It Takes A Man To Be A Father

It Takes a Man to Be a Father

1 Kings 2:1-4

Dr. Jim Denison

I can prove that fathers need a day like today. Consider some school-age children’s’ answers to the following questions:

What did your mom need to know about your dad before she married him? She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer? Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Who’s the boss at your house? I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What’s the difference between moms and dads? Moms work at work and work at home, but dads just go to work at work. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power ’cause that’s who you gotta ask if you want to sleep over at your friend’s.

How did your mom meet your dad? Mom was working in a store and dad was shoplifting.

But there’s good news as well.

A priest surveyed the children in his parish, asking them which they would choose if they had to—television or their father. 92% said they’d take their dad.

Temple University psychology professor Laurence Steinberg has published The 10 Basic Principles of Good Parenting. Here’s number one: “What you do matters.” Research for the last 60 years has drawn this consistent conclusion: parents have a profound effect on our children’s emotional, social and intellectual development.

What do we do with this role, this responsibility, this privilege?

Teach your children

David is about to die, to “go the way of all the earth” (vs. 1-2). So are we all. Every day is another day closer to death. We begin to die from the moment we are born.

What do we do with our approaching death? Leave a legacy of faith for those who will follow us. For fathers, this priority is first and foremost with our children.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Thus David “gave a charge to Solomon his son.” “Charge” speaks to the significance of these words. This father did not merely suggest or encourage—he challenged, even required, that his son heed these words. This is the word for a general to his soldiers, a president to his cabinet, a CEO to his associates.

This was David’s practice, as he assumed responsibility for his son’s spiritual life and growth. Solomon would later remember, “When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them” (Proverbs 4:3-5).

We must hand on to our children than which has been given to us, while there is still time. There is urgency in this. What have you “charged” your children to believe and become?

What to teach your children

“Be strong” (v. 2a). The word means to be steadfast mentally, physically and spiritually. This speaks to who our children are—strong spiritually, in the Lord.

Moses to Joshua, his “son” in the faith: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance” (Deuteronomy 31:7).

We are to say the same to our children in the faith. God expects us to encourage them spiritually, to do all we can to help them grow closer to Jesus. If we provide for them financially, materially, and educationally, but do not help them grow spiritually, we have missed our highest and most eternal calling.

“Show yourself a man” (v. 2b).

“Show yourself”—make public your private faith and commitment.

Show externally the reality of your internal faith. Be sure others see Christ in you, through you. We can measure our success as fathers by the degree to which others see Christ in our children.

How do we encourage such spiritual growth? “Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses” (v. 3). In other words, teach our children to live in the word and will of God.

This is for all people, not just Solomon: “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13, emphasis mine).

For all times, not just Sunday: “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always” (Deuteronomy 11:1).

Despite the prevailing culture: “Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:30).

Are you a man of spiritual strength and maturity? Does your family know it? Are you teaching them the word and will of God? When last did you spend time with your family in prayer and Scripture? When last did they see you make decisions based on prayer and Scripture? When last did you lead them to make such decisions together?

For their prosperity

We all want our children to prosper. Our culture typically measures our success as fathers by the degree to which we provide materially for our children. The house you own, the car they drive, the college they attend, the club you join—these are the measures of a successful father in our secular society.

And we are expected by God to provide materially for our children. But the Father’s definition of prosperity is different from our culture’s. When God promises that our children may “prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (v. 3), he means to discern, gain insight, and then prosper materially. The spiritual comes before the financial. Obedience to God is his definition of prosperity and success.

And such obedience is crucial to such prosperity. All through his word, there is a direct link between our obedience to God and his ability to prosper and bless us.

“Be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your day sin the land that you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33; cf. 8:6).

“Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do” (Deuteronomy 29:9).

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).

Why does this link exist? This is not health-and-wealth, but the way we position ourselves to receive what our Father in his infinite wisdom wants to give. Our obedience makes it possible for our Father to give all that his will wants for us. Teach your children to live in the word and will of God, for the sake of their prosperity.

For their posterity

And for the sake of their posterity. Through Solomon, David’s line and rule would continue. The Father would bless the king through his son, and his son, and his son. Solomon’s obedience to God was crucial not only for his own soul, but for all who would follow after him.

God made this fact plain to David’s son: “As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel.’ But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. I will make it a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. And though this temple is now so imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and say, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this people?” People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them'” (2 Chronicles 7:17-22).

When Solomon kept his father’s charge to spiritual obedience, he was prospered by God in every way. He became the wisest and also wealthiest man on the planet. This may not be God’s will for your children, but his will is always for their best. Solomon proved that it was so.

But when Solomon turned from his father’s charge to marry godless women and worship their pagan idols, the results were disastrous for the nation. Over time, Israel suffered civil war and permanent division. The Northern Kingdom was lost forever to Assyria; the Southern Kingdom was enslaved by Babylon, and then destroyed by Rome. God kept his promise to David by bringing through Solomon the Messiah, but Solomon’s own nation suffered permanently as a result of his disobedience.

So it is that the generations after us will depend on what we teach our children, the way we lead them by example and precept to follow the Lord. Christianity is always one generation from extinction. Her torch is now in our hands.


When General Douglas MacArthur received the Father of the Year award, he said, “Nothing has touched me more deeply than the act of the National Father’s Day committee. By profession I am a soldier and take great pride in that fact. But I am prouder, infinitely prouder, to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build. A father only builds, never destroys. . . . It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle, but in the home.”

I can guarantee that he will. What will he remember? Let’s decide, today.

Playing Theological Scrabble

Playing Theological Scrabble

Acts 13:16-23

Dr. Jim Denison

I have an article written by someone with too much spare time. This person has played Scrabble in an unusual way: by rearranging the letters, “George Bush” becomes “He bugs Gore,” “dormitory” becomes “dirty room,” “the Morse code” spells “here come dots,” “slot machines” is “cash lost in me,” “eleven plus two” is “twelve plus one,” and closing with the worst on the list, “mother-in-law” becomes “woman Hitler.”

Today we’ll close our series with King David by playing theological Scrabble. There is only one way to arrange the letters of our days to make genuine meaning of them. Most of us want to write volumes with our lives and work. But there is only one sentence which will give us the harmony, peace, and joy God intends our lives and relationships to possess.

Refuse a divided heart

Today we’ll choose between David and Saul. Between two kings, two ways of life, two approaches to faith, two worldviews. Meet your first option.

Saul was the largest and mightiest man in his entire nation, a head taller than his contemporaries. When the Israelites wanted a king to protect them from their enemies, it only made sense that they would choose him. If the Mavericks could sign Shaquille O’Neal or me to play center, Mark Cuban wouldn’t have a hard decision to make.

And Saul’s early years were successful in the extreme. He led Israel to defeat the hated Philistines, to liberate the people from enslaved bondage, to procure a measure of freedom and security they had not known in generations.

But then came the test of Saul’s heart, the moment which revealed a destiny.

The Lord commanded the king to attack a people known as the Amalekites for their sins against Israel during the Exodus. Here was his clear word: “…destroy everything that belongs to them” (1 Samuel 15:3). But Saul kept “the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good” (v. 9).

The Lord responded thus: “Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: ‘I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions'” (v. 10-11a).

God gave Samuel this further word: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (v. 22).

With this conclusion: “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you” (v. 28). The point was not the lambs and calves, for the God of the universe has plenty. The point was partial or complete obedience.

Saul typifies the spirit of our day: serve God, but serve yourself as well. Give him what he asks, so long as you get what you want also. If we give him Sunday, we can have the rest of the week. If we give him some of our money, we can spend the rest as we wish. If we give him some of our time and abilities, we can use the rest as we please. Live in two worlds, serving two masters. This is the divided heart.

It is not a new worldview. Six centuries before Christ, a Greek singer and philosopher named Orpheus taught his followers that our souls are separate from our bodies, that in fact our bodies were created to punish and purify our souls. So the “spiritual” is good, while the “secular” is bad.

This single idea influenced Pythagoras, who influenced Plato, who influenced Augustine, who influenced Luther. It has come to permeate all of Western civilization, so that it is in the very air we breathe today. There is the spiritual and the secular, the church and the “real world,” Sunday and Monday. Give God what he wants, but only so long as we get what we want as well.

The divided heart affects us in every way. Here are some hard questions. They are intended kindly, but they reveal the way we are all tempted by this worldview.

This week, did you meet God every morning for an extended time of prayer, Bible study, and worship? If not, why not? Is it that you didn’t have the time? Or is it that you didn’t want to give the time? Would such a commitment require a lifestyle adjustment you don’t want to make? Would it cost you sleep, or leisure, or work you don’t want to give? Are you trying to serve God and self at the same time?

This week, did you make your faith public? Did you share the gospel with a lost friend or colleague or relative? If not, why not? Is it that you didn’t know how? Or is it that you didn’t want to take the chance? Would such a commitment require a risk you don’t want to take? Would it cost you socially? Are you trying to serve God and self?

