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Tuesday, October 10, 2006 

What's Wrong With Ablaze!: Part 4

So let’s continue answering “B’s” question by asking a question of our own (and answering it of course). What’s wrong with counting? It tells us in the Bible to count ourselves doesn’t it? After all, one of the Ablaze! websites states: “Without counting, human beings often do not have a clear picture of the real state of affairs.” So, we should be counting, shouldn’t we? Let’s take a look at two instances of counting in the Old Testament.

The first chapter of the book of Numbers written by Moses is a report of a census taken by newly liberated nation of Israel encamped at Mount Sinai. Right there in Numbers 1:1 the Lord tells Moses to take a census and count all of Israel before they went to the Promised Land. Moses and Aaron were directed to count all men and their families.

But what Moses and Aaron were not directed to do, is go into foreign lands and proselytize and give the “unchurched” a chance to respond. Under Ablaze!’s rules they could have went back into Egypt and given the Egyptians another chance to respond and that would’ve counted as success. Imagine that scene, “hey remember us, remember all those plagues and stuff, yeah, that was us, well, uh, we’re back and, hmm, we were wondering if you want these seeds of faith that we’re planting. So, ah, whatchya think about that hmm?” Yeah, that would have gone over well. But in the bizzaro Ablaze! world, that incident would be counted because the people of Egypt could have responded. Heck, if the Lord had just directed the census to be taken before they even left Egypt, Pharaoh could have been counted. Even though Pharaoh’s heart was hardened against the Lord, he still had a chance to respond. Like I said, it’s like bizzaro world!

But what made the whole counting thingy ok when Moses and Aaron did it was that it was commanded by the Lord himself. The Lord told Moses and Aaron to count and that’s exactly what they did. Because the Lord commanded it, it is just and right.

But what happens when we decided to count to see how we are doing? What happens when we decided to look not at the Marks of the Church, where the Lord has promised He will be? Is there anything in scripture that points to counting on our own, without being commanded by the Lord, not being such a good idea?

2 Samuel 24:1-17 records an account of what happens when we count just to “have a clear picture of the real state of affairs.” The text is as follows:

Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Now go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the number of the people.” And Joab said to the king, “Now may the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king desire this thing?” Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army. Therefore Joab and the captains of the army went out from the presence of the king to count the people of Israel. And they crossed over the Jordan and camped in Aroer, on the right side of the town which is in the midst of the ravine of Gad, and toward Jazer. Then they came to Gilead and to the land of Tahtim Hodshi; they came to Dan Jaan and around to Sidon; and they came to the stronghold of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Then they went out to South Judah as far as Beersheba. So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Then Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to the king. And there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,“Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.”’” So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.” And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. And when the angel stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.”

At the time of David’s decision to call a census, the nation of Israel was at peace. There was no reason nor was there a command from God to count anyone. The reason for the Lord’s anger and wrath is that David started counting just to get his website numbers up. The sin of David was the sin of pride. Even Joab, not the best or nicest kind of guy to have around to begin with, even Joab recognizes that this whole counting thing is going to bring the Lord’s wrath. 1 Chronicles 21 records the same event and tells us to “not help” the counting process along, Joab elected not to include Levi and Benjamin in the census because (recorded in 1 Chronicles 21:6-8) “the king’s command was repulsive to him. This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.” Now how bad off is David’s sin if Joab thinks it’s a bad idea? Apparently bad enough to have God send Gad to deliver three possible punishments to David.

David’s sin of pride is our own sin of pride. What Ablaze! wants to count is what David wanted to count, our own sinful works. This measuring of the “seeds of faith” or “critical events” counts what we think we do for God instead of what God has already done for us in Christ.

Instead of worrying about what we do, we should look to the cross and the Crucified and Risen Lord. We should always (I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but) look to the Marks of the Church. The church that preaches the Word purely and administers the Sacrament rightly does not have to worry about Gad knocking on her door asking her to choose between three punishments. But the synod that purports to see the hearts of men, when Scripture says it is the Lord’s privilege alone, should not be in such a hurry to answer her door. And the synodical president, or anyone else for that matter, which stands at a podium at every district meeting and snaps their fingers five times slowly saying “in those five seconds, five more people went to hell because we didn’t tell them about Jesus” should not only lock the door, but probably disconnect their phones as well.

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Damn fine post! A near perfect metaphor - bizarro world!

I am glad to see that there is someone out there that knows what scripture says about such things as these. I wish there were more out there that would take a stand.

moose people, me am not thanking you for your comments, hello

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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