When you were a child and you disobeyed your parents, did you have a preference as to which parent would punish you? Did you consider that mom is a softie so you’d rather she deal out the punishment? Or that you have your dad wrapped around your finger so you’d prefer that he decided how to punish you? Sometimes we are able to agree, when we are disobedient, that we deserve punishment. But we are wise enough to know that there are different levels of punishment and we typically desire the fate of the more merciful parent. David felt that way when he sinned against God in first Chronicles, chapter 21. This is when David decided to take a census of Israel. Ignoring righteous council, David allowed himself to indulge in his pride, thereby sinning against the Lord. When God gave him a choice of punishment, David replied this way in verse 13 which says:
“David said to Gad, ‘I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.’”
God gave David three choices for his punishment: to experience three years of famine, three months of being swept away before his enemies, or three days of plague in the land as the angel of the Lord ravages every part of Israel. To David, receiving punishment from God was better than falling into the hands of men because he knew that, unlike men, our God is a merciful God. So Israel experienced a great plague. And true to his nature, the Bible explains that, “the Lord saw it and was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.’” So I encourage you to remember we serve a merciful God. He doesn’t take pleasure in punishing us. But just like a parent, he does it for our own good.
God is holy, righteous, mighty, and sovereign. When we sin against him, often times there is an earthly punishment that follows. But God is also merciful. He doesn’t take pleasure in seeing those he loves; those who have sinned and have repented, suffer his judgement. And in that mercy, God may relent. Like he did with David, God may choose to withdraw his hand. We can’t always count on the mercy of men, but we can always appeal to the mercy of God. So I encourage you to remember the kind of God we serve. Yes, he is holy and sovereign, but he is also compassionate and merciful.