************ Funeral Sermon on 2 Samuel 12:15-23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This funeral sermon was preached on October 4, 2011
2 Samuel 12:15-23
2 Samuel 12:22-23
"I Will Go to Him, but He Will Not Return to Me"
Carol de Jong funeral
Isn't this one of the saddest stories of the Bible? A boy, a young boy, becomes sick. David couldn't eat. He couldn't rest. He couldn't concentrate. He couldn't carry out his daily duties. David's life came to a complete stop. Instead, David pleads and prays and fasts for seven days but God, in His wisdom, allows the child to die.
Isn't this similar to the experience of Arie and his children? Except they – and all of us with them – have been praying and pleading for 1½ years. Life maybe did not come to a complete stop but it sure was a struggle at times with treatment and a transplant and a hospital stay and all those trips back and forth. Yet God, in His wisdom, has allowed Carol to die at the tender age of 51.
Life is never the same after the death of a loved one. David lost a child, a much loved child, a joy of his life. What a hole that created in his life. And, what a hole Carol's death has created. Watching TV or eating supper or reading the Bible or going to bed will never be the same. Someone else will be running the computer and doing the book-keeping and looking after the walnuts. Grand-children are without their grandma. Arie is without his lifelong companion, the wife of his youth.
Whenever death comes, it steals away someone you love and care about. You experience loss and grief whether the person is a baby, a teen, a young adult, middle-aged, or elderly. How do we deal with such a great loss? How do we continue with life when someone we love departs?
David gives us lessons on how to deal with death and dying.
I Prayer for the Dying
The first lesson: pray. David prayed for his sick child. He prayed, he pleaded, he fasted, he spent nights lying on the ground (2 Sam 12:16). David prayed even though Nathan the prophet told him his child was going to die because of David's sin (2 Sam 12:14). For all David knew, the judgment might be conditional – as it was with Hezekiah who earnestly prayed and was granted fifteen additional years of life (2 Kings 20). David thought to himself, "Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live" (2 Sam 12:22). God graciously allows us to come to Him in prayer. He allows us to ask for particular blessings. He doesn't promise to give us what we ask for but we can ask anyway – having confidence in His power and His mercy. Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious? So David prayed.
When our relatives and friends become sick, we pray for their recovery. Is any one of you in trouble? Is any one of you afflicted. He or she should pray. That is what the Bible teaches (James 5:13-18). So, we prayed for Carol, didn't we?! We prayed for Arie and the children and the grand-children. None of us knew whether or not the Lord would be gracious and let Carol live. But we prayed having confidence in God's power and mercy.
But, notice, David's prayers came to an end when the child died: "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept" (2 Sam 12:22). We learn from this that we don't pray for the dead like the Catholics and Mormons do. We pray for the living. We pray for the living because while there is life there is hope and, while there is hope, there is room for prayer. So, today, we pray for the living – we pray for Arie and the children and all of us impacted by Carol's death.
II Accept that Death Happens
The second lesson: accept that death happens. David accepted his child's death once it happened.
David noticed that the servants were whispering among themselves. He knew something must have happened. So he asked them, "Is the child dead?" (2 Sam 12:19). When they told him the news, David got up, washed and anointed himself, put on clean clothes, worshiped at the house of the Lord, and then went to his own house to eat and drink.
David's servants were astonished by this because David acted contrary to old established customs of mourning:
When someone dies, the practice of the East is to leave a relation of the deceased person to weep and mourn and throw himself on the ground. On the third or fourth day at the latest, the relatives and friends go to see him, cause him to eat, make him wash, and cause him to put on new clothing.In contrast, David wept and mourned and fasted and threw himself on the ground before death. And, after death he changed his clothes and ate food. David accepted the reality of his child's death.
David also accepted the reality of his own death, that his own death was inevitable. Notice what David says. David says "I will go to him" (2 Sam 12:23). One of the things David has in mind here is his own death and the grave. David knows that someday he, too, will die. In fact, unless Jesus returns first, everyone of us will die. That's what happens. The statistics are most impressive: 100% of all people will die. They die young – like Carol; or, they die even younger – like David's child; or, they die old. They die suddenly; they die unexpectedly. They die naturally; they die because of the acts of another. They die quickly; they die after a long battle with death. Someday, we all will die. Death is no respecter of persons. Death will come upon you whether you are young, old, sick, healthy, rich, poor, Dutch, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim.
Death is a reality that you must accept. Death is a reality for which you must be ready and get ready. Although you may wonder, although you may have questions, the most important thing about death is not how it happened, or why it happened, or when it happened, or what might have been done. The most important thing you need to know about death is that it happens to all of us – you, me, David's child, Carol. From it there is no escape. People may be living longer today than they have since the days of Noah, medical science has done much to prolong life and postpone death, people are conscious of health and fitness like never before, but death still comes to all of us. Everyone of us must accept that someday we will die and we must be ready.
