2 Samuel 24 … Consider His Great Hand of Mercy

“I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man,” (24:14).

After reading David’s last words yesterday, this chapter seems somehow out of place. It is helpful to remember the events of the Old Testament writings are not always placed in chronological order. 2 Samuel 21-24 is considered by Bible scholars to be an appendix, conveying additional details deemed important but not in a sequential timeline.

At some point in David’s history …the anger of the Lord burned against Israel…” again, (24:1).

Whatever the cause of the Lord’s burning anger, it angered David too, and incited him against the nation. So moved by his rage, he commanded a census to be taken to number all the people; “…and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah,” (24:1).

So why was this so offensive to Holy God? Scripture does not expound, but it is more than likely the issue was not the mere act of commanding a census.

Scholars speculate David’s motivation in calling for a census could perhaps have stemmed from pride in his accomplishments or self-reliance on his campaigns, as the focus was on the size of his army.

And Joab gave the number of the registration 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, (24:9).

And we know God is always concerned with the heart of the matter.

“…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7).

 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man,” (Mark 7:21-22)

As we reflect on the consequences of David’s action, it is also more than likely David’s decision to number the people proceeded from a heart defiled, perhaps a result of his independence and pride.

David understood that God, Holy God, must judge and punish sin; for when confronted by the prophet Gad, he did not argue his case as unjust. Rather than disputing the sentence, he turned to his only hope for mercy.

“I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man,” (24:14).

Consider His Great Hand of Mercy

  • His Great Hand of Mercy pricks the consciences of His children.
    • Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” (24:10).

When confronted with the reality of impending judgment, God’s Great Hand of Mercy offered David a choice. “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the Lord says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you,”’ (24:12).

Was this judgment in direct line with his offense, drawing David’s attention to his previous choice to number the people? For David’s previous choice to number the people did not include God; David did not seek the Lord’s wisdom for his decision.

  • His Great Hand of Mercy offers the opportunity to receive His discipline rather than face the consequences apart from His love.
    • So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, ‘Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me,’” (24:13).

Three options offered. “Thus the Lord says, ‘I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you,’” (24:12)

Three options offered, but two would factor man into David’s choice.

  1. “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land?” (24:13).
    • It was customary to seek assistance from neighboring nations in times of famine (remember Joseph’s story), placing David and his people in a position of reliance upon man.
  2. “Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you?” (24:13).
    • This option would place David directly under the judgment and attack of his enemy.
  3. “Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land?” (24:13). This word, pestilence, can also be translated as plague.
    • “First Samuel 5–6 describes the plague on the Philistines as a punishment from God. The word is also used as the most dreaded threat of the Lord against His people (Lev. 26:25; Num. 14:12). The prophets use this word frequently to predict coming judgment and destruction,” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

It appears the third choice would place David solely in the hands of his God to receive punishment solely administered by Him.

Perhaps part of God’s loving discipline filtered through His Great Hand of Mercy presented the opportunity to consider and choose God’s way this time.

How do we respond to His Great Hand of Mercy?

What a gift His Great Hand of Mercy has granted us, His very kind gift of repentance.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, (1 John 1:9).

When we are faced with the lure of going our own, may we humbly take the way of escape offered to us by His Great Hand of Mercy.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it, (1 Corinthians 10:13).

His way of escape is continuously available to us in His Holy Scriptures as His Holy Spirit enables us to place our faith in His Great Hand of Mercy each and every day. And as we consider His Great Hand of Mercy may we be ruined for the ordinary! May our whole selves become an offering to Him in gratitude, worship and awe!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect, (Romans 12:1-2).

Let’s Grow Together!

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