David has called for a census. This was seen by God as sinful and David saw his sin. I wondered why was taking a census sinful?
The chapter begins by saying that the LORD incited David to do this, apparently by giving Satan permission to tempt him. The parallel account in 1 Chronicles 21 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” The record in Chronicles places this right after a great victory over the Philistines, so the sin was probably related to a problem with pride and self-reliance. A census was preliminary to a draft of soldiers and a levying of taxes. It seems, therefore, that David’s intent was to increase the royal power in a way that contrasted with humble reliance on God.
So David sins and God gives him a choice about his punishment:
“Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land?
David chooses the three days of plague
And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
Do not let me fall into the hand of man: This meant that David chose the three days of plague. In the other two options, Israel would either be at the mercy of neighbours (as in the famine) or attacked by enemies. David knew that God was far more merciful and gracious than man.
David recognises the greatness of God’s mercy compared to the mercy of men. Sometimes we feel let down by people but maybe we should take a leaf out of David’s book and throw ourselves at the mercy of God rather than live for the acceptance and approval of man