The Child Died.

Then Nathan went to his house. And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “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.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” – 2 Samuel 12:15-23 ESV

This is a difficult passage. It involves the death of an innocent child, apparently as the result of God’s direct intervention and discipline. The prophet, Nathan, had told David:

“The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” – 2 Samuel 12:13-14 NLT

Verse 15 seems to make quite clear God’s involvement in the situation.

And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. – 2 Samuel 12:15 ESV

The Hebrew word translated as “afflicted” is nagaph and it means “to inflict” (as in a disease). It’s the same word used in Exodus when God “struck” the firstborn of the Egyptians as part of the tenth plague.

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.– Exodus 12:29 ESV

What are we supposed to do with this information? It raises all kinds of ethical and moral questions in our minds. Why would God punish an innocent child for the sins of his parents? What had the child done to deserve death? Is God a vindictive god who lashes out in anger, inflicting pain on the innocent in order to get the attention of the guilty? Why didn’t God kill David since he was the one who sinned and commissioned the murder of Uriah? These kinds of questions are legitimate and perfectly normal for us to consider as we deal with this passage. But it is essential that the conclusions we draw or the answers we walk away with are based on a biblically accurate understanding of God.

Let’s take a closer look at what is going on in this story. David, the king of Israel, was God’s appointed and Spirit-anointed leader. He represented God on behalf of the people. He was to rule and reign over them, but modeling his leadership on the shepherd model. He was to serve them. He was to care for them. But when David sinned with Bathsheba, he was not acting as a shepherd. He didn’t have the best interests of the flock at heart. In fact, the passage in 2 Samuel that chronicles David’s sin, tells us that when he was informed that Bathsheba was a married woman, the wife of Uriah, he, “sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her” (2 Samuel 11:4 ESV). The phrase “took her” is the Hebrew word laqach, which means “to seize, snatch or take away.” David stole another man’s wife. And this is made perfectly clear when we look at the story Nathan the prophet used to convict David. He made up a sad tale about a poor man who had a lamb that was like a household pet. One day, a rich man, who received a surprise visit from a friend, decided to take the poor man’s lamb in order to feed his guest. The text says, “but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him” (2 Samuel 12:4 ESV). Nathan used that same Hebrew word, laqach. The rich man snatched or stole the poor man’s lamb. He took advantage of the poor man, even when he had plenty of lambs of his own.

And it is interesting to note David’s righteous indignation when he heard this heart-wrenching story.

“As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” – 2 Samuel 12:5-6 ESV

David had stolen Uriah’s “lamb”. He already had more wives than he needed and far more than God had commanded. But he used his divinely-ordained power to take advantage of his own flock. Not only that, David got Bathsheba pregnant. He took what was not his and he expected to receive blessings from his own disobedience. Despite his sin, he saw nothing wrong in having an heir who would be the fruit of his own immoral act. But as king, David was going to be held to a higher, more stringent standard.

We know David loved this child. He prayed to God desperately and intensely, asking that he might be spared. “David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground” (2 Samuel 12:16 ESV). For seven days, David fasted, wept and prayed, begging that God might show grace and allow his son to live. But God did not answer David’s prayer. At least not in the way David desired. His son died. It was a devastating blow to David. But even he seemed to understand that this judgment from the hand of God was deserved and anything but unfair. He doesn’t rail at God. He doesn’t shake his fist in indignation at God. In fact, the text tells us, “David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20 ESV).

But again, we are left with the question, “Why?” Why did God choose to allow the death of the child? As the king of Israel, David had broken his covenant with God and with his people. He had stolen what was not his. He had taken what had belonged to another and tried to garner blessings through his sin. The literal “fruit” of David’s sin with Bathsheba was their son. That son did not belong to David any more than Bathsheba did. He was a stolen blessing. It reminds me of the story of Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac. Esau was the older of the two, having come out of the womb first, with Jacob literally holding on to his heel as he made his way entry into the world. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, had been barren and unable to have children, but in answer to Isaac’s prayer, God caused her to conceive. And he told her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23 ESV). But when the two boys became adults, Jacob, with the help of his mother, concocted a plan to steal from Esau, the birthright that rightfully belonged to him as the firstborn. Keep in mind, God had already promised that Jacob would rule over Esau. The older was going to serve the younger. But in an act of distrust and self-reliance, Rebekah and Jacob came up with a plan to trick the dim-sighted Isaac, and cause him to give the blessing that belonged to Esau to Jacob. And Esau, when he found out what had happened, was furious. He also called what they had done exactly what it was: Stealing, He said, “For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing” (Genesis 27:36 ESV). And he used the very same Hebrew word, laqach. Jacob snatched what did not belong to him. God was going to give it to him eventually, but he decided to take matters into his own hands. And his actions would result in punishment. He would end up having to fun for his life and would spend years in self-imposed exile. He had the birthright and the blessing, but no joy. He had the legal claim to inherit all that belonged to his father, but not the pleasure of getting to live with his family. 

