<< 2 Samuel 12: The Death of David’s Child >>
“And he said, While the child was alive, I fasted. and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious unto me, that the child may live ? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”-2 SAM. xii. 22, 23.
OUR CHILDREN WHO HAVE PASSED FROM EARTH CERTAINLY GO TO HEAVEN. This great truth throws a gleam of hope and comfort over the bleeding heart, when a little darling which had been the light and the joy of home is removed.
Children bring so much of heaven with them, are so endearing, so interesting, and entwine themselves so completely with our best affections and our liveliest sympathies, that it is Indeed a dreary blank when the place is empty, where so much love has been.
The little garments are laid tenderly aside. Eve!y endearing recollection is cherished with loving care. There is a yearning towards the future better world, that raises the soul almost unvaryingly towards heaven, even if there has been but little of heavenly thought before the death of a child seldom occurs without to some extent spiritualizing those with whom Its short life has been passed, and inducing somewhat of the feeling expressed in the beautiful lines–
” Do you moan when another star
Shines out from the glittering sky?
Do you weep when the raging voice of war
And the storms of conflict die?
Then, why should your tears run down,
And your hearts be sorely riven,
For another gem in the Saviour’s crown—
For another soul in heaven? “
The sadness of having the gem of our fireside removed, is often greatly lessened by our having a clear view of what Scnpture teaches respecting the nearness of the spiritual world, and the ministry of angels. The sorrow which is felt when the future is quite unknown is very deep. It is as if our darlings were dropped into a hollow bottomless pit, or had floated away on a dark ever-wandering stream. But, if on the contrary, we are assured that the inner spiritual world is, as Scripture represents it, “a heavenly country,”-a real world more full of objects, more perfect in the beauty of all its scenes and arrangements than this: near at hand, though unseen; then the void we feel is much less painful.
This sense of comfort is still greater when we remember the great love of our Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, for every child, as it is written, “It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. xviii. 14).
How tender were the incidents in which children were concerned when our Lord was upon earth. The loving mothers who were touched by His Divine words, brought unto Him their little children, that He should put His hands upon them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but the Saviour soon shewed how much the tenderness of the mothers was in harmony with His own, and He said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Touching and divine expressions which will carry balm to bereaved hearts, through all time, OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
It is a further source of comfort to remember that our children were the objects of tenderest angelic care while they lived here. Their Divine Creator had provided far their welfare of body and soul, by ministers of love appointed to take care of them both in the outer world and the inner world : parents for their outer life, and angels for their inner life. How wonderful is true parental love! How mindful, how tender, how deep, how engrossing it is! Though but a drop from the ocean of the love of God, how rich, how heavenly a thing it is. What miracles it often works! What care for all the child’s little wants! what self-sacrifice! what devotion will the true mother manifest for her child! How often will the lighthearted and giddy become sedate and matronly, when such a gift from heaven has completed the marriage union. How often under the gentle caresses of baby has the dashing young father settled down to the gentle endearments of home, steady and in “his right mind.”
Oh, yes a baby is a magnet that radiates love, and is surrounded by love even here on earth. But their angels, our Lord said, “do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Their angels; what a beautiful arrangement for the aid of parents is announced in these gracious words. Their angels, angels especially for them, to assist In directing their young souls to thoughts of love, of genntleness, and of heaven. “Heaven lies around us in our infancy, is not a poetic fancy, but a serious truth, a law of Divine mercy and providence, that each young immortal may have its golden age. There is a holy ground implanted in each young heart, a germ of angel life, ready to receive the seed of the Word in due time, and cherish it. Their angels stimulate the desire for heavenly things. How many of those questions which children ask, and foolish parents avoid, are suggested by their angels we can never know; but if we were wise we should be delighted to store up in the young soul instruction, which would be as corn in Egypt, ready in days of sorrow and of want.
Their angels! what value must be set upon each soul by the great Parent of all, since He appoints at least two heavenly guardians and two earthly guardians to each one.
Their angels influence them happily before their parents obtain any conscious notice. A child in the earliest days of life will smile with closed eyes, and dimple its little cheek with heavenly sweetness, before it responds to any earthly prompting, even of its mother. The irsh regard the radiance of joy which beams from baby’s face on such occasions as the result of “angels’ whispers.” And probably they are right. ” ‘The Lord has given His angels charge over them, to keep them in all their ways ” (Psa. xci. 11). And the whole work of regeneration is to bring our entire spirits into harmony with the holy substance of heaven implanted in them at first. The heavenly childlike innocence implanted in our nature during our formation remains;—the child within the man, during the rude bustling of actual life, always exhibits a fellowship with children’s ways and children’s joys, until happily we are converted, and once more as little children become humble, guileless, unselfishly good, and ready for the kingdom of heaven: lambs of a larger growth, by the nature and the power of the Lamb of God who is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. xix. 16).
