The next morning the word of the Lord came to the prophet
Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message: “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.’” (2 Samuel 24: 11-12 NLT).
|Mercy and Judgment
David had sinned by ordering the census taken of Israel. Interestingly, David did not even receive the full extent of the shortest of the three punishments. When God finds a man willing to assume full responsibility for his transgressions, the Lord can be quick to extend mercy. God takes no delight in judgment.
David is told to choose between 7 years of famine, three months of war, or three days of plague. He chose the last option, the most severe but the shortest. The outbreak started in the morning. It was devastating as seventy thousand men of Israel died, but it appears to last only to the evening sacrifice of the first day (v. 16). Why? First, God is gracious and looking for a way to be merciful. Second, the Lord found a man who took full blame for his offense. In verse 17 David asks the Lord to chasten him and not his people. God looked down and saw a man with a repentant heart and relented of the full extent of his chastisement. The purpose of discipline is to bring a change of heart. When that has transpired, there is no further need for the pain of punishment.
Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. When we embrace God’s righteousness, accepting the consequences of our sin, the Lord can be swift to extend his mercy to us. Mercy always triumphs over judgment.
Image used with permission by Microsoft.