Which would you choose?
Courtesy: Pastor Steve Ellison
Second Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 tell the story of David sinning against God by taking a census of the Jewish nation. There has been much speculation regarding the exact problem with the census. The people had been counted many times without any indication that it was a sin against God. Perhaps David was exhibiting false, self-glorifying pride in himself, by figuring out just how many soldiers he commanded. Taxation amounts were also dependent on census numbers in ancient Israel. Maybe David was guilty of pride in self; maybe he was guilty of greed or oppression of the poor. David ignored the advice of his most trusted advisors and took the census anyway. The Bible is not clear on just exactly what David’s guilt was, but it is clear that he was guilty, and the Lord was very angry with him. The Bible is also clear that the Lord was angry with the whole nation.
The Lord sent Gad the prophet to David with a choice. The choice was gut-wrenching. Punishment was inevitable and David had the awful responsibility of choosing one of three possibilities. 2 Samuel 24:12-13 gives the account, Thus the Lord says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.” So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? (NASU)
David considered his options and rightly discerned that the choices were all very costly and very painful. Seven years of famine would punish the whole nation for a very long time. Three months of fleeing from enemies would create death, destruction, and chaos. The results could be long term and costly to not only him but the whole nation as well. Three days of pestilence or plague in the land could be very bad but it would certainly be short term compared to the other two choices.
David confesses to be in deep distress as he makes his decision. He wisely makes his decision based on something other than the length of the punishment. David’s answer is given in 2 Samuel 24:14, Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” (NASU) Any advice or reasoning that suggests placing oneself at the mercy of man rather than the mercy of God is absolutely faulty reasoning. Be sure of this; sin will lead to famine, flight, or pestilence, etc. One or more will come to you in this earthly life because of your sin. You likely will not get to choose which one like David did. The most important consideration is this: One day each and every one of us will fall into the hand of the Lord in eternity. David is correct. God’s mercies are great, but only for those who trust in the sacrificial atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Keep in mind that it is a free offer in the sense of you cannot do anything to earn it. It does however cost you everything in the sense that He you must turn over your whole life to His control. Also remember that it is a limited time offer. When you die or if Christ returns first, the offer is no longer valid. Do as David did, place yourself into the hand of the Lord; His mercies are great, great, great!