Word of Encouragement (02/20/2024)

Pastor James
February 20, 2024

Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man." (2 Sam. 24:14)

As you know, David went ahead with taking a census of his people. It seems that he knew it was wrong. So, soon after taking the census, he confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness (v. 10). God’s response through the prophet Gad was, “Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.... Shall three 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” (vv. 12-13)? Which one would you have chosen? V. 14 was David’s response. As such, we can see this as his prayer.

Let us reflect on God’s response first. Did it mean that God did not listen to David’s prayer for forgiveness in v. 10? Not necessarily. We must consider how the Old Testament saints, including David, were forgiven. It was not through the blood of bulls and goats: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:16-17); “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). The sacrificial system was only a shadow and a sign of the only effective atonement—the blood of Jesus Christ. So, David, too, was forgiven by faith in the (coming) Messiah; he was not forgiven after he was punished in one of the three ways. None of the three was sufficient to atone for his sin, which deserved eternal punishment. When he confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness, he was forgiven in God’s heavenly tribunal on account of Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

However, a sin can have many consequences. Even a murderer can be forgiven by God, but he must serve time in prison for his crime and endure many other difficulties for his criminal record. One can lie seventy-seven times a day and still be forgiven, but he may not have any friends left. Similarly, David was forgiven by God the moment he confessed his sin. But God chose to show him the gravity of his sin by inflicting suffering on his nation in one of the three ways.

The takeaway is not that we should stay away from sin because God can inflict much suffering on us (and our loved ones—when we sin, it affects those around us). Sin is evil not because it brings about temporal suffering in this life. They are nothing compared to what we really deserve for our sins. Our sin is evil in itself; it is evil because it dishonors God and disrupts our fellowship with Him, who is all Goodness, Truth, and Life. As Tomans Watson said, we must learn to hate sin as hell, not for hell. And we cannot hate sin as hell if we do not love God and cherish our fellowship with Him. I hope and pray that we will all grow in our love for God, who forgives our sins right away, no matter how many or heinous they may be, on account of Jesus Christ. Let us not forget that, even when He afflicts us with temporal sufferings, it is because He loves us and wants to wean us from our love of sin, which destroys our lives.