Thus says the Lord: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself…” (2 Samuel 24:12)
Decision making is not my forte. Even simple selections, like complimentary colors or enticing desserts, leave me unsettled. So, I get both! Who’s with me?
But life isn’t all shopping and dining, is it? We find out just how limited control is when a bomb drops, like betrayal, failure or loss. While options can increase distress over decisions, not having a say is worse. Choice matters, especially when life and death are on the line.
So, I understand King David’s predicament in 2 Samuel 24. He decided to take a census of all Israel and Judah, despite God forbidding it (1 Chron. 21:3). Bad move. Numbering the people reflected dependence on himself when David well knew God could win a battle with just one man (Hello? Goliath). He presented the idea as “preparation”, but pride was more likely the motive. God was not pleased. After the 10-month census, David recognized his wrong and repented. But, as follows sin, consequence came. Thus says the Lord: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself…” (2 Samuel 24:12)
In verse 13, the prophet, Gad, presented these penalties: 7 years of famine, 3 months fleeing while enemies pursued, or 3 days plague. None of these options would be easy, but David’s wise reply in verse 14 shows his renewed trust: And David said to God, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” You see, famine would put Israel at the mercy of neighbors, and war would put them at the mercy of enemies (neither of which would affect David personally, due to wealth and status), but David chose option three, in essence, choosing God. Why do I say this? Because a plague could affect anyone, including the King. In making that decision, David willfully placed his judgment and fate in the Lord’s merciful hands.
It’s interesting to note that this census-taking sin was introduced in 1 Chron. 21:1 as Satan’s stand against Israel by manipulation of David. The enemy fouls even our best intentions in this fallen world. Yet, the Almighty Father is never not in charge. The plague wiped out 70,000 people but, if not for the Lord’s loving intervention, the death toll would’ve been much higher. The only way to win in a lose/lose situation is surrender: our expectations to God’s expertise, our pride to God’s purpose, our fear to God’s faithfulness.
Like the 70,000 who suffered because of others, we may not have control, but we always have a choice: God over all. As David, we can recognize, relinquish and rest, trusting the heart of the Lord to be merciful, just and good.
Because Jesus holds life and death, surrender to God’s sovereignty is the optimal option. Every time.