Pristine Grace

Sinners in the Hands of a Merciful God
by John Pedersen

“And David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.’” II Samuel 24:14

These words of David, facing the consequence of presumption in numbering the Israelites (See II Samuel 24), provide as succinct a summary as any of a contrast as ironic as it is typical: God, who withholds judgment through the just satisfaction of His law’s demand, is, for this, great in mercy. Man, on the other hand, himself a sinner and deservingly condemned, is inherently condemnatory and unmerciful. 

David, having sinned, would fall into the hand of a merciful God. He can expect only cruelty at the hands of his enemies. 

This is not the first time David was confronted for his sin. On another occasion, the prophet Nathan confronted him for the sin of adultery and murder.  Then, as in the incident cited above, he makes his appeal: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of your tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin, for I acknowledge my transgressions...”. (Psalm 51:1-3).  His appeal to the mercy of God is the same as in the incident above. His appeal is consistent with the faith of God’s elect. 

David would fall into the hand of God in confidence no cruelty awaited him. Though the consequence of his sin may bring distress and break his bones, he knew the consequence of his sin was not condemning judgment, but correction in love. He seeks the embrace of the correcting arms and hands of His Heavenly Father, and it is so with all who are beloved of God: 

To fall into the hand of a merciful God is to believe God has no issues with you on account of His Son's death for you. 

It is to believe it impossible for God to do anything toward you but love you on account of His having imputed His righteousness to you, and imputed all your sins to the account of Jesus Christ for you. 

It is to see the threat of condemnatory judgment as implicit denial of the judgment Jesus endured, and reject this threat as any motive to obedience; indeed, to realize motivation by threat of judgment only brings hypocrisy and disobedience. 

To fall into the hand of a merciful God is to live confident Christ's virtue and sacrifice meets and silences every accusation against you.