Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society

David and the Prophet Nathan

AN EXPOSITION OF SECOND SAMUEL 12:1-14

     1 AND the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

Nathan was a distinguished prophet in Israel who was highly respected. As a prophet he had the privilege of ministering to the people of God. It was a high honor, which he did not take lightly. Sometimes the prophetic office is taken very lightly by individuals. The office is taken lightly when unqualified individuals are ordained. God has always set forth the qualifications of those whom he wants to be His priests in an official capacity.

By way of application, in Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and 1 Peter 5:1-4, the New Testament qualifications are set forth for Church leaders. These qualifications must not be disregarded or denigrated.

Nathan was a qualified prophet of the Lord who was sent to King David. He was a man with a message. When he was brought into the presence of David, Nathan immediately began to tell a story. His story was presented as a contemporary narrative, though it proved to be a parable. “There were two men in one city;” began the prophet, “the one rich, and the other poor.”

     2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:

     3 But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.

It is not unusual for people to fall in love with an animal and treat it like a member of the family. America is a nation that loves animals, when we are not eating them. Sixty-five percent of the households in the United States include a pet. Over half of dogs and cats sleep in their owners’ beds. There are more animals than people that reside in American homes. In 2008, in California, legislation was set forth to make life better for the state’s chicken and pigs. No doubt millennial vegetarians were behind those legislative efforts.

This collective social concern for animals became intense soon after 1975, with the publication of Animal Liberation, the book by philosopher Peter Singer. More than six billion dollars per year are donated to America’s environmental and animal-related organizations. So, many people can identify with the Israeli family that loved their pet lamb so much they allowed the animal to eat at the table, sleep in the bed, and be treated as a beloved daughter.

     4 And there came a traveler unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.

The tender imagery of the beloved pet ended in tragedy. A rich man had enough authority and power over the poor man that he came and took the pet lamb to feed a passing visitor. This was done because the rich man wanted to spare his own flock, not out of love for them, but out of excessive greed to keep what he possessed while taking from others.

One of the sins which God hates is that of greed. “A greedy man stirs up strife.” (Prov. 28:25). “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker:” (Prov. 14:31). The rich man stirred up needless strife with his neighbor, and showed contempt for the Lord, all because he wanted to keep his own lamb at the expense of another.

Nathan ended his narrative for enough had been said. There was an obvious injustice that had been committed. Here was a situation that would elicit righteous indignation in the heart any fair minded person. Nathan’s narrative had its desired effect on the king.

     5 And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:

    6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

David’s response of anger to the unnamed villain of the story was justified, if the situation was as it had been presented. Not every angry response to a situation is justified, which is why the Bible warns Christians about becoming angry too quickly. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Eccl. 7:9). With that being said, there is a time when a person can be angry, and there is no sin. A righteous anger at a deliberate injustice reflects the heart of God. David was justified in his anger when he heard Nathan’s narrative. What he did not perceive was that he was the one he should be angry at!

     7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

There are many arresting phrases in the Bible, and this is one. King David, Thou art the man. Here is the gospel sword, sharp and powerful, penetrating into the soul and spirit of David, discerning the thoughts and intents of his heart (Heb. 4:12). When God, in grace and mercy, begins to deal with a person to bring them to repentance and salvation, He first makes the individual conscious of sin.

The gospel comes to accuse. “Thou art the man. You are the one who has broken the Moral Law of God.” The Holy Spirit brings a specific sin to mind. Suddenly, that which was loved, is hated. That which was seen to be pleasant to the eyes, and something to make one better, is understood to be the face of decay, death, and utter destruction. “Sinner, you are the one who has failed to love God with all your heart, all you soul, and all your mind. You are the one who has failed to love your neighbor.” “David, you are the man who has done a great injustice to your neighbor.”

     8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

The magnitude of David’s greedy heart is magnified by Nathan by reminding the king of all that God had given him. David had so much. He had been given the house of king Saul. He had been given the wives of Saul to do with as he pleased. He had been given total authority over the Norther Kingdom of Israel, and over Judah. And if that were not enough, God would have given him more. And still David was greedy for more, because once a person begins to love possessions, possessions control the soul.

Wanting more and more becomes addictive behavior. Nothing satisfies the soul. A person will plan, scheme, and do whatever it takes to have more. There is a mental and emotional ruthlessness associated with the sin of greed.

The only hope of deliverance from this monster of greed is to hear the gospel accusation, “Thou art the man!” “You are hurting yourself, and you are hurting others with your excessive wants.” Then, if God is gracious, if the gospel is effective, repentance will come, and a new mindset of values will be adopted. The heart will learn to be content with such things as it has. “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

To press the gospel message home to David, Nathan stated very plainly that David’s sin was rooted in a fundamental contempt for the commandment of the Lord.

     9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

 Relentlessly, Nathan continues to condemn David. Not only has David committed a grave injustice against a good and decent soldier, but he has been greedy. David’s greed was rooted in a fundamental contempt for the commandment of the Lord. All sin can be traced to this same root. The commandment of the Lord is not respected.

 Because David did not respect the commandment of the Lord, because David emotionally despised the commandment of the Lord, he killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and then he took Uriah’s wife to be his wife. David killed Uriah by deceit by having him slaughtered in battle with the children of Ammon.

The first thought that might have come to David’s mind when he heard these arresting and condemning words out of the mouth of Nathan was, “How did he know?” “Who told Nathan what David had done?” The wicked are always amazed at getting caught. David thought he had acted in a clever manner to conceal the pregnancy of Bathsheba, and to eliminate Uriah the Hittite.

The Hittites refer to the descendants of Heth, a son of Canaan, who was in turn the fourth son of Ham, one of the three sons of Noah. The Hittites were included among the people dwelling in the region from the river of Egypt to the River Euphrates. This whole area, which had been promised to Abraham, was now ruled by David. But not all the inhabitants of the land approved of David, and so there was civil war. Uriah fought to stop the civil unrest by fighting the children of Ammon, whose orgin can be traced back to Lot and his incestuous relationship with his youngest daughter (Gen. 19:38).

     10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “The sword shall never depart from your house, David. Never.” And so it would come to pass. During David’s lifetime, two of his sons were killed in battle, and another, Adonijah, died soon after David’s decease.

     11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

      12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

In addition to bringing conflict and death to his family, the sin of David brought open shame. What he did in secret, others would do in the open. The prophetic words of Nathan regarding women associated with David came true. The sordid story is told throughout 2 Samuel (15:13-17; 16:20-22; and 20:3).

     13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

The words of Nathan had a profound effect on David. He repented of what he had done. While authentic Biblical repentance may be difficult to define, it is easy to recognize. David did not say, “If I have sinned.” He was honest and said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” When a person repents, the Lord is quick to show mercy. “And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

     14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.

Though some sins can be forgiven, there are often consequences that affect others who are caught up in the transgression. The child that would be born to Bathsheba and David would surely die. It is for a good reason the Bible says, “Flee fornication.” May the Lord grant us restraining grace not to sin, but if we do, may we have wisdom to authentically repent.

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