No, I Love You Too Much Ė 2 Sam. 12:15-25
4 Ways God Answers Prayer #1
Don Cherry is a
well-known personality among Detroit Red Wings fans.† Cherry is the colorful hockey commentator for
Hockey Night in
††††††††††† While Don Cherry certainly has developed this response as a pat humorous answer, it does illustrate the point that many people have differing views concerning prayer.† Some people donít believe in prayer at all Ė they think that it is a waste of time because there is no divine being who is personally interested in our lives.†† Other people use prayer as a sort of superstitious rite.† Still others look at prayer in the same way that Aladdin viewed the fictitious genie that sprung from the lamp that he rubbed.† Some, like Cherry, feel that we must micromanage our prayers.† If we slip up or leave something out, we will not get what we desire.
††††††††††† During 4 Sunday evenings this summer, I would like to look at this subject of prayer with you.† I want to do this specifically looking at 4 prayers in the Bible where 4 completely different answers are given.† These do not represent all of case scenarios for prayer, of course.† But they do represent the 4 most common answers that God gives when we pray.† By looking at these Biblical examples, perhaps we can see something of the nature and breadth of this great privilege of communicating with God that our Heavenly Father has made available to each of His children.
††††††††††† Turn we me to 2 Samuel 12 as we look this evening at an answer to prayer that was No.† Sometimes God answers our prayers with a No.† But when he does so, it is because of his love for us realizing that getting what we desire would not be in our best interest or in the best interest of His program here on this earth.
††††††††††† The setting for this prayer is well known to most Christians for it comes out of a time of severe backsliding in the life of King David.† David was one of the few people in the Bible of whom God could say that he was a man after His own heart.† Certainly David was a spiritually minded person who had a close, intimate relationship with the Lord.† The many Psalms that he authored reveal the depth of his spiritual insight and understanding.† But David was not a perfect person.† And there is one great sin that he committed that is revealed in the Bible in all of its sordid truth.
††††††††††† This sin happened at the peak of Davidís illustrious career.† With all of the nations surrounding Israel conquered and paying tribute, David was living a comfortable, luxurious life.† One year, David chose to stay home rather than travel out with his armies during the season for war.† The Bible refers to a time for war during the Old Testament.† This was very literally true.† With most of the soldiers also being family men who operated farms, the time for war was after the harvest.† This served the dual purpose of giving the men a break from their routine as well as expanding the kingdom of Israel.† With all of the surrounding nations already under the umbrella of Davidic rule, the prospect of this military campaign didnít appear to be that noteworthy.† The army was just going to be reminding those who had already admitted their subservience to keep those tribute payments coming.† So David decided to stay home and let Joab, the commander of his army, take the army of their maneuvers.†
††††††††††† While at home with a great deal of time on his hands, David got himself into some moral trouble.† The story is well known.† David was cooling himself off during the evening of a hot, Palestinian day by enjoying the breezes from the rooftop of his palace when he noticed a beautiful woman bathing on another rooftop.† Anyone who has been to Israel knows how easily this could happen with the rugged terrain giving a tiered neighborhood.† The Kingís palace was on the highest location, of course, both for defensive purposes and also as a position of honor.† The King could literally look out over his kingdom from the vantage point of his own palace.† It was not customary for people to bath from their rooftops both from the sake of modesty and the practical problem of having to lug the water up to the roof, but Bathsheba on this occasion was bathing.† The fact that she was and that she could certainly have seen David watching her shows that she was complicit in this affair.† But David was guilty in that he did not turn from temptation.† He allowed the lust of the eyes to misuse his power.† He sent for Bathsheba and had an adulterous affair with her.
