Meanwhile, back at headquarters . . . the mighty king David reveled in his domination. In his wake lie Ammonites, Arameans, and Rabbahites. In the heavyweight division, David routed the Philistines. And in the title bout David felled the giant multi-dactyled freak of Gath. Long live the king!
Satan got wind of an opportunity and toed the line against Israel. He ‘moved’ David to take a census. “Exactly how many people do I rule, General Joab?” asked David. A pensive Joab set out with the government questionnaire. What Joab knew that David seemed to forget was that God didn’t like censuses. They smelled like pride and trust in military strength more than God. David had no recruiting quota to meet, and however many brawns he had it was quite enough. As long as God was in the camp there was plenty of manpower.
True to form God expressed his displeasure. David confessed his foolishness to God, who responded through Gad. Gad invited David to God’s version of Let’s Make a Deal. David could choose his own punishment from three options. Behind door #1 was three years of famine. Behind door #2 was three months of war. And behind door #3 was three days of a virulent epidemic. On paper, David had every resource available to stave off a 3-year famine and wage a 3-month war. Yet, David chose door #3.
Of course, he would! It was the quickest punishment of the three options. He could get it over with. But, that wasn’t David’s reason. David chose option #3 because it held the greatest potential for mercy. Mighty David, ruler of all things Middle Eastern, now with a head count of 1.5 million warriors, considered his chances better with God’s ‘sword’ than his enemies’. Now he needed mercy, not strength.
What a transformative view of God! David knew that whatever anger God harbored against him would be tempered by His great mercy toward him. The Philistines would have no mercy. The Ammonites would have no mercy. God would. And such would spare David of untold misery. Option #3 cost him 70,000 soldiers which was far better than losing them all to famine or sword.
God’s people too often hint of God as some impulsive ogre, one breath away from unleashing his fury on us. The cosmic mother says to us, “Just wait until your Father gets home!” And we scamper fearfully away from God’s presence, knowing that one look from him will destroy us. Given our chances against man or God, we readily choose the former because God will grease us.
Dear friends, we cannot wait for our Father to come home! Because when he does, he brings with him the full measure of mercy. Our discipline will be perfect and we will find yet another reason and way to love him. We will not (cannot!) bear the full brunt of his anger without God reneging on his promise in the Lord Jesus. The Father has already come home! And Jesus endured what we most fear (God’s anger) and secured for us what we most want (God’s mercy).
Dear sinner, there is no mercy in your sin. As we say in Texas, “It’d soon kill ya’ as look at ya’.” You stand no chance of survival at the hands of sin. It runs roughshod over you like a Philistine army. You’ve measured up your strength and you’ve been found wanting. You see, you’ve inherited Adam’s pathetic army who hasn’t won a battle in 15,000 years. Oh, they’ll convince you that ‘this is the year,’ but it’s a hopeless lie. There are no Cinderalla stories in the war against sin. Flee to the haven of mercy where the fight has already been waged and won by our Merciful Lord Jesus. Oh, that you would fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercies are very great.