1 Chronicles 21.1-15 – Sin and divine justice
Posted: 30 July 2012 in 1 Chronicles

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. And Joab answered, The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem….. And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel….. So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Sometimes in the Bible God seems to hold us corporately responsible for our sin, whereas at other times we seem to be held individually responsible. The Bible does not really offer an explanation as to why it should sometimes be the one, and sometimes the other. As so often, it simply records, as being a fact, something we are to accept as revealed truth.

Here Israel is held to be corporately responsible for David’s sin, and is punished accordingly. In our culture jndividual responsibility is the norm, and it seems a bit unfair for people to be held responsible for something which they had no active role in. It would be wholly inappropriate, however, for us to accuse of injustice the God who is only to be worshipped. The proper function of all creation is to make manifest the glory of its Creator. For us, to act unjustly means to act in a way which does not accord with the will of God, thereby obscuring his glory. It is impossible for God to act in any way other than in accordance with his will, and he also has infallible knowledge as to how his purposes are best to be accomplished, so God can never act in a way which is unjust – or, to put it another way, frustrates the purpose of Creation.

We do, in any case, all share in the corporate guilt associated with original sin, so we can hardly paint ourselves whiter than white in God’s eyes. That the Lord has the sovereign right to govern his creation in whatever manner he wishes, and that he is always righteous, is a lesson which Job learned the hard way.

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