Prophet-able Correction (II Samuel 12:1-15a)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 12:1–12:15a
II Samuel 12:1-15
November 17th, 2013
Way of Grace Church
I. A Need for Perspective
In our almost 18 years of marriage, my wife and I have lived in three places. First we lived in an apartment in East Phoenix. And then, four years later, we moved to a small house just up the street from that apartment. Not long after we moved in, I undertook the fairly large task of installing tile throughout the majority of that house. If you’re familiar with the process you’ll know that there are several things you have to watch out for when you’re trying to do it right: mortar consistency, spreading the mortar thoroughly.
But one thing you have to watch out for is a little harder to see when you’re down on your hands and knees. I can recall on several occasions last summer that someone, like my wife, or a friend, came in and saw what I couldn’t see. When your down on your hands and knees, setting one tile after the next, the most natural thing to do is to align that tile with the tile you just laid. But of course the danger is that if one of those tiles gets put in slightly off kilter, then that subtle change will subtly affect the line of your entire row. And they could see that.
The lesson of course is that when you’re down in the thick of it, you need someone with a better perspective to help set you straight.
II. The Passage: “Then Yahweh sent Nathan…” (II Samuel 12:1-15)
Turn over to II Samuel 12:1-15. Now before we read these verses, let’s take a minute to review what happened in the last chapter. While David’s army was out fighting against the Ammonites on Israel’s eastern border, David was lounging around Jerusalem. We read in the opening verses of chapter 11 about how David’s lust took advantage of David’s idleness, and resulted in his committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of one of David’s elite soldiers named Uriah. And when David found out Bathsheba was pregnant, he attempted to cover it all up. Horribly, David’s foolish attempts to bury his sin resulted in Uriah’s death.
So as we pick up with the story in II Samuel 12, we find David (having taken Bathsheba as his wife, we find David) down in the thick of it, content with burying, content with ignoring his own sin.
But the final words of chapter 11 should still be echoing through our hearts: But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. Look at chapter 12, verse 1.
And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very many flocks and herds,  but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.  Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”  Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die,  and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.  And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.  Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”  Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he became sick.
David has been brought face to face with the seriousness, the ugliness, the heinousness of his own sin. The sins that David was trying to bury have been dug up and exposed by God. And as we see here, there will be judgment against David and David’s house. There will be consequences, and those consequences will shape the storyline of II Samuel for next eight chapters.
But I want you to see something here: notice how God communicated this message of judgment against David, how God confronted David with the truth. He could have sent a voice from heaven that thundered with His knowledge of David’s deeds. But He didn’t. He could’ve sent a sickness upon David to bring David to His senses. But He didn’t. He sent a man to David, a man named Nathan.
We first meet Nathan in II Samuel 7. In that chapter, we also read about Nathan coming to David as he does here. But there, Nathan comes with great news for David. He comes with news of God’s promise to David, a promise to establish David’s household forever, a promise we know was fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David.
But in II Samuel 12, Nathan comes with a very different message for David. A message of conviction, a message of judgment. You see, Nathan is a prophet. He is one of those mysterious characters from the Old Testament that would appear on the scene in order to announce the will of God. Unlike the modern misconception, prophets were not simply those who came and announced the future.
If the kings of Israel were like God’s hand to rule the people, then the prophets were like God’s voice to sway, to appeal with, to either commend or condemn the people.
Stop and think about that for a minute. Isn’t it amazing that through men and women like you and me, God revealed His heart to His people Israel? When we begin in II Samuel 12, we don’t know how the Lord came to Nathan, or what Nathan might have been thinking. All we know is that Nathan was faithful to go, AND that Nathan had that better perspective that would help set David straight.
III. Looking for a Few Good Nathans
So while there are many important truths we could explore in this passage, the question I want us to wrestle with this morning is this: Who are our Nathans? OR, are we being a Nathan to someone else?
