4th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 6) LSB #’s 748, 370, 490
Text – 2 Samuel 12:14
Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.
THE CHILD BORN TO YOU
Do you trust & believe in the Word of God? That’s an easy question for Christians to answer, on the surface. Yet, the topic of this sermon is a difficult one. I want to emphasize up front that this sermon is not saying the death of every child is the fault of the parents. The Bible doesn’t say that, & I’m not preaching it.
However, in this specific case God’s Word tells us that it is, & because the death of a child is always a troubling event, it is helpful for our walk ‘in faith’ to consider these Words of God. They seem to be totally unfair, a travesty, a violation of justice! How could a loving God be so intimately involved in the purposeful death of a child because of the sins of its father?
Another opportunity to ask questions about fairness came two weeks ago when a male gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo was shot to death in order to save the life of a small boy. Many were outraged that the gorilla, who was where he was supposed to be, protecting his territory like male gorillas normally do, had to pay the price with his life for a child’s foolish mistake.
There’s a tremendous amount of tragedy in our world. The same is true of all history. It began with the murder of Abel, by his brother Cain, & has not stopped to this day. After king David commits adultery & murder, God chastens him by saying the sword will never leave his house. Thus, three of David’s other sons would suffer a violent death.
When the Prince of Peace is betrayed by Judas, Peter takes out his sword & strikes a man. Jesus heals the man, but tells Peter, “…all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” In other words, people who sow violence will reap violence. We might guess that hell will be a place filled with violence & vengeance & hatred. So, living in a sinful world, it’s not surprising that we become weary & want to give up. It grieves our heart to hear these words:
“Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.’ Then Nathan went to his house. And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, & he became sick. …On the 7th day the child died.”
The Lord afflicted the child… Now, we’ll go back to the sermon’s opening question, “Do you trust & believe in the Word of God?” Maybe it’s not such an easy question to answer after all. Human nature likes quick & easy, yet powerful explanations.
With the death of David’s son, the only quick, easy & powerful explanations are the kind that rebel against Yahweh’s wisdom & power. By nature, they defy the very 1st commandment, “You shall have no other gods.” You see, up to a point, money can provide quick, easy & powerful answers. As it does, it easily slips into the role of god.
Charisma can provide quick, easy & powerful explanations. For a time, by mere force of personality, someone with charisma can make things happen. Years ago, a pastor came to the area in which I lived. After a few years he began using his charisma to swindle little old ladies of large sums of money. Children complained, & he ended up resigning from the ministry.
Charisma & force of personality can easily slip into the role of god. Yet, children of God live by faith, not by sight, nor by money, nor charisma, & not by quick or easy explanations. The book of Job gives us some insight as to how our wisdom stands relative to Almighty God:
“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven – what can you do? Deeper than Sheol – what can you know? Its
measure is longer than the earth & broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9 ESV) The death of David’s son, on account of the sins of his father, was not a fair situation. There is no quick & easy explanation for all the suffering & tragedy of the past. The same holds true for the agony & heartbreak of our day, & of the days yet to come.
On the surface the sermon text appears to be totally unfair, a travesty & a violation of justice! Nevertheless, as you hear these words, “…the child who is born to you shall die.” I’d like you to think of another Child who died a tragic death which was absolutely the most unjust death ever to occur in all of the sad state of human history.
We sang of this child in the sermon hymn: “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard & angels sing; haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the son of Mary!” LSB 370:1
David’s son, by Bathsheba, was for all practical purposes born to die for another man’s sin. It comes across as so utterly unfair, even cruel. If we step back for a moment & consider it from another angle, this child’s life sounds a lot like someone else we know.