Today, did you give the tithe, ten percent of your income, to God? If not, why not? Is it your belief that you cannot afford to do so? Is it true that you actually cannot afford to give ten percent of your income to the One who gave everything to you, or is it that such a commitment would cost you more than you want to pay? Would it require a lifestyle adjustment you don’t want to make? Are you trying to serve God and self?

A recent poll revealed that three-quarters of college students surveyed said their professors taught them there is no clear standard of right and wrong. In 2001, almost 30 million Americans said they had no religion—more than double the number from 1990. George Gallup recently reported that 20 percent of self-described born-again Christians believe in reincarnation, 26 percent in astrology, and 16 percent have visited a fortuneteller. 30 percent say that cohabitation, gay sex, and watching pornography is morally acceptable. We want to live for God, but for ourselves as well.

Dante spoke of “the dismal company whose lives knew neither praise nor infamy; who against God rebelled not, nor to Him were faithful, but to self alone were true.” Living for God but for ourselves as well, the life of the divided heart—does it tempt you today?

Choose a single heart

Now let’s contrast Saul with David. Here’s the first reference to the boy who would become Israel’s greatest king: Samuel told Saul, “…the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14). A “man after his own heart.”

What does this phrase mean? Paul explains it in our text: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22).

He will—this is not a hope or possibility, but an absolute fact.

Do—not just believe, but put his doctrinal beliefs into practical action. The word is in the present tense—a continual lifestyle, not just an occasional religious observance.

Everything—no exceptions. No matter how hard or easy, no matter the cost to him. In every area of his life—his money, time, relationships, leadership.

I want him to do—literally “everything I wish,” the divine will.

How did he know what God wanted him to do? His psalms answer our question.

He studied the Scriptures for himself: “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Psalm 18:30-32).

He listened to God through his people, as when Nathan revealed to him his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.

He prayed for divine guidance: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Psalm 5:1-3).

He waited for divine direction: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes” (Psalm 37:7). He knew that “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him” (vs. 39-40). But a “refuge” helps us only when we get inside its protection.

David summarized his “heart” this way: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). David possessed a single heart, a single passion: to know and do the will of God. He did not separate life into secular and sacred, church and state, God and himself. His only question in every situation was: What is God’s will? His only desire was to do it.

Of course there were times when he failed his heart. His catastrophic sin with Bathsheba and Uriah will be known to all of history. But his heart was made clear by his response to Nathan’s rebuke, his genuine repentance, confession, and sorrow. To have God’s heart sadly does not exempt us from our fallen natures. Rather, it means that we choose his will over ours. And that we confess our sin when we do not. Our desire, however far we fall short, is to do everything God wants us to do.


The single heart is the key to a life of purpose and joy. Listen to theologian Donald Baillie: “Jesus lived in his life in complete dependence upon God, as we all ought to live our lives. But such dependence does not destroy human personality. Man is never so fully and so truly personal as when he is living in complete dependence upon God. This is how personality comes into its own. This is humanity at its most personal.”

Do you think constantly about the will of God? Do you expose your mind constantly to the word of God? Do you meet him first each morning for worship, prayer, and Scripture? Do you turn to his word first with your decisions, problems, and opportunities? Do you seek his will for each moment? Or do you live in two worlds—God and yours? Do you serve God and self? Are you Saul, or are you David?

The Catholic priest and theologian Henri Nouwen was one of the spiritual mentors of this generation. Not long before he died in 1996, he described the kind of faith we are considering today. He had become good friends with some trapeze artists, who explained to him the very special relationship between the flyer and the catcher. That’s a relationship the flyer would want to be very good, I would think.

As the flyer is swinging high above the crowd, the moment must come when he releases the trapeze and arcs out into the air. He is suspended in nothingness. He cannot reach back for the trapeze. There is no going back. But it is too soon to be grasped by the one who will catch him. He cannot accelerate the catch. In that moment, it is his job to be as still and motionless as he can.

“The flyer must never try to catch the catcher,” the trapeze artist told Nouwen. “He must wait in absolute trust. The catcher will catch him. But he must wait. His job is not to flail about in anxiety. In fact, if he does, it could kill him. His job is to be still. to wait.” To trust that he will catch you.

God can only catch that which you trust to him, the life which is lived for his will alone. Is yours such a life? Do you have a single heart, God’s own heart, today? Will you tomorrow?

When A Child Dies

When a Child Dies

2 Samuel 12:13-25

Dr. Jim Denison

A little girl noticed some gray hair on her mother’s head and asked, “Why are some of your hairs white?” Her mother replied, “Every time you do something wrong, one of my hairs turns white.” The little girl thought about her answer for a moment and then asked, “Mom, how come all of grandma’s hairs are white?”

