2008-11-15 - Heidelberg 11.2
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 26
2 Samuel 24:14, "Then David said to Gad, 'I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man."
Question 11.2: But isn't God also merciful?
Answer: God is certainly merciful, but he also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty - eternal punishment of body and soul.
Let us learn a lesson quickly from David. He had sinned in numbering the people (2 Samuel 24), and God promised punishment. The prophet Gad brings the news. He was given three options, none of them all that attractive, and David did not know what to reply. So he decides to fall into the hands of God directly, because he knows God to be merciful. He knew his sin would be punished, but he also knew God's goodness to him. David cast himself upon God, who he hoped would be more merciful than severe. 70,000 died as a result of David's sin. We see from verse 16 that God did moderate what He sent in punishment. God displayed His mercy in this passage, and David displayed his wisdom in trusting that God is certainly merciful.
2 Samuel 24 is a remarkable passage, in light of the Catechism question we are considering. We see God's mercy, but also that He is just. We see that sin demands to be punished, but in this case, we are given a window into God's graciousness which is experienced most fully in Jesus Christ. God punished sin in Christ. On the cross, He laid the sins of all Christ died for upon Him. In His death, Christ paid the penalty due for all that the Father had given the Son. Jesus says, "Of those whom Thou hast given, Me I lost not one," John 18:9. God's mercy is seen in a very personal manner when we consider that our sin is laid upon Christ and is punished in His death. Sin must be punished, because sin is committed against a holy God, but having been punished in Christ, all who come to the Father through the Son receive full pardon and mercy. Isn't God merciful? God is certainly merciful.
Let us consider the connection between soul-distress and sound thinking. The grace of God is precious to those who know deeply the authenticity of sin forgiven. When we are made aware of our sin, as David was in 2 Samuel 24, we experience the sadness of our reckless disobedience. Soul-distress is a good way of describing our condition. However, when we are made alive (more on that in 11.3) by the Spirit, and we experience the personal love of the Father through the propitiation of the Son, the guilt of sin is taken away. We know the sweet taste of sin forgiven, and mercy, mercy, mercy is a word almost too precious to even speak about. It is so personal, and the life change we know because of God's mercy usward in Christ becomes beyond common expression. God is certainly merciful, and to know His love in Christ is to experience His love and enjoy a visit of His grace.
Soli Deo Gloria,