You Are The One

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : 2 Samuel 12:7-10

Nathan said to David, “You are the man.”

2 Samuel 12:7 rsv

He was in many respects a godly man and a good king. But we look today at a tragic chapter in David’s life. It’s a story about a king’s abuse of power, about a friend’s courage and wisdom, and about the judgment and the great mercy of God.

A GRIM ACCOUNT

It was in the spring of the year, when kings in the ancient near east commonly went forth to battle. David’s armies were in the field against the Ammonites, but he had chosen to remain at home. Late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of his palace, he saw a beautiful woman bathing. He sent for her to be brought to the palace and took advantage of her.

When he later heard that she was expecting a child, he sent word to the front lines that Uriah, her husband, should be called back. David hoped that he would return to his wife and later might assume that the child to be born was his own. To David’s dismay, Uriah refused to go home. He said, “My Lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open fields; shall I then go to my house, to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing” (2 Sam. 11:11). Uriah was too loyal a soldier, too much identified with his nation’s cause and with his fellow-warriors to take his ease.

David decided on a more desperate measure: He sent word to Joab, his field general, urging that Bathsheba’s husband be put in the forefront of the battle and left exposed to the enemy. Joab did as he was told. As we might expect, Uriah was killed. After Bathsheba’s appropriate time of mourning, David brought her to the palace to be his wife.

It’s a sordid tale of a ruler’s abuse of power. He sees a woman he wants and without a thought for her well-being, her husband, her marriage, he takes her and subjects her to his will. It’s an act of brazen, callous selfishness.

And what a dreadful wrong he then did to one of his loyal subjects. Uriah was risking life and limb, leaving all the comforts of home, to fight the battles of his king. He was a true patriot, a faithful citizen. David stole his wife, tried to deceive him, and then arranged his murder.

In what he did with Bathsheba and Uriah, her husband, David also despised the Lord. He was God’s appointed king for Israel. He had been entrusted with the welfare of God’s people to rule and serve them as God’s representative. Instead, he chose to exploit, deceive and destroy. He betrayed a sacred trust. He rebelled against the God who had raised him up and given him everything.

Kings have often regarded themselves as above the law, as those who make laws. Others must obey, but they do as they please. They take what they want. They hold over others the power of life and death, but are themselves accountable to no one. But David knew better. He knew that he was responsible to the living God. That makes his conduct all the more blameworthy.

The abuse of power is always a grave offense. Sometimes doctors, counselors and ministers who take advantage of those they serve try to evade responsibility for that. They were seduced, they say, or framed, or put in an impossible position. But such defenses are usually rejected, with good reason. They occupy positions of power. They are regarded as people of influence and expertise, worthy of trust. When that relationship is then violated, they bear the chief responsibility. However the weakness of others may be involved, the greater evil is always in those entrusted with power.

A FAITHFUL COUNSELOR

Now let’s think about Nathan, David’s counselor, the prophet who proved to be the king’s faithful friend. His name means “gift.” Nathan was indeed God’s gift to David, in a way the king never expected. Nathan was in a difficult position. The ugly matter of Bathsheba and Uriah had doubtless become known and could not be ignored. Nathan as God’s prophet had to speak the truth, even to a king. But how could that be done? The subjects of a monarch can rarely challenge his actions and expect to survive.

Nathan’s courage was wedded with wisdom. He decided to tell the king a story. Remember those famous words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet? “The plays the thing, to catch the conscience of the king.” That’s what this homely story of Nathan’s was designed to do: catch the conscience of the king. Here it is. I’m reading from 2 Samuel, chapter 12:

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 bosom, 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 wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him” (vv. 1-4).

David as king combined in his own person all the branches of government. He was the chief executive. He was the framer of laws. He was also the final court of appeal. As Israel’s chief judge listening to the story, David took the bait. See the moral indignation rise in 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” (vv. 5-6).

Striking, isn’t it, that David can be so judgmental toward the wrong of another? The fact that we are guilty of monstrous evil doesn’t make us gentle with those who offend. Often it’s quite the opposite. Unwilling to face our own wrong, we project blame onto others. Suppressing the thought of our evils, we rage against those that others do.

David was speaking the truth about the rich man’s heartless deed. He was saying that selfishness, abuse of power, and cruelty toward little people are heinous evils, deserving of death.

Once the king had pronounced that verdict, Nathan seized his opportunity. With the courage, wisdom, and fidelity of a true friend, he challenged David: “You are the man” (v. 7). King David, this story is about you. If the rich man is a guilty sinner deserving to die, as you have just said, how much more are you? You didn’t take a poor man’s lamb. You took his wife. You didn’t simply defraud this God-fearing man. You destroyed him. Whatever blame you lay on this rich man lies at your door, David, son of Jesse. You are the man!

Nathan’s story was a parable, an earthly tale with a divinely given meaning. He told it as Jesus was later to tell His parables, aimed at the conscience. He models what it is to convey God’s message, so to speak that God may reach the hearts of those who hear. What a great thing it is so to fear God and love people that with boldness we tell them the truth they need to hear! That’s a faithful prophet. Yes, that’s a true friend.

But this message today is about more than a king’s dreadful fall and a prophet’s courageous word. It’s a story of the judgment and the great mercy of God.

GOD’S JUDGMENT AND GRACE

Kings, for the most part, find that they can get away with their crimes, at least for a time. From a human perspective, their power seems absolute. They can dissemble, bribe and intimidate. Who will dare to challenge them? But when this grim tale of royal abuse has been told, the final word of the chapter is: “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Sam. 11:27). However others might consider it, God was displeased.

Nathan then became the messenger of judgment to David:

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 bosom, 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 smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house . . . .’ Thus says the Lord, `Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house . . . . ‘ (2 Sam. 12:7-11).

God through His prophet called David’s behavior what it was: adultery, murder, and a despising of the Most High. David would learn to his sorrow that there are always inescapable consequences of such actions – in our personal lives, in our families, in the societies of which we’re a part. There would be sordid episodes of brutal lust among David’s own children. Remember Amnon, his oldest son, so obsessed with Tamar, his half-sister, that he deceived and raped her? There would be deception and murder. Remember Absalom, harboring bitterness for two years after Amnon had defiled his sister, inviting his brother to what was supposed to be a party and then coldbloodedly killing him? The whole nation would be affected. Absalom would become an exile and then be received into favor again, only to steal away the hearts of the people of Israel from his father the king. Evil, terror and bloodshed would be visited on the whole kingdom because of what David has done. His evil would go cascading down the generations.

Further, the child of David’s lust and adultery would die in spite of David’s prayers and fastings. The way of transgressors is hard, all the more when we sin, as David did, against light and love and privilege. It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

But judgment, thank God, is not the last word. Unlike some kings, David receives the prophet’s message with a humble spirit. He lets it break his heart. There’s no fury against the accuser, no excuses, no threats. David says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). No pretense, no defense, but an honest confession.

Nathan, after thundering judgment, became also a messenger of mercy to David. In response to his confession, the prophet answers, “The Lord has laid on another the consequences of your sin. You will not die.” There’s forgiveness for David. The death of which he had pronounced himself deserving will not be visited upon him. Someone else, he’s told, will bear it.

Does that strike you as mysterious, the word of Nathan to David: “The Lord has laid on another the consequences of your sin”? What could that mean? Who would bear the blood guilt? Who would die the death from which David was mercifully spared?

The answer lies, friends, in the message of the gospel. Remember what the prophet Isaiah foretold about the suffering servant of the Lord? “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows . . . . he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities . . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (53:4-6).

Think of it, friends. David’s sin, my sin, yours, and the sins of all the world were laid upon Jesus. He bore the stroke of judgment due to us. He stood in our place. He died our death.

What are the lessons to be learned from this tragic chapter in the life of David? Some are sobering. Even the godly and the good are vulnerable to great evil. They can fall into the most grievous sins and then, in an effort to cover them up, can do even worse. It’s chilling to realize also that there are saddening, temporal consequences when such things happen.

But there are other lessons far more cheering. Learn from David that there is no sin so vile, no guilt so deep, that we cannot find forgiveness in the mercy of God.

Learn also how the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth in the mystery of His gracious plan can bring forth some redemptive good even from our past evils. He’s the God who took the worst injustice ever done, the crucifixion of His Son, and brought from it the best thing: the salvation of the world. Friends, I hope you learn this above all: that God in Christ has carried your burden, stood in your place and tasted death for you. If you will today acknowledge your sin, whatever it has been, and turn from it to God, casting yourself on His mercy, believing in Jesus as the One who died for you, you can know His free forgiveness, His full acceptance. And God can bring forth, even out of the trouble, grief and heartbreak your evil may have caused, something to His praise.