Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. – 2 Samuel 12:20
When David’s child, born as a result of his adultery with Bathsheba, was afflicted with sickness, it awakened within the king a spiritual zeal that had been dormant. David began to seek God, and he prayed desperately that God might spare his little boy. He refused to eat, and he no longer lived his life as usual while his child’s life hung in the balance.
David had previously attempted to cover over his sin by trying to pawn off his child on the unsuspecting Uriah, whose wife he had slept with. But when God, in His mercy, confronted David with his sin, the king’s posture completely changed. David sought God because God had first sought David and softened his heart. Such a change could only be brought about by the work of God.
Then came the dreadful news: the child had died. The late theologian Alec Motyer compared repentance to gathering back a stone that has been thrown into a pool: you can get the stone back, but the ripples upon the water will continue to spread. David repented of his abuse and adultery, and God, in His mercy, accepted David’s repentance. But God did not stop the ripples.
Yet God was still able to use this tragedy to form David into the man that he needed to be. David responded in a strange and unexpected way: he arose, cleaned himself up, and went into the house of the Lord. The one who had been hiding from God now went to meet with God. The tragic death of David’s son did not lead David to stay at arm’s length from God. No, it led him into an even deeper relationship with Him.
When he entered the house of the Lord, David would have needed to bring a lamb without blemish as a sacrifice. But that was not the only sacrifice he brought. He also offered the only damaged sacrifice that is acceptable to bring into God’s house: as David later wrote, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
God did not leave David to cover up his sin, and He did not leave him alone in dealing with the consequences of his sin. God’s treatment of David reveals that He cares deeply about the state of His children’s hearts. He will go to great lengths to bring you back when you wander away from Him. More than anything else, God wants you to have a broken and contrite heart before Him. When He makes you confront your sin, or afflicts you, or doesn’t give you what you desire, don’t assume that it is because He doesn’t love you. It is because He is graciously drawing you closer to Himself.