One of the most difficult times in life is dealing with when God says no. We have gone to the Lord in prayer. We have prayed fervently regarding something in our lives. But God says no. What are we supposed to do when God says no? How are we to handle those times when God says no?
Fasting, Pleading, Praying (12:15-19)
The judgment on David has been firmly declared. The sword will not leave his house. The sins he committed privately will be publicly done against him. The child of David and Bathsheba’s sexual immorality will die. This brings us 2 Samuel 12:15. It is interesting to note that Bathsheba is called Uriah’s wife right here, underscoring the sinfulness of what David has done, taking Uriah’s wife for his own. There is nothing right about what David has done. God has not forgotten about his adultery and his sinful coverup. The Lord afflicts the child and David immediately begins fasting, praying, and pleading with the Lord. David lays on the ground all night pleading with the Lord for the life of the child. The elders of the house are trying to lift him from the ground, but David refuses to get up. David will not eat. He is earnestly praying and pleading with the Lord.
But on the seventh day, the child dies. The servants are too afraid to tell David the news. You can imagine that no one would want to tell David this horrible news that the child has died. Verse 18 reveals the thinking of the servants. If David would not eat or get up from the ground while the child is sick, what will David do when the news comes that now the child has died? They fear that David will hurt himself when he hears this news. But David notices his attendants all quietly talking among themselves. David realizes that the child is dead and asks for confirmation from his servants. They say that the child has died. What is David going to do now? David has been fasting, praying, and pleading with the Lord. He would not get up from the ground or eat, even though people are pleading with him to do so. What will David do now that God’s answer to David is a clear and decisive “no?”
Worship Is The Answer (12:20)
David gets up from the ground, cleaned himself up, changed his clothes, went to the house of the Lord, and worshiped the Lord. Are you stunned? Are you surprised? David cleans himself up and worships the Lord. After he completes his worship to the Lord, he goes to his house and now he eats. I want us to see that David does not move into self-pity, self-loathing, or depression even though he is the direct cause of the child’s death. What we see is David moving forward. The servants expected David to spiral at the news of the child’s death. But rather than going backward, David goes forward with life and with God. God says no, the child dies, and David’s response is worship and to move forward with life. He goes home and eats
The Explanation (12:21-23)
The servants are mystified by David’s response. In verse 21 the servants begin questioning David. “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” They simply do not understand what David has done. We also may not understand this response. From a human point of view, this does not make sense. Why is all of the mourning and pleading happening while the child is alive? But when the child dies, now you clean up, eat, and worship the Lord! What is going on?
David gives his explanation in verses 22-23. Verse 22 reveals why he did what he did while the child was alive. David believed it was possible to change God’s mind. He says that he fasted, pleaded, and prayed because he thought, “Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child my live?” I want us to see what David thought about the power of prayer. David believed that prayer was very powerful before the Lord. David did not take God’s decrees as the final word. Think about how the scriptures are always teaching us to have this kind of attitude. Moses did the same thing as David does, begging with God to change his mind. God was going to destroy Israel but Moses interceded for the people. God was not going to go with the people in the wilderness to the promised land. But Moses changed God’s mind and the Lord did go with them. David is operating from the same place of faith. Pray and plead to change the Lord’s mind. Beg with God. Plead with God. Pray in faith to God. This is what David says he was doing in effort look for God’s grace upon him and upon the child. Maybe the Lord will show him grace.
This is an important truth. Our God is a gracious God. We have seen his grace throughout this series from Exodus to now in 2 Samuel. Listen to what the apostle Peter says about the character of God.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10 ESV)
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 ESV)
David understands that he serves a gracious God. We serve a gracious God. God says he gives grace to the humble. But he is resisting the proud heart. So David understands that God gives grace, humbles himself before the Lord, praying and pleading to the Lord day and night. This explains why David behaved the way he did while the child was alive.
But how can he now move forward now that the child has died? How can he worship the Lord? How can he go home and eat? When we read verse 23 we are reading that David is accepting the situation the Lord has given to him. What is the point in continuing to plead? Why should he fast? David says that he cannot change the circumstance. He cannot bring his child back to life. The child is not going to return to him. There is no reason to remain in the past. David is going to go forward with the Lord in this new circumstance, not live in the past with the circumstance he wish he had.
We need to see what faith is on display here with David. Too many times we can allow our sins to consume us, even to the point of leaving the Lord because we are stuck in the past. This is the backward nature of life with God. God does not want us to live in the past or wondering what could have been. David has prayed to the Lord and the Lord said no. David must now live with the consequences and walk with the Lord going forward in these new circumstances. You see that the servants thought David would wallow in the past. David does the opposite. God said no and now I must stay with the Lord going forward. This is David’s reality and he must consider what God is going to accomplish now in his life in this new reality.
Future Hope (12:24-31)
The chapter ends with pictures of future hope for David. All hope is not lost even though God said no. David and Bathsheba do have another child and his name is Solomon. If we know the scriptures we know that Solomon is the son of David that will build a house to the Lord and through him the promised Messiah will come. Please look at verse 24. The Lord loved the child and so Solomon is also called Jedidiah which means, “Beloved of the Lord.” You see the future hope that God is offering. David’s horrible sin does not have to be the end. The next child is loved by God and God is going to do great things through his child. There is still future hope.
Further, the rest of the chapter records David’s success against the Ammonites. If God was not with David, then David would have lost in this battle. But God gave success to David. God is going forward with David. David does not need to live in the past, consumed by the guilt of his sin or the loss of his son due to his sin. The steadfast love of the Lord has not been removed. There is a second chance given to David. There is a second chance for David’s rule and his kingdom. God is a forgiving God and success is given to David even after his catastrophic failure. So what are we to learn?
First, plead to the Lord because he is a gracious God. Whatever you are going through in life, you can give it to God. You can fast, plead, and pray to the Lord. You can ask God to change your situation. You can ask God to help you in your time of need. Who knows what God will do for you and for your life? Plead and pray to our God because he is gracious.
Second, when there are times when God answers no, you must rise up and worship the Lord, going forward in your life with him. God is ready to go forward with you. God is ready to bless you. God is ready to take you through the next stage of your life, even if you are the reason that your life is wrecked. Accept God’s answer and see what God has in store for you going forward. I wish I had understood this when I was much younger. During the first great trial in my life I became stuck. I spent years in sorrow and pain over circumstances that were not going to change, even though I wanted them to change. I prayed for them to change. But God’s answer was no. I wasted time and stopped looking at what God was going to do in my life because I did not rise up, clean myself up, and go to the house of the Lord. I sat in my pain.
But this helped prepare me for the second great trial of my life. God said no again, after much pleading and praying. But now I understood to not waste my life, waste my suffering, or waste my pain. This is God’s answer and it is not going to change. It was time to rise up, clean up, and go to the Lord in worship, going forward with him. What is God going to do with this new circumstance? What is God going to accomplish? How will this accomplish God’s purposes and help other people see God? Do not get stuck when God says no.