Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 12:15-31 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 4/3/2016 in Novato, CA.
Audio recording not available due to technical difficulties.
2 Samuel 12:15-31
“Then David Comforted Bathsheba”
Here we see David dealing with difficult providence. Here we are reminded that there are times we will have to deal with difficult providence. What do I mean by difficult or hard providence? Well, providence in general is about how God is in control of all things. He preserves and governs this world that he made. Nothing happens in this life that is outside of God’s control. He is never caught off guard or surprised or tricked. His reign is supreme because his power is supreme. God always accomplishes his holy will. Of course there is a complexity to God’s will. In his greater wisdom, he has, for example, allowed sin and evil to exist in this world for a time. When we experience the negative effects in this world because of our sin or other people’s sin, it can be difficult. That’s difficult providence to bear. And in a different way, we see difficult providence like in this passage. Here David receives God’s chastisement and it is difficult indeed for him to bear. And so for varying reasons, a Christian will have to endure difficult providential circumstances in his life. In David’s case here it’s a chastisement, but we know there can be many different circumstances that bring hardship and trial and trouble in your life, not just chastisement. Studying David’s dealing with this specific case of chastisement, can help us know how to find comfort amidst the sorrows of difficult circumstances in our own lives.
And so let’s begin with our first point then to consider David’s prayer and fasting. As just mentioned, this is sparked by the chastisement of God that struck his new son born to him and Bathsheba. We are reminded of David’s sin right at the beginning, in verse 5. There it says that the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David. Of course, we know that right now in this passage Bathsheba had already become David’s wife. Uriah was dead. But in view of the sin, verse 5 at this point remembers back to how this child came to life. This child of David was conceived when Uriah was still alive and Bathsheba was still his wife. And so this child was born as a result of this adultery, and verse 5 reminds us of this fact. And so in the chastisement we read about last week, God strikes the child which will lead to his death in 7 days. On a side note, the child’s death on the 7th day probably means he didn’t live to be 8 days old, which is when he would have been circumcised and officially brought into the covenant community per the law.
But at this point, David hopes that he can yet plead to God for mercy for the child. He wants the child to live and not die. That’s what we see in verse 16. David pleaded with God. He fasted. He lay all night on the ground. We see why in verse 22. David explains that his prayer and fasting was hoping that God would be gracious to him in this regard. In other words, David is acknowledging his guilt in that explanation. Clearly his actions also acknowledge his guilt. By fasting and laying on the ground, it’s David humbling himself before God. He’s admitting that he deserves what God is doing, but he nonetheless cries out for mercy and pity and grace. In other words, for him to speak of grace like this, is David’s way of saying that this is not what he deserves, but he pleads with God that he would nonetheless give it.
We see how serious and committed David was to his prayer and fasting based on the response of his servants. In verse 17, they were concerned and tried to get him to eat. They probably are wondering how long he’s going to go without food. I’m sure with every increasing day they became even more concerned. And then we see that once the child died, they were all the more afraid, per verse 18. They are afraid David might harm himself when he gets the news. David’s servants’ reactions show us how serious David was in this prayer and fasting and pleading.
And of course, we already knew that because of what we read with last passage. Remember, I had us also read Psalm 51. That was the psalm that David wrote after Nathan came and rebuked him. That psalm shows David’s clear acknowledgement of his sin. He called out for mercy from God. That God would wash him thoroughly from his iniquity. David asked that God would clean his heart and not take his Holy Spirit from him. David admitted that his sin was ultimately against God. And David acknowledged that God would want David to come to him with a broken and contrite heart. And so that’s exactly what David is doing here. David comes in humble confession of his sin and pleading to God for mercy.
And so by way of application, this is quite a fitting response for us when we face difficult providence in our lives. This is particularly fitting when the difficulties we are facing are a direct result of our own sin. Then David’s example especially applies to us. But the overall notion of serious and committed fasting and prayer in light of difficulties that are not the direct result of our own personal sin, is also very fitting. It acknowledges that we are powerless to save ourselves without God’s help. It submits ourselves to God’s will and his good plan for our lives. It also recognizes that in light of the fact that we are in general sinners, that we ultimately depend on the grace of God in all circumstances.
But I would add one qualification to this point. David’ intense fasting and prayer was in fact in light of this major trial of his dying son. David didn’t live like this normally. After this particular event passed, David does ultimately resume eating and living like what we might call normal. I make this qualification because there have been people especially during the middle ages that have tried to make this kind of fasting and beating up of the body their lifestyle. Some in the name of this kind of attitude, have even lived on the tops of pillars for decades. This asceticism for asceticism’s sake is not biblical. But it is biblical that when there is some major trouble or more seriously difficult circumstance in your life, that then it is fitting for such a season of intense fasting. It’s an occasional, out the ordinary, element of worship. But there is a time and place for it, and we must be wise to determine such times.
I’d like to turn next to our second point to consider David’s worship. We see this in verse 20. David turns from fasting and praying to washing up, changing his clothes, going to the tabernacle, and then worshipping the LORD. After that he then finally has some food. And what sparked the change? The death of his child that he had been praying for. Now this understandably confused his servants. People tend to mourn after their child dies. If anything, David’s response seemed backward to them. They even ask him about this in verse 21.
But I think the first thing then to notice about David’s worship is that it’s in response to the child’s death. Or let me put it like this. It’s in response to God saying “no” to David’s prayers. Think about that. David pleads and fasts for seven days, only for God to effectively deny his request as seen by the child’s death. This is more of that difficult providence. David wanted something and greatly prayed and pleaded with God, but God did not give him what he prayed. David acknowledges this very plainly in verse 23. He says that he prayed while the child was alive, but now the child is dead. David then asks, “Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David has come to accept the will of God in this circumstance.
And so let’s deal with that. David prayed passionately, fervently, for something that he didn’t end up getting. Can any of you relate to that? Well, when it is clear how God has answered your prayer to not give you what you want, can you still relate to David? In other words, when God tells you “no”, is your first response to go and worship him? This is a passage where we again recognize that David really is a man after God’s own heart. Even after all his great sin in last chapter, here was see a man of God. Yes, he’s a man greatly broken over his sin. But he realizes that God in his good providence had done what was righteous in this matter, and so even though he had hoped for something else he knew that worship was the right response. As David had said to God in Psalm 51:4 about his sin, “That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.” In other words, David’s immediate response to worship God here shows that he acknowledges that God was right in his decision. He submit himself to God in such a move to worship.
We find this same spirit reflected in many psalms, even psalms that have been categorized as “psalms of complaint.” A number of psalms of David are such psalms of complaint. A common feature of such psalms is that the complaint is combined with praise. In other words, on the one hand the psalmist is pouring out his concerns to God, expressing his troubles and difficulties to God, but yet such complaint is balanced with praise to God. Such psalms show us that there is a way to be completely real with God about our struggles with difficult providence, in a way that still honors him. And that’s what I see here too then with David’s worship. David didn’t get the answer he wanted to his prayer, but he knows and trusts that God is good even when he personally struggles with the decisions of God. And that’s really putting your humility to the test. If you humble yourself like David did here, it should be to recognize that you are not God and that you don’t know best. So then, when God’s decision is different than what we want, our humility should acknowledge then that the decree of God is right and just. This is the lesson that we find essentially in the book of Job too. God never answers the “why” question for Job. We get a sense at the “why” when we read the book. But God’s answer to Job is more of a call to know the infinite greatness of God and essentially to trust that God knows what he’s doing and is right in what he’s doing.
I’d like to turn now to our third point and consider David’s comfort in all this. Notice that God provides several ways in which he comforts David after all this chastisement and difficult providence. I remember a psalm of David that speaks of such a notion. Psalm 30:5, “For His anger is but for a moment, his favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” After the extremely difficult chastisement that came for David in losing this son, joy came for him in the morning. We see God bringing comfort to David first with the new son that is born. Verse 24. They even seem to acknowledge this in the name they choose for him. They call him Solomon which means “his peace”, probably the idea being that “God is his peace.” You know, when you need comfort, peace is something very similar that you need as well. When you are having great troubles and sorrows, you long not just for comfort, but also for peace. This new son born to David and Bathsheba represented peace for them.
Well, we see God’s comfort for David continue in verse 25. There we see God sending Nathan again to David. Before God sent Nathan to bring the word of God. Again, God sends Nathan to bring the word of God. But that first word came to rebuke David. But here that word comes to comfort David. Nathan tells David that God loves this son. So they call him Jedidiah, which means “Beloved of the LORD”. That too would have greatly comforted David. God’s making clear that what happened with the first son is not going to happen with this one. And of course, even through Solomon, God would provide even greater comfort for David, because ultimately Jesus would come from that line through Solomon! Praise God!
A third way we see God’s comfort to David is in the last section about the capture of Rabbah. That might seem like a completely different episode, but remember the context. We went into this whole Bathsheba incident in the middle of war with the Ammonites. Israel had some initial victory, but the sin with Bathsheba happened while Israel was sieging the capital city of the Ammonites. David should have been out there with the army, but wasn’t. Instead he was back in Jerusalem causing trouble. So now that we finish talking about the Bathsheba incident we are reminded of the battle that is going on. And in this final battle scene with the Ammonites, David is encouraged to come to the battle field and complete the victory. And that is exactly what happens. David comes and has success against the Ammonites. Why is this a comfort for David? Well, it shows that the LORD was still with him. Remember, David’s prayer in Psalm 51 was that God would not take his Spirit from David. Remember, when God departed from Saul, he no longer had the assurance of victory over Israel’s enemies. But that was not the case with David here. As David completes the victory over the Ammonites, it shows that the LORD was still with him. This should have also greatly comforted David in the aftermath of all this difficult providence. It was part of the joy coming in the morning.
One last point under the topic of comfort is to notice that not only does God do some comforting here, but so does David. Look at verse 24. He comforts his wife Bathsheba. Notice, by the way, that now it refers to her as his wife. So when David comforts his wife, I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. That’s the passage that says that Christians can comfort others in their troubles, because we have first know God’s comfort ourselves. Because the God of comfort has comforted us, we can then comfort others. And so that is what David does here. He comforts his wife.
And yet, I ask a question then. How in verse 24 can David comfort his wife? Because you notice that all the things that God does to comfort David here come after the statement that David comes and comforted Bathsheba. In other words, David had to have already known some kind of comfort himself, even before he had Solomon, and before God sent Nathan to encourage him, and before God used him to win against the Ammonites. Before all those tangible expressions of God’s comfort, David was already able to go and comfort his wife. How is that? Well, I’m sure it’s because David’s comfort from God was something deeper than just those tangible expressions of comfort that God would bring later. Yes, it was a great blessing and comfort to have Solomon born, and to win that battle with the Ammonites. But if God hadn’t given those immediate things, David would have still known the comfort of God. It goes back to the same reason why David could worship God even when God didn’t answer his prayer. Because his comfort from God ran deeper than that. It was rooted in the very character of God and the love of God and faithfulness of God that David had known all his life.
And that has to be us as well. When we face real difficult times, whether it be because of our sin, or not, our comfort has to be rooted in something deeper than just our circumstances in this life in the here and now. Because those circumstance do change. They can change so quickly, for good or bad. If our comfort is ultimately based in how things of this life are going here or now, then your comfort is founded on a shaking foundation. But there is a greater foundation in which we can find our comfort. I’m certain that it is what David knew in faith from a distance. What is that foundation for comfort?
Well, let me point you to a somewhat similar yet very different story to show you what this greater foundation is. I think of John 11. There the son of David, Jesus, learns of a loved one who is dying. And in fact that loved one does die. That’s Lazarus. And Jesus weeps. But then he prays. But God does not deny his prayer. Rather, Jesus does what David says that he himself could not do. Jesus’s prayers result in Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. David said in verse 23 that he was powerless to bring his son back from the dead. David’s prayer hadn’t kept his son from dying and certainly now couldn’t bring him back from the dead. But there was one who could. Jesus’ prayer actually could have kept Lazarus from dying in the first place, but in order to show his great power, he allowed Lazarus to die, in order that the glory of God could be revealed.
And so here is the source of comfort that we can truly trust in. And I’m not talking simply about the fact that Lazarus was raised from the dead there. Because if you think about it, even that was only a temporary thing. Lazarus would eventually grow old and die again. But Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead to teach us of a comfort and peace that is greater than any of the momentary things in this world and in this life. Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead to prove what he had just declared in that chapter about himself. Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
Surely that was at the root of David’s comfort. His God who could redeem his life even from death. Surely that hope was there in some sense even when David said in verse 23 about his dead son, saying, “I will go to him, but he shall not return to me.” David’s faith was in a God who will ultimately bring his people to a life of peace and comfort that is far better than anything we can know of in this world. And that must be our ultimate comfort too. For we will have the really hard times in life. And yes, surely there will be the times of great joy too. And there will be the in between times as well. But the God of all comfort wants you to have a peace and a joy that is greater than all this. It’s founded upon he who is the resurrection and the life. Believe in Jesus. Trust him. Pray in his name. Especially when you are going through these difficult seasons of life, go to him in prayer. Jesus has the power to bring comfort and peace to our souls when nothing else can.
Let us keep praying and keep believing and keep trusting in him, until that day when he comes again to bring us to paradise. For that is the prayer we have been assured in the Scriptures that he will never say “no” to. For all who call out to him to be saved through Jesus, he will not deny those prayers. Rather, just as he sent Nathan that day to encourage David of God’s love for Solomon, so too he does with you today. He has you here today as a follower of Christ, to be assured of his love for you. Be comforted today dear beloved child of God amidst all the difficulties and sorrows you face in this life. Joy does come in the morning, even at that wonderful, glorious, day of Christ to come. Amen.
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.