<< 2 Samuel 12: Nathan’s Parable >>
“And the Lord sent Nathan unto David: and he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. “The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe-lamb, which he had bought, and nourished up; and it grew up together with him, and with his children: it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. “And there came a traveller unto the rich man; and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the way-faring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. “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: and he shall restore the lamb four-fold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. “And Nathan said to David, THOU ART THE MAN.” SAM. xii. 1-7.
THE exquisite wisdom, faithfulness, and tenderness of this parable have been the admiration of every age from the time it was given. How delicately, yet clearly, the prophet showed the erring king his sin, and led him to condemn himself. With what force did the faithful words come home to the powerful offender. Thou art the man. Such is the office of Divine Truth always, and it never fully accomplishes its saving purpose until it produces in the consciences of weak and offending men the healthy and penitent conviction that leads to godly sorrow and a true amendment: “Thou art the man.”
David had much altered from the days of his innocent youth. He was ingenuous, modest, frank, brave, and devoted to piety in his early years. He was called a man after God’s own heart. But, he became far from a man after God’s. own heart when prosperity and power put self-indulgence within his reach. It avails nothing to say he wrote psalms in his mature and later days. People can write poetry, and religious poetry too, who are very bad men. And evil is evil when committed by a poet as well as when it is done by less gifted men. Indeed, the more a person is gifted, the more blameable is he when he debases himself in his conduct to the level of the sensual, the brutish, and the ignorant. David became a polygamist, which is utterly contrary to the pure laws of heaven, and was only permitted to the Jews, when, for the hardness of their hearts, they were allowed laws which were not good, and judgments by which their souls should not live (Ezek. xx. 25). David also became extremely revengeful and cruel, and treated the people he conquered with excesses quite impossible to a good man (2 Sam. xii. 31). And nothing could be worse than his treachery to Uriah, a noble servant, subject, and soldier, who was bravely hazarding his life in the dangers of war for him, while the king was gratifying his lust, and covering himself with the infamy of adultery and murder.
The scenes of his dying bed were such as to take away all pretence of supposing David in any sense to be a saint: they exhibited revenge and uncleanness, and, while righteousness is eternal, and not a thing of change by time or place, we must confess it to be impossible to account David after his youthful virtues had passed, as anything but an exceedingly bad man. It redounds to the wonders of mercy displayed in the Divine providence that David could be made use of as a type of the spiritual man and of the Lord Jesus, and as the medium through whom those Divine Psalms could be given, which have served the Jewish and the Christian Churches as the daily food of piety, the songs of the regenerate life, and the expression of the joys and sorrows of the struggling soul, wherever the Word of God is known. David was the poet by whose heaven-inspired imagination these glorious gifts to the Church of all ages have been embodied and presented; but we must ever bear in mind they are God’s Psalms, not David’s. David was but the instrument, the Author was Divine.
Regarding the king in the parable before us, we must have no palliation of his grievous faults under the idea of his being a sacred personage. He was simply and atrociously bad. He was the rich man. Uriah was the poor man. His beloved and only wife was the ewe lamb, who ate of his meat, drank of his cup, lay on his bosom, and was everything to him. The traveler who came to the rich man, meant the wandering lust which had actuated the king, and led to his guilty behaviour. And here we may remark the tendency there is in Scripture, and indeed in the human mind, to personify principles as personages, which has led sometimes to serious errors. The Holy Spirit of the Lord is spoken of as he, the Divine Wisdom as she, and some have imagined that therefore they must be treated as distinct persons. Just as well might we designate David’s unclean passion. a person, because it is called a traveler who came to him.
