Focusing Beyond the Object

Handwritten page from the second book of Samuel chapter 23 verse 24 through chapter 24 verse 3.
2Samuel 23:24-24:3

Synopsis     2Samuel 23:24:24:3     2/11/2019 

The writer recorded the names and heritage of each of “The Thirty”. These were David’s mighty men who fought with him valiantly even before he became king over Israel. 

At some time in his reign, David was moved to count the people of Israel in a census. So, he ordered Joab to tour the land and count the people. 

However, Joab was reluctant. He seemed to intuit that a census was contrary to God’s purposes. So, he attempted to discourage David. But David refused Joab. And so, he did not change his mind.  

David’s Motive for Census 

David’s motive for taking a census of the people was to ascertain the number of prospective warriors in his kingdom. But taking a census tends to de-narrativize the people. It made David look at the people from the perspective of how they could support his military campaigns.  

And this was contrary to the way that God operated in David’s life. Prior to the numbering census, David simply trusted God to bring the resources necessary to accomplish whatever task was at hand. But in this example, David wasn’t looking to accomplish anything. Instead, like the rich farmer in Jesus’ parable, he was trying to decide what to do with the almost unimagineable resources available to him. 

 Focusing Beyond the Object 

There is a certain wonder about this for modern readers. The modern tendency is to ask, “What could be wrong with wanting to know the number of people in the land?” The answer is in the way a census makes the king think about his people. A census numbers the people. In other words, it reduces the people to a mere number. It de-humanizes the people. And, it objectifies the people.  

And God’s people weren’t created so that one person should deny the humanity of another person. Instead, the children of Israel were to be a community of human and divine affirmation.  

This is a problem in my life. I am affected by the tendency to objectify other people. Maybe my challenge isn’t with objectifying women for personal gratification. But I objectify none-the-less whenever I look at the other person in some situation merely from the perspective of what they can do for me.  

The way of listening is a form of love for others. It means that I deliberately slowdown in my dealings with others. It means that I listen. And in listening, I come to discover that the other person is just that – a person. Each one I encounter has a story. And each one has hopes and dreams and desires for their life. 

And when I do that, I focus beyond the object that I’ve created. Suddenly, I get back to the person who was always there.  

“If you see a thief, you run with him; with adulterers you throw in your lot. You give your mouth free rein for evil; you yoke your tongue to deceit. And you sit and speak against your brother, slandering your mother’s son. When you do these things should I be silent? Do you think that I am like you? I accuse you, I lay out the matter before your eyes” Psalm 50:18-21 

February 11, 2019

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