1 Chronicles 21:16-17—And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.
After David numbered the people of Israel, a sign of his heart turning away from God and depended on strength in numbers, the LORD sent his prophet to tell David the nation would suffer for this sin. He had three choices. He had to choose between 3 years of famine, 3 months of fleeing before their enemies, or 3 days of a plague from God. David knew God is more merciful than man. He chose the last option. The plague swept through Israel killing 70,000 people. When the angel that brought the plague stood over Jerusalem, David could see him. David interceded for the city by pleading that the sword of the angel falls on his own home since he was the guilty party. God’s judgments are always just Surely the people’s hearts had gone the same direction as David’s, trusting in their numbers instead of the LORD. In this plea from David, we see his genuine shepherd’s heart. He would rather take the blow than have it fall on his people. This is the heart of an intercessor that cares enough to place his own life on the line for others. We saw it in Moses, and now in David, and ultimately in Jesus, the Great Shepherd. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13