Jacob would eventually be restored to a right relationship with Esau. It would be God’s doing. And David would eventually have another son by Bathsheba. It would be Solomon. He lost the first son, as punishment for his sin. But God would eventually bless with another son who would grow up to be the heir to the throne and man picked by God to build the temple. David sinned. The child died. And while the child’s death was clearly God’s doing, it was not God’s fault. He was justly meting out the punishment David deserved. David had killed Bathsheba’s husband. God had killed David’s son. The first was undeserved and unmerited. The second was earned, not by the child, but by the king whose immoral actions had brought about the child’s very existence. This story is not intended to be a model or illustration for how God deals with ALL sin. But it simply shows us how God chose to deal with the man He had anointed king over His people. David was being held to a higher standard. He should have known better. He should have lived differently. And he had no one to blame but himself.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Sin Always Leads To Death.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”

So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”

When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. 2 Samuel 11:14-27 ESV

The apostle James wrote this clear and convicting description of sin:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. – James 1:14-15 NLT

This entire affair surrounding David’s life and recorded for posterity in chapter 11 of 2 Samuel, is a tragic illustration of the James’ words. David had desires. He had a strong attraction for the opposite sex that he seemed to have a difficult time managing. It had already led to his growing collection of wives. And when he had spied Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop, his desire kicked into high gear. The sight of her was not enough. He had to have her. His desires enticed him and lured him into committing an even greater sin than his original lusting after Bathsheba. The Greek word James used is exelkō and it refers to a hunter or fisherman drawing his prey out of hiding by tempting them with something they desire. David took the bait. His desires gave birth to sinful actions. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. But it didn’t stop there. His sin grew. Her pregnancy resulted in David having to attempt to cover his sin by committing additional sins. He lied. He manipulated. He called Uriah, her husband, back from the front in order to entice him into have sexual relations with his wife, so that David’s sin might be covered up. And when that didn’t work, David’s sin gave birth to death. He concocted the plan for Uriah to be killed in battle, and he sent the Uriah back to the front unknowingly carrying his own death warrant in his hands.

This story is meant to shock us, but it should not surprise us. It shocks us because it involves David, the man after God’s own heart. But just because David held a special place in God’s heart does not mean that David was immune to sin. He was human. He had flaws and weaknesses. And David’s sins, just like ours, were potentially deadly. In this case, David’s growing number of sins finally led to literal death, and not his own. It was Uriah who would die. And along with him, a number of other innocent soldiers who were exposed unnecessarily to the same deadly circumstances as Uriah. David’s sin gave birth to death. The Greek word James used is apokyeō and it means to beget, to bring forth from the womb, to produce or generate. Like the unexpected pregnancy of Bathsheba, there would come a time when David’s sins would inevitably deliver. There would be a byproduct to his sins.

It is interesting to note, that in the garden, God had warned Adam about the consequences of disobedience to His commands.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 ESV

And the day came when Eve, Adam’s wife, would listen to the enticing words of Satan, and choose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3:6 ESV

And the apostle Paul reminds us that Adam’s sin, by eating the forbidden fruit along with his wife, resulted in death.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. – Romans 3:12 NLT

For the first time, death because an inevitable and unavoidable reality for mankind. Adam and Eve would know the pain of physical death. But it also brought into being the even more hideous reality of spiritual death – eternal separation from God – the fate of all those who do not accept God’s gracious offer of salvation through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

But Adam and Eve would live long after their sin. Yet it would not be long before their sin gave birth to death – the death of their own son, Abel, at the hands of his own brother, Cain. Sin always brings forth death. It may be physical in nature, but it will always be spiritual. Sin separates us from God. It causes suffering for others. It damages and destroys. It grows and spreads like a cancer, infecting our lives and contaminating those around us. Uriah was an innocent victim of David’s selfish sin. The men who died at his side were also the undeserving victims of David’s sin. And the only thing David had to say for what he had done was, “Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged. The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!” (2 Samuel 11:25 NLT).  No remorse. No repentance. No regret.

And David was not yet done. He still had the pregnancy of Bathsheba to cover up. So, barely giving her time to mourn the loss of her husband, David sent for Bathsheba and married her. Doing so would provide a perfectly good explanation for her soon-to-be-obvious pregnancy. But while David may have thought his act of subterfuge had gone unnoticed, God knew. And God would discipline David for his sin. The apostle Paul tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV). Ultimately, he is referring to the spiritual death that follows our physical death. There is an eternal separation from God that will be the lot of all those who have sinned, unless they have placed their faith in the redemptive work of Christ. Paul goes on to say that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As Christians, we will sin in this life. But we will never have to face eternal separation from God in the next life. Because Jesus has provided us with eternal life and the guarantee of our status as sons and daughters of God, and heirs of his Kingdom. But sin will still have ramifications in this life. Sin will still produce death. David’s sin, as long as it remained unconfessed and unforgiven, would continue to produce death. It would kill David’s fellowship with God. It would destroy David’s peace and contentment. And it would result in yet another death – one that would come close to home and leave David devastated. Sin is deadly. And while, as Christians, we may rest in the knowledge that spiritual death is no longer a threat to us, we must never underestimate the deadly effects of sin while we live on this earth. Our sins have consequences.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

2 Samuel 11-12, 1 Corinthians 8

When Physical Passions Become Spiritually Destructive.

