In the Old Testament, there are stories of kings, queens, judges, priests, and then, there are prophets. There were a number of prophets with some of them having long, hard to spell names like Malachi, Zechariah, and Habakkuk (Google does come in handy for spelling). Their main job duty was relaying God’s message to one or more people. Sometimes they had good news, but it often was a warning instead such as “if you don’t repent and change your ways…”.
I would imagine the job of a prophet could be a thankless one since their message didn’t always tickle the ears of the receiver. It could be a dangerous one too such as Elijah having to flee from King Ahab who didn’t think much of Elijah and thought less of the God Elijah served. It could be a lonely one. Jeremiah was called the “weeping prophet” who served during the reign of five different kings and wrote a lot about repentance. They lived fascinating lives such as Samuel who was a miracle child, anointed the first two Israelite kings, and was the only ghost we meet in the Bible (read all about it in I Samuel 28).
Nathan was the prophet who was around when David was King. Unlike Elijah and King Ahab, Nathan and David had a good relationship. Nathan was a member of David’s royal court and one of his closest advisors. There are a few stories in the Bible featuring Nathan that occurred during some of the darkest and most emotional times in David’s turbulent life.
Nathan was around when David decided to build God a house. David thought it wrong that while he lived in a beautiful palace, the Ark of the Covenant was housed in a lowly tent. David shared his plans with Nathan. The prophet, so to speak, gave him the high five. But Nathan spoke too soon! God visited Nathan in a vision and told him to go back to David with an entirely opposite message. God did not want David to build him a house; rather, David’s descendant would be the one to build God’s house (2 Samuel 7:4–17).
Nathan goes back to David with God’s answer. Instead of being stubborn about it and going ahead with his plans, or throwing a tantrum and taking it out on the messenger, David accept’s God’s will. That’s a good lesson in itself. Not all my prayer requests have turned out as I had originally hoped. Sometimes I have to go through the process of accepting God’s answer, reminding myself that my Father knows best. If I could see what would have happened if my request had turned out the way I wanted, I have no doubt I’d be on my knees thanking the Lord for sparing me from what I originally hoped.
The most famous encounter between David and Nathan came later. It was after David committed adultery with Bathsheba. When she informed David she was pregnant with his child, he was so desperate to cover it up that he brought about the death of her husband, Uriah, who was a loyal soldier in David’s army. David married Bathsheba and life went on … or so David thought. Nathan shows up and it was a climactic moment, to say the least. If it wasn’t one of the worst moments in David’s life, it surely came close to being.
Nathan began with telling David about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had company and needed to prepare a feast. He sees the poor man’s only possession, a little lamb, the poor man loved like a member of his family. The selfish rich man takes the lamb to feed his guest instead of feeding his guest with one of his own lambs from his flocks. David’s reaction to this story was an absolute rage. Perhaps the story took David back to when he was a shepherd boy tending his father’s flock. David declared the rich man had no pity and deserved to die.
This is the climax! I dare say one could have heard a pin drop when Nathan pointed to David and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).
Perhaps at that moment, David felt like an arrow of guilt had hit his heart. It couldn’t have been easy for Nathan to reveal David’s sin, but he was the prophet and it was his job. David did confess to Nathan his sin. At least, David didn’t deny it or try to blame someone else. Nathan had good and bad news. The good news was the Lord had forgiven his sin and that David would not be punished by his own death. The bad news was David and Bathsheba’s child would die. It was devastating news but David didn’t argue with or blame the messenger who was just doing his job.
After the death of David’s child, his wife Bathsheba became pregnant again, this time with a son whom they named Solomon. The Lord sent Nathan to David again but this time with wonderful news that the Lord loved his son Solomon. They named their son, Solomon “Jedidiah,” a name that means “beloved of the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:24–25). Solomon would grow up to later build God’s house, the temple, and became an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another mention of Nathan is an encounter he had with Bathsheba. David was near death at the time and one of David’s sons, Adonijah, had his eyes on his father’s throne. Nathan knew Bathsheba well enough to speak to her about Adonijah attempting to take David’s throne from her son, Solomon (1 Kings 1:11). Nathan enlisted her help in bringing the matter to David’s attention before David’s death. After Bathsheba told David what was going on, Nathan came in and backed her up. Thus, there was no King Adonijah.
There is evidence that David and Bathsheba appreciated Nathan for his faithfulness, friendship, and even his “tough” love. First Chronicles 3:5 reveals they named one of their sons “Nathan”. A fine thing to be named after a prophet who did his job.
A few decades ago I pray for something with a heavy heart. In my prayer, I had a sob story and thought that what I wanted to do about the situation had the Lord’s blessing. Just as I was almost about to carry it out, I ran into someone. I shared my sob story with the person who generously gave me a hug and advice. Her advice wasn’t what I wanted to hear but I listened. It occurred to me a short time later that her advice was the Lord’s answer. I can’t prove it but to this day I don’t believe it was a coincidence I ran into this person when I did.
In a way, she was the prophet delivering the Lord’s message to me. At least, I can say that time I accepted it and if I had to live it over again, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. By the way, I never held a grudge against her. She was just doing her job.