David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” 11 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’ ” (2 Samuel 14:10-12)
Which would you choose? Could you make the decision to have others suffer for your sins?
That is what David had to do. He had sinned against God and now there was going to be consequences. Except it wasn’t just against David.
Which would you choose? Three years of famine? Three years of watching the earth dry up and crack; three years of watching six million of your countrymen dying, one missed meal at a time? Three months of enemy armies marauding through the land? War doesn’t play nice; it doesn’t spare those too young or old to carry a sword. Or three days of watching disease and plague march from house to house, leaving only death behind? Now think it over and decide, the prophet said.
“How could the Lord do such a thing?!” That might be the first question you or I would ask, but David didn’t ask it. David understood that when the King sins, the people suffer. The actions he chooses don’t just affect him; they touch everyone. The only question was: Which suffering? How do you even begin to choose? Could you make the decision to have so many people suffer because of your sin?
And there’s the sad truth that screams out at us from these pages of Scripture. We might not see it as clearly as David did, but that’s exactly what we do. We choose others to suffer. Could you say it any other way? Pick a single one of our sins and you’ll see: It isn’t just God we sin against. We say and do things that hurt others, even if we don’t mean it. We fail to help others in need, and we even fail to speak the truth we find in God’s Word to others. Who do you choose to have suffer for your sins?
David chose the plague. 70,000 people dead. It’s too much to think about. 70,000 of the six million people under his care suffering because of his sin. How many in your life? How many people have you chosen to have suffer because of your sins? It’s too much to think about.
David chose the plague, but there’s a reason why. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great. He knew that others would suffer for his sins – there’s no way around it in this life. So there’s really only one place to find hope; one place to find peace. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great. Deeper than the ocean of our sin. Higher than the mountain of our guilt.
And it was. When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”
The Lord stopped. David thought his own heart was breaking at the suffering of his people. The Lord’s broke more. Before David could ask for mercy, God gave it. David fell into the hands of the Lord, and it was exactly where he needed to be.
Take a lesson to heart that was once learned by the same old King who had learned what it meant that the Lord was his shepherd. Fall into the hands of the Lord. For his mercy is great.
Happy to know I have God’s mercy, just like you!
Pastor Jacob Hanneman