Such are the considerations that group around children. In David’s case there was the greatest anxiety about this child. He appears to have had for it the tenderest regard. He prayed and fasted, and took every means as a Jew to obtain from the Lord the grace of the child’s restoration; and when this was seen to be not deemed good by the Divine Providence, the king bowed in resignation to his lot, intimating his obedience by the touching words, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
There is not much reference to the future life in the early books of the Word, and the Jewish Law was given expressly requiring obedience from the Israelites, on the ground of ternporal rewards and punishments, out there is nevertheless such recognition of the future as to shew that the eternal world though dim had never quite vanished from their view.
They called dying ” going to their fathers;” “sleeping with their fathers; and when we couple with these phrases the intimation of our Lord that God is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him, it appears that the Jews never altogether lost sight of the eternal world, although their chief hopes and fears were in close relation to this.
When we remember too that angels are from the human race and how frequently they appear in the events recorded in the Old Testament, we shall be convinced that the men of old had a firm belief that they would be men after death, in a real and everlasting world.
When, however, we remember the arrangements of Divine Providence for the good of children, we may feel certain they will not be less perfect in that more perfect world, If the Lord provided angels and parents to assist in training the beloved ones on earth in developing their minds, and implantlng within them sacred principles of truth and goodness, we may rest assured that He will give His angels charge over them there. Angels suited to their tender states will lead them gently and instruct them wisely in the paradises of heaven. They will not be subjected, as children are too often subjected on earth, to see debasing examples, to hear degrading words. Children in heaven will only come into contact with what is pure, loving, gentle, and wise. They will be taught by the best of teachers. They will see only what is elevating instructive, and beautiful. They will be taught the meaning of all they see In the deeper wisdom of eternity. They will behold goodness personified in all the angels, and from them learn to adore and love the Lord, their great Father, and behold Him in the sun of heaven and His perfections reflected in all the glories of heaven. When we consider all these things and feel that all children, who pass from earth are safe, forever safe, against making shipwreck of their souls, we must surely be so resigned that we would not wish them back. Though our loss is bitter, their gain is unspeakably great.
In the departure of children into the eternal world, there is also an important providential law that should not be overlooked. As all children go to heaven, the inflowing of heaven into the world becomes stronger, because of their greater number. And, when we are aware that half of the human race die in childhood and youth, we cannot but observe the wisdom of Divine Providence in overruling the seeming evil of the death of children to advantages so vast as the extension of heaven, the multiplication of the angels, and the equilibrium of the influences which bear upon, and sustain the freedom of the human race.
The more evil the world is, the more children die; the more children die, the more angels there are, and their influence serves to restore a better state in the, world. And so out of our very evils, our good Lord provides, for restoration and blessing. “o give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His Mercy endureth for ever.”
In proportion as sin and folly are overcome in the world, children will cease to die. It is not of the Divine Will that any children die now, but only of His permission, because of the circumstances of the human race, and the prevalence of evil. When we consider the want of wisdom in parents, the heedlessness of the requirements of health displayed by too many, over-indulgence by some, harshness by others, inattention to their sleep, their habits, their appropriate food, to say nothing of their hereditary disorders of mind and body transmitted unthinkingly by parents, the wonder is that so many continue to live. It is indeed of the Lord’s mercy we are preserved so long and preserved so well; but surely there is the dawn of better times. A new heaven and a new earth are opening upon us, in which true virtue, true wisdom, and true order will bring about the happy state described by prophecy. The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is, our king: He will save us. And the inhabitant shall not say I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity” (Isa. vxxii, 24).
David’s child was doubtless tainted with the faults of its parents, and children similarly born, in far greater proportion than children born under purer circumstances, fail to live to become men and women, Their tender systems. are corrupted from the beginning, and if they had lived, life would have been too hard a battle for them, They are taken from the evil to come. Instead of being weighed down by sins and sorrows, they become angels, and add to the glorious company of those who form the shining ranks of the blessed.
When the world has become what it will one day be, a new heaven and earth regarding in all things the principles of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that He will be the centre, and all laws and institutions will breathe His Spirit and be inspired by His Love; then will marriage, parentage, and education be regarded as things most sacred, to be entered upon with feelings of the purest kind, and carried forward with prayer, and reverential regard for the teachings of truth. Then will deformities, disease, weakness and early death disappear. In the meantime, the text describes the course to be pursued in the sufferings of our children. We must strive to obtain divine assistance; we must employ the best natural means we have for their recovery: but if that is not seen by the All-wise to be for the best, we must patiently and lovingly acquiesce. Why should we murmur when the Good Shepherd places His lambs in greater safety? He sees the end from the beginning, and He ordains all things for the best. We should strive then without a murmur to resign our dear ones to His care, and be satisfied that all is well. The more perfect circles of heaven win accomplish His blessed purposes with our children, better than the imperfect homes of earth. Let us say, “Thy will be done.” They will not return to us: we will strive to go to them.
