Remember Nathan? He’s the guy in The Bible who confronted King David, declaring him to be a cheater, a thief, and a murderer, and then told him that Bathsheba’s and his firstborn son would die as a result. Would you be surprised to hear King David appears to have named one of his latter sons after Nathan?
"... David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, and these were the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba daughter of Ammiel." (1 Chronicles 3:4-5)
Let’s examine the story. We’ll picture it in modern terms so we can feel the weight of it, and as I do that I’m going to take some liberties in the story to attempt to convey the reality of the situation and the weight of the moment, something that’s hard to do when it just feels like an old fairy tale. We’ll start here:
Imagine that one responsibility of US presidents is to serve on location as a military general during wartime battles. Now also imagine that a ground war is starting in Iran but in an unprecedented move, the president / general refuses to go, sort of going AWOL and sending one of his bodyguards instead so he can stay home and Netflix the new season of Man Vs. Wild. The bodyguard’s name is Uriah Washington, a war hero and well known TV personality.
Weeks later the president is trying to contact Uriah on facetime. Uriah’s phone sits on the floor of the bathroom where it had fallen out of his pants and slid under a hamper when he took his final shower before being deployed in the president’s place. As it rings, the bodyguard’s wife who is in the bathtub spots it, picks it up, and answers thinking it’s her husband. The president’s phone number and image are blocked for security reasons, so she can’t see who is calling. The the president gets an eye-full before she hangs up. At first he’s embarrassed, but then instead of trying to forget about it, he texts his network admin and tells him to quickly open a stream to Uriah’s phone. Unfortunately the phone is still pointing at Uriah’s wife. The president hits video capture and watches the stream until she is done bathing and getting dressed.
Later that day:
“Who lives at 3477 Jacob Way?”
“That’s Uriah’s house,” The security chief replies. “It’s him and his wife. I don’t know if they have any kids, Mr. President.”
“What do you know about the woman?”
“She grew up in rural Mexico. Uriah met her while helping take down the head of a cartel in a poverty stricken countryside where the locals were either starved or enslaved. She worked in one of the labor camps. After the operation Uriah returned and they got married. She moved here shortly after but her green card is still being finalized and… I suppose that means if she ‘committed an act deemed to be against the state’ she could be deported and sent back into the line of fire where she grew up.”
“Send a van over there. Have her brought into my office and then close the place down for the day. Don’t let anyone in.”
The van is sent. It returns with the woman and she’s brought to the president. Hours later she’s delivered back to her home. The story is kept quiet by the inner circle.
War rages on in Iran. The president burns through his Netflix library and is now watching season five of The West Wing on Hulu. His phone vibrates as his ringtone plays “I Have Killed My Tens Of Thousands” by Rahab’s Children. He picks it up.
“I don’t know what up. Uriah’s wife is out here. For some reason your chief of security granted her admission.”
“Let her in,” the president replies.
Thirty minutes later the president is sweating and borderline panicked as he sits alone absorbing the knowledge that Uriah’s wife is pregnant.
“Everyone knows Uriah’s been overseas for months! Every day the news covers another one of his raids on the terrorists and there he is on the front line taking down the biggest one, hand to hand! The people love him! This is not going to be easy.”
Weeks ago TMZ released a story claiming Uriah’s wife was seen at the white house after hours when everyone but the president was elsewhere, but the White House damage control division spun the story into oblivion and it failed to get traction.
“The press will start digging again. I have to be proactive.”
A repugnant series of worsening decisions leads the president to send orders to Uriah’s superior. Without explaining why, the orders demand the superior pull out all Uriah’s squad mates and cut his communications in the midst of the next raid. When it happens Uriah is swarmed by Isis who picks him apart, beheads him, and posts in on youtube.
Within a few months the president’s advisors switch from war plans to wedding plans and he is soon married to Uriah’s widow.
TMZ is bought out and closed down. Every paper that moves to run a feature on the affair finds itself in the midst of a hostile takeover by another company. The new leadership has no interest in the story and talk of it dies down. It becomes out of sight and out of mind.
A year later one of the president’s closest advisors, an independent unlike the president, stops in for their weekly lunch. He’s early because of a lucid dream that still disturbs him. In the dream there was a phone in the president’s bottom left desk drawer. Somehow he knew the code to both the drawer and the phone and when he opened the phone there was a video playing. On it a woman in a tub playfully said, “Uriah! I miss you! Do you miss me?” After waiting for a reply she suddenly gasps and hangs up the phone. The only other video seems to pick up a couple of minutes later and show the rest of her bathing and dressing.
