May 21, 2012

Step Up: The Prophet Nathan 2 Samuel 12:1-14


When we are faced with someone else’s wrongdoing...how do we respond? How should we respond? Most people fall into one of two...they either keep quiet and say nothing...or they feel the need to speak out.

For those who keep quiet, this is rooted in feelings that it is really none of their business to say anything. That person is responsible for their own actions, and who am I to step in and say something to them. They are adults. Others times it is rooted in fear of how the person will respond. If you confront them about their addiction they might become angry, alienate themselves from you, and then you will never be able to help. Or, you might feel inadequate to say something...I’m no angel. I have my own problems. Who am I to say anything to them about their actions?

The second way is to speak out. Some feel an inner compulsion to say something...this can be the result of a genuine love and concern for the person...a family member is involved in a self-destructive behavior, and out of love for them and not wanting to see them hurt, you say something hoping to help. For others this is rooted in a modern day Pharisaical spirit. They know what is right, and these people need to hear it. There is joy in point out their sins.

Both responses have their pitfalls and problems. The first response can mistake silence for grace and leave people in their sinfulness and unchanged by God’s grace. The second response can mistake speaking out for upholding truth and end up pushing people further into their sinful rebellion. The first response can mask a fear to stand up for what is right and true, and the second can mask an unholy desire to be right and to control. The first can be the result of a faulty belief system that says, Anything goes, and the second the result of a faulty belief system that says We know the truth, and if you don’t believe like me then you need to change.

As the followers of Jesus, this question is extremely important. We live in an highly volatile time where everyone has a blog, Twitter, or Facebook page where they vent about every detail and problem. Journalism is more about entertainment and gaining ratings than honestly and humbly reporting our world events.

Recently Rick Warren was accused of starting a new religion known as Chrislam. It started when he attended a meeting of Muslims to talk about His faith in Jesus and how based on Jesus’ teaching the two faiths should be able to co-exist. He talked about Christ’s love for neighbor and for enemy and how God’s grace allows Christians to love those in the Muslim community and treat them as Jesus would treat them.

A certain group of people took offense to this and rather than speak to Rick directly, they plastered their thoughts all over the blogosphere...smearing the good name of a man who has spent his life pursuing the Kingdom of God and making a difference in the world around him.

Rick Warren is as orthodox as they come in regards to the Christian faith. Only God has sold more Christian books than Rick Warren. Seriously, his Purpose Driven Life has only been outsold on the Christian market by the Bible.

We see here the trouble with confronting. What if Rick Warren was in the wrong? Shouldn’t someone say something? But then who? And more importantly how should it be handled? Certainly not as an uneducated rant on someone’s blog or Twitter feed by someone who doesn’t know him?

Is there a right way to respond when we believe something isn’t right without shrinking back in silence or overstepping our bounds and doing more harm than good?

This morning we are continuing our message series titled Step Up. We are looking at ordinary men and women...men and women who may not even have their name mentioned in the Bible...they may have only a verse or two written about them...but their faithful obedience to God extended the Kingdom. These people demonstrate that there is no such thing as a small act of obedience.

This morning we are looking at a man named Nathan. Nathan, while mostly unknown, has a decent set of credentials...

  • He is a Prophet during the time of King David and the beginning of Solomon’s reign.
  • God sends him to tell David not to build the temple.
  • He helped David prepare for building the tabernacle.
  • He renames King Solomon Jedidiah or “Loved by God.”
  • He assists in anointing Solomon as King of Israel.
  • And he helped write the Chronicles.

But Nathan is most famous for confronting King David about his adulterous affair with Bathsheeba. She is another man’s wife and when David can’t trick Uriah, her husband, into covering up the affair...David has him murdered. And in the story of Nathan, we gain some insight into answering the question about confrontation of wrongdoing.

