This blog article is prompted by a Christmas tax article. Yes, Christmas and income taxes go together. Who would’ve thunk it?!
In Luke 2:1, we read that Caesar Augustus sent out a decree for a census. It turns out the census was declared so that the Caesar could tax people. I didn’t know that before.
That previously unknown fact (unknown to me at least) isn’t what caught my eye or what prompts this article, though. The article is also not about unjust taxes that burden the poor and avoid the rich. This article also isn’t about the controversy over whether Luke is accurate about the census and the timing of it.
What prompts me to write this piece is the reference to a previous census and previous tax and the surprising and shocking instigator of that tax – the man of God who allowed it to happen, David.
We read in 1 Chronicles 21:1 that “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” Read that again – Satan influenced David.
The man after God’s own heart, the man who foretold and foreshadowed the birth of the Christ child who would descend from David’s own sacred lineage – one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible – was incited (provoked, stirred up, instigated – duped) by Satan, not by God, to take a census to impose a tax.
So, we need a little disclaimer here before going on. I am not suggesting that all taxes are incited by the devil, though I suppose others might want to make a case for that. Just to balance things out, we find another example of a census and a tax in the Bible that was inspired by God. So, maybe not all taxes are inspired by the devil!
The thing that caught my eye is that such a person as David, a man after God’s heart, was influenced by Satan. So much for David’s sainthood!
Of course, we don’t have to think very hard to remember another little incident that calls David’s saintliness into question. There was that little tryst with Bathsheba; and then there was that little thing about having her husband conveniently killed off by ordering him to the front lines of battle.
The thing that caught my eye is how very “human” David was. David was not above allowing himself to be influenced by Satan himself, and God calls him out for it. Yet, even though David was prone to error, and God clearly calls him out for it, God loved David. God even holds David up as a man after His own heart!
It was David who wrote Psalm 139. David knew that God knew his heart, inside and out. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” David was who he was. He was transparent before God. There was no pretense about David.
We judge by appearances, but God judges by the heart. We might have dismissed David in our self-righteousness, commenting something about him getting what he deserved when Saul sought to kill him, and and then David’s own son, Absalom, sought to kill him.
David had a rocky life, filled with ups and downs. He was a hero, and he was a goat. David certainly did bring some of the rough times on himself. Not too unlike us.
But God appreciated David’s heart, his desire for God, David’s unabashed forthrightness before God and man. Oh, that we would be more like David, not necessarily in allowing ourselves to be influenced by Satan, but in our attitude and posture before God. And the really good news is that we can make some serious mistakes, but God is always faithful and just to forgive and to restore us to Himself.
 Samuel the prophet told King Saul, “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14) That man was David. Paul recounts David while addressing Jews in a synagogue one day: “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.” (Acts 13:22-23)
 Sûth – provoke, stir up (incite) – like instigating people to violate conscience or turn against sound counsel, “duped” by a cunning person.
 Exodus 30:11-13 (“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord.”) and 38:25 (referencing silver obtained from those counted in the census that was used in the tabernacle sanctuary).
 Psalm 139:1, 4
 See 1 Samuel 16:71 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 16:2; Jeremiah 12:3 and 17:10.