The advisor, this time in real life, tries the bottom left desk drawer combination. It opens. His hand shakes. He looks at the door and listens for footsteps. Nothing. He searches the drawer and finds a phone identical to the one in his dream. He tries the code and nearly cries out, dropping it as the phone opens to the home screen. The videos from the dream are there, dated 16 months ago.
Fear turns to fury as he puts the pieces together. This phone belongs to the president but the president is one of his best friends, a man he has mentored and cherished for years. But this is also a man who controls the advisors job, knows where he sleeps, has the power to shut down the press, and got away with murder. Some of the fury turns back to fear, yet he knows it’s his responsibility to bring this into the light. He stands 100% against the president’s behaviors and is 0% willing to help cover up any of it.
“This will be dealt with… and I’m the one who will do it,” he vows through clenched teeth.
Now stop for a moment. Pause the action. How do you picture the advisor going about this? Imagine it. Consider how our press speaks of sitting presidents. Factor in what you hear on Facebook. Now you’re the author of the story. What do you see the advisor doing to expose the president?
In reality Nathan was the advisor and he did not lash out or try to humiliate King David by tweeting “@DavidGiantKiller07 is a coward, wife stealer, and a murderer! Hit up my Instagram for proof!” or rant about it indirectly on Facebook, or email it to WikiLeaks, which in that era would have meant shouting it at the gates of the city where officials and crowds gathered. Instead, in this metaphor, the advisor put his life on the line, getting onto the oval office by saying he had intelligence on a local criminal.
“Here’s what happened,” the advisor is saying to the president. “The guy was a married fortune 500 CEO with 10 million+ twitter followers and just as many groupies. He recently had sex with the wife of a tiny mom and pop convenient store owner, and liked it so much he murdered the store owner and took his wife, an immigrant from Columbia who didn’t really have any say in the matter because she was afraid of being deported.”
“Tell the judge life in prison is off the table! That guy gets the chair!” the president blares.
“Do you really want me to do that?” the advisor asks. “God is the judge. And you… you are the CEO.”
Imagine this was done is private, as it may have been, and only the advisor and the president knew about the confrontation. In the president’s mind, if the advisor was willing to confront the president face to face then he would also likely be willing to go to the press afterward. With that in mind, what do you think a president who obviously had the leeway and power to go AWOL without prosecution, shut down the press, and commit murder would do?
I picture an American president in that situation creating another “accident” on the advisor’s ride home. He’s never heard from again and the story dies until Jason Born gets wind of it and after 15 blurry fight sequences where it looks like the camera man dropped the camera down the stairs, a dirty president is exposed or killed.
But here is what really happened when Nathan outed David and told him his wives would be stolen and his son would die.
"Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.'" (2 Samuel 12:13)
I doubt any of us created a scenario where the president immediately acknowledged his crimes, asked for forgiveness, never repeated any of those behaviors again, and then went on to name a subsequent child after the advisor who exposed all his crimes, a situation that led him so act so depressed that his cabinet members thought he was suicidal.
“On the seventh day the child died. But David’s officials were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. They thought, ‘While the child was alive, we talked to him, and he wouldn’t listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may harm himself.’” (2 Samuel 12:18)
That’s radical humility from a man who had the power to exert radical authority.
So what does that mean for us?
- Whether we strive to be the leaders of our household, a business, a church, or a country, accepting correction and even honoring those who bring it is a critical element. Ask yourself what your track record looks like here.
- Who last confronted you?
- How did you respond?
- Whom did you last confront?
- Were you willing to build a solid relationship with that person and get permission from God before you confronted them?
- Despite having the power to kill Nathan on the spot, along with anyone who would have witnessed it, David's heart didn't burn with pride and lash out in revenge. Instead David's heart broke over what he had done to break the Lord's heart. The Lord's heart. What a stunning reaction to the moment.
- What would it look like if that was your gut reaction?
- What will it take for you to get there?
- Is three someone in your life now that can help you get there?
- Are you willing to invite them to offer you correction along the way?
“But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart….” (Acts 13:22)
By David Barton
MGCC Worship Director