THE PASSAGE: 2 Samuel 24:13-17, 25 (EXPANDED PASSAGE: 2 SAMUEL 24)
(13) Gad came to deliver the message: “Do you want three years of famine in the land, or three months of running from your enemies while they chase you down, or three days of an epidemic on the country? Think it over and make up your mind. What shall I tell the one who sent me?”
(14) David told Gad, “They’re all terrible! But I’d rather be punished by God, whose mercy is great, than fall into human hands.”
(15-16) So God let loose an epidemic from morning until suppertime. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand people died. But when the angel reached out over Jerusalem to destroy it, God felt the pain of the terror and told the angel who was spreading death among the people, “Enough’s enough! Pull back!”
The angel of God had just reached the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Davie looked up and saw the angel hovering between earth and sky, sword drawn and about to strike Jerusalem. David and the elders bowed in prayer and covered themselves with rough burlap.
(17) When David saw the angel about to destroy the people, he prayed, “Please! I’m the one who sinned; I, the shepherd, did the wrong. But these sheep, what did they do wrong? Punish me and my family, not them.”…
(25) He built an altar to God there and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. God was moved by the prayers and that was the end of the disaster
READ: Skim the expanded passage. Now read the excerpt three times carefully.
THINK/PRAY: Set the text aside and imaginatively replay the story, inserting yourself as a character in it. Perhaps you will be one of David’s elders, or David himself.
What do you think and feel as you hear God’s words of discipline? What do you experience as you walk through this tension-filled and tragic day? What do you see? Hear? Smell? What questions do you have for God? Are you angry? Afraid? Talk to him.
As the end of the day approaches and you see God’s interaction with the angel, what is that like for you? When God’s heart is changed by David’s prayers, what thoughts and feelings bubble up in you? Express them to God.
LIVE: C. S. Lewis wrote, “[Each sinful act leaves a mark] on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure–or enjoy–for ever. One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that, however angry he gets, he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both.” Are there any “little marks” on your soul that you haven’t talked about with God? Explore recent experiences, reactions, thoughts, and feelings you’ve had. What do they tell you about what’s inside your heart? Talk to God about this, and make note of any action that you feel he is leading you to.
So…I don’t really want to do the activity suggested by this week’s reading. Furthermore, even if I did do the activity (or rather, when I do the activity), I don’t know that it’s necessary I share with you what my “little marks” are for you to benefit from this blog. Call it an effort to practice discretion in whether or not to participate in full disclosure or fear, but I’m not going to share all my little marks (though, admittedly, I’ve shared quite a few already). But, I will share what has struck me about this passage.
God felt their pain. God felt their pain, and David’s prayer for deliverance or mercy was enough for God to stay His hand (or the angel’s hand). I don’t mind saying that hearing that David’s prayers for mercy being answered while mine weren’t would’ve been grounds for me to throw a fit this time a year ago. If God really felt our pain, why didn’t he deliver us from our circumstances? That would’ve been my prayer a year ago. Honestly, that probably would’ve been my prayer as recently as 6 months ago, too. Because, you see, when I feel pain, my first reaction is to recoil. When I see others feeling pain, I want to rush in and alleviate it, if I can. I realize that this is not always a smart move. Sometimes people need to live in their pain because they need to know what the consequences are. Sometimes people don’t have a choice but to live in their pain because God refuses to move them until His purposes have been fulfilled.
But there’s one thing I’ve come to believe about suffering. It doesn’t matter the cause of the suffering. It doesn’t matter the delivery method of said suffering. Anybody who is suffering – everybody who is suffering – has to deal with God over that suffering. Some press in and draw closer to Him. Some jerk their hand out of his and try to take back control of their lives. Others turn their backs on Him. Regardless, we all have to decide where we go from here (wherever our “here” is when the suffering starts).
Maybe you are like me and wondering where God was when you were crying out for your deliverance from the injustice in the world. Maybe you just wanted to catch a break just this once because all your life you’ve felt like you’ve always gotten the short end of the stick. Maybe you are just tired of the “bad guys” always winning while the “good guys” always seem to come in second. I don’t know where you are in life right now, but I bet there’s a good chance that you’ve wondered how God let it get where it is. And if your life is just fine right now, I bet you can remember a time when you felt that way. But…if you’ve neither been in either position, let me tell you – it’s coming. The question is: what are you going to do with your suffering? Are you going to let it make you bitter and dried up on the inside? Or…are you going to let it do its transformative work, making you look more and more like Christ as time goes by? Will you throw in the towel? Or will you get up, dust yourself off, pick your gloves back up, and fight for another day?
My prayer is that you will fight. His mercies really are new every morning. And you only need strength for the day you are on. You can hold on to yesterday’s victories and you can’t borrow from tomorrow. You have to do the best you can with the measure of grace you’ve been given today.
Dear Heavenly Father, if there is anyone out there right now thinking about quitting in whatever form that may look like for them (suicide, divorce, back-sliding), I pray that you would send someone their way to encourage them to hold on just a little while longer. I pray that you would intervene supernaturally in such a way that they have no doubt that you have visited them tonight and they would be strengthened and comforted by the thought that “this too shall pass.” Show them that you do feel their pain, that you are intimately touched when they are suffering. Show them that this was never your plan for your Creation, that you long to be in communion and relationship with us, and show them that you have made a way for them to come back into the fold. I pray for anyone who is reading this who may be hurting and needs comforting. You alone, O Lord, are the Great Comforter. To who else can we turn when things have gone wrong. You are the creator of the universe. You knew us before we were formed in our mothers’ wombs and you know every single hair on our heads. You alone know exactly what it is we need when we are hurting. Meet the needs of those who may be hurting tonight, Dear Lord, as only you can.
I pray all these things in Your Son’s Precious and Holy Name, the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.