The Lord is upset with David for counting the fighting men. David is not following the Lord’s command in taking a census, and maybe he’s wanting to know how much manpower he’s got behind him. It’s a thing that at best puffs up and at worst causes him to rely on the strength of his army instead of on God.
The census takes over nine months. Joab, his army commander, is carrying out this command that whole time. David had time to repent and come to his senses.
The Lord doesn’t wake him up to what he’s done until the job is finished. David does come to then realize his sin and has to deal with the punishment.
David knows the mercy of the Lord and asks to be put in God’s hands. A pestilence is sent. God is not unjust in doing this. God sees the individual. He must have allowed David’s heart to be tempted to the census because the people needed this.
But the scene I want to talk about is this one in 1 Chronicles 21:15.
“And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw, and he relented from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, ‘It is enough; now stay your hand.’ And the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”
The angel of the Lord is carrying out this destruction. I’ve mentioned before that the angel of the Lord is the same as what appears in the story of the burning bush where God appears to Moses, calling Himself, I Am, Yahweh, Jehovah, the self-existing one.
This is Jesus, the angel of the Lord with a sword in His hand. “Strap your sword at your side, O mighty warrior…”(Psalm 45:3 BSB) Do you know Jesus as warrior? One day He will come with His army to destroy His enemies.
But here, I notice something else. Does the scene look familiar to you? The angel of the Lord comes to Jerusalem, God’s precious city. He raises his sword above His head. At the last second, the Lord stops Him.
It reminded me of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham ready to kill but the Lord stopping him.
God does not willingly inflict. If He does, it is for His good purposes and we quiet ourselves under that, knowing His goodness and justice. But He is much quicker to show mercy and relent than to destroy. Praise the Lord!