2 Samuel 24:13-14, 25 (NLT)
So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the LORD who sent me.” “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”…David built an altar there to the LORD and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the LORD answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
In this story, David has sinned by ordering a census to be taken throughout his kingdom. Scholars debate why this act was so sinful that it required God’s punishment in the form of a deadly plague. When 70,000 people had died and the plague was about to enter Jerusalem, God “relented and said to the death angel, ‘Stop! That is enough!'” (v. 16). David saw the death angel by a threshing floor in Jerusalem. He confessed his sin to the angel and begged to take the punishment upon himself alone, not realizing that God had already called off the devastation.
Always remarkable about David is his faith in God. Scripture is clear that as king, David sinned mightily and often, yet he continued to walk closely with God. In this passage, David expresses trust in God’s mercy despite the horror of God’s punishment and the knowledge of his own sin. And David was proved right! God showed compassion and mercy even before David saw the angel, before he made arrangements to buy the threshing floor so he could build an altar there and pray for his people.
We can learn from David what it means to hold firm to our faith in God when we are going through difficult and painful times. The test of our faith is to look for God in the midst of a hurtful situation, to understand with our minds (belief) and experience in our hearts (trust) that although God may seem hidden, he is never absent but is always right beside us, listening to our pleas, feeling our pain, and working for our good.
When our prayers seem to go unanswered, we may suspect that God has gone off and left us alone. Scripture tells us this is never true, so where does such a thought come from? It turns out, this is a favorite lie perpetrated by Satan, who even used it on Jesus when he was fasting in the wilderness. Our best defense against such deception is to stay close to God, as David did, to believe in our minds and trust in our hearts that God is exactly who he says he is, and to understand that God’s answer to our prayers may not be in a form we recognize or anticipate.
FATHER, when bad things happen to me, I sometimes feel terribly alone, abandoned and spiritually shaky. Give me a faith like David’s, so I can see you in the midst of my suffering and trust your love for me. Help me to see through Satan’s persuasive lies that spotlight the weaknesses in my faith and my character, driving me away from you. Strengthen my heart to pray through my doubts and find you right beside me, guiding and reassuring me with the truth of the cross.
Psalm 27:9; Hebrews 13:5
When do you feel closest to God, and when do you feel distant? Do you detect a pattern?