2 Samuel 12:1-9, Psalm 51:1-9
It was the spring of the year, when poppies and anemones dot the landscape and when antsy kings go to war. So David sent out his warriors under the command of Joab, but David stayed at back at the Palace. Kings don’t usually get their hands dirty. He went out on the balcony and saw a lovely woman whose name was Bathsheba. And lust being what it is, he sent for her and he slept with her.
Now David was a mighty king! He was a military hero who united the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah, he was a musician and a poet penning beautiful psalms of praise to God and goodness and mercy, of power and justice. But I’m sorry to say that the mighty King David had some flaws.
Some deep flaws, you see Bathsheba was not his to take, she was the wife of Uriah who had joined the Israelite community after the land of the Hittites had been conquered. He was one of David’s warriors. So when Bathsheba disclosed that she was pregnant to this mighty King David, he conspired to have Uriah murdered in battle.
And when Bathsheba heard that her husband had been killed in war she mourned appropriately for him seven days then David sent for her and brought her to the palace and she bore a son. Some say that all’s fair in love in love and war. I think not.
Let us pick up our scripture and continue this story from the second Book of Samuel, the 12th chapter.
The Lord was angry at what David had done, and he sent Nathan the prophet to tell this story to David:
A rich man and a poor man lived in the same town. The rich man owned a lot of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had only one little lamb that he had bought and raised. The lamb became a pet for him and his children. He even let it eat from his plate and drink from his cup and sleep on his lap. The lamb was like one of his own children.
One day someone came to visit the rich man, but the rich man didn’t want to kill any of his own sheep or cattle and serve it to the visitor. So he stole the poor man’s little lamb and served it instead.
David was furious with the rich man and said to Nathan, “I swear by the living Lord that the man who did this deserves to die! And because he didn’t have any pity on the poor man, he will have to pay four times what the lamb was worth.”
Then Nathan told David:
You are that rich man! Now listen to what the Lord God of Israel says to you: “I chose you to be the king of Israel. I kept you safe from Saul and even gave you his house and his wives. I let you rule Israel and Judah, and if that had not been enough, I would have given you much more. Why did you disobey me and do such a horrible thing?
You murdered Uriah the Hittite by having the Ammonites kill him, so you could take his wife…..David said, “I have disobeyed the Lord.” “Yes, you have!” Nathan answered.
So the Bible isn’t always love, love, love and often the people and stories are questionable. We are continuing the Biblical narrative from the Hebrew Bible that we don’t always have the opportunity to reflect upon. You have to admit, they’ve been quite thought provoking. We heard last week of Joshua who, upon taking one of his final breaths, charged the people and their households to make the choice to follow God, the one true God, the God of Abraham and Sarah.
The people do so, or try to at least. Many years, a couple of hundred as a matter of fact, pass. They continue to settle land but it was tough without a leader. They had deliverers and judges to help them, but over and over again they fail and they cry out loudly to the Lord. Eventually a king is raised up for Israel, Saul and then his son, David. David is one of the greatest Kings of Israel. It’s just that there were a few indiscretions along the way and we see that that royal path was not paved entirely of gold for him.
David was really pretty clueless in recognizing himself in the parable but Nathan was bold and spoke in God’s stead. It was Nathan the prophet who ‘spoke the truth in love’ (Eph 4:15) to the mighty and powerful King David. He held up the parable like a mirror through which David could view himself and how others saw him, and ultimately how God perceived him.
King David, called by God to rule a nation was now called out on his sins. He couldn’t deny the truth any longer and has to bear the consequences of his actions. Guilt, shame, humiliation, you name it, I’m sure he felt all of the emotions that humans do when they realize the gravity of what they’ve done, when they finally look into the mirror and admit their wrongdoings and see themselves for who they are and how they’ve hurt others. David, the mighty, David the fallen. Seems to happen more often than not to people with power.
Before we come down really hard on David let’s admit that we just don’t get it right either. While maybe we have never fallen as far or hit the bottom of the moral barrel that David did, our living doesn’t always reflect good and healthy behavior. We try but, you know how it goes, God puts us on the train to fruitful living and we get off at the faux pax and indiscretion station. It happens and that’s the bad news.
But there is grace and that’s the good news. Nathan accepted the command of God. Nathan was the bearer of God’s grace to David by telling him the parable which, in essence, held up a mirror before David’s beautiful face. It was a loving rebuke from someone who knew his friend well and so he could confront David with great wisdom.
He could have defended his friend, after all David was king. He could have made some sort of a justification for the adultery and death of an innocent man. He could have just ignored it, but he didn’t. He helped to turn David back to God, back to the path of right living, to repent and come clean. Now that’s the kind of friend I want!
Wouldn’t it be so nice if we each had a Nathan in our lives? A friend who can and will tell you when you are going off of the beaten path and close to endangering yourself or others, or one who can say to you, ‘you know, that was not your finest moment, or those weren’t the best words you could have used.’ A friend and mentor put things in perspective for you, not to put you down but to build you up. It is a friend who will call you out because of love and compassion. And we, if we care about being a child of God, a lover of the Gospel, need to be open to this correction, when done with the purest intent.
This story of Nathan and David moves us toward a model of genuine repentance. Being challenged by a friend to see and acknowledge your faults and then doing something about it is a step towards living with a clean heart and a right spirit within us. It is a step toward restoring the joy of salvation that can be so present in our hearts and lives to that a free spirit can reside in us and sustain us. This is what God wants for us. I am convinced.
This is why Christ was sent for us too, so that as we falter in life, like David, we have the assurance of forgiveness. All we have to do is look into that proverbial mirror that our Nathans hold for us, and be free.