Answering God’s Sovereignty – II Samuel 12:1-25
Sometimes – but not often enough – I surprise myself by thinking about something big. A few weeks ago, for example, when the pastor asked me to speak today, I found myself thinking about the sovereignty of God – not the World Series which was on at the time and would be the kind of thing I would normally think about – but the sovereignty of God.
In particular, I was thinking about how God enters our lives and is involved in those lives, and how we have to respond in some way to His involvement. This led me to II Samuel 12 where David has to deal with God’s intervention in his life.
Subsequently, I have looked up what some theologians say about the sovereignty of God. Klooster, writing in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology says, Sovereignty of God. The biblical teaching that God is king, supreme ruler, and lawgiver of the entire universe.” (p.1039) That is what we are talking about – His authority as king of the universe. Lewis Sperry Chafer quotes I SAMUEL 2:6-8 to illustrate God’s sovereignty. Hannah is praying. She was childless and wanted a son.
6 nThe LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.7 oThe LORD makes poor and makes rich;phe brings low and he exalts.8 qHe raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heapr to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.sFor the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.
Chafer goes on to discuss a related doctrine, namely God’s PROVIDENCE. Providence, he says, extends all the works of God. Quoting A.A.Hodge, he adds, “..he ALSO continually controls and directs the actions of all his creatures infallible causes all actions and events singular and universal to occur according to the eternal and immutable plan..”
T.H.L.Parker (in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology) on providence comments: “In short, the doctrine of providence tells us that the world and our lives are not ruled by chance or by fate but by God, who lays bare his purposes of providence in the incarnation of his Son.” (p. 891)
This is a weighty theme, and quoting from books of theology is probably not the recommended way to open a sermon. An interesting story might better capture the attention of a congregation – but I knew you could handle it. But as I thought more about speaking on this theme, I didn’t know whether I could handle it. After all, who can explain the purposive actions of God and how that plays out over and against the free will of humankind? But there is help for us in the story of the people of the Bible and how they faced this truth.
Think of Jacob. In Genesis 32:24-31, the strange wrestling match between Jacob and a night visitor took place. This visitor Jacob recognized to be God in human form, and Jacob would not let Him go until He blessed him. The Visitor did so, saying from that day on, Jacob would have a new name – Israel. Jacob went on his way, limping for the rest of his life, a permanent reminder of his encounter with God that night.
We, too, wrestle with God over His sovereign activity in our lives, do we not? Why has He allowed this? Why has He not intervened to our benefit there? In Jacob’s case he was subdued (the limp) by God on the one hand, and he grasped at God’s blessing on the other. I see this as his answering of God’s sovereignty. And I think that the story of David in II Samuel 12 even more clearly illustrated how we are to “answer” or respond to God’s sovereignty and providence in our day-to-day lives. So, let’s go there.
The story actually begins in ch. 11. It is the well-known account of David’s sin with Bathsheba and his subsequent attempts to cover up Bathsheba’s pregnancy. The king ends up having Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah (one of David’s “mighty men” – a loyal and accomplished soldier) brought back from the battlefield. When Uriah nobly and unwittingly does not cooperate with the King’s plan, David sends him back to the battle sight and has him placed in the front lines where he is killed. David then marries Bathsheba and their child is born at the end of ch. 11.
Our chapter opens with Nathan the prophet sent by God to David. There is God’s providence at work. He will directly confront David and He will use Nathan to do so. How would you like to be Nathan. Your job is to go and tell the King that he has sinned and God will punish him. Sometimes God asks us to do difficult things.
In the opening six verses he tells David a story about a rich man who owned many, many sheep but who would not sacrifice one for a guest who arrived at his house. Instead he took the one lamb of a poor man, a lamb which the poor family treated as a family pet. This lamb is killed to make supper for the guest. What is to be done, asks Nathan?
David is incensed (“burned with anger” – v.5) and says the rich man should be executed and pay for the lamb four times over [as Exod. 22:1 decreed]. So, Nathan utters the famous words (v. 7): “You are the man!” Here is God in His providence confronting His child with his guilt. God also reminds David that He had given him the kingdom. He didn’t need Uriah’s wife, too. I would have given you even more, God adds (v.8) But you took things into your own hands. Now, there will be lasting consequences (v.10-12), and what’s more, this child will die (v.14).
God has shown He is in command. He has authority to act and does.
This should not be news to us. Even the created world we observe around us, Paul states in Romans, is enough to inform us that God is sovereign. We also have the Scriptures. David had some of them and we have much more. We have seen Christ Jesus enter history. We have the testimony of God the Holy Spirit in our lives. What more do we need? We know God is the sovereign lord. Often in the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet writes, “This is what the sovereign Lord says”. One time the Sovereign Lord said, “I am going to take away from you the delight of your eyes.” and in the evening Ezekiel’s wife died. Wow. God is sovereign.
He can make Jacob limp. He can determine whether Hannah will have a child or not. He can confront a king with his sin and decree the consequences of David’s acts. He can take faithful Ezekiel’s wife. He is an awesome God.
What are we to do about it? What did each of these people I‘ve mentioned do? How did they answer God’s sovereignty?
None of them received a full explanation of why God did this or that. Often it seems that that is what we think we want – ‘Explain to me why this did or did not happen, God.’
Instead, Jacob clung to the Heavenly Wrestler for a blessing. Hannah pleaded with the God she knew was full of grace for a child. Ezekiel, we read, did as he has been commanded and used his sadness to illustrate a great truth God wanted him to communicate to the captives in Babylon (Ezek. 24:15-27). And what did David do?
David did three things.
(1) He admitted his sin and repented.
v.13 – David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
A year had gone by since his adultery and the murder of Uriah. In Psalm 32 David writes about that time. “When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For night and day Your hand was heavy upon me. My strength was sapped, as in the heat of summer.” God had already been convicting him, but he had been refusing to submit until now. Now, he agreed with God. “Then I acknowledge my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.”
And he has great relief. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven…Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him…You forgave my sin.” What a relief! I was only a child of seven when I came to Christ for salvation. My brother had accepted Christ two nights before at some special meetings our church was having. He told me how great it was to be assured of heaven and to have forgiveness. I can remember very clearly the burden of guilt I felt those couple of days as I delayed my acceptance of Jesus and what he had done in dying on the cross for my sins. Then I submitted to God’s call on my young life and there was great joy and relief and ever since there has been certainty of my standing with God, not because of anything I ever did but because of what the perfect Son of God did in taking my punishment on the Cross and rising to new life.
I recall sometime later. As Christians we still sin, and though we do not have to receive Christ into our lives for salvation all over again, we do need to get things right with Him and any others we have wronged. One day in school I noticed that someone had inscribed something on the desk -initials, a word, I can’t recall. But I had a fingernail file in my pocket and proceeded to scratch away the offending inscription. However, my teacher saw me and assumed I was defacing school property. She was not pleased. She took me to the side room – a small storage closet, I think. And she administered the strap – it was done in those dark days of the 1950s. I was mortified. A look would have been sufficient for me. I made my brother promise not to tell my parents. And for three years kept that secret from the (at least I think I did). But it bothered me that I had not told them and one day, 3 years and a thousand miles away, for we had moved in the interim, my heart pounding, I went downstairs to the laundry area and told my mother that in grade 2 I had had the strap. I can’t recall he reply – something about being careful – and there was nothing more ever said about it – but I do recall that I bounded up those basement stairs. I was a free man! The burden had been lifted! Confession liberates.
David expresses that kind of joy in Psalm 32.
(2) He confessed his sin and was forgiven, but God had already said the child would die. In II Sam 12:15 the child becomes ill. What is David’s second answer to God’s sovereign intervention in his life?
16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David lfasted and went in mandlay all night on the ground. 17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise himfrom the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.
He fasted and prayed for the next 6 days. He poured out his heart, asking God to spare the child. No doubt he said, ‘Take my life; I deserve it, but not this child’s.’ hen, in verse 22 he explains his actions.
22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, p‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’
David knew something about the mercy of God, too. The Psalms are full of this understanding of God. Many times he had prayed earlier in his life and had seen God’s protection, while a shepherd, while a warrior, while a king. Perhaps God would be merciful and spare the child. He knew God was approachable.
In your life, do you know God this way? Do you know that you can approach the throne of grace with confidence to find grace to help you in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16)? Perhaps God will relieve the pressure you are facing. Perhaps He will not, but rather will give you the ability to stand up under that weight (I Cor. 10:13). In either eventuality, He is approachable. It is a marvelous thing that the all-powerful, sovereign Lord is available to us. “In [Christ] and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Eph. 3:12)
(3) And the third thing David did in response to God’s sovereignty in this situation, is in verse 20. When he learned that the child had died, he washed, put on lotions, changed his clothes, worshipped, and ordered a meal. He explains this in v.23.
23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, qbut he will not return to me.”
I see in this an attitude of acceptance and submission to God’s sovereignty. David desperately wanted the child to live and prayed accordingly, but he accepted God’s decision on the matter. He did not argue with God, nor question God’s decision. He faced it squarely and applied something else he knew about God – there is a life after this one for God’s children. The child had never had opportunity to choose God, but David trusted that God would grant life eternal to this little one. For David himself, and for you and me, he was responsible for making that choice to trust God’s provision of salvation and not his own works. He believed that there is a future in heaven for those who are found in Him, so he was confident he would see this child again one day.
David lost the child and suffered other family problems which the next chapters of II Samuel detail. There are consequences to sin even when we repent and are forgiven. David bowed to God’s decision about how best to handle those things. It is a beautiful picture of trust in the providence of God.
There is no big explanation here about why the child had to die. What we see is (1) God acting in His wisdom and authority, and (2) David, God’s child, answering with agreement, acceptance, submission, and worship.
“I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known,
Nor, why, unworthy, Christ, in love, redeemed me for His own.
But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.”
I may not know why but I know Him, and that is enough.
May our trust be in the Sovereign Lord whose understanding is infinite and whose love and mercy abound.
Message delivered by Don Wicks at Grace Baptist Church, Kent, Ohio on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2002
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