So Gad went and said to David, "This is what the LORD says: 'Take your choice
I. SEE CLEARLY WHAT SIN IS. Give the theories about sin; but apart from theory, or doctrine, endeavour to understand what sin is
(1) in itself;
(2) in its power of growth;
(3) in its subtle and mischievous influences;
(4) in its interference with the Divine order;
(5) in its relations with the Divine Law;
(6) in the sight of God, as intimated in the Scriptures.
When a suitable impression is gained of what sin is, we are prepared to -
II. SEE WHY IT MUST BE MET WITH JUDGMENTS. Because
(1) it beclouds man's conscience, and judgment alone removes such clouds;
(2) it subverts Divine authority, and such authority judgments alone can vindicate;
(3) it interferes with the Divine plans and purposes, and these judgments alone can rectify. The importance of the relation between sin and suffering, transgression and judgment, is best shown by the effort to realize what would now be the moral sentiments of men if this connection had not been assured, and men could now plead that any one of their number had ever sinned with impunity. So essential, indeed, is the connection, that when God grants forgiveness of the sin he seldom, if ever, interferes with the external consequences of the wrong. They are left to work on their severe but beneficent mission. Judgment, in both the small and the large spheres, is the minister, the angel, of the Divine mercy; and we may bless God for his judgments. Note also that Christ, as man, came, for man, under Divine judgments, because he was the Representative of sinners. - R.T.
I. AS THE RESULT OF AN AWAKENED CONSCIENCE.
Thus saith the Lord, choose thee.I. JUDGMENTS ENTAILED BY ONE MAN'S SIN.
II. JUDGMENTS EASILY PREPARED FOR EXECUTION.
III. JUDGMENTS SENT ACCORDING TO HUMAN PREFERENCE.
IV. JUDGMENTS ARRESTED BY EARNEST PRAYER.
II. AS THE REVELATION OF A PRINCIPLE OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. He left himself confidently with God.
III. AS A PICTURE OF FUTURE DOOM TO ALL.
1. The harsh judgments which men pronounce on each other.
2. The harsh treatment of the guilty who are in men's power.
3. The absence of sympathetic kindness in human warfare.
4. That when God punishes He does so in righteousness.
5. That in the treatment of the guilty God always shows mercy.Lessons:
1. Submission to God,
2. Hopeful trust.
Homilist.Let us look at God as representing every true minister of Jesus Christ.
I. GOD'S MESSAGE WAS DIVINE. The gospel is a message from God. This is attested —
1. By the facts of history,
2. By its congruity with the spiritual constitution of men.
3. By the experience of thousands of every age who have felt it to be the power of God unto salvation.
II. GOD'S MESSAGE WAS AN APPEAL TO CHOICE. "Advise thyself." Deliberate, choose for thyself. The gospel message is submitted to your choice.
1. You can accept it.
2. You can reject it.
III. GOD'S MESSAGE WAS TO BE ACCOUNTED FOR.
1. He was responsible for its delivery. So with every gospel minister, and woe be to him if he declares not the whole counsel of God.
2. David was responsible for its results. So are also the hearers of the gospel.
(Homilist.)I. PESTILENCES ARE STRIKING WITNESSES TO THE MAJESTY OF GOD'S LAW.
II. PESTILENCES ARE STRIKING ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE MORAL CONNECTION BETWEEN MEN. Epidemics run rapidly from one to another. No man can live alone to himself. Every one who comes near us is the better or the worse for our influence upon them.
III. PESTILENCES MAY BE THE AGENCY FOR EXECUTING DIVINE JUDGMENTS. Nowadays men hesitate to believe that there can be any connection between a nation's sin and a nation's suffering. With eye fixed upon the natural and physical laws and conditions out of which disease comes, men fail to see Him who overrules all physical conditions, and controls all laws. What, then, is the attitude which Christians should take in relation to epidemic disease 7(1) We ought to cherish a reverent awe of God, the spirit that is becoming in times of storm and tempest, awe of Him who is "Lord of the great things."(2) We should seek by prayer, and in the spirit of penitence, for the removal of the chastening hand.(3) We should ask for grace that we may be brave, brotherly, and self-denying, should disease come actually into our spheres.(4) We should, with calm seriousness, inquire whether we are prepared to face the risks of disease, prepared to die, prepared to "meet our God."
(R. Tuck, B. A.)
1. The fault of the king is mysterious. It is not enough to say that there was pride and vainglory in his heart. If this were all, it might have made the act sinful in the sight of God, but it would not account for the view taken of the act either by the minister or by the historian. There are many things in Scripture, as there are many things in life, which we must leave in the hands of God.
2. The mode of his punishment is full of mystery. A choice of punishments is offered him; but the punishments are all national. "Rulers sin and peoples suffer" has passed into a proverb. Scripture and Providence are at one in this matter. On a king's edict of passion or foolishness may hang a nation's misery or a nation's dishonour. A king's caprice or a king's miscalculation may hand over a nation to a bloody and ruinous war of which it may be the occupation of a century to bear or repair the consequences.
3. The peculiarity of David's penalty is the choice offered him. The day of Divine alternatives is not ended. Every example of a sin brought face to face with its suffering presents an aspect of choice as well as of compulsion. The mere question of confession or denial, with the consequences of either, is such an alternative in the case of individual wrongdoing. The adoption of this expedient rather than that, in the way of avoidance or mitigation of consequences, is an alternative. The way of bearing punishment, the language of regret or of hardness, the tone of submission or of defiance, most of all the spirit of repentance or of impenitence, is an alternative for the individual transgressor. The question of stopping or continuing a hopeless struggle, of accepting a defeat, of submitting to abduction, of "desiring conditions of peace," or on the contrary, of persisting in warfare for the chance of a turn of fortune — the question of renewing a struggle, years or generations afterwards, on the plea of a hereditary title or a popular invitation — is an alternative, real or responsible, on the stage of kings and nations.
4. How shall we read the words, "Let me now fall into the hand of the Lord"? Is it a choice made? or is it a choice referred back to the offerer? Is it, I choose pestilence? or is it, Let God choose? "So the Lord sent the pestilence upon Israel" indicates perhaps on the part of our translators a preference of the former. I choose that punishment which has no human inflicter. But, whatever the application, the principle stands steadfast. In everything let me be in God's hands. Anything which God inflicts is preferable to any suffering which comes through man. But if this be the force of David's words considered as a choice, there is at least an equal interest in them regarded as a refusal to choose. Yes, let us love to live these lives absolutely under God's direction. War, famine, pestilence — if He sees any one necessary, leave Him to choose. Let us not fall into the hands of man — our own, or any other's. We are ill judges — worst of all for ourselves. Our mercies to ourselves are not God's mercies. We are self-sparers as well as self-excusers. If we had our choice, no nerve would ever throb, no hair would ever turn grey. We should grow up, we should go to the grave, we should wake from the dust of the earth spoilt children — with all the irregularities, and all the selfishness, and all the unhappiness, which cling to and cluster round that name. What are we to one another? How does selfishness warp our judgments — selfish love first, then selfish fear.
1. David was very much troubled when the time for decision came: he was "in a great strait."
2. His choice was more devout in form than in substance; for, had he chosen defeat in war, he would still have been "in the hand of God."
3. It is highly probable that, after the choice was made, David was doubtful of its wisdom. We may consider —
I. THE ELEMENT OF CHOICE IN THE EVILS OF LIFE. — Two things are open to us here.
1. One relates to the measure of trouble we experience. By healthy habits, by obedience to the laws of our spiritual and our physical nature, by keeping within the lines of wisdom and virtue, by commending ourselves to the approval of man and also of God, we may materially reduce the measure of evil which otherwise we should endure.
2. The other relates to the kind of trouble we are called to face. It is often left to our choice to decide whether we will meet the dangers, the difficulties, the temptations, the trials of our condition in life, or those of the opposite condition — whether those of ignorance or of learning, of loneliness or of society, of obscurity or of conspicuousness and responsibility. It may be timidity or cowardice that inclines us to the one, and high-minded courage that incites us to the other; or it may be modesty and wisdom that urge us to the one, and nothing better than an unhallowed ambition, or even an exaggerated sense of importance, that allures to the other. Ii; behoves us, as we stand in front of the future, with our path in life before us, very earnestly to seek the guidance of God, that we may choose that course, the perils of which we may face with hope, the evils of which we shall endure with calmness and fortitude.
II. THE WORKING OF THE DIVINE HAND IN THEM. The measure and the nature of our troubles is uncertain. That they will come is as certain as anything can be. No "good fortune," no sagacity, no caution will exclude them from the experience of life.
1. Our preference in regard to their form. Like David, we prefer to feel ourselves in the hand of God rather than in the hand of men. We feel that our burden is heavier when it is due to human carelessness, and heavier still when due to human heartlessness and malignity. The severest aggravation of trouble is where the evil that has been wrought is the work of some near relative or some familiar friend, or some old colleague from whom we had a right to expect quite opposite treatment (see Psalm 4:12-14). We feel that if we are to have suffering or sorrow we should much prefer the unaccountable sickness, or the unavoidable loss, or the inevitable bereavement which we can refer at once to the ordinary will of God.
