“And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.” (2 Samuel 24:14)
David was in trouble. His numbering of the people was an affront to the God who alone had given him his many victories. At his best, he rightly assigned his success to God.
“Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.” (1 Chron. 29:11-13)
Pride is no small sin in God’s sight. It is worthy of humbling judgment. David knew much of God’s lovingkindness. But those who have received His mercy are not exempt from His chastening hand. Mercy does not negate judgment. The judgment received though is corrective, not consuming. It is a “judgment unto victory,” not unto destruction.
How different is the judgment of God from the judgment of men. Even in the death of the wicked, God takes no pleasure. (Ezek. 33:11) “… But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (Prov. 12:10) The wicked retain anger. They are consumed by bitterness, and refuse to let go of offenses. They enjoy seeing the suffering of those they deem worthy of punishment.
David’s behavior was criminal in God’s sight. Judgment was coming. God gave His servant a choice: did he want correction adminstered directly through His hand, or indirectly through the hand of man. As hard as God’s spanking would be, David knew right away it was better to fall into the the hand of His Lord.
Even in judgment, God’s mercies remain great, because the Lord chastens the son He loves. Our fear of man should not be greater than our fear of God. It is fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God when we have not repented of our sin and pride. But to the humbled and repentant, there is always great mercy, even in the midst of sore correction.