Then Nathan departed to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. (2 Samuel 12:15-18)
In one way it was all over. King David’s season of scandal, sin, cover-up, and distance from God ended when he confessed his sin before God and others. He was finally free from the chains of unconfessed, hidden sin that weighed him down for so long. Click here to read more of David’s remarkable confession of sin.
In another way it was just beginning. Most of the consequences of David’s sin had yet to touch him. They would begin to seriously affect him on this same day that he confessed his sin. According to our text, the child born from David and Bathsheba immediately became ill. Nathan the Prophet said the child would die, so when the child quickly fell ill the writer of Scripture says, “the Lord struck the child.” Sadly, often the innocent are made to suffer because of the sin of the guilty.
This was far more tragic for David and Bathsheba than it was for the child himself. Their young son suffered for several days and we may trust that God’s comfort was extended to the child in the midst of suffering. At the end of his suffering the child went to eternal glory. Though the child died, the chastisement was really upon David and Bathsheba and not upon the child.
This illustrates an important principle: even when sin is forgiven a price must be paid. God does not simply pass over or excuse our sin. It is forgiven and a price is paid. Often an innocent party pays the price for forgiveness.
When this judgment against David, Bathsheba, and the child was announced, David responded with action. It says “David therefore pleaded with God for the child.” David was right to take the announcement and presence of God’s judgment as an invitation to earnestly seek His mercy. When God’s judgment is announced or present, we shouldn’t receive it passively or fatalistically. We should cry out to God in repentance and ask for His grace and mercy, realizing we deserve none of it – but He is often generous in giving it.
Despite David’s earnest prayer and fasting, the child still died. It shows us that extraordinary prayer and fasting are not tools to get whatever we want from God. They are demonstrations of radical submission and surrender to God’s power and will. David’s real prayer was for God’s best, and God did what was best. David’s satisfaction with it all was clear in his reaction to the death of the child.
2 Samuel 12:20 tells us that when the child died, David went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. This shows that David’s extraordinary prayer and fasting were answered. He had a sense of peace when the child died, knowing he did all he could to seek God’s mercy in a time of chastisement.
The ability to worship and honor God in a time of trial or crisis is a wonderful demonstration of spiritual confidence. David received this season of chastisement as he should – as the loving correction of God. In commenting on this passage, the great Bible teacher F.B. Meyer wrote: “God’s mercy to his erring and repentant children will be shown in converting the results of their sin into the fires of their purification.” David was under the heat of the refiner’s fire and he allowed it to burn away the impurities and bring the needed correction. When you feel the heat, turn to the Lord the same way.
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David’s weekly devotional is also translated into German.