People Who Shaped David:  Nathan

2 Samuel 12:1-15


1.   Paul Powell, tells interesting story about time pulled up to a curb-side check in station at DFW Airport.  One of the baggage attendants came to help Powell with his luggage.  About that time, a man who was obviously late for his flight came rushing up and demanded that the baggage attendant help him.  So the man left Powell’s bags momentarily to help this man who was in such a great rush.  As he carried the man’s bags to the check-in station, he dropped one of them, the bag popped open, and the contents spilled out.  When that happened, the man who was in such a rush lost his cool.  He began to yell at the baggage handler and called him every name the book.  To Paul Powell’s surprise, the baggage handler just smiled at the angry man and during the entire tirade said nothing but, “Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.”  Powell was so impressed with the self-control of the baggage handler that after the irate man walked away, Powell said to the attendant, “Sir, I want to commend you for how you handled that very difficult situation.  I have never heard a man talked to as rudely as you were talked to.  It is obvious that man has some real problems.”  And the baggage handler said, “Yes he does, and has more problems than he knows.”  That response kind of piqued Powell’s curiosity and he said, “Do you know the man?”  And the baggage handler said, “No, but I know that his ticket says he’s going to Florida and I’m sending his bags to California!”

2.   Sometimes all of us find ourselves in situations where we must deal with people who have behaved in inappropriate ways, and it is helpful to know how to respond when those situations arise.  That’s the situation in which Nathan found himself.  Nathan was a prophet of God who served both King David and his son and successor King Solomon.  Nathan had the misfortune of being God’s prophet during the time of David’s ugly affair with Bathsheba and his misguide efforts to cover up the affair which led to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah.  That sordid story is told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12.  As we walk through the first 15 verses of 2 Samuel 12, we can learn some things about confronting those who do wrong.


I.    Before we confront another person, we should be certain the Lord is telling us to do so

  1. I think it is significant that after describing David’s sin in detail in 2 Samuel 11 that 2 Samuel 12 begins with the statement, “Then the Lord sent Nathan to David.”  The wording of that statement is important.  It doesn’t say that Nathan decided to confront David.  It doesn’t say the confrontation was Nathan’s idea.  The truth is, Nathan was probably not very enthusiastic about having to confront the king with his sins.  I suspect that was an assignment Nathan would have just have soon not had.  It was certainly not a task for which he volunteered.  He went to David because God sent him. 
  2. And there is a basic principle here that is vital for us to understand.  It is not our calling or our responsibility to confront every perceived shortcoming in the lives of those around us.  It seems that some people go through life just looking for someone to confront and correct.  You know the type.  They seem to find delight in pointing out the sins of others.  And they are the kind of people that most of us go out of our way to avoid.
  3. To people like that Jesus said such things as “Judge not lest you be judged.” [Matt.7:1]  And to people like that Jesus addressed the amusing little story about a person trying to get a speck out of a another person’s eye while having a large piece of wood protruding from his/her eye.  It’s not our mission to go through life trying to correct everyone else’s problems.  All of us have enough problems and shortcomings in our own lives.
  4. But from time to time God does give us the difficult and uncomfortable task of confronting those who are doing wrong.  And one thing we can learn from Nathan is that before we undertake such a task, we need to be certain God has called us to do so.


II.  When we are called by the Lord to confront another person, we should do so in a spirit of sensitivity

  1. Notice how Nathan began his conversation with David in the first part of 2 Samuel 12.  Began by telling a story.  The story is about two men, one rich and one poor, who lived in the same city.  Look at 2 Samuel 12:1-4.
  2. Why did Nathan approach the king with a story?  Why didn’t he just blast away at David, labeling him the adulterer and murderer he was?  The answer is obvious.  Nathan understood that the purpose of confronting someone who has done wrong is not merely to make them feel bad; it is to lead them to admit their mistake, change their behavior, and as far as possible undo the harm they have done.
  3. So, instead of alienating David, he began with something with which David could identify.  Remember, David was once a shepherd.  He could certainly understand a story about sheep.  And he could easily see the injustice of what was done in this story.  And it was only a short step from seeing the sin of the rich man in the story and seeing his own sin.
  4. And from that we should learn that how we approach someone the Lord has led us to confront is extremely important.  If we go to that person with a sensitive spirit, a gentle spirit, and not with an attitude of superiority or condemnation or judgment, we are much more likely to get positive results.
  5. Proverbs 15:1-2a says it well:  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh [painful] word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable...”


III. When we are called by the Lord to confront another person, we    should speak the truth and address the real issue

  1. David’s response to the story Nathan told him was exactly as Nathan had hoped it would be.  David was outraged by the actions of the rich man in the story.  He immediately pronounced judgment on that man.  He said such a person “...deserves to die.”  And that reaction gave Nathan the opening for which he was looking.  And he said to his king in verse 7, “You are the man!”
  2. I would love to have heard Nathan’s tone of voice when he made that statement.  While I cannot prove it, I suspect those words did not thunder from his lips in the form of an indictment.  I don’t think he pointed his finger in David’s face and with glee in his voice cry, “Gotcha!”  I suspect it was with a broken heart and gentle spirit that Nathan said to David, “The story is about you and your evil deeds in the sight of God.”
  3. And then with the skill of a surgeon, Nathan cut to the heart of David’s sin.  David’s sin was not primarily against Bathsheba, even though he committed adultery with her.  David’s sin was not primarily against Uriah, even though he arranged his murder.  David’s sin was primarily against God.  David got into trouble because he lost his focus on God and forgot all that God had done for him. 
  4. In verses 7-11 Nathan draws sharp contrast between God’s faithfulness and David’s unfaithfulness.  Notice the repeated us of the pronoun “I” in reference to what God had done for David and the repeated use of the pronoun “you” in reference to the actions of David. [review vv.7-11]
  5. And what I want you to see in that is while Nathan was sensitive, he spoke the truth to David.  He addressed specifically and in detail David’s sin.  Nathan dealt with the real issue which was David’s rebellion against God.  And there is a lesson in that for us.  Ephesians 4:15 tells us that we are to “...speak the truth in love.”  I’m afraid that sometimes we so emphasize the “in love” part of that statement we overlook the “speak the truth” part.
  6. When the Lord calls us to confront another person, it is important that we speak the truth to that person.  It doesn’t do any good to tell a person what he/she may want to hear if what that person wants to hear is not what God wants them to hear.


IV. When we are called by the Lord to confront another person, we should always offer a word of hope

1.      While Nathan pointed out the consequences of David’s sin (and the consequences were indeed harsh –David’s family would rebel against him, his wives would be openly unfaithful to him, and the child conceived by him and Bathsheba would die), he also offered to David a word of hope.  Notice what Nathan told David in the last part of v.13 – “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”

2.      And that should remind us that the purpose in confronting another person with his or her sin is not be beat that person up.  The purpose is to lift that person up!  While the Lord sometimes calls us to confront others, He does not do so for us to add to the burdens of the  person we are to confront.  The purpose of confronting is to lift their burdens and make their lives better.

3.      David’s life was much better after his confrontation with Nathan.  While he still had to deal with the consequences of his sin, he experienced the tremendous relief of having the burden of his sin taken away.  Many of the psalms David wrote dealt with this great sense of relief which came to him once he experienced God’s forgiveness.  [Read Psalm 32:1-5]

4.      Whenever we are called to confront another person, the end result should always be that we point them toward the mercy, grace, forgiveness of God.


1.   If you are called to confront another person, do what Nathan did:

·         Go to that person with a gentle, sensitive spirit

·         Speak the truth

·         Point that person to the forgiveness available in God