Theme: God’s Anger and God’s Favor
From this week’s lessons we learn of God’s power and mercy to heal, and what we need to do in response.
Scripture: Psalm 30:1-12
David knew that God’s anger would be short-lived, while his favor would continue. We know that this was no mere theory for David, because there is an incident from his later life in which he put his convictions regarding this aspect of God’s character into practice. Second Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 tell how David decided to number the fighting men of Israel and sent Joab and the other commanders throughout the kingdom to do it, despite their protest that it was a vain request and would displease God. The act did displease God with the result that a man named Gad, David’s prophet at court, came to him with a choice of three judgments. He could experience three years of famine, three months of being swept away before his enemies, or three days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of the kingdom. David chose the latter because, he said, “Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men” (2 Sam. 24:14; par.).
David’s choice reflected the conviction we have seen in the psalm, and it proved to be a wise choice. For although the plague did fall on Israel and 70,000 men died the first day, when the angel of death came to Jerusalem and was about to attack it the Lord was grieved for the people and told the angel to withhold his hand and withdraw. So the plague was arrested.
The place the plague stopped was the threshing floor of Araunah which David then bought and appointed to be the future site of the temple and of the altar of burnt offering where atonement for sin by sacrifice should thereafter be made.3
A moment ago I said that David is thinking of the character of God in our text and not merely of a balancing out of good and bad times with the weight being on the side of the good. He is thinking of God’s favor and disfavor. But it is also true, isn’t it, that God’s favor (forget his disfavor for a moment) also controls those otherwise simply good and bad experiences? We do experience hard times. They are part of life. But God is gracious in those things too, so that we generally experience far more of the good than the bad. Haven’t you found it to be so? Can’t you look back on your life as a Christian and confess that God has been very good to you, that he has kept the bad days to a minimum and multiplied the good? It is a rare Christian who cannot say that.
I acknowledge that some Christians do suffer a great deal, and sometimes their suffering is so intense it seems longer than it truly is. What do we say of such circumstances? In that case, we need to see our experiences not only in the light of this world but of eternity. Harry Ironside tells that when his father was dying he was suffering a great deal. A friend visited him and, leaning over, said, “John, you are suffering terribly, aren’t you?”
The father did not deny it. “I am suffering more than I thought it was possible for any one to suffer and still live,” he said. “But,” he added, “one sight of his blessed face will make up for it all.”4 That is the true Christian’s ultimate perspective. It is the faith that triumphs over everything.
Review the story in David’s life illustrating God’s anger and favor.
Why did David choose the punishment he did?
Reflection: What are the evidences in your life that God’s blessings have outweighed the hardships?
3H. C. Leupold believes this incident actually lies behind Psalm 28 and was the occasion for it. According to his view, “the house” of the psalm’s title would be the future house of God or temple, soon to be built by Solomon, and the psalm would have been used for the first “dedication” of the site when the land was purchased. He lists a number of significant parallels between the two, concluding, “The psalm fits this historical situation as a glove fits the hand” (Exposition of the Psalms [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), pp. 251, 252.
4H. A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1952), p. 175.