††††††††††† Because Bathshebaís husband, Uriah, was far off on military maneuvers with Joab, David might well have gotten away with this sexual indiscretion were it not for the fact that Bathsheba became pregnant.† This certainly complicated the issue.† For Uriah would return after several months to a wife who was well along in her pregnancy knowing full well that the child could not be his.† So David hatched a plan to cover up his sin.† He sent word to have Uriah return from the battlefront on the excuse of wanting to find out word of how the campaign was going.† David assumed that Uriah would take this opportunity to spend some time with his wife so that the child would naturally be assumed to be his.† But Uriah did not return to his wife.† He couldnít justify in his mind spending time in the comforts of his home while his fellow soldiers were sleeping out in tents on the battlefield.† So David felt the need to move to plan B.† This plan was even more insidious than the sin that he had previously committed.† For while David had committed been tempted by his lusts to commit immorality, he now committed a cold-blooded act of murder to cover his own transgressions.† David sent word through his trusted soldier to Joab to have Uriah put in the front lines of an attack and then deserted by his comrades so that he would die.† Uriah was such a trusted soldier that David could send the note with full confidence that it would be delivered unopened.† Joab obeyed the directive from his commander-in-chief and Uriah, one of Davidís most courageous soldiers listed with the Mighty Men in 1 Chronicles 11,† died on the battlefield.†† David now concluded his cover-up by taking Bathsheba to be one of his wives.† While this would certainly look to be most suspicious today because of the timing and impropriety, back in these Old Testament times when it was common to have multiple wives, this would have been seen as a generous gesture of the king to one of his respected soldiers.† Without life insurance, a wife left widowed was in a vulnerable position.† By taking her into his family, David was in essence giving Bathsheba security for the remainder of his life.† The cover-up was complete Ė but the Bible says that God was not pleased.
††††††††††† The Lord directed his prophet, Nathan, to confront David with this great sin that he had committed.† Even though David confessed his sin and expressed sorrow for it, Nathan informed the king that there would still be consequences for his willful transgression.† One of the consequences would be the death of the baby that Davidís immorality with Bathsheba had produced.† Notice Davidís response as we pick up the story after the prophet Nathan had delivered Godís message to King David.† READ 2 Samuel 12:15-25:
2SA 12:15 After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
††† 2SA 12:18 On the seventh day the child died. David's servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, "While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate."
††† 2SA 12:19 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."
††† 2SA 12:20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
††† 2SA 12:21 His servants asked him, "Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!"
††† 2SA 12:22 He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, `Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' 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."
††† 2SA 12:24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; 25 and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah (meaning Loved by the Lord).
††††††††††† When David heard from Nathan that the child that had been born by Bathsheba was going to die, the King was very distraught.† So David did what any godly person does when his heart becomes heavy with a burden.† David began to pray.† He began to pray fervently.† He went without food fasting.† He didnít allow himself the luxury of sleeping in his bed at night but rather spent all night lying on the ground.† David begged God to let his child live.† For 7 days David pleaded with the Lord in prayer.† The kingís sincerity and fervency cannot be questioned.† They were so recognized by his staff that they were afraid to tell David when the child finally passed away.† But despite the prayers of this man who was a man after Godís own heart, and despite the obvious sincerity of these prayers, God answered No.† The child died.†† Sometimes God answers prayer with a No.† Now many people interpret this answer as not answering prayer at all.† Many would say that God didnít answer Davidís prayer.† David prayed that his child would live and the child died anyway.† So God must not have heard this prayer.† God must not have answered this prayer.† To many people, God only answers prayer when we get what we want.† But it is very clear from this passage that God did answer Davidís prayer.† The answer was No.† Godís message through the prophet Nathan would stand Ė the child would die.
††††††††††† Now David recognized that God had answered his prayer, didnít he?† And the Kingís response was very interesting.† It amazed all of these who were on his staff.† Having seen the kingís distress over the childís sickness, they feared for his life if he were to hear that the baby had died.† They feared that he would slip into such a depressed state that he would lose the will to live.† But quite the opposite happened, didnít it?† When David heard that the child had died, he cleaned himself up and went to the worship the Lord.† After he had worshiped, David then returned back to his palace and sat down to eat.
††††††††††† You see, David accepted the will of the Lord as the best for his life.† And while we certainly cannot use the situation that brought about this child as a positive example in Davidís life for it represents the low point in Davidís life spiritually, we can see Davidís submission to the will of God and his recognition that Godís will was best as a positive example.† A godly person submits himself to the will of God in prayer recognizing that God knows what is best in life.† So a godly person doesnít try to force his will on the Almighty, but rather is thankful for those times when God says No, realizing that Godís will is always the best.† Personally, as I look back on my own life, some of the best answers that God has given to my prayers have been No, I love you too much.
††††††††††† We had been in our previous pastorate at Trinity Baptist Church in Grand Rapids for just over 4 year when† I received a call from the pulpit committee from the Bible Baptist Church of Kokomo, Indiana.† I was really excited when I received that call because I thought this was just the perfect opportunity for ministry.† I had known in my heart that our ministry at Trinity was not going to be a real long one.† It wasnít that things werenít going well Ė they were.† But every pastor makes some mistakes in his first pastorate from lack of experience.† And there were so many churches in Grand Rapids (14 per square mile within the city limits) that I knew that I didnít want to stay there for my entire ministry.† And the Kokomo church seemed to be the perfect one for me.† I had already served there as Youth Pastor for a year while doing some graduate work at Grace Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana.† Sandy and I would drive down every Friday after my Seminary classes were out and stay in a little apartment that they had for us throughout the weekend returning again Sunday night after church.† We had already built some good relationships with the people.† And the fact that they had called asking me to consider being the Senior Pastor now that I had finished my Seminary training was confirmation of those relationships, I thought.† I just knew that this would be a great place for us to go.† So I started to pray that God would send us to the Bible Baptist Church in Kokomo to be† their pastor.† I prayed and I prayed.† I even set aside every Friday to fast and pray.† And things looked like they were progressing nicely for a while.† Members of the pulpit committee came up to observe some of our services.† We had a nice meal and interview together.† Everything seemed to be in order.† But nothing really clicked.† And the pulpit committee wrote me a letter one day telling me that they had decided to go with another candidate.† I remember reading that letter and wondering why the Lord hadnít answered my prayer to go to the Bible Baptist Church of Kokomo as their pastor.
††††††††††† It was about a month later that I got a letter from the First Baptist Church of Wayne.† And the rest, as they say, is history.† I knew absolutely nothing about this church before coming.† I had no history here.† The only people that I knew were students that I had been associated with from when I taught at the college.† I knew Dan and Nancy Bishop as former students who were Youth Pastors when I came.† I knew Andy Pugh who had attended the college for a couple of years.† But otherwise, I had no history at all with the church.† But the Lord knew that this was the place where he wanted me to serve Him.† So He said No to the place that would have been my natural and obvious choice.† And he opened the door to a place that I hadnít heard of before.† Because God knew what would be best both for me and for the cause of His kingdom.
††††††††††† We donít have time to develop how Godís answer to Davidís prayer directed the course of the nation of Israel.† Let me just briefly summarize by reminding us of the fact that David would have another son with Bathsheba whose named would by Solomon.† If this first child who passed away would have lived, he would likely have become the successor to David as King of Israel.† He would have had to live with the stigma of his birth circumstances throughout his entire reign.† Who knows how much that would have affected the nation?† Solomon, on the other hand, would have a glorious tenure as king.† Itís true that he would make many mistakes as his father David did.† But over all, the nation of Israel has never had a century of power and prosperity as it had during the reigns of David and Solomon.† Solomon built a spectacular temple in which to worship the Lord, a temple that has become the standard of excellence for Jewish worship even to this day.† God knew who would be the best ruler for His people.† So despite Davidís prayers and pleas, God said No.†
††††††††††† When we bring our prayers and petitions before God, we should always do so with the awareness that while we have an idea of what we think would be best, God knows the future.† He knows absolutely what would be in our best interests and in the best interests of His program.† So when he says No, †rather than pouting and complaining and having a crisis of faith, we should respond as David did, accepting the will of God as best. †Sometimes when we pray God responds by saying, No, I love you too much to give you what you are requesting.† For in the long run, you would be sorry if you got what you are asking me for.††††