21 January 20222 Samuel 12:15b-23
Then David rose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes. He went into the house of the Lord and worshipped. (v. 20)
When the child conceived with Bathsheba becomes ill, David begins a seven day prayer vigil, night and day in which he fasts for the child. Despite Nathan’s prophecy stating that the child would die, David presumably does not believe that the outcome is written in stone. For David there is still a chance that his intercessions would prevail and the child would survive. It is a response within the Hebrew tradition in which God frequently changes his mind following the intercessions of individuals or the repentance of those who are judged. Jonah knew this only too well as revealed in Jonah 4:2.
David’s servants are concerned and then perplexed by David’s actions. Having seen his reaction to the illness, they fear the worst for him when the child dies and are then completely confused by his reaction to the death. But David knows that there is nothing more that he can do. He does not believe he can bring the child back to life and so the best thing is to wash and get on with living. He also makes a point of going to worship God, surely a statement of acceptance of God’s will in the situation and an act of humility.
All of this is a very pragmatic and accepting response and represents perhaps a new-found acceptance of God’s will and also the limits of his own power. In Psalm 51:12 he writes "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit." David also states that while the child will not return to him, he knows that in time he will go to the child when he dies. There seems to be a new-found humility in David in contrast to the hubris of his previous actions. However, we might still ask why David does not feel the need to mourn the death of the child.
- Do you think there was a place for David to grieve for the loss of this child?
- What influence do you think your prayers have in the world?
- Do you think David’s response was good or bad for his mental health?
First published 26 January 2019.