2 Samuel 12:5-7
And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD lives…
Great sinners are generally able to discern and condemn in others wickedness similar to their own. This gives an advantage to those who would convince them of their sins. Nathan made use of it in dealing with David, and with good effect.
I. NATHAN'S PARABLE. It presents a picture of conduct sufficiently like that of David to prepare the way for his self-condemnation, and yet so far different that its drift should not be at once detected. It is a picture of:
1. Gross covetousness. For a poor man to covet some part of a rich man's abundance is natural, though wrong; but for a rich man to covet the little of a poor man is monstrous wickedness. Such had been David's conduct towards Uriah.
3. Oppression of the weak by the strong.
4. Violation of feelings which should have been tenderly respected. The attachment of the poor man to his pet lamb. The counterpart was the affection of Uriah for his wife, and, till she was seduced, of the wife for her husband.
II. ITS EFFECT ON THE KING. It seems surprising that he did not at once see the prophet's meaning and intention. Perhaps Nathan had been accustomed to come to him to plead the cause of the injured who could obtain no redress otherwise, and David imagined this to be his errand now. Besides, it was a good while since David's sins were committed; yet the prophet had hitherto been silent about them, and would the less be suspected of coming to administer reproof for them now. Hence, all unconsciously, he:
1. Displayed hot anger against the wrong doer.
2. Passed a severe sentence upon him; saying that he deserved death, and condemning him to the fourfold restitution which the Law required (Exodus 22:1) - a remarkable illustration of Romans 2:1. Had he been aware that he was passing sentence upon himself, he would probably have been less severe. Or if he had remembered his own greater crimes, he would hardly so harshly have condemned a man whose crime was so much less heinous. But it is no uncommon thing for great offenders to be harsh in their judgment of others who are far less culpable than themselves.
III. NATHAN'S REJOINDER.
1. He applied to David himself the judgment he had pronounced. "Thou art the man!" With what terrific fore this must have fallen upon the king's ears! He was self-convicted, self-condemned. To such self-condemnation it should be the aim of religious teachers to lead their hearers. It is not permissible, indeed, unless in very extreme cases, to address individuals in public in such words as Nathan's to David; but the preacher's work is not effectually done until each hearer whose sin is described is brought to say to himself, "I am the man!" To use the language of a great preacher of a former generation (Robert Hall), "Without descending to such a minute specification of circumstances as shall make our addresses personal, they ought unquestionably to be characteristic, that the conscience of the audience may feel the hand of the preacher searching it, and every individual know where to class himself. The preacher who aims at doing good will endeavour, above all things, to insulate his hearers, to place each of them apart, and render it impossible for him to escape by losing himself in the crowd. At the day of judgment, the attention excited by the surrounding scene, the strange aspect of nature, the dissolution of the elements, and the last trump, will have no other effect than to cause the reflections of the sinner to return with a more overwhelming tide on his own character, his sentence, his unchanging destiny; and amid the innumerable millions who surround him, he will mourn apart. It is thus the Christian minister should endeavour to prepare the tribunal of conscience, and turn the eyes of every one of his hearers on himself." Hearers should welcome such preaching, and thank God for the convictions it produces, as a necessary step in the process of their salvation.
2. He faithfully delivered God's message to him.
(1) Reminding him of the great kindness of God to him.
(2) Charging him distinctly with his crimes.
(3) Pronouncing upon him the Divine sentence.
In the whole interview, Nathan acted with singular courage, and fidelity to him who sent him.
IV. THE RESULT. David's frank and penitent confession of his sin; and his pardon. Had he been utterly hardened, he might have resented the prophet's faithfulness, dismissed him with anger, or even ordered him to prison or death. But the workings of his own conscience had prepared him to recognize the justice of Nathan's words; and these now melted into contrition the long burdened yet stubborn heart, which at length found relief in the brief but sincere words, "I have sinned against the Lord;" to which the prophet was able to return the consoling reply, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die" (comp. Psalm 32:3-5). Learn:
1. The duty of reproving sin in others. (Leviticus 19:17.)
2. The value of a minister or other friend faithful enough to administer reproof.
3. The responsibility which attaches to the Tower to discern and condemn sin in others.
(1) It should induce us to avoid the sins which we condemn, and others like them.
(2) It increases our guilt if we commit such sins.
(3) It ought to induce hearty self-condemnation and penitence when we fall into them. The indignation we feel against the sins of others should be turned on our own, in dealing with which there is more hope than in endeavouring to convince and reform our neighbours; besides which, when we have forsaken our own sins, we shall be better fitted to reprove and amend other offenders (see Matthew 7:4, 5).
4. The goodness of God in first sending reprovers to warn and convert, rather than inflicting swift punishment. - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: