The Plague Stayed
Monday Club Sermons
2 Samuel 24:15-25
So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning even to the time appointed…

It was time of peace and prosperity in Israel. King David's rule had been blessed, and the people dwelt in safety. In the midst of this happy quiet, David was moved to order a numbering of the people.

I. SIN OVERTAKEN BY JUDGMENT. What was the sin? Outwardly it was in the numbering already referred to. But what wrong could there be in taking a census? It is now found to be useful. It had before been done in Israel, and with Divine approval. The wrong could not have been in the census itself. The real sin, then, like all sin, was in the heart; and plainly its root was pride and vain-glory. King and people forgot their dependence upon God, and the allegiance due to him. The pestilence struck directly at the pride of people and ruler. It crippled their power. It thwarted military ambition. It smote that of which they were ready to boast into feebleness and death. Are we, of these later ages, to look upon like visitations, as of fire or famine or war or pestilence as judgments for sin, or corrections for moral transgression? Never are we to be in haste, or too confident, in interpreting Divine Providence. But when we are told that devouring flames consuming great cities, famine depopulating broad lands, and pestilence which walketh in darkness, and destruction which wasteth at noonday, mean wiser building, better agriculture, more careful drainage — just this and nothing more, at least nothing moral or spiritual — we are sure that one great part of the Divine purpose has been overlooked. Doubtless God does mean that the lower lessons should be learned. He does mean to correct neglect of maxims of prudence. He does so order His laws and dealings as to make us studious, watchful, and faithful in all that pertains to physical life.

II. JUDGMENT DEEPENING REPENTANCE. Our Saviour has taught us that the angels shall be God's ministers in the final judgment (Matthew 13:41.) Here we find that they are His messengers in present ills. It was as one of these had reached Jerusalem, and had outstretched his hand for its destruction, that tie became visible to the king. What true humility, what deep repentance is here! There is no syllable of complaint that the Divine stroke is too heavy. There is no word of personal justification; no shielding of self under another's fault. The sin was not all his; but he saw only his own. "My sin, my transgression!" Such was the language of his crushed, repentant heart. Such is the language of true repentance always — when its work is deep and thorough.

III. REPENTANCE MET BY MERCY. "The Lord repented Him of the evil." The words are startling, as applied to God. And yet they need not be obscure. Note three things with respect to this mercy: —

1. It followed upon the deepened repentance.

2. It came in connection with expiation.

3. Then it did not straightway remove all the consequences of the sin; but, as we may believe, did convert them into means of disciplinary good.One thing only is required from us as the condition of restored Divine favour. That is trusting repentance.

IV. A TRUSTFUL RECONSECRATION. Observe the prompt and cheerful obedience which now marked the king's conduct. No sooner did the Divine message reach him than he "went up as the Lord commanded" (v. 19). Nor did he find the way closed before him. Clearly the Lord, as He is wont to do with contrite souls, had gone before to prepare it. Observe, the Lord is now "the Lord my God!" Here is nearness, trust, love. There is no longer distance or aversion; but such peace as assured pardon always brings. Men who have had great deliverances felt to be from God have always delighted to make them occasions of fresh consecration. With all the more of humble, swelling joy will this be done when the deliverance is from what is seen to be the effect of personal sin — mercy arresting deserved judgment. In his description of the distress of Harold, the last of England's Saxon kings, on account of his false oath, the novelist, Bulwer, has said: "There are sometimes seasons in the life of man when darkness wraps the conscience as sudden night wraps the traveller in the desert, and the angel of the past with a flaming sword closes on him the gates of the future. Then faith flashes on him with a light from the cloud; then he clings to prayer as a drowning wretch to a plank; then that mysterious recognition of atonement smooths the frown on the past, and removes the flaming sword from the future. He who hath never known in himself, nor marked in another, such strange crises in human fate, cannot judge of the strength and weakness it bestows; but till he can so judge, the spiritual part of all history is to him a blank scroll — a sealed volume." There would seem to be many of whom this is true.Is there now any one of us to whom any part of the truth brought to view in this Scripture has not some application?

1. Searching our own hearts, we should surely find some form of sin there — perhaps the very spirit which provoked the displeasure of God against Israel.

2. In His patience God may not as yet have made His displeasure felt by us in pains and ills seen to be traceable to it; and yet He may have sent sorrow, loss, hardships, intended to bring us to Himself; it is certain that He has faithfully forewarned us that for every unpardoned sin He will at some time bring us to judgment.

3. To escape in the evil day no way is offered, none is to be found, save the old way of humble, trusting repentance.

4. For those who thus come the door of His heart is wide open; expiation has already been provided; pardon will be instant and complete; and, while to life's end many painful effects of sin may remain, these, in their case, will be changed to means of good, to chastisements whereby He wilt perfect us in His own image and for His everlasting kingdom.

5. The proof of our repentance and trust and acceptance will appear in prompt obedience, childlike thought of God as our God, and a heart ready, nay, eager to serve in any, however costly, service He may appoint.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

WEB: So Yahweh sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning even to the appointed time; and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

The Plague Stayed
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