Read 2 Samuel 24:1-14
"He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel" (v. 1). This move evidently came from the Devil, for in another place we read: "Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel" (1 Chronicles 21:1). It was to Israel's own hurt and defect that their number and strength was depended on. It is ever the cunning device of Satan to get us to trust in our own strength. It is "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord" (Zechariah 4:6).
"David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly" (v. 10). Joab's glowing report that there were in David's united kingdom thirteen hundred thousand valiant men that drew sword (v. 9) brought no feeling of relief to the sin-smitten heart of the king. What were these if God was not for him? All our natural gifts and powers of intellect however great, all our experiences however rich and varied, will avail us nothing in the work of God if the power of the Holy Spirit is wanting. We number our organizations, our meetings, our people, and our money, but how much do we count on the power of God? Might we not pray with David, "O Lord, take away the iniquity of Thy servant; for I have done very foolishly"?
"Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things [punishments]; choose thee one of them" (vv. 12,13). Yielding to the tempter has brought to David a sorrowful alternative. God does not promise to give us our choice as to how He will chastise us for our pride and unbelief, but let us take heed lest there be in any of us an evil heart, for sin will surely find us out.
David said, "Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for His mercies are great" (v. 14). David had sinned against God in choosing to number the people, but now he would honor God in allowing Him to choose for him. God's mighty hand was uplifted to smite, and the penitent king saw it coming down with terrible force. But he looked beyond the awful sword-girt arm, into Jehovah's gracious heart, and took refuge in His mercy. Although God's arm is strong to smite, His love is strong to save. The choice God offers now in grace is between life and death, between retribution and salvation, heaven and hell.
—W.T.P. Wolston, condensed from Handfuls of Purpose, published by Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL. Available from the publisher.