This week, CBS news shared a photo of more than a dozen smiling faces aboard a plane bound for New York -- the epicenter of death in America. They’re all medical volunteers.

Some may get the virus, that’s the reality. They may never return.

It's not just the willingness to sacrifice. Children play outside unafraid and kindness abounds in interactions. A violent world has turned peaceful.

The coronavirus has changed us.

The Bible tells a story of a man changed by a plague. The account is so important it’s repeated twice in Scripture.

The story begins with a census — sounds boring, I know. But King David's desire for a head count turns Israel upside down. It brings a plague with great death and suffering, just as we see today.

Joab, the commander of David’s army, knows the census is really a draft – David wants a bigger army.

Joab tells David, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops.” Israel has always relied on God.

He warns David that this draft will bring “guilt upon the people." 2 Samuel 24:3, 1 Chronicles 21:3

King David doesn’t care. So Joab spends the next year registering all the men fit to fight. You see his disgust when he refuses to include the tribe of Benjamin.

That’s because David had been at civil war with them twice, and Joab isn’t having those Hebrews in his army – no matter how badly David wants numbers. 1 Chronicles 21:6, 2 Samuel 2:8 ff., 20:1 ff.

Once the count is finished, David is immediately “conscience striken.”


Why did David want a stronger army?

He’s lost faith in God. He’s afraid.

This isn’t the confident young man who faced Goliath. David is much older. He’s fled more than one uprising by his own people, murdered a friend, and lost three sons over bad choices.

Upon learning of his third son’s death, David says, “Oh my son … if only I had died instead of you.” 2 Samuel 18:33

King David is worn down, but David has always been a great warrior. And then he’s nearly killed in battle.

“David went … to fight against the Philistines and he became exhausted. And Ishbi-Benob … [attacked] David … but Abishai … came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him.”

It appears that David never went into battle again. 2 Samuel 21:15-17

So he turns to the idea that a bigger army will be his net of safety, not God. 2 Samuel 21: 18-21, 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21

Know that David deeply loved the Lord. Once David realizes his mistake he says, “I have sinned greatly” and asks for God’s mercy.

A prophet comes with God’s answer: The nation must suffer famine, war, or plague.

“Think it over and decide ...” the prophet tells David. 2 Samuel 24:13

Many believe David chose the plague, but that’s not so. David wants God to decide. “Let us fall into the hands of the Lord,” David says.

Scripture states: “So the Lord sent a plague.” 2 Samuel 24:15

Now, as the plague sets in, 70,000 Hebrews die, and David’s focus on protecting himself disappears. Selfishness is replaced by self-giving. He asks God to only punish him and his family instead of the nation.

See how he's changed?

And the plague ends as David follows God’s guidance.

Perhaps God is giving us another opportunity. We’ve slowed down and come together. We’ve been humbled.

David was chosen as a young man. He led Israel with faith for decades, never faltering in fear. When he lost who he was, it took a plague to bring him back.

This nation began as a people who trusted God and stood together against a common enemy. Perhaps only this enemy could bring us back together.

David was chosen to lead, and so is every Christian. Pray, repent, and share Scripture. Guide those around you to do the same. Speak the truth and do it with love.

We are the light of the world.

Copyright 2020 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.The Rev. Mathews has included a more detailed Bible study on David’s census at Write to her at