The first job listed on David’s resume was as a shepherd guarding the family sheep (1 Sam. 17:34–35). He knew that it took a great deal of time, effort, and watchful care to raise a flock. In Psalm 23, David describes us as sheep and speaks of God as our loving and faithful Shepherd.
So when the prophet Nathan came to David with a story involving sheep, he had the king’s full attention. Consider the situation: The king had committed adultery and murder. Everyone knew it. But David’s heart was hard. There was no sign he intended to repent. He was the king. Couldn’t he do whatever he liked? Who could hold him accountable? Anyone who spoke the truth to him was liable to get their head chopped off!
This sorry status quo had to change. God acted for the honor of His name (2 Sam. 12:9, 14) and David’s own spiritual well-being. He sent his prophet with a simple but powerful story. When the heart or will are closed due to sin, sometimes truth can reach a person via the imagination. David was so engaged in the story that when Nathan turned it around on him, saying, “You are the man!”, it must have fallen like a thunderbolt (v. 7). Finally, his heart was broken (v. 13).
What did David learn from this confrontation? Sin is serious! He confessed and God forgave, but there would still be grievous consequences from his sinful actions that would affect both him as an individual and the nation as a whole (vv. 11–14). He also learned about the loving heart of God. God didn’t give up on David. He could have just punished him and moved on. Instead, God pursued David through Nathan’s parable and brought him to repentance. Despite David’s sin, God’s name was ultimately glorified in this situation through both His love and His justice.
>> Do you have sin to confess? Psalm 51 is David’s classic psalm of confession and repentance that flowed out of today’s episode. Add this Psalm to your reading and prayer time today.
“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Ps. 51:4, 12).