I believe David repented because HE HAD SINNED. Let’s take a close look at some key verses in this chapter that prove there was the SIN OF PRIDE behind David’s act of numbering the people.

Verse 1: “Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah” (NKJV). On the surface, it appears that it was God Himself Who moved David to number the people, but we learn something else in 1st Chronicles 21:1, for it says, “Now Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.” How do we reconcile these two verses? The answer to that lies in “God’s PERMISSIVE will.” It was actually Satan who put the thought in David’s heart and then David, in the PRIDE of his heart numbered the people. Yet God, Who is sovereign, permitted both of these things to happen. Why? Because He was angry with Israel and this would give Him just cause for judging them, as we see in verses 11-15.

Verses 2-4, 9: “So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, ‘Now go throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the number of the people.’ And Joab said to the king, ‘Now may the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times more than there are, and may the eyes of the king see it. BUT WHY DOES MY LORD THE KING DESIRE THIS THING? Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army. Therefore Joab and the captains of the army went out from the presence of the king to count the people of Israel…Then Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to the king. And there were in Israel eight hundred thousand VALIANT MEN WHO DREW THE SWORD, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.” It is obvious that Joab, along with the captains of the army, discerned that David’s motive for numbering the men who made up his armies was PRIDE. They knew that once David received the number, he could boast of his military might and then trust in his military strength INSTEAD OF TRUSTING IN THE LORD. Perhaps you may be thinking, “But didn’t God allow a census of the people to be taken when Moses was leading Israel through the wilderness?” Yes, but let’s read about that in Exodus 30:11-13, “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, THAT THERE MAY BE NO PLAGUE AMONG THEM WHEN YOU NUMBER THEM. This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary…the half shekel shall be an offering to the LORD.” The numbering of the men was accompanied by a ransom price that was offered to the Lord to “help maintain the tabernacle and services.” We do NOT read that David’s census was followed by a ransom price being offered to the Lord. So, it was strictly PRIDE that moved David to number the people and thus the Lord had every right to judge the people for David’s sin.

Verse 10: “And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” The “still, small voice of David’s conscience” condemned the pride that was in his heart and to his credit he confesses his sin before the Lord. We often criticize David for his MANY failures throughout his life, but we should also commend him for his willingness to own his sin. Let this be a lesson to every believer reading these lines, for if we have sinned and our conscience accuses us (see Romans 2:15), may we be quick to follow David’s example and immediately confess our sin before the Lord. If we do, we can claim our heavenly Father’s promise in 1st John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We may still have to suffer some form of discipline for our sin (as David did—see verse 15), but we will experience God’s wonderful forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with Him and His Son. (268.5) (DO)