God’s People Embrace Tragedies
6th Sunday after Pentecost
God’s People Embrace Tragedies
1. With repentance
2. With trust
3. With worship
Text: 2 Samuel 12:11-25
They are words no daddy—no parent—ever wants to hear. “Your child is sick. Really sick.” It’s bad enough when your child has a fever and isn’t acting quite right. Your heart aches when your child has the flu and can’t hold anything down. Your anxiety and blood pressure levels rise when your child has to go to the emergency room.
But no parent wants to hear this: “Your child is really sick. I’m not sure there’s anything we can do.” “What do you mean you can’t do anything? You’re a doctor. There’s gotta be a medicine. There’s gotta be a new technology. Figure something out. Fix it.” If only your child were better! If only you could switch places! If only this never happened!
Travel back in time three thousand years, and barge into the bedroom of king David. There we see a grown man, the king of Israel, rolling around on the ground. His cheeks are drenched and his clothes soaked from continual weeping. His hands are firmly clenched as countless prayers rise from his lips to the throne of God. He won’t eat. He won’t sleep. He won’t move. Why? His baby boy was sick. Really sick. Tragedy had struck.
But read carefully the first lesson this morning. Don’t read too fast. Nestled in the middle of this tragic story is one short little verse with one short little phrase that tells us so much. Here’s verse 15: “After Nathan (the prophet) had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.” This son of David was also the son of Bathsheba, who is described as being Uriah’s wife (not David’s).
Back up in time a bit. David had everything. God had made this little shepherd boy into a victorious warrior who had defeated the giant Goliath. God had anointed and installed David as king over all of Israel. God had promised to establish David’s family line and kingdom for ages. God had given huge military victories to David. God had given wealth to David. God had even allowed David (wrongfully) to have several wives.
But that wasn’t quite enough. One day when David was out on his balcony he saw something else he just had to have. It was a beautiful woman named Bathsheba. But she was married! Oh, not to worry. David conspired to have her husband, Uriah, be in the very front of the battle lines. It was a guaranteed death, and thus, an arranged murder. As soon as Uriah was dead, David took Bathsheba for himself for another wife, and not too long after they had this child. The Lord’s blessings were not enough. David was so filled with greed and lust for this woman that he blatantly broke the 5th and 6th commandments, murdering and committing adultery, so that he could have her.
So God came to David through the prophet Nathan with the consequences. Verse 11: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with them in broad daylight before all Israel.’” That wasn’t all. Verse 14: “Because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”
Serious consequences for David’s sin were coming. Though David had sinned in private, he would be publicly embarrassed in a similar way. This did happen as later his own son Absalom rebelled against David, temporarily took over his kingdom, and even put up a tent on the roof so that all Israel would see as he lay with David’s wives. But before that event which happened later on, the immediate consequence would happen. This child born to David and Bathsheba was going to die.
This story of David illustrates an important truth. Tragedy in this world is always connected to sin, and God allows us to experience these consequences of sin often. When you have a loose tongue—saying whatever you want about others, posting whatever you want on Facebook, gossiping all the time about others, it often happens that you end up with a bad reputation yourself. When you tell lies, people don’t trust you. When you lose your cool and get angry, people are afraid of you. When you don’t treat your spouse with love and respect, you don’t often get love and respect back.
Multiple sexual experiences with multiple partners can lead to AIDS and other STDS. Overdosing and abuse with substances can lead to sickness and death. Not following God’s plan for a lifelong commitment in marriage leads to fractured lives, troubled children, strained relationships. Even sending out an angry Email or speaking sharp and biting words can have consequences. Very often, we face consequences for the sins we commit.
Then there are tragedies on the larger scale like hurricanes and earthquakes and wildfires and cancer. These too are a result of sin, but not one specific sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, perfection flew right out the window. No more paradise on earth. A consequence of perfection being gone is that disaster, disease, and death would continue on as long as this imperfect world stands.
Sometimes this life hurts so bad. How could things get any worse? How could I suffer any more? How could I shed any more tears? There are so many troubles and trials and tragedies!
But these tragedies of life are reminders from God. And David got the message loud and clear. David realized that these specific consequences and tragedies were a result of what he had done. The guilt finally came crashing down like a meteor from the sky and smashed his stony heart. There was only one thing left to say: “I have sinned against the Lord.” David embraced the tragedies he was facing by first repenting of his sin and turning back to the Lord.
So we find ourselves steeped in sin and tragedy: I can’t communicate with my spouse. My kids don’t listen to me. My relationships are strained. I can’t get any respect. My life feels like a mess. My mother is sick. I have family members dying left and right. There are wildfires in Colorado. It’s hurricane season in Florida.
Suddenly our bravado and arrogance are smashed and our hearts are crushed to pieces as the reality sets in: “I have sinned against the Lord. These consequences are because I have sinned—against God and against others. These tragedies are because I’m an imperfect person living in an imperfect world. God is holy. I’m not. God lives in heaven. I definitely don’t and don’t deserve to. I have sinned against the Lord!”
That’s how God’s People Embrace Tragedies—with repentance. We recognize our sin. We recognize our failures. We turn to God in sorrow and beg for his forgiveness. And what do we hear from the Lord? We might expect, “Death! Hell! Away from me you cursed!” But instead we hear what David heard from Nathan: “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
How could this be? David had murdered! David had committed blatant adultery! Yet the Lord removed David’s sin and forgave him. He would still have to deal with consequences, but David was forgiven.
How can this be for us? We lie. We cheat. We lust. We curse. We swear. We gossip. Oh all the things we do! Yet the Lord has removed all of our sins and forgiven us. For David’s great descendant, Jesus the Son of God, came to remove that sin from us. The guilt of sin he shouldered. The burden of sin he bore. The ultimate consequences of sin—death and hell—he experienced. He became sin. He carried sin. He died for sin. All so that it could be said to us, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
Follow David’s example in your troubles and trials. God’s People Embrace Tragedies with repentance. God’s people recognize that sin is the problem. They recognize that Jesus is the answer. God’s people repent of sin and turn to Jesus and find forgiveness and life in heaven.
What a difference that makes! What a different view and perspective that gives us in our lives! Suddenly, tragedies aren’t quite as tragic as we thought them to be. Back to David in his house: The mighty king is rolling around on the ground in anguish and tears. He can’t eat. He can’t sleep. He can’t stop praying. His child was sick. He even knew why. God told him this child would die.
So why even bother then? Why bother with this humility and fasting? Why bother with all these prayers? Why waste his time and God’s? God had said the child would die. End of story. Why bother?
Yet listen to David’s incredible testimony to his servants in verse 22: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’” Incredible! David, the murderer and adulterer, trusted so much in the Lord’s grace that he knew it was possible that the Lord might yet let the child live. After all, if God was gracious enough to forgive David and let him live after so many sins, maybe God would be gracious and spare this child.
We can have this same perspective and view as David because God’s People Embrace Tragedies with trust. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” The God who was gracious enough to give us his own Son and forgive all our sins is also gracious enough to shower us with mercy every single day.
So God’s people trust. We trust that he hears our prayers. We trust that he works all things for our good. We trust that he has a plan in mind. We trust that he will do what is best. We trust that he has the power to do the miraculous. But we also trust that what is best and miraculous might not be what we think is best.
Look at David. He fasted and wept and prayed to the Lord. But on the seventh day the child did die, just as God said. But David wasn’t angry with God. He didn’t give up on God. He didn’t lose hope. He didn’t despair. He carried on with his life and even expressed ultimate trust in God’s promises. Look at what he said in verse 23: “But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” David accepted the reality of what God had allowed. But he also seems to have expressed trust for the future. “I will go to him.” David seems to be expressing the confidence that one day he would see his son again in heaven.
Follow David’s example in your troubles and trials. God’s People Embrace Tragedies with trust. We trust that a gracious God who forgave our sins will do what is best for us. But we also trust that finally in the end our gracious God will bring us to heaven where there are no tragedies.
King David was such an incredible man of faith. The word of God worked quickly and powerfully in his heart. He repented of his sin and trusted in his forgiveness. He trusted in the Lord and his mercy, so much so that he reasoned God might even spare his son from death. But we see David’s incredible faith show itself in one other astounding action in this account today.
The elders of the house were afraid to tell David when his son finally died. They were afraid he might do something desperate. But look at verse 19: “David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead.’ Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went to the house of the Lord and worshiped.” His son finally died and the first thing that David did was get up, get himself ready, and go to worship the God who allowed such a thing to happen.
David reminds us of one more great truth. God’s People Embrace Tragedies with worship. When we have problems and pains and troubles and trials, our first, knee-jerk, sinful-nature led reaction is to abandon God. Or to be angry with God. Or to question God. But rather, our first reaction can be to worship God.
You see, this is a God who guided every event in all of history so that at just the right time he could send his Son to live and die to save us from our sin. Such a mighty God, who had such grand plans of grace, is the same mighty God who has grand plans of grace for us. So we can worship God. We can worship and praise him and proclaim his glorious deeds. We might have troubles. We might have trials. We might have problems. And we might have pains. Yet God has guided all of history so that we could know him and know his grace and one day live in his eternal kingdom. We may have tears and tragedies here, but in eternity there is only joy and perfection.
Follow King David’s example in your troubles and trials. God’s People Embrace Tragedies with worship. We don’t leave or forsake or get angry with our God. Rather, we recall his mercy and love and kindness, and go to the house of the Lord to proclaim his wondrous deeds. Here in worship we are renewed and strengthened. We are reminded of God’s grace and we proclaim God’s grace.
Vern and Virginia were expecting the doorbell to ring, but not quite so soon. They also were not expecting to open the door and see a police officer standing there. It wasn’t good news. Hurrying back from Florida to Salt Lake City in order to make it home in time for the start of the school year, there had been an accident. A bad one. The officer broke the news. Their one daughter, their other daughter, their son-in-law, and both of their grandchildren were in the car. All five were dead.
After the funeral, on the very next Sunday, Vern and Virginia did what they always did. They went to worship. They pulled into the parking lot and parked along the far edge. They got out of the car and paused to look at five fresh mounds of dirt. Then they went into the house of the Lord to worship the God who allowed such a thing to happen.
Following the service, Vern asked if he could say a few words. He stood before the congregation and thanked them for their kindness and support during this tragedy. But he also said, “This is not the end. This is not a time to be sad but to rejoice. We know that our family is now with Jesus and we know that we will see them again soon because of the life and death and resurrection of our Savior.”
The pastor, who had tried so desperately to offer the “right words” to this family, and who now is the president of our Seminary, stood up then and said, “Brothers and sisters, those few words were the best sermon ever preached inside these church walls.”
Friends, God’s People Embrace Tragedies. We know that tragedies happen because we are sinners and because this is a sinful world. So we turn to our Savior in repentance. And then we trust. We trust in his forgiveness. We trust in his grace and mercy. We trust in his plans. And then we worship. We worship the God of all grace who has prepared a place where tragedy does not exist. And there in heaven, we soon will be. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Posted on July 8, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged 2 Samuel, Bathsheba, Church, David, Eternal Life, Forgiveness, Heaven, Nathan, Pain, Problems, Repent, Repentance, Sermons, Sickness, Tragedy, Trust, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.