2 Samuel 11-12, 1 Corinthians 8

So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13 ESV

As human beings, our physical appetites can get us into trouble. Our love of food can cause us to overeat, making ourselves sick and even overweight. Our love for sexual pleasure can cause us to have immoral thoughts or even put those thoughts into action. The simple pleasure of good wine can turn into drunkenness. There is nothing inherently wrong with physical pleasures or even the desire to fulfill them, but we must always understand that our sin nature will attempt to transform these God-given appetites into opportunities for sin. The apostle Paul knew this well. “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:17 NLT).

In the story of David and Bathsheba we have a sobering illustration of what can happen to a good man who allows his physical passions to get the better of him. David found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. When he should have been at war, he was at home, with far too much leisure time on his hands. While his men fought, David was relaxing on his rooftop, and that’s where his trouble began. He saw Bathsheba taking a bath on an adjacent rooftop. David lusted. But rather than stop there, he allowed his passions to take control of him. David experienced what James warned about. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15 ESV). David’s desire turned into full-blown adultery. He satisfied his sexual appetite in an immoral and improper way. And the result was death.

What does this passage reveal about God?

David’s sin was against God. He would later acknowledge that in the Psalm he wrote in response to his sin and God’s response to it. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4 ESV). Yes, David’s actions were damaging to Bathsheba. He coerced her to sin against God and her own husband. David even resorted to taking the life of Uriah in an attempt to cover up his sin. But at the end of the day, David had sinned against God. He had broken God’s commands and allowed his physical appetite to become his god. The apostle Paul wrote about this very thing. “…there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth” (Philippians 3:18-19 ESV). David let his sexual appetite control him. He obeyed his desires rather than obey his God. And the result was death.

What does this passage reveal about man?

This is a constant reality for all of us. Our physical appetites are real and ever-present. But we cannot afford to be ruled by our passions. We can’t let our physical desires become our gods. When we allow them to control us, the results are rarely good. “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:16-17 NLT). “Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away” (1 Corinthians 7:31 NLT). We should never let the temporal things of this world control us. David’s sexual appetite was God-given and good, but when he let it control him, and he gave into its desire for something outside of God’s will, he sinned. Gluttony is a serious sin in the life of the believer. It literally means “to gulp down or swallow.” It has to do with over-indulgence and over-consumption. It is to take the desire for something good and to turn it into an overwhelming and uncontrolled obsession for even more. David had wives. He had appropriate means for expressing and fulfilling his sexual desires. But when he let his passions control him, he wasn’t satisfied with what he had. He wanted more. His god was his appetite, because he obeyed it rather than do what God had commanded him to do.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The enemy loves to distort and twist the truth. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve with forbidden fruit. God had give Adam and Eve all the fruit of the garden and had only denied them access to one particular tree. But it was that ONE tree that Satan used to tempt Eve. He tried to confuse her by twisting the words of God. “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1 NLT). He appealed to her sense of right and privilege. He preyed upon her physical appetite. “She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too” (Genesis 3:6 ESV). And the result was death. Eve knew better. She was fully aware of what God had said. But her appetite for food and her desire for power got the best of her. She gave in to her physical passions and disobeyed God.

But there is another area in which I can allow my desires to end up in death. Paul deals with it in 1 Corinthians 8. I may have every right to satisfy my physical desires by eating certain foods or partaking in certain activities because they are NOT sinful. But if I have a weaker brother in Christ whose conscience is uneducated and who wrongly assumes that those activities are sin, I must be willing to give up my rights for his good. “But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:9 NLT). I may have the right to drink wine, but if my doing so causes another brother to sin against his own conscience, I have sinned against Christ. “And when you sin against other believersby encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12 NLT). I must never allow my physical appetites to rule or run my life. Paul was willing to give up eating meat altogether if he thought it might cause a brother to stumble. What am I willing to give up in order to protect my brothers and sisters in Christ? Too often, we allow our physical appetites to control our lives. But all these things are temporal and fading away. They have little to no lasting value. We eat, only to get hungry again. When we try to satisfy our lives with temporal pleasures, we always end up wanting more. The things of this earth cannot satisfy. Only God can.

Father, forgive me for letting my physical passions rule and reign in my life. I am so prone to giving in to my appetites. Give me the strength to say no when necessary. I don’t want my stomach to be my god. I don’t want sexual desires to control me. I want to be under Your control. I want to do what You could have me do. But this sinful flesh is always at war within me. Give me the power I need to say no to the flesh and yes to Your Spirit. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men