So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”
David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!”
(2 Samuel 12:1-7a)
David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then ordered her husband killed in an attempted cover-up. A year later, David had become so insensitive to his own sins he didn’t realize he was the villain in Nathan’s story.
As a prophet, Nathan was required to confront sin, even the sin of a king. Though he was sent by God to David, confronting the king took great courage, skill, and tact to speak to David in a way that would make him aware of his wrong actions.
In confronting David’s multiple sin of coveting, theft, adultery, and murder in his affair with Bathsheba, Nathan was able to help David see his own wrongdoing by showing that he would not have tolerated such actions from anyone else. David’s repentance allowed Nathan to comfort him with the reality of God’s forgiveness, while at the same time reminding him of the painful consequences his sin would bring.
When you have to confront someone with unpleasant news, pray for courage, skill, and tact. If you want that person to respond constructively, prayerfully think through what you are going to say. How you present your message may be as important as what you say. Season your words with wisdom.