Let’s set the stage: One of the greatest leaders and most revered kings in Jewish history has behaved scandalously. It has resulted in an unplanned, potentially very embarrassing pregnancy. When David’s efforts fail to conceal his misconduct, he further compounds his iniquity by deliberately using the woman’s husband as cannon fodder. In what amounts to murder by king’s decree, David orders that Uriah be placed at the very tip of the spear of an assault on the enemy and then have all his support withdrawn. That not only cost a loyal soldier his life. Others were with him on this mission. It is shameless and inexcusable, however much it may be resemble the conduct of some of our present day elected officials.
With several bungled attempts behind, David has probably tried to settle into an uneasy acceptance of what he’s done. He is, after all, the King. But an even higher authority has formed and stated an opinion about his misconduct: “The Lord was not pleased with what David had done.” II Samuel 11
Samuel picks up where we left off just before Christmas:
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. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 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. “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.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
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. gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 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. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD. II Samuel 12:1-13. (NIV)
Now comes Nathan. Who was he? What gives him the right to say anything to a monarch?
In this confrontation, try to imagine the options. An unknown prophet has the courage and takes the initiative to speak truth to power. How’d Nathan find out? How do you suppose he reacted when the duty to confront the indulgent king fell upon him? How do you suppose David reacted when it dawned upon him what the Prophet had brought to light? The cat was out of the bag! The jig was up.
David could have told Nathan to mind his own business. He could have faked indignation and “how dared Nathan to be so judgmental?”
Possessing inside information on the scandal, Nathan tactfully but very courageously confronts the King. It could have easily cost Nathan his life. Who is this guy? How does he have such easy access to the King? In our time, such a thing would seem highly unlikely. Secret Service guys would have been on him like white on rice! If he’d managed to squeak by security, someone would be called on the carpet. Senate hearings would be scheduled. The press would have a field day.
Nathan tells David a story. A very simple story about a very poor man who had only one lamb, possibly a pet. A neighbor, rich and with a flock of sheep, throws a party and invites a lot of people. Instead of taking one from his own flock, the rich guy steals the only one his poor neighbor has, slaughters it, and serves up lamb stew for his buddies.
David is furious. Enraged, in fact. “Who is this sorry rascal? You give me his name and address and I’ll see to it that he gets what he deserves!” The King’s fury is straining to be unleashed.
“Thou art the man,” Nathan says in proper King James English. “You da man!” The silence was probably deafening. Nathan did not shout or stutter or waver. There was no mistaking whom he was addressing. There was no reason for David to ask: “You talking to me, sir?”
To his credit, David got the point. Someone has said: “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.” David knew instinctively and immediately what the point the prophet was making. No doubt his sins against God had weighed heavily upon him.
That’s one thing about someone who belongs to Christ or longs to be a child of god: You can not sin comfortably. It just is not possible. There’s no doubt in my mind that David felt guilt and shame over what he’d done, and it obviously lay very near the surface of his consciousness.
He acknowledged his guilt. He made no excuses. He blamed no one for his moral collapse, not even a beautiful temptress who caught his attention in an unguarded moment. He called no press conferences where with crocodile tears before a television camera he could stage a scripted, controlled, possibly rehearsed, public performance. He did not wag a finger at Nathan and deftly and defiantly deny: “I did not have sex with that woman!” He did not claim childhood abuse had driven him to this excess. He accepted responsibility fully for what he, himself had done.
And he repented.
Can you see that as a defining moment in David’s comeback? He was on the wrong track, heading in the wrong direction, with the pace perhaps accelerating and ruin hurtling in his direction. Wisely, though, he repented. Simply stated, when someone had courage and compassion enough to take a risk and step across his path and block his headlong rush to self destruction, David took it like a man. And he asked God’s forgiveness.
At that very moment, David became one of God’s Comeback Kids.
God’s son and servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey