2 Samuel 12:23 – Royal Confession
“Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”2 Samuel 12:23b
“Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.”Acts 2:29
David's reaction to the death of his first child by Bathsheba was a surprise to the elders of the house, and may also appear that way to us as well. He appears to adopt a pessimistic and fatalistic attitude, suggesting that despite his prayer there was really little hope not only for the child but also for himself. Yet this reading of his response is decidedly incorrect. In actual fact, these words form a royal confession of faith! This is the royal confession of a king who has been brought back to the path of service and obedience to the coming Messiah.
This is clarified when we recall the root of David's sin with Bathsheba. It occurred at the height of his power, when he had defeated all his enemies. The Ammonites were destroyed and the Syrians became subject to him. In a sense, he enjoyed universal recognition and unprecedented strength. Under David, Israel became a world power to be reckoned with! And for David this meant that there was hardly a thing he could not do. He was invincible. And it was the sin of pride that led him to take the wife of one of his soldiers. Who can withstand the will and command of the king?
Through the grace of God David is brought back to his senses, and made to see his sin. Now he is confronted with his limitations and weaknesses. He is confronted with what he cannot do. Great as he was, he knew he could not bring back his lost son from the dead. Indeed. David admits that he is also but dust and ashes, and that his own reign is limited according to the time God allows.
Yet hope and confidence underline his words. What hope does he confess? His realization that he is dust and ashes, and that he is not the Messiah implies that he must wait for another. The son whom the LORD had taken also could not be the heir. David must plead only on the ground of God's promises! But he is not without hope! For he knew that although the LORD punishes sin, He is also disposed to mercy and grace. So he prayed for the life of his son even when Nathan the prophet had told him that the child would die.
What then was David's hope? In admitting that he was not the one to save Israel, and that he – along with his wife – deserved only eternal death, he looks to another. He prayed that the LORD might send Him whom He had promised, the Messiah, and that the LORD might none the less establish his throne, through His grace alone!
And as Peter says in Acts 2, the LORD answered this prayer. Peter states definitely that David went to his son, and that he died and was buried. There is no reason to embellish and glorify David! He was not able to bring his son back to life. Much as he could do great things, death was the end point for him in this dispensation. But David's great Son had come, Jesus Christ. And He was able to do what David, through sin and weakness, could not do.
This was the royal Son that David prayed and hoped for! And through the shadows of the dispensation in which David lived we can – however faintly – see the lines of the new dispensation! For he believed that he would see his departed son again. And he believed and confessed that even though he would have to go to death, that death was still not the end for him! Indeed, he would have to die, and wait for the Messiah. But he also believed in His coming and saving work! He foresaw and confessed the resurrection of Christ also in these words concerning his departed son. For in confessing that he was not able to bring him back, and that he also could not bring himself back, he looked in faith to One who was coming, who not only would “bring Himself back” through God's power, but also be able to bring back all those who in repentance and faith took refuge in Him! He could not bring back one from the grave, and his own grave was a living testimony to his impotence. But the possibility of coming back, and the eventual reality of being brought back by another, his great Son, this he still confessed!
And did not the LORD also confirm his confession with an immediate reward? For after the child died, David comforted his wife, and she bore another son, Solomon, of whom Scripture says that “the LORD loved him.” He was the son of hope for David! Having taken his first child, the LORD also showed His steadfast love and favour in giving another, who could and would be the heir. Through the comfort given to his wife by the penitent David for the sorrow of God's just punishment against his sin, another son is born! In seeing true repentance, the LORD hastens to act!
So David, the royal king, learned to trust in His great Son, Jesus Christ. He learned to hope and long for the king whose power would far exceed his own because it would rise even beyond sin and the grave. To be sure, this was a struggle to the end of his life! The suspense mounts in David's old age, for one sees how Solomon is only barely crowned before David's death. But God's faithfulness is sure, and David may depart in the confidence that his sin is forgiven, and that the LORD was going forward to fulfil His promise of redemption!
How much more do we not have today! We also cannot bring back a loved one from the dead. The grave is still the place where we all must go. But we have One in heaven who has been there, and come back, and who assures us that He will also bring us back from there again! We have a sure pledge that He will take us to Himself! And we have His Spirit as a sure pledge that we will be strengthened to triumph over death's power in Him. He makes us alive! So we may follow in the same royal confession, and expect the day of His coming with rejoicing!