2 Samuel 24:10-15, 17
“David felt guilty after he had numbered the army. David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, O LORD, please remove the guilt of your servant for I have acted foolishly.’ 11 When David got up the next morning, the LORD has already spoken to Gad the prophet, David’s seer. 12 ‘Go, tell David, this is what the LORD says: I am offering you three forms of judgment, Pick one of them and I will carry it against you.’ 13 Gad went to David and told him, ‘Shall seven years of famine come upon your land? Or shall you flee for three months from your enemy with him in hot pursuit? Or shall there be three days of plague in your land? Now decide what I should tell the one who sent me.’ 14 David said to Gad, ‘I am very upset! I prefer that we be attacked by the LORD, for His mercy is great; I do not want to be attacked by men.’ 15 So the LORD sent a plague through Israel from the morning until the completion of the appointed time. Seventy thousand men died from Dan to Beer Sheba. 17 When he saw the angel who was destroying the people, David said to the LORD, “Look, it is I who have sinned and done this evil thing! As for these sheep – what have they done? Attack me and my family.’”
Sin. Free will. Our choices impacting others often with devastating results. David was a man after God’s own heart, yet when he had sinned, there was going to be a consequence. I cannot imagine being given a choice for the punishment I was about to receive. The guilt that David wanted to be released from resulted in seventy thousand men dying. Seventy thousand. Not sure my guilt would be allayed after such a tragic loss from my own sin. David had already tasted of the option of fleeing for fifteen years while his enemy was in hot pursuit, the thought of that must have been too painful to consider, all though he knew the terrain well. I guess seven years of famine was not his favorite, either. Three days was a shorter time of suffering and meted out by the hand of God, not man – surely it would be easier?
The cause for this turmoil? Counting his men. Today, the gravity of such a decision surely falls flat. Wow – counting an army is sin, much less, worth the loss of 70,000 men? Why? What or who prompted David to do such a thing, knowing it would not be pleasing to the LORD? The Bible says the Lord moved David to count. Uh oh. Trouble here – God is Holy and righteous – He never tempts us with evil – but this is looking a little tricky. Until we understand that God moment by moment keeps us from sin, but on this occasion, He perhaps removed that hedge and allowed Satan to tempt David, we cannot comprehend how often He prevents us from the same. Oh how I want God to keep me from sinning – yet we often do not see each day the miracles around us that keep us in Christ. David could have been motivated by pride, wanting to know how mighty his army was, or it could have been any myriad of motives – perhaps not trusting God – as if counting the army would assure victory? Either way, he decided in that moment of temptation that it was worth it, perhaps not thinking through the consequences of disobedience.
Have you ever felt the consequence of your sin? How about the consequences of another’s sin? It’s a bummer for sure, when someone else has made a choice that rocks your world, but then perhaps we have not thought about how our sin might have impacted others, too. I remember crying out to God over the pain my children and I were enduring because of another person’s sin against us. We were dragged to court relentlessly while the person who committed the wrong placated their guilt by proclaiming their own victim status. I wept before the Lord and asked, “Why, God, must we suffer and have consequences for his sin?” In that place of agony, shock and horror, God whispered to my heart, “I wasn’t angry with you when I bore your sin.”
End of pity party for this girl. Did God care that my children and I were suffering? He did. He also cared for the one who transgressed and caused the turmoil. But He modeled perfect love in bearing all of our sins. I realized in that moment that I had to let go of anger – I was just as guilty of sin, not the same sin – but there were still going to be consequences. I wonder what it was like for David after all those people died? I am sure humility would reign the rest of his days. I wonder if people persecuted him or were like, I don’t want to make him sin – we will all suffer, lol.
Today if you are reminded of a sin that you have committed which has hurt others, lay it at Christ’s feet, repent, make amends as God leads and forgive yourself. A guilty conscience is not pleasing to God. Live as one freed from prison on a mission to free others, too.
Lord, help us to live in holy fear and to consider our actions carefully, that we might not sin against you. May we think through the consequences of our actions and who it might harm, living thoughtfully a life of forgiveness and mercy, all for Your magnificent glory!