2 Samuel 24:10-17 Genuine Repentance Attracts God’s Mercies And Evades Punishment
2 Samuel 24:10-17
10 But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, Lord, for doing this foolish thing. 11 The next morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message: 12 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you. ’”
13 So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.”
14 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”
15 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. 16 But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
17 When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.
Even though David repented in a timely manner, it remains for the fear of God to be instilled and reinforced in the people. Discipline is God’s instrument of mercy in turning sinners from the path of destruction. In today’s passage, we learn about genuine repentance and the importance of a right attitude towards God’s discipline in our lives.
I will give you three choices – The motive of David in taking the census is not explicitly suggested in the text but the severity of God’s punishment hints at the seriousness of David’s transgression. David in taking the census did not do anything explicitly wrong except that his heart carried out a heinous motive of rebellion. In responding to David’s transgression, God prevented Israel from falling into the path of no return by chastising them. The three remedial acts as suggested by God provide no concrete indication of their effective destructive power nor loss of life.
Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great – David expresses a conviction that in the wrath of God, there is mercy and all His acts are undergirded with His perfect love and compassion. David did what he is most familiar with; he flung himself through the intimidating curtains of divine wrath into the heart of God. Thus, he defers to God full prerogative to mete out a punishment of His choice; he prefers to be punished by his Father than by men. God sends a plague by the angel of death that killed 70,000 men throughout Israel. As the angel approaches Jerusalem to destroy it, God in His mercy detracted from the angel’s predetermined path of destruction. David, by giving God the prerogative to determine the remedial action, earns himself a margin of mercy – the acquittal of Jerusalem from the penalty of death. “The Lord relented”, suggests detraction from the original plan to bring judgment upon Jerusalem.
I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! – Presumably, David did not have privy to God’s intention to spare Jerusalem. David however, is aware of the flight path of the angel and intercepts him at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. He offers up himself and his family in a bid to shield the people from the calamity: But these people are as innocent as sheep – what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family. David’s confession distinguishes a culpable shepherd from the innocent flock. However, we are reminded that it is God who took occasion to punish Israel through the sin of David: anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census (2 Samuel 24:1).
- True repentance is motivated by truth and not by consequences. Many people turn back from their wicked ways only after suffering a spate of consequences and punishment; such resort to repentance as a means of reprieve from punishment. If a person is forced to conform to God only after a series of mishaps, one cannot be certain if his repentance stems from genuine remorse or pure pragmatism. Nevertheless, physical consequences and punishment serve as instruments of mercy to awake the soul to the call of conscience. David’s confession of wrongdoing before Gad’s intervention however, displays true repentance. In response, God gives David the freedom to pick his punishment. In the same vein, God relented from executing full judgment upon Jerusalem. Therefore, it is wise to repent at the prompting of our conscience sparing ourselves of needless suffering before God’s discipline descends upon us.
- God’s mercy is revealed in His just recompense of every transgression of the heart. God disciplines and turns the sinner back before he slides down the slippery slope of death. Thus, He endeavors to correct his children before they yield to the fleshly passions that are conceived in their heart. God in His mercy intercepts David’s route to destruction by punishing him even though he repents ahead of Gad’s appointment. David’s “timely” repentance merely shows his remorse for his transgression. However, it remains for the fear of God to be instilled and reinforced through pain and suffering. Therefore, believers experiencing various trials must accept God’s work of discipline with full submission and be transformed by it. Thereafter, it will bear the fruit of righteousness and wisdom.
- The severity of a punishment corresponds to the heinousness of the transgression. All too often, there will be those who would not repent despite God’s patience and mercy. On the contrary, they become bolder in their rebellion; they take lightly the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads people to repentance (see Romans 2:4). If God did not refrain from punishing David who repented, how much more will God punish those who would not repent despite His warnings. God’s patience does not imply His condonance and we are not to test the extent of God’s mercies supposing He will overlook our transgressions and continue to bless us. God’s punishment though swift and severe, hints at the heinousness of David’s transgression. Even though the act of census taking per se is harmless, the motive behind the act is abominable even by David’s standards. Hence, in the wake of fleshly passion, we must carefully consider the heinousness of every desire before we consider toying with it. We must not think we could tread on the beams of greed and fleshly passions supposing we could stay on top of it. Greed and fleshly desires amounts to idolatry, a transgression of the most heinous kind. It is because of the sin of idolatry that generations of Israelites were wiped off the face of the earth. The apostle Paul warns,
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience. Colossians 3:5-6
- What are the attitudes that are currently hindering you from committing yourself fully to God? Some harbor a hint of silent rebellion by closing one part of their life from the purview of God. As a result, they become stagnant in their personal growth, career progression, and the work of the kingdom. Because their minds are clouded by anxieties and the cares of life, they could not receive divine instructions that could otherwise prosper them.
- Have you been harboring a secret sin thinking that God’s mercy has allowed you a margin of freedom? Or an occasional respite from holy living? God in His patience is constraining His wrath for a time hoping for men to repent. Therefore, we must direct our needs to the Spirit who is able to satisfy us with good things. We have to make a decision to divorce ourselves from the pleasures of the flesh and love God wholeheartedly. Persevere in doing what is right and refrain from compromises that can corrupt your righteous spirit.
Dear Lord, I thank you for being merciful, for you did not punish me according to the heinousness of my sins. Give me a clear conscience and a right spirit to discern good and evil. As I resolve to divorce myself from the lure of greed and evil desires, deliver me from temptations that I cannot bear. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.