We all need a Nathan sometimes in our lives. The person who can speak to us straight when he/she sees us heading for a cliff. The person who is able to ask us the hard questions concerning that relationship, that business deal, that doubtful decision. The person who has spiritual insight into our situation when we seem to lack real understanding of what is happening and the consequences of our actions. The person who has the ability to speak to us in a way no one else can, and actually help us to see the truth, as much as it may hurt. The person courageous enough to speak even though he/she knows it could all go wrong if we don’t receive it well and react badly.
And, so back to our story of David and why he wrote Psalm 51, in 2 Samuel 12 we read:
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
You have to admire Nathan. I wonder if he would have have done this if the Lord hadn’t sent him? Possibly not! History proves that it is dangerous stuff confronting kings (and some politicians) about their bad behaviour. They are often a bit touchy, so I’ve heard. But, Nathan went, sent by God, and Nathan told a powerful story. Just like Jesus, many years later, Nathan knew the power of a parable to portray truth in a way we can’t avoid it. And it worked. We read that,
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
The right reaction David. Remember he was once a shepherd, and he knew injustice when he saw it (and experienced it himself) and had always been a man who, theoretically, sought to do what was right, until succumbing to lust. And so, Nathan, courageously, takes his opportunity to drive home the point:
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.
Instead of crying our “guards, kill him!”, as some kings would have done, David recognizes God speaking through Nathan and so responds appropriately:
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
All of this leading to David repenting of his sin as we read in Psalm 51 when he says:
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love…
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Kidner says: “Between the David of this psalm and the cynical tactician of 2 Samuel 11 there stands simply (on the human scene) Nathan the prophet. The power of God’s word is nowhere more strikingly evident than in this transformation” (# 29))
Then those incredible words of forgiveness which we all need to hear:
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
There was forgiveness, but there were, as there always are, consequences, and you can read them yourself in chapter 12.
These words of grace of course were also the words that Jesus, our Saviour used as he met people along the way who were burdened down with their sin, e.g. When some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” He followed this up with ‘Get up and walk’. (Matthew 9:2,5)
Do you know the experience of freedom from the guilt of your sin? Jesus is waiting for you to admit “I am the man/woman!” and then you can hear those incredible words “The Lord has taken away your sins”.
Thank you Father for the truth of the song, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see.” Thank you Jesus for dying for the forgiveness of my sins. Amen.