After the plague the LORD said to Moses and Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by families–all those twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army of Israel.” Numbers 26:1-2
The first census (Numbers 1) of the whole community was ordered by the Lord about the time Israel observed the first Passover after coming out of Egypt. The census would have been the basis for dividing the Promised Land amongst the 12 tribes, but the people were discouraged by the report from 10 of the 12 spies Moses sent in to check out the land. The nation did not trust God to bring them into the land which then led to Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. This second census was ordered by the Lord after 40 years, prior to Israel crossing the Jordan and taking Jericho and the rest of the Promised Land. The census formed the basis for distributing the Promised Land amongst the 12 tribes. The third census of all of Israel was ordered by King David (1 Chronicles 21) when he was incited by Satan to do so. The Lord saw this census as evil. The Lord gave King David a choice of three options for punishment. King David chose a plague, and the Lord delivered a plague that killed 70,000 men of Israel. We see from the three censuses that the physical action to perform a census itself is not sinful, otherwise the first wo would never have been ordered by the Lord. As with most things, it is the condition of our heart toward the Lord that matters. The first and third census were “spoiled” because of the heart of the nation and King David’s heart. Check your heart, not as the TV commercials go for your heart rhythm, but check it for your attitude, your desire for Christ. I remember thanking a veteran for his service, and his reply to me was, “It was my honor to serve.” That’s the attitude we need in serving the Lord. No matter how you are serving, do it with a heart recognizing the honor it is to be serving the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.