III Look to God
The third lesson: look to God. After David got up, washed, and changed his clothes, the first place he went was "the house of the Lord" (2 Sam 12:20). The Hebrew word for "worship" in verse 20 simply means to prostrate oneself in homage before a monarch or superior. It means to bow down.
Do you see what David was doing? Do you see what David was saying? By his prostration, David was declaring that God was over him. By his bowing, David was declaring that God is in control. David was declaring that God knows and does what is best.
Isn't that why we are here this sad morning? We mourn with Arie and family but we do so in the house of the Lord. We, too, want to acknowledge that God knows best. We, too, want to acknowledge that God always does what most glorifies His name.
Think of what this means. This means no death is an accident. We may call it an accident but, in God's eyes, it is anything but; rather, it is an appointment with death. So I repeat, no one dies by accident. The drive-by shooting, the job-related death, the surgery gone wrong, the crash on the road – all of them examples of what we call accidents – are men and women and children keeping an appointment with death determined by God. This past week, according to the plan of God, Carol had an appointment with death.
David got up from the ground. He washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes. Then he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. David had other choices. He could have gone out drinking with Joab and other buddies from his days in Bethlehem. He could have gone to one of his wives or concubines for comfort. He could have gone straight to his house for dinner. He could have climbed the city walls of Jerusalem and thrown himself off its heights. David had other choices. But David, in his moment of grief, looked to the Lord.
I suppose Arie and family have many of the same choices as did David. But, like David, they are here, in the house of the Lord. They have turned from everything else and look to the Lord in this their trying hour of sadness and death.
IV Continue with Life
The fourth lesson: continue with life. Keep on living. I just love what David did, contrary to the funeral customs of his day. He cleaned up and sat down to eat and drink. In the midst of death, he calmly sat down and asked his servants to feed him. He didn't cry more loudly than before. He didn't react violently or irrationally. He sat down and ate and drank. David acted like a man at peace. At peace with what happened. At peace with the world. At peace with God.
Where does this peace come from? You know! It comes from a living relationship with God. It comes from knowing God as your Shepherd. It comes from close communion with God in worship, Bible reading, and prayer. This peace does not come from being alone on a mountain or in a cave for a while. This peace does not come from a pill or a bottle or a vacation. This peace doesn't come from moving or redecorating or new relationships. This peace does not come by getting rid of anything that reminds you of the person who died. This peace comes only from time in God's presence. I want you to know that, in Christ, Carol had this peace.
Being at peace with God, David could sit down to eat and drink and continue this business we call life.
After the funeral this morning we go to the graveside. But what else do we do? We come back here. To this building. We enter the fellowship hall. We sit down to eat and drink, just like David. We continue this business we call life because we are at peace.
Lest anyone get the wrong idea, let me hasten to say that peace does not mean there will be no more tears. Grieving is a process. It is a process that takes time. Death is always sad and traumatic – even when it is expected. There is nothing wrong with being saddened by the holidays or by an anniversary or by a picture or by a special place – even years from now. It is a process. But, in this process, there can be peace if you have communion with God and His Christ.
V Hope in God
The fifth and final lesson: hope in God. Listen, again, to the final words of David: "I will go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Sam 12:23).
"I will go to him." David does not say, "I, too, will die and that is the end." David does not say, "I will never see my son again." David does not say, "That's it. Good-bye. Adios." David says, "I will go to him." "I will go to him." "I will go to him." Do you hear the triumph? Do you hear the hope? Do you hear the good news in these words? David is saying death is not the end. David is saying there is life after death. David is saying he will see his son again.
Arie can say the same thing as David: "I will go to her." Because death is not the end of Carol. As a believer, Carol continues to live. And, someday Arie and the family will see her again.
"I will go to him." As you know – or should know – people go to one of two places when they die. They either go to heaven or they go to hell. David didn't have to guess where his son went. And, David didn't have to guess where he was going. "I will go to him." That is, to heaven. In the presence of God and with His saints. When you know where something is, you haven't lost it, right?! Likewise, Carol and Arie didn't have to make a guess about their home after death. Because of Christ, they knew and know their destination. And, because they know, neither has lost the other.
"I will go to him." Can you say this? Is this your confidence? Let me tell you, if you don't know Christ you can't say this and nothing is sure. If you don't know Christ, all you are left with is your tears and your pain.
Now, let me add something. Because we live after Christ and His death and resurrection, we know something David did not know. And, we have the confidence of something that David did not have. We know about the resurrection of the body. We know that the Lord Jesus Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise (1 Th 4:16).
So, we can add to David's words, "I will go to him. And, someday, we both will be raised from the grave."
Carol knew Christ. Arie and his family know Christ. So, their words are the same as David's: "I will go to him." "I will go to her." "With her I will go to God and to Christ and live forevermore in a body that is raised from the grave." Amen.
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