Read 2 Samuel 24
What caused David to number the people? Was it pride? Was it a desire to expand the kingdom through military means? Was he placing trust in the numbers rather than God? Whatever the reason, it was sinful. He was tempted by Satan to sin against God (1 Chronicles 21:1), and as God does not violate man’s free will, David was allowed to go through with it (2 Samuel 24:1).
David knew that he was doing something not approved by God, and immediately after it was done, he felt guilty. “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 servants, for I have done very foolishly’” (2 Samuel 24:10).
While forgiveness was certainly possible, sometimes there are consequences we still must face. God sent a prophet to David named Gad. Through the prophet Gad, God said, “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it for you” (2 Samuel 24:12). God allowed David to pick his own punishment: seven years of famine, three years of fleeing from enemies, or three days of pestilence. What would you have chosen if you were in David’s shoes? The king chose three days of pestilence, relying on God’s mercy rather than trusting in the strength of his men to stand up against his enemies.
In the eighteenth century, a man named Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He painted a vivid picture of hell, observing the immoral conditions of the world at the time and the condemnation of those sins in the Scriptures. Mr. Edwards’ sermon is credited as one of the catalysts of the First Great Awakening.
It is a sobering thought to consider the anger of God when one is caught up in sin. However, if we are penitent like David, recognizing our sin, and asking for forgiveness, God will be merciful. “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22).
God’s mercy is great toward those who strive to do what is right and refuse to make excuses for their shortcomings. Have you been faithfully obedient to the Lord?