Now David's heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly."
(2 Samuel 24:10 NASB)
I don’t think David’s sin was in the counting of the Israelite soldiers. I think his sin of pride had already permeated the ranks of the soldiers and, through them, all of Israel. That’s why verse 1 of this chapter begins with the anger of The LORD burning against them. Look at what they celebrated in chapter 23. It was the stories of their mighty warriors. It was not the stories of how The LORD gave them victory over and over again. They were proud of themselves. It wasn’t until David conducted the census that he realized what he had done. Not only that, he had affected all of Israel with his pride.
When David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, "Go and speak to David, 'Thus the LORD says, "I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you."'" So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, "Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me." Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man." (2 Samuel 24:11-14 NASB)
All of Israel sinned. All of Israel will b punished. David may have led them into this sin, but they all followed. Now, they will pay. David gets to choose the method and the length of time. He chooses the shortest period of time – ripping the band-aid off quickly rather than slowly removing it. His answer, though, tells us the real reason for his choice: he doesn’t want other people to be able to have victory over him and his army. He wants everyone to know the punishment is from The LORD.
So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, "It is enough! Now relax your hand!" And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, "Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father's house." (2 Samuel 24:15-17 NASB)
David may say that it was his sin, but it really was not. All of Israel sinned. The anger of The LORD burned against all of Israel. All of Israel was punished. God would cut things short not because of David’s prayer but because of God’s Word. The LORD is always true to God’s Word. God said the plague would last three days. It lasted three days.
So Gad came to David that day and said to him, "Go up, erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." David went up according to the word of Gad, just as the LORD had commanded. (2 Samuel 24:18-19 NASB)
We’re talking about legacy’s this week so it’s worth taking a moment here to pause and think about David’s. When David sinned, David repented. David was human, just like you and me. He got things wrong. More often than not, though, he got things right. That is why he is considered a man after God’s own heart. This is the other reason: When David sinned, David returned to The LORD. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t justify his actions. He took responsibility. He immediately repented (turned around). He returned to The LORD as soon as he realized that he blew it.
David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. Thus the LORD was moved by prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel. (2 Samuel 24:25 NASB)
How about you? Do you get it right more often than you get it wrong? When you get it wrong, do you try to justify your position, your words, or your actions? Or, do you admit that you were wrong? Do you turn around (repent) right away? Do you, like David, immediately return to The LORD?