The first two words of 2Chronicles 18, "After this," point backward as the cause for moving forward. God had spoken to David, "I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel, and I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a name, like the name of the great ones of the earth (2Chronicles 17:7-8). Now watch what happens "after this": "David defeated the Philistines and subdued them" (18:1); "he defeated Moab, and the Moabites became servants to David" (18:2); "David also defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah-Hamath" (18:3); "David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians" (18:5). In chapters 19 and 20, victories continued. He defeated the Ammonites and more of the Syrians. Rabbah was overthrown, and "David took the crown of their king from his head" (20:2). "Thus David did to all the cities of the Ammonites" (20:3). Finally, the the giants of the Philistines "fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants" (20:8).
"The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went" (18:6, 13), but by chapter 21, after winning over and over again, David began to think, "Was it not I who defeated the enemies of Israel?" That is the temptation of success: "Was it not I?" So God used the master of temptation to expose David's pride, "then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel" (21:1). The census was designed by David to display his might, but it was designed by God to betray his heart. The sin of the census reminded David of his true strength and returned his heart to God. David's sin became David's confession, "Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil" (1Chronicles 21:17). That is the confession of a godly man: no justification, no rationalization, no shifting the blame. "Was it not I?" He owned it.
God Almighty, You are my Lord and my Savior. You go before me and I do well to follow You. You lead to victory over sin, over Satan, over death, and You give me faith, hope, and love. Yet, I continue to do things on my own, seek to be in charge, and steal the glory that rightfully belongs to You.
What amazes me is Your mercy and grace. When I confess my failures, when I acknowledge my sin and my need of You, You grab my hand again, forgiving me, and leading me again along that wonderful path of Yours, the path that leads to life. You are my true Strength, the Master of my life.