by Pastor Pete Vander Beek:
As you read 2 Samuel 12:1-10 below, keep in mind the story that comes just before it: Bathsheba, pregnancy, and the elimination of Uriah.
Nathan Rebukes David
12 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
This is one profoundly clear example of how a story can be a mirror. David hears the prophet tell a story that has very similar aspects to it to what David has just done. He’s taken a precious wife from a soldier he had power over, and arranged for the loyal soldier to die in battle.
When any of us do wicked things like that, if we have a conscience, it will gnaw at us. Depending on our upbringing and cultural time, these inner churnings will be felt and expressed different ways. Here’s what David himself wrote about that angst in Psalm 32:3-4. This is what is in David’s heart when Nathan tells him the story of the theft by a powerful man:
3When I kept silent (about my sin),
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
After Nathan tells the story, David is livid. Who is he mad at? The man in the mirror of the story, which is himself, as Nathan points out. And only then does David no longer keep silent. And the Graciousness of God is revealed. I love the tender tone in God’s words to David.
This story is a small example of how stories are mirrors for us. All stories. When I tell a story I thought was neutral, and someone has a strong reaction, that most often is more about what they have seen in the mirror of the story than what I said. It has been a huge shaping influence on my life to see how this works, and how all the stories and accounts of the Bible are holding up a mirror, asking me “what are you seeing about yourself Pete?”