A teacher was teaching her class about the circulation of blood and said, “If I stood on my head, the blood would run into it and I would turn red in the face.” “Yes,” the class said. “Then why is it that while I am standing in the ordinary position, the blood doesn’t run into my feet?” A little boy in the back of the room shouted, “‘Cause your feet ain’t empty.”

The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Christian school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of applies. A teacher made a note: “Take only one—God is watching.” Further along the lunch line was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written a note: “Take all you want—God is watching the apples.”

Despite the challenge they can be, children are our greatest joy and privilege. Our church loves children, making Vacation Bible School (which starts Monday) one of our favorite weeks of the year.

We love our children, and we assume that God does also. So the issue we must face today is the hardest question parents ask: why do children die? What do we do when we lose a child? Where is God then? How are we to trust a God who allows or even causes such a tragedy?

We’ll discuss David’s child first, then look at what Scripture says about our children and their heavenly Father today.

Why did David’s child die?

Remember the tragic, adulterous sin of David and Bathsheba. Now the Lord, speaking through his prophet Nathan, tells David that the child of their sexual union will die.

David will not die, even though the sin was his—”The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (v. 13).

Why? Because David confessed his sin in repentance (cf. Psalm 51:3-4, 10). And God forgave him for it, a gift David celebrated for the rest of his life (cf. Psalm 32:1-2).

But what of the innocent child of their sinful union?

I’d like to be able to tell you that their baby’s death was a simple coincidence, that the Lord had nothing to do with it. But the text won’t allow me to teach this interpretation.

The Lord knows that their unborn child is a boy, though there were no sonograms to discover this fact. And he knows that the child will soon die. Note that Nathan does not say God will kill the child, but that it will die as a consequence of David’s sin. Perhaps the child was born with a terminal condition which the Lord would not heal. Perhaps the Lord’s role was more direct and causal. Either way, clearly God could have prevented the death of this innocent baby, but he did not.

Why? Why did David’s son die? Here is the data supplied by our text.

David’s sin was larger than he knew: “by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt” (v. 14). Apparently his “private” sin would be private no longer. And the pagan enemies of the Lord and his people would be able to show contempt for Jehovah God.

If this God permits his king to commit such atrocity, he’s no different from Molech, the god to whom the Canaanites offered child sacrifices, or Baal and Ashtoreth, worshiped with adulterous sexual sin. One of the abiding tragedies of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal is the way it has made America look in the eyes of the Muslim world. So it was with David and his sin.

The Lord could simply punish David with death, and so vindicate his righteousness before the watching world. But David has responded to his sin with confession and repentance, and the God of grace has promised to forgive every sin we confess to him.

So the Lord cannot kill David for his sin, but must redeem his righteousness before the world. The death of the child of David’s sin will do just that—it will show the watching world that Israel’s Lord is indeed a God of righteousness—that sins have consequences with him. And I would imagine that David considered the death of his son a worse consequence than his own death, by far. I would. So would you.

What does God think of children?

So, is the text saying that the Lord permitted or even caused the death of David’s son in order to redeem his own name among the nations? Before we finalize our answer, let’s ask a second question: what does God think of children? How does his word view them?

The great miracle of the Incarnation is not that God would enter the world he made. As Creator, he had every right to visit his creation. The great miracle was that he would do so as a baby. Rather than appear among us in his heavenly status, the Lord Jesus chose to become a fetus, then a newborn, helpless infant. The hands that held the stars were sheltered in a mother’s arms. Christmas tells us what God thinks of children.

Jesus made clear his feelings on the subject in two separate incidents.

The first was his response to his disciples’ question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1). He knew they needed to see the answer more than hear it, so “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven'” (vs. 2-3). The “greatest” in God’s kingdom is the one who is most like a child.

Later some mothers brought their children to Jesus, seeking his blessing (a typical custom with a visiting, famous rabbi). His disciples “rebuked those who brought them” (Matthew 19:13), so Jesus rebuked them: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (v. 14).

Why does God allow children to die?

Why, then, does this God allow our children to die?

The Bible explains why God allows death itself in these simple words: “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). In the Garden of Eden there was no disease or death. But now God permits physical death so we can step from our earthly bodies into heavenly ones. As much as we despise death, can you imagine living forever in your fallen, diseased, sin-plagued body?

This biblical concept makes sense to us when the one who dies is elderly, having lived a full earthly life. Or when his death is the direct result of his own decisions, as when a person chooses to drink and drive, and dies in an accident. But why does God allow death for children? They are innocent of any wrongdoing, and have not yet lived long enough to justify their homegoing.