2. The truth we recognise when we consider it. As we think on this subject we realise that all trouble is ultimately of God.(1) Much of it is penal, the just consequence of ill-doing, the outcome of those laws which originate in Divine holiness.(2) Much of it is disciplinary; it is the pruning, the refining process of Him who is seeking spiritual fruit; it is the ordering of the wise and faithful Father of spirits (Hebrews 12:1-12).(3) All of it is permissive. If the sparrow does not fall without the Divine permission, how much less does the obedient son or daughter suffer grief or pass through troublesome times or go down to death without the sanction of the present and watchful Lord. So that, whatever comes and whencesoever it comes, we are free to think and say, "Thy will be done, Lord"; the trial never comes to us when we are not "in the hand of the Lord."
3. The attitude we should assume toward it. Even when we have to reproach ourselves, or even when we are obliged to condemn our neighbours or our ancestors as the immediate authors of our trouble, we may and we should accept it as that which comes in the providence of God.(1) We should bow submissively to His will who (to say the least) suffers us to be tried as we are.(2) We should seek from Him the sustaining strength which will empower us to bear all things unrepiningly and even cheerfully.(3) We should have an open mind to .perceive, and an open heart to welcome the practical lessons which our heavenly Father is desiring to teach us.
(William Clarkson, B. A.)
Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord
1. Take a legal case. In the first instance it may be brought before the local magistracy; but very possibly the result may be considered unsatisfactory by one party or the other, hence the case may be moved to the court above; there again dissatisfaction may be the result, and an appeal may be carried to the highest court in the land. The result even then may not be satisfactory; still by so much as the case has been carried to the highest tribunal and pronounced upon by the highest wisdom, there is strong ground to rest upon. Not only so, but there is a point beyond this; for by so much as a man wishes that there were yet another superior court to which an appeal might be made does he show how deeply graven upon the heart is the law that it is better to fall into the hands of the highest than into the hands of the lowest; that it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of men.
2. What is true in the law is equally true in all criticism.
3. Take the case of the young speaker. It will be for the advantage of such a man to be judged by the greatest orators which the country can supply.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Homilist.We shall look at David's exclamation here in three aspects.
I. AS INDICATING WHAT IS A. NATURAL TENDENCY IN ALL SOULS. There is a strong propensity in all men to "fall into the hand" of others, giving up their judgment, freedom, individuality to others. This shows itself in the exercise of unbounded trust. Man is essentially dependent. Hence his existence is one of trust in others. This trust is the very base and bond of social life. Trusting others within certain limits is right and necessary, but when the principle carries us to the entire subjection of ourselves to our fellow-men, we have gone wrongly and ruinously.
II. AS REVEALING THE TRUE SPIRIT OF LIFE. David's tendency to trust took the right direction.
1. His preference was right.(1) God is our Owner.(2) God is all-powerful in His character. There is everything in His character to command our unbounded trust, our entire surrender.
2. This preference is expedient. It is far better to fall into the hand of God than man.(1) Unbounded trust in man must destroy your freedom. Such trust in God secures it.(2) Unbounded trust in man pollutes and degrades the character. Such trust in God purifies and elevates it. He whom we most trust exerts the most influence on our characters.(3) Unbounded trust in man must issue in the utmost disappointment and misery. Such trust in God leads to the highest blessedness.
III. AS FORESHADOWING THE INEVITABLE DOOM OF ALL. In one of two ways every man must fall into the hand of God.
1. Voluntarily, by the influence of His grace.
2. Compulsorily, by the force of justice.
Literary Churchman.I. DAVID'S STRAIT.
II. THE GROUNDS OF HIS CHOICE.
III. DIVINE PUNISHMENT AND HUMAN PUNISHMENT. Human punishment is necessarily to a great extent for self-protection, and therefore selfish. When the laws of society punish the crime of murder or of theft, it is primarily with the object of preventing the committal of more murders and more thefts. God's laws have penalties attached to them, but when God punishes He seeks not the destruction of the sinner, but his healing and reformation. While man's punishments are in principle revengeful, or at best for the defence of society, God's punishments are remedial and reformatory; and therefore it is better to fall into the hand of God than into the hands of men. Application:
1. God in human redemption.
2. Human legislation directed to the repression of wrong incomplete, because it can only reach the outward action. God's laws deal with motives, and are therefore complete and perfect (1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12).
(H. W. Beecher.)
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