Let’s read, 2 Samuel 12:1-14

1 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.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
Speaking out is hard enough, but it becomes a lot harder when you have to tell the King he has sinned! He is the most powerful man in your society, and can do whatever he wants to whomever he desires to do it. He has just murdered one of his most loyal soldiers...to confront him about his sin is like being the guy second in line after Bin Laden...you saw what was done to him...you don’t have to be very smart to know who is next!

The purpose of the confrontation wasn't to get Nathan killed...the ultimate purpose of confrontation is to help the person find God's forgiveness. If we are to do it right, the ultimate desire must be to help the person find forgiveness and healing in the presence of God.

So really, speaking up and confronting sin must start with God.

2 Samuel 12:1 says, “The Lord sent Nathan to David.”

Nathan listened for God’s voice and then went when and where the Lord sent him.

Whenever we read about the Old Testament prophets, we see them proclaiming God's judgment and telling the Israelites about an upcoming punishment...what they are doing is called prescriptive prophecy...like a medical prescription only for the soul.

They are saying, "If you don't stop doing such-and-such...then you will face these consequences." "If you don't stop mistreating the poor, the destitute, the widows and orphans, you will be exiled from the land.” The reason their prophecy came true was not because they were good at predicting the future, but because the Israelites were bad at obedience.

The prophets main purpose was not to preach a condemning judgment or to push the people away from God...it was to hear God's voice so they could call the people to God's forgiveness. Acts 10:43 says, “All the prophets testify about [Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Our responsibility as Jesus' followers is to hear God's voice so we can go, in obedience, and offer His forgiveness to others. God speaks to us...if we will listen. And when He speaks...He will tell us when to go and when to stay! This is why prayer and silence are so important. They enable us to hear God’s voice.

One of the classic doctrines of the church is Prevenient Grace. This belief states that God’s grace, through the Holy Spirit, is already at work in the world around us. He is at work leading and guiding and preparing peope to take that final step of placing their faith in Jesus Christ.

John 16:8-11 Jesus says,
 “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
A little bit later in John 16:13-15 says,
 “13 When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.
The Holy Spirit’s jobs is to convict the world of sin and lead us into truth. It is the Holy Spirit’s job...not mine to bring conviction. We must listen for the voice of God when it comes to speaking out or not speaking out. So many people have been damaged by Christians who fail to speak up after God has sent them, and many have been damaged by Christians who speak up when God has not sent them.

I was walking across the Wright State University campus with a girl I knew from a couple of my classes. We had built a friendship over the past few months. Shared our notes, occasionally ate lunch together...developed a decent friendship. One day, on our way to class, we walked past the quad, and there was a guy with a white shirt, black pants, and skinny black tie holding the largest Bible I had ever seen. He held the Bible in one hand, and lunged forward on one leg to emphasize each point he was making. He was yelling out about the sinfulness of the people there.

I’m sure he thought he was doing good. In his mind he was making a bold stand for God. The laughter and those ignoring him were just another sign He was suffering for the Truth of the Gospel.

What he failed to see was how many of them were very open to the Gospel...they just couldn’t hear it on the lips of his condemnation. I had talked openly about my faith with her, but as we walked she pointed and said, “That is why I hate Christians. They are judgmental and unloving.”

No matter how hard I tried to recover things from that point on...I couldn’t. She shut up her heart, and was no longer willing to hear. In one leisurely stroll across campus, this young man had derailed and set back what I had been working and praying about.

We must listen closely for the directions of God or we run the risk of not speaking up when we are supposed to or speaking up when are not supposed to.

And when speaking up and confronting sin...Tell a good story.

When Nathan spoke to King David...he didn't go right in and say, "You are a sinner...You committed adultery and you killed Uriah!" David's response would have been "Nathan you have lost your head!" Literally...you are going to lose your head! That approach rarely works.

Nathan told a parable...a story meant to teach a point...He told about a poor man and his lamb, and how the rich man stole it from him rather than use one of his own. Nathan knew that a story could do more than a straight confrontation.

