For when David was up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer.
Have you ever noticed that you make your greatest mistakes immediately after your greatest victories? Why is that? The answer is likely pride. The Bible frequently warns us about the penalty of pride. Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall." The pages of the Holy Scriptures are filled with people who have met their defeat, not because of their inferiority, but because of their haughty and arrogant spirit.
A graphic illustration of the penalty of pride is seen in the life of King David. A man after God's own heart, David early won favor with Jehovah for his faithfulness and purity of life. He rose above the usurpation of his throne by two of his sons. He lived down the shame of his sin with Bathsheba. Now he had come to the end of his life, a valiant warrior and a victor.
Following the catalog of David's mighty men is the statement, "And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah" (2 Samuel 24:1). The wrath of God was upon His people at this time, not so much for a specific offense as for the general deterioration of their faithfulness to Him. First Chronicles 21:1 indicates that it was Satan who incited David to take this census. Although the penalty for this sin affected all people, David accepted it as the result of his own personal sin. Why? Because the numbering of the people was done in pride, for the purpose of self-glory, and pride always pays a penalty.
Immediately after David learned the strength of his army, he recognized the basis for his need to know their number. "And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done . . . for I have done very foolishly." As soon as David was up in the morning (2 Samuel 24:11), God offered three potential punishments for this pride. David's options were not good: the people could endure seven years of famine; David could flee three months from his enemies; Israel could experience three days of the worst pestilence they had ever seen. David preferred to receive punishment from God rather than from his enemies. Thus the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel in the morning. Because of Israel's continued sin and David's pride, 70,000 men died during the next three days in Israel.
There is an old fable about two ducks and a frog that played together in a small pond. Each summer, when the days got long and hot, the pond shrank to a small puddle, and the ducks and frog were forced to move. The ducks could fly to another place, but not the frog. As the fable goes, the frog finally suggested that the ducks put a stick in their bills so he could cling to it with his mouth and thus fly away with them. The frog was very proud of his brilliant idea. As the ducks took off for a nearby lake, the stick between their bills and the frog clinging tightly, they passed over a farmer, who seeing this strange sight questioned, "Well, isn't that a clever stunt! I wonder who thought of it?" Swelling with pride, the frog said, "I did!" and with that he lost his grip and went crashing to the ground. His own pride had done him in.
Let us beware of our pride today, for it may lead to the same kind of painful end that the frog experienced. Even worse, it may lead to pain inflicted upon others, as was experienced in the life of David. Remember, "Pride goeth before destruction" (Proverbs 16:18).
Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies
And help me to make a complete sacrifice.
I give up myself and whatever I know
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.