When you know there was something you did, and it was wrong…what do you do?
In the White House collection is a letter from a child to President Cleveland, written in September 1895: “To His Majesty, President Cleveland: Dear President: I’m in a dreadful state of mind; and I thought I would write and tell you all. About two years ago—as near as I can remember, it is two years—I used two postage stamps that had been used before on letters, perhaps more than twice. I did not realize what I had done until lately. My mind is constantly turning on that subject, and I think of it night and day. Now, dear President, will you please forgive me? and I promise I will never do it again. Enclosed find cost of three stamps, and please forgive me, for I was then but thirteen years old, for I am heartily sorry for what I have done. From one of your subjects.”
King David wanted to take the census in 2 Samuel 24:1-9 – in the moment of doing it, he could see no wrongdoing, though this revealed his pride. After David realised he had sinned in taking the census, he repented (2 Samuel 24:10). It was too late, however, and all David could do was accept one of three punishment options: seven years of famine, three months fleeing from his enemies, or three days of disease. Knowing God to be fair and just, and man to be quite otherwise, David chose to leave the matter with the Lord (2 Samuel 24:10–14). The wrath of the Lord was unleashed in a great plague that killed seventy thousand people (2 Samuel 24:15). Then, just as God was about to strike Jerusalem itself, He relented in a display of undeserved mercy. That restraint enabled David to see all the more clearly that he had sinned and that he, not the people, should be held accountable (2 Samuel 24:16–17).
What can we learn from 2 Samuel 24:10-17?
- We never outgrow temptation. David was not inexperienced.
- God graciously gives time to repent. He gave David more than nine months to deal with his sins and make matters right. God will give you time to turn around.
- Sins of the spirit do great damage. All sin is wrong, but it is interesting that the Bible repeatedly condemns stubborn pride. Once David was on his “course,” he was too proud to turn around. We may not be guilty of adultery or murder, but a hard heart and pride might lead to bigger evils with huge consequences.
- Our sins involve others. Seventy thousand people died because David disobeyed the Lord. When you sin, it may have immense effects on those around you.
- True confession is a costly thing. It is more than a quick prayer and quoting of 1 John 1:9! True confession involves facing sin honestly and obeying God’s Word regardless of the price we must pay.
God will forgive and bring blessing. Let us put ourselves into the hands of the Lord, for great are His mercies toward us!