I love to tell stories...and sometimes, when telling the stories, I exaggerate...just a little, but enough to add some flair. If it is a good story exaggeration can only make it better. I have a motto when it comes to telling a story: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Sometimes, though, the truth can only be told in a story. That is why many cultures have stories instead of history books. People listen to country music and the Blues because it tells a story. Movies and novels are interesting because people love stories.

The way to open the door for people to receive Jesus is by telling our story. Really that is the best place to start...our own story...What were you like before you started following God...What did God do to get your attention...What is God doing in your life now? We don’t have to have all the answers. We just have to be open and transparent with our journey.

The Bible uses the term witnesses. Acts 1:8 says,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 
Being a witness comes from the legal world. We call witnesses to stand before a courtroom and tell people what was seen and experienced. God calls us to witness to the world what we see, know, hear, and experience of God!

So we learn to listen for God’s voice and go when He tells us to Go. We have our story ready to be a witness...

Finally, after telling our story, we must speak with humble boldness.

After telling a story about a rich man stealing the lamb from a poor man, David was enraged. Who has done this! I will take care of the man who did such a thing!

2 Samuel 12:7 says, “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’”

The prophets had a difficult job...their messages were not always popular.

In Hebrews 11, after telling of all the Great Heroes of the Faith, the writer says, "Others were tortured and refused to be released...Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them."

The reality is people don’t like to be told they are wrong...Prophets had a difficult job...So God often encouraged them to not be afraid...

Nathan spoke boldly, but he spoke humbly. He was there because God sent him. He was not taking pleasure in pronouncing and revealing the sins of his king...He wasn’t satisfied with just telling him about the wrong...because the ultimate purpose of this whole scene was for David to repent and find forgiveness.

When God tells us to go...we are to speak both humbly and boldly. Humbly because if we are being obedient to Scripture...we love these people to whom we are speaking and we take no pleasure in revealing sins...and because we are going in response to God’s voice not our own. But we speak boldly because we heard God tell us to speak and we are not speaking our words but God’s words.

After confronting David, Nathan said...

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says....” 2 Samuel 12:7

We don't speak in the name of the Lord in the same way the prophets did, but every time we hear God say, “Go!” and we share our story...God shows up and gives us the words to say.

I am amazed at how it works. I know I am supposed to say something...share how God is working in my life...but I get fearful...I wonder how the person will react...I decide to do something...say something...so I just start talking...and the words start to come.

If this only happened to me I would think it a fluke...but it happens all the time. As soon as we step out in faith...God gives us His words.

Conclusion
Our ultimate goal is to offer God’s forgiveness...not our condemnation. 2 Samuel 12:13 says, “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.’” That is the goal.

After all this, David felt the pain of his sin...he was repentant...and after asking for God's forgiveness...Nathan is able to give it to him...not based on his own authority, but based on God's offer of forgiveness to David.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells his disciples...

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 This means God has given us the authority to help people find forgiveness when they come with repentant hearts.

[I ended the message differently from here on out...]

So what does this look like in action?

1. We start by loving our neighbors as ourselves. It has to start with that. Do you love the people around no matter who they are and what their sin? If it doesn’t start with love for the person, you aren’t being asked to say anything.
2. Then we build a relationship with those around us and pray for God to work and to open spaces and times for us to share our story with them. Do you have a relationship with that person? Do you have right to speak into their lives? Sometimes God calls us to speak to those we don’t know, but more often, God expects us to have connection with them already.
3. We live in faithful obedience to God in our everyday life. We are witnesses and part of our story and witness is what they see in us day in and day out. Does our lives demonstrate a pattern of seeking after God and being obedient?
4. We look for ways and times when God opens doors into the person’s heart. Are we listening for God’s voice instead of our own?
5. We share our story and speak out with humble boldness for God. Praying for God’s working the entire time.

There is too much to cover in this area. Invite you to read Matthew 18:15-20, I invite you to read the Gospels to see how Jesus dealt with sin...and who Jesus confronted the most (hint: it was the religious people more than any other).

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