Nathan’s Story

by Bruce Okkema

King David and Nathan“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!” – II Samuel 12:1-7

This story is a biblical masterpiece. As we watch the story unfold, we see Nathan setting up David mercilessly, using details that pull at the heart strings. A poor man uses his precious money to buy their only lamb — it becomes the family pet, it eats at their table and it lays in his arms. There is a strong sense that this poor man is sacrificing much for his family to care for this little lamb, but then it is stolen and killed by a rich man who had many of his own.

Nathan tells the story in such a way as to extract David’s words of conviction from his own mouth. It is almost too painful to watch, since David was such a man of honor who, even in the midst of his sin, shows his love for the Lord and his passion that justice be done.

The impact of the story is heightened when we consider that Uriah is from the Hittites who were enemies of the Israelites. He must have been a convert, since we see him living near the palace, eating with the king, faithfully serving the God of Israel, and his wife is observing the Jewish purification laws. When David tries to cover up his sin by coaxing Uriah to go home to his wife, Uriah self-sacrificially refused to do so because his comrades were on the battlefield.

It must have felt like a sword piercing David’s heart when he heard Nathan say, “You are the man.” Nathan goes on to confront David that he has killed Uriah with “the sword of the sons of Ammon,” sons of Lot by his daughters. In his Hebraic culture, David would certainly have seen the double meaning that they too were offspring of sexual sin. As a result, God’s word to David is that the “sword will never depart from this house” (II Sam. 12:10). We read later about all the terrible things that happen to David’s family because of this.

We had times in our own lives when we have failed, just like David. Be encouraged that there is no sin too great for God to forgive. He loves us deeply and wants us to be restored, but sometimes he needs to send a “Nathan” to bring us to confession, so praise the Lord when he does.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9.

Photo:  Paris Psalter