He too was born to die for another man’s sin – in His case for the sin of Adam, along with every man, woman & child since him. Adam, whom the Lord God personally formed with His own hands “…of dust from the ground & breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” that Adam chose not to trust in & believe this Word of God:
“…but of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 ESV) Instead, Adam listened to the lie of Satan, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV) For that one act of rebellion, “…all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, & he died.” (Genesis 5:5 ESV) Adam disobeyed the command of the Lord of life. In so doing, Adam separated himself from life, & joined himself to death. Through becoming a human being, Jesus reconnected human flesh to God, & therefore, to life. Interestingly, there are numerous places in Holy Scripture where Jesus is referred to as the Son of David. Here are a couple examples:
At Mark 10:47, “And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out & say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” At Matthew 15:22, “And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out & was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’”
In Matthew 12:23, “…all the people were amazed, & said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’” Today’s reading from 2 Samuel is part of the larger succession narrative that establishes the legitimacy of the monarchy of David, as the house chosen by God to rule Israel. King David, flawed as he was, is a foreshadowing of Jesus who is the true King.
Jesus, as The Son of David, is the ultimate fulfillment of that. The son of David, conceived in the adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, was also foreshadowing of The Son of David. Neither son was meant for an earthly kingdom. Both of them would die for another man’s sin. Jesus, as The Son of David, was the ultimate fulfillment in that role as well.
Jesus did not die for only one man’s sin, but as the Lamb of God, He took away the sins of the world. He died an unjust death as payment for the sins of David, & payment for your sins, & as payment for mine. Jesus, however, did not see His death as a travesty, but:
“…for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, & is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV) As we hear these tragic words, “…the child who is born to you shall die.” Jesus wants us to know that even the complicated & heart breaking words of Holy Scripture were written for our benefit. Given that, it’s helpful to hear these following words from the Book of Hebrews as they set the context for all the tragedy & suffering that goes on this broken & sinful world:
“Think of all the hostility [Jesus] endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary & give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as His children? He said, ‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, & don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, & He chastises each one He accepts as His child.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate & are not really His children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of spirits, & live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:3-11 NLT)
With the death of David’s son, our heavenly Father was disciplining David for all the evil & brokenness David set in motion through his choice to commit adultery with Bathsheba. After all, David was king of the most powerful nation on earth. He had wealth beyond our dreams. It would take a lot to discipline a man in those shoes.
Yet the son who was born to die plays a far greater role beyond that of being a tool to discipline his father. This son demonstrates for us in a very concrete way, something that is extremely crucial in our heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. This son gives us a picture of the role that Messiah would play. He also would die an unfair death because of someone else’s sin.
Jesus died because we have sinned, & will continue to sin until our dying breath. In David’s story, God’s mercy is evident in that He sends Nathan to confront David, giving him a chance to repent, rather than simply killing David for his sins.
Nathan calls David to repentance & in so doing he is actually calling David back to life. In last week’s Gospel lesson Jesus raised a man who had been physically dead. Here, Nathan calls David from spiritual death & the Holy Spirit raises David back to life. Preachers & churches that offer Christians encouragement in the form of an easy reconciliation with their immorality are faithless watchmen. Where there is no repentance there is only a self-serving faith – faith centered in ourselves rather than in Christ. Only when we’ve joined David in genuine repentance can we share his joy in being truly forgiven.
It’s been said that the most godly thing in man is repentance & great was the repentance of David after this episode in his life. In Psalm 51, written after David turned back to God, he pleads with Yahweh, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” (51:12 ESV) Thus St. Paul confessed in today’s reading from Galatians 2:
“And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me & gave Himself for me.” (2:20b ESV) David had two sons who were born for the purpose of dying for another man’s sin. Yahweh caused that in order that we might have life & live that life by faith in Son who is no longer in the grave, but lives & reigns to all eternity.
That is so unfair & yet, Christ’s death for us was purely out of love for us even while we were yet sinners. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Amen.
Why lies He in such mean estate where ox & ass are feeding? Good Christian fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you; hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary! So bring Him incense, gold & myrrh; come, peasant, king, to own Him. The King of kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone Him. Raise, raise the song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby; joy, joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary! Amen. LSB 370:2-3
 Matthew 26:52 ESV
 2 Samuel 12:13b-15, 18a ESV
 Genesis 2:7 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet