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Trusting Mercy (2018-0729)

. 3 min read

28-29
July 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying
the Psalm, Psalm 130
Children,
Mark 10.46-52
Message,
2 Samuel 24.1-25
Mission
Moment, UMC Global Health, medical mission in Nepal
Trusting Mercy. Not that easy, especially when we deal
with so many persons who are not at all merciful.
Some fascinating background questions…
Why
is God angry at Israel?
Why
does God instigate David to evil?
·      
1
Chronicles 21.1, not the LORD but the Satan
·      
What
shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! (Romans 9.14)
·      
No
answer in the text, no consideration given in the least
·      
Live
in ambiguity, live without answers
·      
David
is ignorant of the back story… he just TRUSTS, and he trusts mercy! (The mercy
of a God who is behind the whole thing!)
What’s
wrong with a census?
Twice in the wilderness (book of Numbers), a census is
taken of all Israel. How is this different?
·      
The
only census of Israel by Israel recorded in the Scripture took place in Numbers
and under David
·      
When
you take a census of the Israelites to register them, at registration all of
them shall give a ransom for their lives to the LORD, so that no plague may
come upon them for being registered (Exodus 30.12).
Critical reading, looking at the subtext… (see Bruce
Birch, NIB, 1380)
·      
The
ARMY conducts the census, under the assumption that people don’t want to be
counted.
·      
This
census becomes the basis for a future military draft, forced labor, and
taxation (1 Kings 4 and 5).

Bruce Birch remarks, “To those who have power, or feel
they have access to those in power, bureaucratic processes most often seem
benign, necessary, or neutral. But to those who live their lives outside the
circles of power and on the margins of the social order, such processes are
threatening and dangerous – even a census. For the 1990 United States Census,
the percentage of those who remained uncounted in the inner cities of the
largest metropolitan areas has been estimated as high as 25 percent. Among the
poor and immigrant residents of our cities, many felt that to be found and
counted was to be put at risk.” (1382)
      For the
poor and the immigrant, for others on the margins, they unfortunately have
precious few reasons to trust in the mercy of the state.
      As we
approach the 2020 census, and deal with other public policy matters, it is our
calling as the people of God to honor, love, and care for those on the margins.
It is our calling as Christ Church to remember that one of our two ancestor
congregations was located for people on the other side of the literal railroad
tracks. While there may not be a climate of trust in the powers of the state,
we can at the very least create and nurture a climate of trust and mercy in
this fellowship.
Bruce Birch goes on to say, “The dangers of
self-interested power do not go wholly unrecognized in our own time, but the
response is often reform rather than repentance, renewed practice rather than
renewed prayer” (1383).
·      
More
efficient bureaucracy is not a bad thing, but it does not solve the problem of
power
·      
We
ALL need to repent
What
does this reveal about the character of David?
Responsibility
·      
“These
sheep, what have they done?” He is the shepherd of Israel, and he remembers to
put the sheep first
·      
“I
will not give to the LORD what costs me nothing.” No token, no tip … not even a
tithe. A tribute – at great personal cost.
Repentance
·       David
was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people. David said to the
LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, I pray
you, take away the guilt of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.”
(2 Samuel 24.10)
Risk-taking
·      
I
am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is
great; but let me not fall into human hands. (2 Samuel 24.14).
What
do we learn about God?
For all the ambiguity of whether or not God is just,
we do learn two things about God’s judgment in this story:
1.    
It
is finite, limited, perhaps even lesser in proportion to the sin. God gives
David three choices, each of which is terrifying but each of which is limited.
2.    
In
the words of the book of James, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2.13).
God does not suspend judgment because of anything David has done. The episode
at the threshing floor occurs after
judgment is suspended. David chooses to fall into God’s hand, because David
believes God to be merciful. And David is right.
Resources:
Birch, Bruce. The First and Second Books of Samuel. The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 2.
Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1998.