God’s Mercy Is Great
“David said to Gad, ‘I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.’” (2 Samuel 24:14 NIV)
… Ask a dozen average Bible readers what David’s greatest sin was, and most of them will say, “His adultery with Bathsheba.” That was indeed a great sin, a sudden, passionate sin of the flesh that caused five deaths— Bathsheba’s husband Uriah died, the baby died, and so did three of David’s other sons. But when David numbered the people, it was a proud and deliberate sin of the spirit that brought death to seventy thousand people! When David confessed his adultery, he said, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13), but he said “I have sinned greatly” when he confessed the sin of the census. There are sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1), and we tend to emphasize the first and minimize the second. But sins of the spirit can also bring terrible consequences. Jesus equated anger with murder and lust with adultery (Matthew 5:21-30). He showed compassion to publicans and sinners, but he called the proud scribes and Pharisees “children of the devil.”
…God in his government permitted David’s sin to bring pain, sorrow, and death, and it hurt David deeply. But God in his grace and mercy forgave David of his sins and even brought good out of great tragedy. Solomon was born to Bathsheba and was made successor to David, and Solomon built the temple on the property David had purchased and on which he had built an altar and sacrificed to God [after he had confessed his sin regarding the census]. Only a merciful God can take a man’s two heinous sins and build a temple out of them! …
God in his mercy doesn’t give us what we do deserve and in his grace he gives us what we don’t deserve — forgiveness! We can come to a throne of grace and receive mercy (Hebrews 4:16). But this doesn’t mean we are free to sin as we please because God is merciful and gracious (Romans 6:1-2)! It simply means that our Father has made provision for us to confess our sins and be forgiven. That’s God’s grace— but don’t forget God’s government. Forgiveness is not cheap; it cost Jesus his life. David on his throne was free to disobey God and number the people, but he was not free to change the consequences of his actions.
[We have the assurance that] God’s mercy never fails. Satan is an accuser (Revelation 12:10) and he seeks to upset us by reminding us of our sins. We must not doubt the promises of God, no matter how we feel when God disciplines us. There may be painful consequences to our sins, but these sorrows don’t mean we are not forgiven. God’s promise in 1 John 1:9 is true and we must claim it by faith.
-Warren Wiersbe (excerpted from the devotional book Old Testament Words for Today)