God would open Gehazi’s eyes. When he did, he saw that all around him were heavenly chariots of fire. The strong and mighty troops of Aram’s King paled in comparison. They were never an issue.
As a homeschooler, I can also have a problem with numbers. For many of us, Spring is the season for standardized tests, and testing results may soon appear in our mailboxes. It is common for homeschoolers to do well in testing. Certainly statistics show that homeschoolers typically outperform their public and private student counterparts. Yet, if I get the results back and my kids have done well, and the report shows the numbers are fantastic, I may fall victim to the same sin as David. What smart kids I have! I’ve done a pretty good job teaching them. They are bright; they are talented; look at all they’ve accomplished! God desires me to rather glory in my Author of Life. To thank Him for the good results, even rejoice in them, but see the testing as a tool, a requirement, and a gift, but nothing more.
On the other hand, if I get the results back and my kids have not done well, if the numbers are overwhelming, I can fall victim to the same sin as Gehazi. These scores are so low. This is a disaster! Homeschooling isn’t working; I should just give up now. What good is there in going on? What can I do? Even though my child’s scores may seem too low, it doesn’t mean this homeschooling year has been a failure in God’s eyes. The Lord, in his Splendor, has plans for me and my family that I don’t often see or know about. And his plans for my children may be so wonderful that low numbers on a single test pale in comparison.
Personally, I believe testing is important. As a family, we do spelling tests every Friday. We take history and science tests on a regular basis. My children will be testing regularly in high school and college. They will even need to pass a test to obtain their driver’s license. More than that, standardized testing is required by PA homeschool law for grades 3, 5, & 8. So by complying with state requirements, and giving my children testing opportunities, I am preparing them for things they will face later in life.
But, I pray this year as our family reflects on the testing results, that we would not take pride in our numbers as David did, nor struggle in fear as Gehazi did. Rather, I pray we would see the numbers as God intends for them to be: a blessing, a useful tool, a state requirement, and good training and preparation for future experiences.
1 Samuel 16:7 “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Psalm 147:10 “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Isaiah 55:8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”
Copyright April 10th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette
All Scripture taken from NIV (New International Version)