While reading through Psalm 51 recently, my mind filled with questions. What if Nathan the prophet had not confronted David with his sin? Might David’s life have differed and the history of God’s people been altered?
Nearly a year passed from the time David sinned with Bathsheba and ordered her husband murdered before Nathan confronted David with the “You are the man” reality (read the story in 2 Samuel 12). Surely David suffered, living with his sins – both in committing adultery and murder. While David tried to keep a lid on the realization of his sins and go on about his daily life, what was Nathan doing? How long was it between when God asked him to do this hard thing and the time when he actually got up his nerve to do it?
While we don’t know the answers to these sticky questions, we do know that the confrontation finally occurred and David felt deeply convicted. Psalm 51 reveals the anguish of a man’s heart, pierced by the reality of his sin. In this beautiful psalm, David becomes completely vulnerable to God, opening up his soul to the healing that only God can bring. We’ll never know if David would have come to the point of complete repentance, though, had he not been confronted by Nathan.
Who is your Nathan? Is there a fearless soul you can trust to be honest with you when you mess up? Is there a wise mentor in your life, one who can set you in the right direction when you go adrift?
We don’t like being told we are wrong, yet accountability can save our souls. By nature, our hearts are deceitful (see Jeremiah 17:9 and Psalm 36:2), blinding us to the reality of our sin. We are as con artists, rationalizing and convincing ourselves of almost anything.
Given the fact that our hearts cannot be trusted to do the right thing, the wise Christian will seek an objective opinion when needed. Godly confrontation and loving accountability are ways God achieves “truth in the inner parts” of our lives (Psalm 51:6). We each need a Nathan, who will bravely deliver the truth.
However, it’s one thing to have a Nathan, but God may call us to be a Nathan. Perhaps that is where we falter. It may be easier for some of us to accept truth than to confront another with it. We don’t know if Nathan begged God to let him off the hook, but we do know that he eventually obeyed, confronting David with his sin. And, as they say, the rest is history.
May God enable us to accept truth when we need to hear it from a God-appointed Nathan. And may we be obedient to speak the truth in love as we are called to be a Nathan.