If the only text we had in Scripture on our question was the passage before us, we might conclude that children die for the sins of their parents. I’ll admit that this text troubles me more than any other in Scripture. I understand that God had to redeem his name among the nations. But I don’t understand why he had to use an innocent baby to do it. I wish he’d found another way. I don’t like what this text says, or understand it.

But I am glad to say quickly that this is the only place in God’s Word where such a tragic event occurs. And that its circumstances are unrepeatable today. There can be no king of the Jews today, the leader of God’s only people, a man whose sins could bring disrepute on the Kingdom of God across the pagan world. This event cannot happen again.

Note that the text nowhere states that God deals with other children as he did with David’s son. This text is descriptive, not prescriptive.

Here we judge the difficult in light of the clear. And the Bible clearly states, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4; cf. 2 Kings 14:6). For our sins, not those of anyone else. Today children die from diseases which are part of this fallen world. Or they die in tragic accidents which occur in this fallen world. Or as victims of tragically misused free will, a common occurrence in this fallen world. But not because God ends their lives.

And when a child dies, it is clear that he or she is with the Father in heaven.

The Bible does teach that we inherit Adam’s fallen nature, so that we all possess an inherent tendency toward sin (Romans 5:19).

So then, if a child dies before reaching an age when he or she can understand the gospel and respond to it by faith, what happens? To claim that inherited original sin places a child outside the possibility of eternal life is to reject Jesus’ clear affirmation of the children brought to him.

Our Lord made children his best example of faith and the Kingdom of God. It is clear that a child who has not yet rejected the gospel will not be judged by God as though he has. Instead, he will be with his Father in heaven.

Even as the Father is with those who lose such a precious child. In heaven there is no such thing as “time,” so it will be only a moment for children before they see their parents again. They know nothing of the pain, the separation, the sorrow we feel. They know only the joy of paradise with God. As will we, with them, for eternity.


So, what are we to do when a child dies? David chose to trust God with his son. We have wrestled with the most difficult sentence in the life of David. Let’s close by claiming the most hopeful sentence he uttered. Speaking of his deceased newborn son, the king said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (v. 23). David knew that his son was safe with God. He knew that he would see him again one day. He knew he could trust his child into his Father’s arms, and himself as well.

David chose to serve God, to continue life in the call and will of his Lord.

He had spent seven days fasting for his son, praying that his life would be spared. He spent the evenings in prayer outside the palace, lying prostrate on the ground. But when his son was taken home, “David got up from the ground.” Then “he washed, put on lotions, and changed his clothes” (v. 20). He could have spent the rest of his life in grief. Instead, he moved forward with hope.

His life would never be the same again. Losing a child is not a broken bone which heals and leaves no scar. The rest of his story would forever be different from that which had gone before. But his life could still be good. There would be Solomon, not to replace the son who died, but to continue life. There would be a nation to lead, people to defend, a legacy to continue. A life of service to offer.

And David chose to worship God. He went into the tent where he had located the Ark of the Covenant, where he “worshiped” (v. 20). Where he honored God despite his questions, his pain, his grief. He didn’t turn from the One he most needed, when he most needed him.

When my father died, the book which helped me most was John Claypool’s now-classic Tracks of a Fellow Struggler. He was a Baptist pastor in Louisville, Kentucky, when his eight-year-old daughter, Laura Lue, was diagnosed with leukemia. The book reprints the sermons he preached around her diagnosis and eventual death. His first sermon was delivered eleven days after the diagnosis came. Here’s how it ends:

“I was deeply moved this week by an observation of Dr. George Buttrick concerning the Dead Sea in Palestine. Again and again as a sermon illustration I have heard the Dead Sea compared unfavorably to the Sea of Galilee, which is fresh and sparkling and full of fish, while the Dead Sea is salty and no fish can live in it. The usual point is that the Jordan River flows through the Sea of Galilee, but only flows into the Dead Sea because there is no outlet.

“Dr. Buttrick concedes the truth of this point about life through giving but then goes on to identify another truth of which I had never thought. He claims the Dead Sea does have an outlet—the upward one, toward the sky. Across the centuries as it has surrendered itself to the sun, a residue of potash has built up and remains along its shores. Potash…is a main ingredient of fertilizer. Engineers have estimated that if the potash around the Dead Sea could be mixed and distributed, there would be enough there to fertilize the whole surface of the earth for at least five years. The point is, life never comes to a complete dead end. When no outlet is open except surrender to the sky in helplessness, even this response is not without its positive residue, for out of it can come the miracle of new life.

“So this is my intention: I will do all I can, stay open and hopeful at every point, and finally surrender my burden to the sky.”

Let’s join him.