The Sovereignty of God in the Death of a Child

This is going to be the first of a three part (and possibly more) series on the Sovereignty of God and the Supremacy of Christ.

The back-story to the text we’ll be looking at is 2 Samuel 11, when King David commits adultery with Bathsheba, tries to cover it up, and then kills her husband Uriah when he failed to cover up his sin of adultery. 2 Samuel 12:1-14 the prophet Nathan confronts David about his sins of murder and adultery and lists out several consequences for David’s sin. One of those consequences was that David’s child he had with Bathsheba would die.

2 Samuel 12:13-14 ESV

[13] David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. [14] Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”

So, God spares David’s life, but takes the life of his child. The following text shows David’s response to this news.

2 Samuel 12:15-23 ESV

[15] Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. [16] David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. [17] 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. [18] 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.” [19] 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.” [20] 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. [21] 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.” [22] 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?’ [23] 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.”

We see a couple key things that David acknowledges in his response to this tragic consequence of his sin. David fasts and pleads with God to spare the life of the child, acknowledging God’s omnipotence in that He was powerful enough to control life and death. Then, and this is important, when the child dies, he does not cry out against God, he does not accuse God of being unjust, nor does he speak out against the prophet Nathan for delivering the news. He cleans himself up, eats, and as solemn and somber as his attitude must have been, He lived out the rest of his life trusting God. This shows us that not only did David recognize the power God has over life and death, but that He is also Sovereign and has the RIGHT to end someone’s life whenever He chooses.

Now, we live in a culture that is a product of The Enlightenment. This plays out in several ways, the most common and most visible is that of “rights”. The Enlightenment did much to end outright monarchies by saying that human beings are all equal so one person shouldn’t be pushed around by another, whether that be bullies in school or corrupt government leaders. One of the tragic effects of The Enlightenment though, is that now we try to take that equality we have with each other and apply that to our standing with God. This is why we have people asking questions like “If God is so good, all powerful, all knowing, and all present, why do bad things still happen?” In his message at the 2006 Desiring God conference, Voddie Baucham rightly points out that this question promotes the supremacy of Man, and not the supremacy of Christ. Adding to that, this type of question also promotes the supremacy of Man and not the sovereignty of God. Baucham rightly points out that the question we should be asking is one of, “How can a holy and righteous God see the sins I committed yesterday and not kill me in my sleep at last night?”

That question is a question that MUST be answered for God to truly be holy and righteous, in addition to being Sovereign and Supreme. Fortunately, the apostle Paul answers this question for us.

Romans 3:21-26 ESV

[21] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— [22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, [25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. [26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Alright, what we see here is Paul talking about how the “righteousness of God” has been displayed in Christ. He levels the playing field of humanity saying that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, but that those who believe are justified, or declared by God to be right, by the God’s grace through the price Jesus paid on the cross. He then says that Jesus was our propitiation, or that He absorbed the wrath of God which is set against us apart from Christ. He then says that this was to prove God’s righteousness in holding back His wrath against those who sinned prior to Christ’s death and resurrection. So the sovereign, supreme, holy, and righteous God passed over the sin that David committed because of the person and work of Jesus which was predestined by God to happen (Acts 2:23). This is also how He does not kill us in our sleep and still remain holy and righteous. Yet, God remains Sovereign and Supreme, and can end a person’s life whenever and however He chooses and remain just as holy and just as righteous.

This will bother most people tremendously, because we’re ok with having an omnipotent God who is not sovereign, because then we think we can control Him. However, if we have an omnipotent and sovereign God, then we cannot control Him, and we are indeed at His mercy. Fortunately, for those in Christ Jesus, the wealth of His grace and mercy is without measure.

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