David, knowing better than to do it, ordered a headcount of the people of Israel. As we learned yesterday, it was considered rightful in David’s time only for the owner of something to count it; and David didn’t own the people of Israel – God did.
It didn’t take long for David to come to his senses and repent of his sin. However, the Lord was fully aware that David had known better than to call for the census in the first place. So, through the prophet Gad, God sent David a terrifying message:
“This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’ So Gad came to David and asked him, ‘Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me” (II Samuel 24:11b-13, NLT).
“‘I’m in a desperate situation!’ David replied to Gad” (II Samuel 24:14a).
David realized he had fallen right into Satan’s trap. He’d let pride rule his heart instead of the Holy Spirit, and now the people of Israel were going to pay for his foolishness. Our lives will always affect those around us; and when we sin, the consequences of our sins often hurt the innocent. The cheating spouse may not have set out to hurt his children, but he does. Likewise the alcoholic, the drug addict, the liar, the thief and the list goes on.
However, David’s “desperate situation” didn’t cause him to run from God, but rather to Him. He told Gad, “But let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands” (II Samuel 24:14b). In other words, in spite of his wrongdoing, David knew his best choice was no choice at all; he would leave it for the Lord to decide.
And here’s what happened: “The Lord sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south” (II Samuel 24:15).
David recognized he was responsible for the death of all those 70,000 people, undoubtedly including ages from infancy to elderly. You’ve heard it many times and it’s definitely scriptural: the more with which you’re entrusted, the greater your accountability – see James 3:1. David had been entrusted to lead the entire nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. With this awesome privilege came immense responsibility and, along with that, severe consequences for failing to follow God’s instructions.
The Lord was so angry, He even sent an angel “to destroy Jerusalem” (II Samuel 24:16a). But “the Lord relented and said to the death angel, ‘Stop! That is enough!’ At that moment the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (II Samuel 24:16b).
“When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, ‘I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep – what have they done? Let Your anger fall against me and my family” (II Samuel 24:17).
“Let Your anger fall against me and my family.” Would you have had the guts to make that statement? David knew he was at fault and he was overwhelmed with grief for having dishonored the Lord and caused so much death and pain to those who had nothing to do with his decision to order the census.
It’s a whole lot easier said than done, but if we obey God, we sure avoid a lot of needless heartache.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates