II Samuel 12:15-31
15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.” 19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” 20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. 21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” 22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him;25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah. 26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. 27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.” 29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. 30 David took the crown from their king’s head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city 31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brick making. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.
Nathan delivered his message and went home. Quite possibly he spent some time in prayer for David having delivered a heavy message. I Chron. 3:4b-5 say, “David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, and these were the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba daughter of Ammiel.” and Luke 3:31, which is part of Joseph’s genealogy, tells us that David and Bathsheba’s son, Nathan, was the one through whom the linage of Adam is traceable to Joseph. It mentions “the son of Nathan.” So we know that, in naming a son after him, David honored Nathan, held no grudges and respected him.
Probably sometime after Nathan the prophet left David’s house David wrote his famous confessions and prayers of Psalm 51. Scripture is clear that God’s forgiveness is very thorough, that as far as the East is from the West, God has removed our transgressions (Psalm 103:12). God forgets our sin. If we were to confess them again later, God might ask us “What sin?” in view of the fact that He, unlike we in our inability to forget things we wish we could forget, is able to intentionally forget. This would help us understand what Ezekiel was talking about when he said we need not mention our sins again, “Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
1. David’s Sincere Prayer for his Son 15-19
“After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill” (15). When God forgives sin, it is thorough, but the history of generations of Christians in the past and our own human experience today indicates that we still live with the consequences of our sin. We may readily observe that David was humbled by this situation and prayed earnestly for his child. Furthermore, his night-long intercession and days of fasting give testimony to his sincerity as indicted in verses 16-17, “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.”
Apparently he was willing to bear the shame of his sin because, far from wishing the reminder of his sin—the child—were dead as some might be tempted to do, David prayed earnestly that he might live. We do not see that David was pleading for forgiveness; he already had that; he was begging for the life of the child. Nathan had told him that the child would die; yet, while it was alive and he had hope for it to live, he earnestly interceded with God for him. Apparently this went on for seven days. So intense and sincere were David’s prayers that when the child died the servants were afraid to tell him of it.
According to verse 18, when the child died on the seventh day, the servants so feared that the grieving David would be put into even more grief, weeping, contrition and anguish of soul, if he knew the baby had died, that they feared to tell him. “ On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, ‘While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.’” David’s servants intended well, but they made the mistake of thinking that David thought as they thought. They did not know that David would react quite the opposite. Why? Because David, even this early in the history of the development of ethics and godly thought, already knew of the hope we can have in the after-life. David had hope for the next life that they evidently did not have. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” They did not know the truth written by Paul in I Cor. 15:19 which David, apparently understood much earlier than his contemporaries—the reality and hope of the future life of the believer. “David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” Now they were in for a surprise.”
2. David Explained a Profound and Practical Matter 20-23
David immediately transitioned from mourning to celebration. “ Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate (20).
Today we would say he took a shower, put on deodorant and after-shave and fresh clothes, went to church and worshipped. Godly people have the ability to think other-worldly. Notice the similarity between David and Job’s spiritually mature reactions. David “went into the house of the Lord and worshiped,” and Job 1:20-21say, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” They acknowledged their afflictions and humbled themselves under them. They prayed as James tell all who are afflicted to do in James 5:13 “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.” According to Ecclesiastes 3:4, there is “a time to weep” and “a time to mourn”, but weeping and mourning should never hinder worshipping.
David gave a thoughtful explanation to his inquiring servants. They asked, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat” (21)! His servants thought it was strange for David to afflict himself for the child’s sickness and then celebrate when the child died. So David explained using a profound tenet in the faith of Christian believers. All over the world Christians celebrate this and Christianity is the only religion that offers this hope. David said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows ? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
In many instances in the Bible we are told that God saw the repentant heart or the humility or some other indication that God’s message had had its desired effect and the person had turned back to the Lord, and accordingly the Lord changed what He was about to do acknowledging the penitent response and behavior of the person He was dealing with. David thought “Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.” It is still the case today in Jewish principle and tradition for interpreting events God’s uses; if the person repents, the threat, judgment or warning is successful. The warning that is heeded and leads to repentance is a successful warning and being successful it no longer needs to be carried out. That is a successful threat of judgment or warning; it was successful inasmuch as it had its desired effect. So for David to fast and pray for the child’s life was quite okay. But when the child died and David could see that healing and restoration was not God’s plan this time, he submitted to the plan of God for the present time, worshipped and moved on in domestic and public life—as we see in the next verses he indeed did.
When in trouble we can always pray with a submissive, quiet and trusting heart to see if God will deliver us. Even if we do not have a specific or particular promise that we can quote to God as we intercede or even if we do not know the will of God in the matter before us, we still can ask Him that, if He is willing, would He do such and such. Submissive praying is powerful praying. Persevering prayer can be submissive or it could be an indication that we are stubborn. We must discern carefully when and when not it is appropriate to persevere.
When a relative or friend falls sick, the prayer of faith can prevail much; while there is life there is hope which gives place for prayer. If the sick person dies that is no indication of a lack of power, love or intent on God’s part. David worshipped. He could not bring the child back. The dead are generally considered to be out of reach for prayer. Tears and prayers do not bring our loved ones back to life. Instead of mourning overmuch for them, it is more beneficial and comforting to remember we have the hope of a future with God. Instead of mourning for his or her death, we should prepare for our own. Even in the Old Testament days, God’s people had some hope for their futures, and in the New Testament, because of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, that line of thought is emphasized and clarified much more.
Godly parents can have great hope for a happy reunion with their deceased babies. Our dead infants and Christian children who die young are much happier and spared much grief. David’s household had many internal problems. Surely Tamar could comfort David’s and Bathsheba’s first baby. That little baby boy was spared, whereas Tamar, who lived, suffered greatly in David’s palace at the hand of her brother Amnon. Who can guarantee the life would have been good for that baby to have lived?
3. A New Beginning 24-25
David’s marriage with Bathsheba did not bring pleasure to God. The whole affair displeased Him greatly. But God hates divorce and a divorce would not have healed anything. Far from that, God gave them a healthy son and even sent Nathan with a name for him. “ Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.” “Jedidiah” means “loved by the Lord.” They had already named him Solomon when the news of the new name arrived. Maybe that is why they called him Solomon and that name is generally used for him.
We can probably safely assume that Bathsheba carried a heavy heart through these times. Knowing her own complicity in the affair with the king, losing her husband, adjusting to a new life in the palace with David surrounded by the intrigue and sorrow of her son who died, were not good reasons for her to be happy. But God not only restored David’s joy of salvation but also gave comfort to Bathsheba. David comforted Bathsheba, but with the birth and success of Solomon, surely God’s comfort was better. God gave them, together, a son. “Solomon” means “peaceful,” possibly possibly named that way since his birth was a sign of God’s being at peace with them. The same God who gave Seth instead of Abel now gave Jedidiah who is a type of Christ, God’s son in whom He is well pleased.
David patiently submitted to the will of God in the death of the other child, and now God made up for the loss of that one in the birth of this one. There is a lesson here for us. When we cheerfully yield to God’s dealings, God is free to work through those of us He calls to serve Him. When we as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, teachers or Christian leaders have a bad attitude, a complaining spirit and harbor a resentment toward God or the circumstances He has allowed in our lives, we spoil, destroy and impair the treasured ministry of the Holy Spirit through us. The way to have our all-important anointing restored, continued or increased is to cheerfully surrender all complaints and grievances to God. Because just as God’s wisdom flowed through Jedidiah—loved of God—known as Solomon, so you and I are not only reconciled to God, but become His favorites and as God uses you, the gifts He has given you are released to stream unhindered through you to many.
4. Another Military Victory 26-31
We do not know if the birth of Jedidiah in Jerusalem or the conquest of Rabbah in Ammon came first. In other words, we do not know if the cloud of guilt and sorrow still hung over David’s head during this campaign or if he went to the battlefront having already won his domestic battles and with the joy of forgiveness encouraging and strengthening his advances. In any case, we may note that God was gracious to David to give him these great successes against his enemies to the south—the Ammonites. Though David used the Ammonites sword to murder Uriah, yet God used David’s sword to destroy the ungodly Ammonites. David had good reason to know that God was not dealing with him according to his sin, but in accord with His blessing on his reign. Ps 103:10 is applicable again. It says “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”
While David was occupied with domestic concerns in Jerusalem, meanwhile Joab was successful near Rabbah. We see Joab acted honorably in giving to David the opportunity to once again lead the armies of Israel into victorious battle. “Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me” (26-28). We may notice that Joab shows himself a faithful servant who desired more to honor his king (and uncle) than to take the credit for conquering Rabbah.
David was either eager to get away from domestic problems in Jerusalem, or, more likely, recently forgiven and sensing God’s blessings again on his life was again ready to run through a troop and leap over a wall, so he accepted Joab’s invitation. “So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. David took the crown from their king’s head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brick making. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem” (28-31).
We can only hope that David was not too eager to wear Hanun’s jewel-studded gold crown or too greedy in taking much plunder. Our desire would be for David to have cast the crown at the Lord’s feet and declare it was the Lords not David’s. We could also wish that David was not too harsh in assigning work to the conquered. If this took place before the birth of the child, Nathan’s visit, the prayer and the forgiveness, then these actions might be interpreted to mean that David was altogether too ambitious and too harsh. If, on the other hand, all this took place after the child’s birth, Nathan’s visit, the forgiveness, the sickness, fasting and the prayer etc., we would interpret this as joyful celebration of God’s blessing on the battlefield possibly as a sign of the forgiveness and restoration God had given to David.
The big lesson from this part of David’s life is that what we do and the attitude we have can hinder the movement of the Holy Spirit through us. Even after the sin of adultery and murder were confessed and forgiven; even after David prayed and fasted for the life of his first son by Bathsheba; David still had to keep his attitude right, yield the situation into God’s care, and worship. There in the temple look and see David worshipping. Look into his heart and see that he is not complaining about his loss. He is humbling himself before his God and God will lift him up. He is an example for any man or woman of God who wants to maintain God’s fresh anointing through the ups and downs, twists and turns, headaches, heartaches and experiences of Christian ministry. We are forgiven, but we still have losses and every day have to deal with our corrupt flesh, the consequences of past decisions and actions, die daily, keep our hearts free from resentment and maintain a sweet and cheerful demeanor that is right in God’s sight. Then God can work through us.