His name means: "He [God] Has Given"
His work: He was a prophet in Israel during the reign of King David and the early years of King Solomon.
His character: Nathan was a fearless man whose obedience to God's voice put him nose to nose with the most powerful person in the land, first announcing that King David would not have the honor of building the temple and later declaring his immorality and his severe punishment for it.
His sorrow: With great hopes for Israel's success under the monarchy, Nathan was an eyewitness to sin, corruption, and mutiny that tore the nation apart.
His triumph: Because of his own faithfulness, Nathan was given the privilege of being God's mouthpiece to an entire nation.
Key Scriptures: 2 Samuel 7; 12
A Look at the Man
Nathan loved David, the king of Israel.
The proof of this love was in Nathan's allegiance to the monarch and his sincere attempts to encourage the king, even to the point of affirming his ideas of a grand temple when God had not blessed the venture.
But the acid test of the prophet's affection was not in supportive or affirming words, but in truthful confrontation—the kind of confrontation that could cost the prophet his friendship with the king, not to mention his life.
Nathan was clever and creative. His involvement in the selection of worship music in the sanctuary (2 Chronicles 29:25) tells us of his sensitivity. His personal involvement in the naming of the baby Solomon hints to us of Nathan's tenderness (2 Samuel 12:25).
But Nathan had been given a terrifying assignment fit for the bravest warrior. And, if the nature of the commission wasn't tough enough, it had come as a directive of the living God.
Friendships are often put to the test over long hours of work or waiting. Friends pay a price by listening or issuing words of love and encouragement. But friendship knows no bravery like the bravery of brutal, truthful confrontation.
Those who have named this clash of emotions "tough love" have named it well. It is tough, but it is also the deepest form of love.
Although it was not Nathan's only challenge during David's reign, the confrontation following the king's adulterous affair with Bathsheba and murderous attempt to cover it up was his most grueling.
But instead of going nose to nose with David—a strategy that could have gotten Nathan in serious trouble—the prophet told a story. Drawing out the compassionate shepherd in the king, Nathan told him a story of a poor man's family, their only possession a ewe. Much more than simply an animal on the man's farm, this lamb was in every way a household pet. It "shared the man's food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms." The lamb was "like a daughter to the man."
Nathan must have known, as he watched the king's face, that David was captivated by the tale.
"In the same town was a rich man," Nathan continued. "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…. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it."
David was blind with rage. "The man who did this deserves to die!"
Nathan must have taken a deep breath, knowing he had the king exactly where God wanted him to be. "You are the man," Nathan said in measured tones. "You are the man."
The great challenge in truth-telling, even with a close friend, is to keep the focus on the deed and the guilty party, not on the confronter's need to be right. In this, Nathan was brilliant. In Nathan's message, David clearly heard God's voice. Years later David would write: "Against you [the LORD], you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (Psalm 51:4).
Nathan dared to prove his love for his friend by telling him the truth in loving confrontation. And so skillful was the prophet at dealing with the king that when the third child was born to David and Bathsheba, they named him Nathan after the man who risked it all.
Reflect On: Psalm 51
Praise God: Because he is quick to forgive.
Offer Thanks: That God does not hold our sins against us as long as we repent.
Confess: Any sin you have tried to hide from yourself and from God.
Ask God: To purify your heart, making it “whiter than snow.”
Today's reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book's title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.
Nathan was clever and creative. His involvement in the selection of worship music in the sanctuary tells us of his sensitivity.