And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill (v. 15b).- 2 Samuel 12:15–17
Our passage for today opens with the simple notation that “Nathan departed to his house.” The prophet has faithfully carried out the intimidating task of bringing God’s word of judgment to the king. In turn, that word, being accompanied by the Holy Spirit, has brought David to repentance. Later, David will show his lasting appreciation for the faithful prophet by naming one of his own sons Nathan (5:14; 1 Chron. 3:5). Still later, the promised Messiah will be born through this son’s line (Luke 3:31).
When Nathan departs, perhaps very soon afterward, God fulfills His word sent through the prophet—He “strikes” the child of David and Bathsheba, causing him to become ill. When this happens, David goes to God to plead for the child’s life. It might be more comfortable for him to simply let the child die, lest he become a constant reminder to David of his sin. But while David can be faulted for the way he raises his children, it cannot be said that he is not affectionate toward them—he genuinely loves each of the offspring with which God blesses him. “A very tender compassionate spirit appeared in this, and great humanity, above what is commonly found in men, especially men of war, toward little children, even their own,” Matthew Henry writes in his commentary on 2 Samuel.
Driven by this love, David goes to great lengths to humble himself before God and to demonstrate his earnestness in repentance, hoping that God’s sentence of death against the child is not final. He fasts. He “goes in,” presumably to the tent that houses the ark, and lies prostrate all night on the ground. Even when some of the elders of his family come to him to beg him to desist, he refuses to rise from his position of submission, but continues his fast and maintains his intercession for the child. While the child still lives, David can hope that God will yet relent, for he knows from his own experience that God abounds in grace. “While [the child] is in the reach of prayer, he earnestly intercedes with God for it,” Henry writes.
The chastening of God has done its work in David. He seemingly forgot God, and thereupon he tumbled into sin. Now, finding himself under judgment, he turns to God with his whole being. He is a wayward son returning to his loving Father in his need.
At times of great need, our normal instinct is to work harder or look for human aid. These can be good things, but our best course is to stop everything and seek God with our whole hearts, as David does in this passage. Do you know of a great need in your life or that of another? Make it a matter of earnest prayer today.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chron. 15:12