Summary: A monologue by Nathan, the prophet who confronted King David over his adultery with Bathsheba.
Style: Dramatic. Duration: 12min
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11: 16-12:13a
My name is Nathan. Prophet to king David of Israel. Mine is an ancient story. But timeless. It is a complex story of intrigue, betrayal, battles and lust and sin. I hope that is enough to capture your interest.
David. He was like a son to me, that boy. That shepherd, man, warrior, poet, lover, psalmist, king.
Complexity and wonder describe David best. And he was the best - at everything he did. I watched him from a youth, and most especially when he walked in from the fields that one day, with the Israelites quaking in their boots at the sight of the giant. Goliath. I never saw such a man. I never thought God could even imagine such a creature, let alone make one.
For forty days Goliath terrorized our people. None of our warriors would go near the man. He taunted us continually, with his cheering section rooting him on.
Then out of the field came little David, the shepherd boy, with a sling and a pouch containing a few stones from the river. He approached the king, Saul, and offered to kill the giant in the name of our God. Saul, the giant and all the warriors on both sides, laughed. Finally, with nothing to lose, Saul suited David up in the armour of a warrior. It flopped around him. He could hardly carry the sword.
Finally, David took off the armour, picked up his sling and stones and went out to face the Philistine. "Come to me," said Goliath, "and I will feed your flesh to the animals." It was the last thing the man said.
"I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, whom you have defied." said the boy. And with that, he reached into his bag, placed a stone in the sling, and nailed Goliath between the eyes with one shot.
I will tell you straight. David had absolutely no fear. None. Save for his fear of God. But more of that later. It is the key to the story of his life.
After the death of Goliath I knew this was no ordinary human being. Saul knew it, too, and soon set him as commander-in-chief of the army. And thus began a long and complicated relationship between David and the king, whose jealousy and mental instability would plague David until the old man's death.
For years David was caught between his deep love for Saul's son, Jonathan, and his mutual fear of Saul. As the years went on, Saul's jealousy at David's abilities and his progression to the man who should be king deepened. On several occasions, Saul sought to kill his heir apparent. Each time, God spared him.
Eventually, the old king died, and David took over the throne of Judah. In those days there was war between Israel and Judah, a terrible time of unrest and bloodshed and the royal family of Saul's descendants.
In time, however, with the wisdom of a true commander and the blessings of God, David was able to reunite the divided kingdom.
And thus began a period of stability and prosperity in the land. The Philistines were defeated, the captured ark of the covenant returned to Jerusalem, and several other wars were won over the next few years.
At every step, David felt guided by God. And I, as his prophet, knew it to be true. David prayed constantly to God, knowing that whatever victory he might achieve could not be realized without God's intervention. He wrote poems to our God. Songs and psalms of praise. He danced before God, and sang always of the mercy of God. He was, for a time, a blessed man. And, through him and the blessings of God, the people prospered. Peace, justice and equity were found among the people. And, as the oldest story in the book goes, it was very good.
For a time. It seems that for Israel, even a united nation under a good and wise king, trouble always lurks unforeseen. Was it not always thus?
It was not too long before domestic and political troubles began to plague David's reign. The political wars began when the king of the Ammonites died and David sent emissaries of peace to the new king. Instead of being welcomed, they were stripped and shaven and left half naked to walk home in shame. A war had started, from which there would be no easy peace. The Ammonites hired mercenaries from the neighboring Arameans to wage war on Israel, but David's troops defeated the Arameans and the war with Ammon continued.
And that is where the story turns. Not on the cause or the outcome of the war, but on David himself.
Israel won the war. But that victory is irrelevant. It is a smoke screen to a true defeat. A betrayal of God and of a marriage covenant by the king himself. Behind the scenes, unknown to any but God, David committed two of the most heinous crimes against God and humanity that I have ever witnessed.
There are three unchangeable commandments. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife. And you shall not murder. There is a reason God gave us those commandments. They stabilize the social order. They ensure justice in the land, and respect in the people. Respect for another, and respect for God. They are a buttress against chaos. Yet in one day, to his shame, the king did all three.
For his own purposes, David abused his privilege, manipulated his authority, and in the process sent an innocent man to his death and the man's wife to his own bed. Power corrupts.
One day he was walking along the roof of his house, when he chanced to look down and saw a very beautiful woman bathing. Her name is Bathsheba. And she is as wise and beautiful now as she was then. She is a good woman, and a wonderful mother to David's heir, Solomon. But at the time he first saw her, she was simply an object of his lust.
From the moment he saw her, he became obsessed with having her. Now an ordinary man may have felt the same things, but ultimately he would throw up his hands and looked for another. Bathsheba was a happy woman, married to a handsome and caring soldier, who loved her as much as she did him.
But David had power, all the power in the kingdom at his disposal. So he simply took her. I will leave it to you to determine what I meant by that. He took her. And after a while, word came to him that Bathsheba was pregnant with his child.
There was no accounting for what the king could do to his subjects. So David sent word that Bathsheba's husband Uriah should go to fight the Ammonites, and secretly issued an order to Joab the commander to put the poor man in the front lines. It worked like a charm. Uriah was killed. Bathsheba wept and mourned. And then it was over. David took her to his house, and she became his wife.
And that was it. Or so David thought. He had forgotten about God in all of this intrigue and deceit. But God had not forgotten about him. Not by a long shot.
Let me stop the story for a moment. I wish to tell you about myself. I am God's prophet to the king of Israel. This is not a calling I would have chosen. And I am not the first of my calling to say so. Moses was the first, though he wished all the time that he had the job that God had chosen someone else. And those who will follow me, who carry on the prophetic tradition, will themselves wring their hands in anguish over being so chosen.
But a prophet, like a poet, like a musician and a priest, is necessary for the people of God. God, I wish I could have been a poet instead. The role of the prophet is to speak the truth to those in power. No matter what the hearer may feel when they hear it, or what the reaction. My job is to reveal the judgement of God. Sometimes we say the word of judgement, and run out the door. I used to do that a lot when Saul was king. More than once I could hear the sound of a spear passing my ear as I ducked for cover from that crazy old man. It is a risky occupation.
It was God who told me of David's shame. Now I had to confront this man whom I admired more than any person I had ever known.
I knew that to come right out with the truth would be folly. He would deny it outright. And so I played on his weakness. David was a lover and a poet. I would tell him a story of a love betrayed.
It was a parable. About two men, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had many flocks and herds. The poor man had nothing but a little ewe lamb, which he treated like his own daughter, kept in his house, eating from his hand. A traveler came to the rich man's house and the man did not want to take one of his own flock for the meal. So, instead, he went to the poor man's house and took and cooked the ewe.
David was outraged, crying injustice and saying the rich man deserved to die. I had him. "You are the man," I said to the king. And Uriah is the poor man, and Bathsheba is the ewe.”
David wept inconsolably. He confessed everything. He purged his soul, though there was nothing to be done to bring Uriah back, nor change what had been done with Bathsheba.
But it was enough. Confession is good for the soul.
That is not the end of David's story. Far from it. It is hardly the beginning. But David's story cannot be separated from that of the people of God, nor from God either. Behaviours have consequences. If the history of Israel can teach us anything, it is that. Over and again, the lesson is repeated.
If you have power over others, be they your children or employees, use your power for good, for justice and kindness. And God will be pleased. And you and others will be blessed.
There is more at stake than our own egos and our personal desires. For all of us, whether we be shepherds, prophets, poets, monarchs or paupers, men or women, are children of God.
(C) Copyright Jim Hatherly.