In last week’s lesson Nathan the prophet confronted King David regarding his sin with Bathsheba. As soon as David acknowledged and owned his own guilt and repented, God forgave him. However that was not the end of the story. Nathan continued to speak to the king.
‘Because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.’ 2 Samuel 12:14 Perhaps on hearing this David hoped the prophet was wrong. But the narrative continues:
After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying 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. On the seventh day the child died. 2 Samuel 12:15-17
A very hard lesson indeed for the King of Israel. And a profound lesson for us.
Decisions have consequences, even those decisions you make privately that you think no one knows about. God knows and consequences are inevitable. Our problem is that sometimes things happen in our lives and we fail to make the connection that what we are experiencing is a consequence of an ungodly decision. Failing to make that connection often robs us of the opportunity to learn an important lesson. David’s response at hearing that his son had died is remarkable:
David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized that the child was dead. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead.’ 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.
His servants 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!’
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. But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’ vs. 19-23
Perhaps vs. 2o – He went into the house of the Lord and worshiped – is one of the most beautiful verses in the scriptures.
The prophet had told him his son would die. Yet David had fasted and prayed for mercy. But when the child died, his response was not to be angry or devastated. Rather, he worshiped the Lord because David understood that the discipline of the Lord is always for our good. He also understood a principle that we sometimes forget.
God told Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham prayed, ‘If you find fifty righteous…will You spare the city?’ When God couldn’t even find ten righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, they were utterly destroyed – because no repentance or righteousness could be found.
God sent Jonah to Nineveh to prophesy that in forty days He was going to destroy the city because of their wickedness. But the people of Nineveh from the King on down, repented before the Lord in sackcloth and ashes and God spared them in response.
There are times when a word of judgment can be mitigated by prayer and fasting, by repentance and humble confession of sin. There are other times when a word of judgment is ‘set in the heavens’ and no prayer or fasting will change it because it has been established in the heavens in the wisdom of God’s purposes.
David prayed in the hope that Nathan’s word might not come to pass but when it did, his response was to bless the Lord for His righteous discipline in the king’s life.
Though David was king and a man after God’s own heart, God treated him the same way he would have treated anyone else who committed the same crimes. Yes, His judgment was tempered with mercy for later on, Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon who became a great king and one of the wisest men who ever lived on this earth. But where we are presently in David’s life, he knew nothing of the coming Solomon. He knew only that he had sinned grievously in the sight of the Lord and that God’s judgment and discipline were right and proper. Therefore he worshiped the Lord with all his heart.
When we are faced with trials and difficulties, it would do us well to ask the Lord whether this particular trial is the fruit of one of our own bad decisions. And if He shows us that it is, then learn the lesson well!
To be sure, not ALL trials or heartaches fit into this category but many do and it is to our benefit to learn this principle so that, as an old friend of mine said, ‘Don’t waste your suffering’. Let every trial or difficulty that we go through become a means of spiritual growth.