Word of Encouragement (02/21/2024)

Pastor James
February 21, 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)

Yesterday, we said that the three options God gave to David (vv. 12-13) were not a means of atoning for his sin. His sin, as it was committed against the infinite honor of God, deserved nothing less than infinite punishment. A sinner cannot do enough penance to atone for his sin no matter how much he suffers in this life. Praise God that the blood of Jesus Christ is powerful enough and sufficient to bring us full and instant forgiveness from God! Why the three options, then? They were a way to show David the gravity of his sin.

But there was another dimension to them: they served as a sign of the full punishment David deserved for his sin. Israel was an earthly picture of the kingdom of heaven: its land was a picture of the heavenly inheritance for the people of God; its temple was a picture of the heavenly temple; its sacrificial system was a picture of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; the blessings it enjoyed were a picture of the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus; the curses it suffered for its sins were a picture of the eternal punishment for sinners, etc. We can see the three options God gave in the same light: they were not the proper and full punishment for David’s sin; they were merely a picture of it. Why do I say this?

David chose the last option God gave him: three days’ pestilence in the land. It ravaged the land from the appointed time. And how did it come to a stop? When David, at the instruction of Gad the prophet, set up an altar and offered a sacrifice on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (v. 18, which later became the site of the construction of the temple).

Do you see what is going on at this picture level? David’s sin is “punished” by the pestilence, and his sin is “atoned for” by the sacrifice. Obviously, the oxen (probably two of them), which were offered at the altar, were not at all sufficient atonement to stop the punishment (which already killed 70,000 Israelites). They were merely a sign of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God, which alone can remove our guilt and punishment. Also, as we said already, the pestilence, as devastating as it was, was not the full punishment for David’s sin; it was only a picture. David was spared from the full punishment only because the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice, by which He fully atoned for his sin, was retroactively applied to him.

Now that we no longer live in the time of pictures and shadows (or types), we no longer view the sufferings we go through (even as a direct result of our sins) as a form of divine punishment or even a “picture” of our punishment. Our sufferings are no longer associated with God’s judicial punishment for our sins in any way because the punishment for our sin, “not in part but the whole,” was applied to Jesus on the cross once and for all: “There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1)! Now, whatever suffering we go through because of our sinful choices and actions is God’s fatherly discipline, not a judicial punishment. May we dread God’s fatherly discipline more than God’s judicial punishment, not because it is more severe but because the last thing we want to do is sin against our loving and gracious Father!