v 15b ..."Then the Lord struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick."
A couple of items to contemplate from this verse:
- It is specific that the Lord struck the child sick.
- The child was male.
- The author phrases it as Uriah's widow, not Bathsheba, keeping the cause of the issue in the forefront. She bore another man's child.
- And, the Lord struck the child sick, not dead.
Why sick and not dead? As always, I do not presume to speak for God; but the next verse is my clue:
v. 16 "Davis, therefore, inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground." For seven days, he denied himself to intercede for the child. Even when his elders were pressuring him to eat and take care of himself. To the point they thought he might harm himself when the baby actually died.
David got himself (and the baby and Bathsheba, and everyone else) into this when he refused to deny himself everything he wanted- even when what he wanted wasn't his to have.
And even more importantly, David still had hope for the child and went seeking God's face. Something else he wasn't doing before Nathan came to him.
In other words, David was genuinely repenting and his behavior (at cost to himself) was demonstrating that he really got the point. When we babysit our nieces and nephew and catch them doing something wrong, we correct them. And if we get a smirk or a grin in return, we try again to show them why what they did was wrong. We make an effort to explain it and we look for signs that they "got it". Otherwise, the second we left the room they would resume. We didn't want external pressure to be the only thing mitigating the behavior; but an internal understanding. A smirk does not denote internal understanding. So I used to joke that I wasn't done with the correction until I saw them cry. I did not want them to cry, but I was looking for a sign that they understood, in a real way, that what they had done was unsafe or mean, or whatever. Sometimes, it meant when they did get it, they would tear up.
That's what I perceive as happening with David. Suddenly, the life of his child was on the line and he understood that it was his choices that led to this. Personal responsibility before the Lord.
He also understood that the Lord was his only help. What his elders had to say was useless in light of the circumstances. God and God along could decide how the story would end.
And then this chapter of the story did end tragically. The baby died.
In response, David ended his vigil and went to worship the Lord. Only then did he end his fast and return to his normal life. This was very confusing to the elders, who understood the world, but not necessarily, the Lord. So they asked David about his surprising behavior. Here's his reply: (my paraphrase)
v. 22-23 While the baby was alive, I had hope that God would intervene by His graciousness and answer my prayer. But His answer was 'no', so now it is out of my control. God has decided and it is final.
I want to burn this scene into my mind. I think there are so many lessons for living.
- There are consequences for sin. Sometimes we pay them, sometimes we are forgiven of the sin and the consequence, and sometimes we are forgiven of the sin, but still bear the natural consequence.
- Genuine repentance bears witness through changed behavior. David didn't have his men fast, as Saul had done when he was trying to change outcomes. David fasted in a long and serious way.
- David took personal responsibility. There's no evidence that anyone fasted with David or shared in this scene.
- Faith is asking God for what you want and keep asking with confidence that He may say yes.
- However, when God clearly says no, and a door is closed, faith is also accepting the no and still remembering that God is good and perfect and there is a reason for the no that is beyond what we can comprehend. (In this case, the salvation of the world and blaspheme of God was on the line, so He said no and the whole world was a better place for denying David's request to avoid the consequences of his sin.
- Those around us may not understand the scene we are having with God. It may look mysterious, strange, or wrong to them; but if we're being led by the Holy Spirit and we're genuinely trying to love out our faith in the Lord, we keep on keeping on until we're on the other side and can better explain ourselves.
- A child died. That is the most horrible thing many of us can imagine. While it would be unwise to casually throw out this story to someone in a trying situation; it is worth pointing out that God is in the trials of life with us. This story has a lot to say to those suffering.
- Notice Nathan was gone at this point. God used Nathan to speak to David at first, but then it came down to God and David. When we try to minister to people, we should never forget that we only have a small part to play. The real change happens when that person gets alone with God.