We don’t live in 10th century Israel. We don’t have prophets roaming the land, shutting up the skies, and proclaiming the judgment of God. But does that mean the voice of God is silent in the mouths of His servants? Of course not. As followers of Jesus Christ, we know that God has spoken. We know that God has given us His Word, with a capital ‘W’, and that Word has entrusted us with a sacred message to bring to the world.
Consider this instruction, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."
Sounds like God’s instructions to Nathan, doesn’t it? It sounds like a prophetic mandate. Well it is a kind of prophetic mandate, but a mandate given by Jesus in Matthew 18:15 to those who call themselves His disciples. As Peter told believers in his first letter, “Whoever speaks [that is, whoever stands and opens his mouth before God’s people], let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God” (I Peter 4:11)
If we love one another as Jesus has commanded, that love which tells the world we are His disciples, then we have a responsibility to one another. And that responsibility calls us to watch out for one another. Listen to what James, the brother of Jesus, tell us, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19, 20)
Do you want to be someone like that? Don’t you want someone like that in your life? To turn you back when you’ve strayed from the truth? Aren’t there points in our past that you now look back on and think, “If only someone would have said something to me.” Who are your Nathans? Are you being a Nathan to someone else? Let look back at this passage and think a little more about what we can learn about being Nathans to one another.
1. Our Blindness
Let’s look back at II Samuel 12 because I think there are a few things about this passage that will be helpful to us when we consider our call to speak.
First, let’s think about our need for these kinds of people in our lives by looking back at verse 5: Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die…”
David’s example here makes clear an important point: We need Nathans in our lives, because we are often blinded by our sin to the seriousness of our sin.
Just like laying tile, when you’re down in the thick of sin, it’s hard to see how far you’re off. We need someone with a higher perspective to set us straight. Notice that David listened to Nathan’s sermon here about the lamb, David even seemed to understand the moral of the story. He knew the rich man who had taken the lamb was in the wrong.
In the same way, you and I can be reading our Bibles and listening to sermons and reading Christian books and still remain blinded to how the truth of that reading or that message or that book is calling us, calling you personally to repentance.
God can and certainly does use His word, read and preached to convict us of sin. But sometimes…sometimes it takes hearing His word from the mouth of a brother or sister who takes us aside, face to face, and humbly helps us to see the path we’re on.
David needed Nathan to get in his face about the sin David was trying to hide. We need Nathans in our lives. We need to be Nathans to those around us.
2. God’s Word
Secondly, look at verse 7: Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul."
Nathan’s words here reveal to us a very, very important point. If we are to be a Nathan to our brother or sister, we must be sure that the message we bring is the word of God.
Nathan made it clear to David that his message was in fact the message of God. His better perspective, was in fact God’s perspective. In typical prophetic fashion, Nathan declared “thus says the Lord God of Israel”. Now I’m not encouraging you to walk around shouting “thus says the Lord God of Israel”.
What I’m saying is that when we sense a call to be the voice of God to our brother or sister, we must be certain that our message is grounded clearly in Scripture. We must do this because the call of the prophet is always preceded by the word of God, not simply because we don’t like how someone is doing something.
All of us struggle enough with what God has clearly said about what is right and wrong. We don’t need, and don’t need to be, so called ‘prophets’ who are merely proclaiming their opinions, as wise as we think those opinions are. If you’re concerned about something in someone’s life that is not clearly talked about in Scripture, then go in humility and seek counsel from a leader or another mature believer about whether or not that might be something you should gently share with that brother or sister.
I don’t know about you, but I want surround myself with people who love the word of God, who are feeding off the word of God, who are being transformed by the word of God. Those are the kind of people I need. That’s the kind of person I need to be, for myself and for my brothers and sisters.
3. God’s Forgiveness
Finally, take a look at verse 13: David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
If you and I want to be faithful to the voice of God, then the word of God’s correction must be bathed in the waters of God’s forgiveness.
Our admonitions should never come from a spirit of superiority, a spirit of arrogance. They should be uttered in humility, with repentance and restoration as their goal. When we bring biblical correction to a brother or sister, when we are used by God to voice His heart, will we be faithful to offer comfort as well as correction?
The difficulty of confronting someone else on their sin should always be viewed in the light of that joy of seeing a brother or sister restored to Jesus. That should be our motivation. God doesn’t use us to simply say “Ha! Gotcha! Busted!” No, He wants to use us in the incredible work of reconciliation. And He wants to use others to do that in our lives. If we get excited by seeing men and women won to Christ for the first time, shouldn’t we also be excited every time men and women are won back to Him?
Whenever you bring a word of concern and correction to another, always, always, always bathe that message in the grace of God.
And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die."
IV. From David’s Sin to David’s Son
So wait a minute. How is it that people like us, blinded by our own sin, often indifferent to the needs of others, fearful, private, reluctant…people who can be proud and self-righteous, how is that God uses people like us in the lives of people like us? Which of us can say that we have always been faithful to be a Nathan to our brothers and sisters?
Well the only hope we have of being the Nathans that God calls us to be is also found in the larger point of this passage from II Samuel 12. This passage is not here primarily as a reminder for God’s people to speak God’s word of correction to others when necessary. The main point of this passage is to tell us something about David’s kingship and God’s grace.
As praiseworthy and blessed as David was, even though he was a man after God’s own heart, we see here that David was nevertheless just a man, a sinful man. But God had promised, through Nathan, an eternal throne to David’s family. But wouldn’t every king in David’s line be just a man, like David?
What we are reminded of here is that David’s sin must point us to David’s son, the One who would not only come as King, but as a perfectly righteous king. You see, this whole passage points us back to Jesus, in several ways. Jesus came, not simply as a King, but also as a Prophet, as One who spoke God’s word of correction to us. Moreover, he came not simply as a Prophet, but also as a Priest, as One who could secure God’s forgiveness for all of our sins; to bring us back to God.
Because Jesus came to us, we can go to one another. Because Jesus spoke to us, we can speak to one another. Because of His words to us, we have words. Because of His heart for us, we can have a heart for one another.
Maybe right now you are down in the thick of it! Maybe this morning you’re trying to hide from God, trying to cover up your sin, and in reality, being blinded by your sin to your sin.
Well if that’s the case, I want to be a Nathan to you this morning. I want to remind you of the love God has for you. I want to remind you how the sin you’re trying to hide is the same sin that nailed Jesus to the cross. I want to remind you of the serious consequences of sin. Most of all, I want to remind you that if you turn from your sin, God stands ready, in love, to forgive you, to offer you that newness of life for which Jesus died.
I love the testimony of God’s grace at the end of verse 8: And if this were too little [all these blessings from Saul’s house], I would add to you as much more. That’s the same promise of grace that Jesus has secured for us!
OR maybe right now you are thinking about someone you know, a brother or sister, who is on the wrong path, and that’s clear from Scripture. And maybe you’ve been avoiding that situation, hoping that someone else would say something; that someone else would have the courage that you lack. Or maybe you’ve been trying to minimize the seriousness of the situation. You tell yourself, “well…they’ll deal with it eventually”.
I want to encourage you this morning, God wants to encourage you: when your heart is resting in the love of Christ, then your heart should be filled with love for that person. And if you love that person, then you will speak to them. As Solomon said in Proverbs 27:5, “Better is open rebuke, then love that is concealed.” Don’t delay. Looking to Jesus, pray, and then go to that person and gently warn them. And then rejoice in the hope of and the reality of their repentance.
Remember, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
Are you a Nathan? Do you have Nathans in your life. Listen, the soil in which this kind of correction grows best is the soil of fellowship. Life together. Not only can we not know about struggles in the lives of our brothers and sisters if we are not in their lives, but the effectiveness of our ministry to them is limited when we have a limited place in one another's lives. It takes time to build these relationships and to build trust. Are you seeking these kinds of relationships? Are you allowing people into your life?
I pray that you are, that I am, and that we do have those in our lives who will be the voice of God to us when we so desperately need it.