But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, 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. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meagre fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was loath 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 that for the guest who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 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 rescued you from the hand of Saul; 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 that had been too little, I would have added 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, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very 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.’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.’ Then Nathan went to his house.
‘It’s a fair cop, gov!’ David may have thought he had got away with his sin and along comes Nathan and all is revealed. Why did David do what he did? As king did he think he could do what he liked and take Bathsheba for himself and cover his deeds by using his authority to send out her husband to a certain death? David built a façade which meant that anyone from the outside would not notice anything untoward. But David knew…and God knew.
It is a story which lays bare some of the abuses that some leaders are guilty of. We can look around the world and see where it is happening today – world leaders who think they can do what they like, perhaps even justifying it to themselves and to others. But who are they fooling? Prophets are needed today as in David’s day to challenge abuse and exploitation and bring them into the light.
This passage speaks to us even though we might not be kings or queens. We know we are not the people God want us to be, even although we might hide it from others. Also the way we act has consequences and we shouldn’t fool ourselves because we should also remember that others may be hurt in the process. We may not think we have much power and authority but we will be surprised when we stop and think about the extent to how much what we do and say affects other people’s lives.
Faced with his sin David repents, which can be found more fully in Psalm 51. God is able to ‘put away our sin’ as we turn to Christ. Repentance isn’t just about saying sorry it is doing an about turn and walking in a different direction…God’s direction. It is about a new way of life and living. And God in his grace enables us to make a fresh start.
Dear Lord, We pray that you would raise prophetic voices that challenges the abuses and injustices of our world. Challenge us too with what we hide from others but you can see. Give us the courage and the strength to walk a different way. We thank you that change is possible in us and in our world. Amen
The Rev’d George Watt is Minister of Reigate Park United Reformed Church