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).

In human history there are always constant waves of sin and obedience, blessing and judgment. King David had known an incredible forty years as a leader who ruled in the fear of God and with great humility. Correspondingly, God had granted the Israelites four decades of blessing and victory against their enemies.

Robbing God’s Glory

But the Lord had come in judgment. We are never immune to our own sin, and in a rare moment of unbridled pride, David wanted to count the people, “that I may know the number of the people” (v. 2—notice the “I”).

There is nothing wrong with counting and recounting what God has done and using it to glorify God. But this act was driven by pride, which steals glory from God. God had blessed them, but now David sought to take credit for this blessing himself.

His loyal warrior Joab warned him, because he sensed a “delight in this thing” in David (v. 3). Uncharacteristically, David ignored Joab’s counsel and forged ahead.

Experiencing God’s Judgment and Mercy

The result was God’s judgment against both king and people. God moved through the land, and 70,000 people perished. Finally, David erected an altar to cry out to God for mercy in His judgment, and then “the LORD was moved by prayer for the land” (v. 25).

Here is a great principle: The Lord is strong and complete in His judgments but is moved by the humble petition of His children. And He is full of mercy when called upon.

Don’t miss the reality of these truths about our never-changing God. We are in the same condition. Filled with our own pride, we are right now under the judgment of God across our land.

But will the Lord find us—men, women, even leaders—willing to admit our sin, humble ourselves, and cry out for God’s mercy? Or will we move forward in unrelenting pride?

It’s time to build an altar of fresh repentance and humble surrender to the Lord. It’s time to pray for the land.

Father, You know our sins, which are great. Lord, we pray for a deep wave of repentance in the church that will move across our land. Spare nothing with Your all-seeing eye. Show us where we have sinned against You. Reveal things that we explain away in our pride or callousness, and burden our hearts, like David’s, until we come with a fresh offering of our lives to You! And then, Lord, unleash the church to proclaim the gospel with boldness, and move across the land to sweep millions into Your kingdom. May Your almighty gospel carry everything before it.