The premature death of David’s child has however a permanent, abiding, and spiritual lesson for us, as well as that in relation to our children. We have mental children as well as external ones. A person’s character is his child more closely perhaps than any other. Our states, our plans, our schemes of life are a species of births; and the new Christian character we attain in our strivings after heavenly mindedness is correctly called in Scripture “the new man.” In this respect we must all be ” born again,” and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge in the image of Him that created him (Col. xxxi. 10). Looked at more closely, each new principle in us is a new hirth, and each new state is as a new man. The twelve sons of Jacob represented the births and developments of the leading principles in the regenerate life, and the way in which they expand within us so as to form in us the Israel of God. In spiritual things as in natural things a common failing of us all is that we would fain get to the end too fast. We too often forget, what a vast work has to be done in us, and how long it is to last, and we want to get to the end of our labour far sooner than the divine mercy and wisdom of the Lord can permit it to be done. Hence we have in our spiritual progress many failures. We have premature births and deaths before the time, Our children are not born strong enough; we have been in too great a hurry.
We hasten to be rich in spiritual things as we do in natural affairs. We do not work and wait as all great artists do for perfection, but we labour for quantity. Hence we often do what Scripture calls to conceive chaff (Isa, xxxiii. 11 ). Our goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the earlydewit goeth away (Hosea v, 4).
This mistake of our nature is often referred to in the Word, and often represented. Jacob’s wish to have Rachel before Leah was an instance of this latter kind. David’s taking Bathsheba before the time, and the unhealthy result of this feeble dying child, are representative of the same unsound result. It represents sentimentality and morbid piety, not steady growth by obedience to the truth.
A sickly spirit of religion, piety without justice, and a true regard to right is sure sooner or later to die. Bathsheba was to be the mother of Solomon, but all in order and due time. Celestial states cannot be forced, any more than good earthly fruit can. In earthly things we know a child should be a child, a boy should be a boy: a boy that is a premature old man lacks the good qualities of both. It is so in religion: if a person affects states and feelings that are not the genuine growtb of real knowledge, real learning, real virtuous struggles in the trials of life, real piety and real love to the Lord, affecting to be more pious and celestial that they really are, his religion is sentimentality, and ere long it will sicken and die.
We should not seek to be high-flown in our feelings, and celestial before the time, but very sensible of our deficiencies and humbly good. Peter was very demonstrative. He was ever ready to declare for His Master, to follow Him and die for Him he said. But, we know how miserably he failed when he was really tried. His faith was then an imaginative dream, it had not yet grown into principle. So David’s taking the beautiful Bathsheba, whose name signifies the seventh daughter, before the time, represents the endeavour to become celestial before the state has really been attained.. The result will be a sickly child, and it will die.
How often such premature states of imaginative piety are let down in the realities of life abundant experience shews. The mercy of the Lord is so good to us, that we often suppose the states of peace which we enjoy are the fruits of our advanced states in regeneration. Often, however, a change comes. We are let Into ourselves. Clouds gather round, feelings we had supposed to be entirely subdued rise up again, and we are astonished at ourselves. Our bright thoughts our states of innocence and joy, have all passed away, and we doubt whether we really have advanced at all in the heavenly life.
Such self-revealings are often most distressing. We weep, we fast, we humble ourselves, but all that is not based in steady truth must die. Much of the early bloom on many a fruit-tree is inherently weak, and must fall off when the bitter winds of spring come. So is it with the bloom of the soul. It is mixed Up with weaknesses and impurities which destroy its strength and taInt. Its beauty. Troubles will come. Our sky will be covered WIth gloom. We shall see our sins, and feel condemned. Our hopes and comforts for a season at least will all die, and we shall take up the pathetic sentiments of the poet–
Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view,
Of Jesus and His Word.
O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road,
That leads me to the Lamb.”
Such is the spiritual state that is represented by David’s sorrow, over his dying child. It will not however avert the calamity. The cup of sorrow must be drunk after sin. If our religion has failed in sober earnestness, and been imaginative and sentimental, Its hollowness will appear in due season and like an untimely birth it will pass away.
But, when we see its weak and frail nature, and humble ourselves before the Lord, when we examine ourselves, and confess our faults and follies, we may rest assured of a happier season soon. This state will dle, but it will not perish; it will only go before. It will be preserved In our Interiors, our inner heaven. And in due. season, if we are faithful and true to the Lord Jesus, our souls will become celestial. We shall go to Him; but He will not return to us.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY from The The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)