Literary scholar Leland Ryken describes the meeting between the prophet Nathan and King David as a “confrontation story.” He explains: “Usually the confrontation implies some tension or dissonance that needs to be acknowledged and resolved . . . [C]onfrontation stories imply an element of judgment or accusation.”
In today’s reading, King David had abused his power in order to commit adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11). It goes without explanation that this was the opposite of what a godly shepherd-king should be and do. And because David was the king, God’s anointed, his sin was more than personal and had significant consequences. By acting in outright disobedience, David had dishonored the Lord before the entire nation. As Nathan indicated, the essence of David’s wrongdoing was to despise the word of the Lord and to show utter contempt for Him (vv. 9, 14).
By obeying the Lord, Nathan was risking his life. It took great courage to confront a king. Nathan’s parable had the purpose of calling forth confession and repentance from the intended audience of one (vv. 1–4). And his plan worked splendidly. David’s passionate condemnation of the rich man’s theft (vv. 5–6) was met with the prophet’s “You are the man!” (vv. 7–9). This story helped break through the king’s hard heart, overthrew his pride, and brought him back to the Lord. There would still be consequences (vv. 10–14), but God met David with grace and forgiveness.
We can look at the parables from yesterday and today as an opposing pair. Nathan’s story shows all a shepherd should not be—uncaring, selfish, exploitative, and unjust. Jesus’ parable, on the other hand, portrays all a shepherd should be—loving, faithful, and actively on the side of the weak.
>> What is your response when confronted with evidence of your sin? Confession is a vital spiritual discipline.
“According to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. . . . Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:1–2, 10).