The prophet stands nobly out, confronting the king who condemns his crime severely when he. judged it as the wickedness of another, and who quailed before his faithful corrector when it was brought with all its force upon his own conscience. We could wish that mighty sinners had always faithful Nathans to stand before them, to tell them of judgment to come. We should never forget all hearts in due time will be revealed all books opened, and we shall all be judged even more faithfully than Nathan condemned his guilty master. The prophet, unfolded in his parable the exceeding guilt of the rich and powerful when they oppress the poor. The wealthy have many enjoyments, many distractions, many varieties of good. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds. The poor man had nothing save one little ewe-lamb. The lowly of the earth have few things upon which to pour out their wealth of affection, but those are very dear. They love intensely, and he who touches the beloved object, touches the apple of their eye. They have but few joys, but to the good poor man those few are all in all. His wife, his children, his business his religion, and his God form the circle of his life, and he who injures these is guilty of no common crime, and will surely be found out by his sin. “Woe to the wicked, it will be ill with him, the reward of his hands will be given him” (Isa. iii. 11). David had to expiate his crime in dust and ashes, to lose the child of his crime, to be driven from his capital by his favourite son and to learn by bitter experience that the Judge of all the earth will do right to the powerful as well as to the weak. The Most High ruleth among the children of men, and giveth to each surely, sooner or later, the reward of his doings.
Let us turn now to the inner lesson contained in this interesting parable, and in the circumstances to which it alludes. Viewed in this respect it will remind us of the rich man and the poor man in the Gospel. The members of the Church are rich, because they have an abundance of heavenly wealth. The gentiles are poor, because they lack all mental treasure respecting eternal things. Yet, what little good they have, they love tenderly, and love intensely. It is the want of consideration and charity displayed sometimes by the members of the Church towards those who are poor in divine things, that is here unfolded to us in the Spirit of the, Word. Uriah and his wife were Hittites, or as they are often called, children of Heth. They were a gentle and good people that inhabited the middle and south of Judah. They are brought before us in the history of Abraham who obtained from them the cave of Machpelah where Sarah was buried, and which became the place of burial for Isaac, Jacob, and their wives: a sacred spot pointed out and jealously guarded to this day.
The Hittites are represented as friendly with the Isralites, and aiding them on various occasions. Uriah was a Hittite, Abimelech was a Hittite, and both were evidently leading men with David; Bathsheba, the mother ofSolomon, was probably of the same nation. They were amiable, courteous, friendly, and good though they were not Israelites. They represent such as are moral, and cultivate goodness in their lives, although they have little relish for spiritual attainments, or spiritual knowledge.
There are people who are kind, gentle, orderly, and upright in their conduct, who yet do not advance to the conviction of spiritual truths, with any degree of firmness or clearness. They are good neighbours, kind friends and just people, and yet confine themselves to doing their duties in this world socially and politically, as the whole duty of man, at present. These are often people of great talent, very estimable, very virtuous, and very serviceable to mankind. They are not unfriendly to religion, not opposers of spiritual truth, but they are obscure and doubtful about it. They are mentally dim-sighted probably, generally from hereditary causes, and sometimes from having been repelled by the faults and shortcomings of religious people. Judged by the Lord’s standard, “those who are not against us, are on our part,” the considerate spiritually-minded man will deal very kindly with this class of persons. Moral good is all they have, but they cherish that tenderly. It eats of their bread, and drinks of their cup, and lies In their bosom. They would not do a wrong thing or descend to any false or dishonourable proceeding for the world.
It is their meat and drink to do right in external things, and they are often tender, considerate and benevolent. The feelings of kindness and rectitude are to them a species of religion. “It is unto them as a daughter.” They do no harm to any one, but are ready to join in virtuous and useful works. They are convinced that morality is a good thing of itself. Justice, truth, honesty, chastity, brotherly-kindness, diligence, intelligence, faithfulness, truthfulness, and sobriety are virtues they know to be above all price for this world, if there were not another. This world they confess to be full of beauty, and full of good, and their households are often abodes of greater comfort, courtesy, and satisfaction, than the homes of some of the bitterly good, or the sourly religious.
These are the spiritual Hittites, they serve in the armies of David, and are faithful and true to the side of goodness. The Lord is with them, though obscurely. Then comes a time of deeper awakening if all goes well. Some earthly sorrow, or perhaps some book adapted to their state, brings the truth home to them in a suitable way, and they rise as to a new heaven and earth. They exclaim with Jacob, “Surely the Lord was in this place, and I knew it not. This is none other than the house of God: this is the gate of heaven.”
When Abraham addressed the children of Heth, he said, “I am a stranger and sojourner with you” (Gen. xxiii. 4), which in the spiritual sense means that the Lord is with them, though they do not fully know, and fully acknowledge Him. Blessed be His Holy name, how wonderful is His mercy; how vast, how unspeakably tender His loving-kindness! A mother may forget her child; but He never forgets a soul that Behas made. They may not know Him, but He is with them, and in due course will reveal Himself and say, as He said to Philip, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip. He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father. How sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me” (John xiv, 9).
” O blest be His name: who in sorrow’s stern hour, ,
Hears the prayer of affliction and sends forth His power,
Like the morn o’er the valley, night-shadowed and dim,
O’er the heart shines the Spirit of Mercy from Him. .
Bless, bless His name.”
The children of Heth said to Abraham, “Thou art a mighty prince among us,” which signifies that the well-disposed moral people represented by the children of Heth, acknowledge religion to be a great power in the world, and have a respectful feeling towards it. They will in due season receive it.
In the meantime, none should hurt the Hittites. They are fighting on David’s side against the Ammonites, and it is a grievous evil to leave Uriah to be killed, or in other words to be anathematized and their feelings outraged in the name of a false religion. The Ammonites, against whom the armies of Israel were warring at this time, were the offspring of deplorable impurity on the part of Lot, Ammon and Moab, the twin brothers, were born in a cave.
Spiritually, they represent an adulterated religion, born in obscurity of mind.
A religion of ceremonies, rituals, and worship, without any regard to purity of heart, to heavenly wisdom, or to regeneration, is Moabite. Hence the prophet said, “Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone Into captivity; therefore his taste remaineth in him, and his scent is not changed” (Jer. xlviii. 11). Ammon was his brother, and the Ammonites represented those in the Christian Church who support and sustain a religion of mere rituals. The Ammonites are great for creeds, ceremonies, apostolic successions, dogmas, although charity, that soul of religion, is never thought of and a whole people are sweltering in ignorance, superstition, vice, and misery.
Such men want nothing to be changed. They are dumb dogs that never bark. They may, like swine disturbed in their mud, make now and then an unpleasant noise, but leave them to batten on their gains, and they soon go to sleep again.
Such are the Ammonites of the present day. The armies of David, or all the spiritually-minded, fight against a hollow, meaningless, impure and unjust religion, and Uriah the Hittite is amongst them. The morally good assist in all the progressive changes, that remove from the earth superstitions that cumber the ground, and do evil, in the name of the Prince of Peace.
David’s crime of looking upon Bathsheba, and taking her to himself; and contriving Uriah’s death while he was fighting in the field, represents the wrong done often by those who are spiritually-minded in persecuting such as are in oral good, and joining the bitterly religious in condemning them. It was evening time when David did this, representing an obscure state of mind. There will sometimes come into the thoughts of Christians, otherwise truly earnest and good, a spirit of intolerance, a subtle lust of dominion. They become for the time readier to condemn than to help. They become filled with the persuasion that outside of a profession of religion there cannot possibly be any moral good, and they regard such as avoid Christian profession, however amiable and excellent they may appear to be, as utterly dead and worthless.
They admire morality, they see she is a beautiful wornan: but they desire to appropriate her for themselves, In good time, this will come to pass, for all true morality will eventually unite itself to true religion. But such a happy realization comes with time and maturity, and cannot be forced by despotism and persecution.
A persecuting spirit is always wrong. A tree cannot be hurried in its growth, nor can the soul. We ought ever to have patience and wait, until Divine Providence brings His purposes to pass in an orderly manner, when all will be well. Bathsheba was to be the wife of David, for she was to be the mother of Solomon, the future king of Israel in its most glorious state; but not by the murder of Uriah.
When we desire things to be done, before they can be accomplished in an orderly manner, we are actuated by lust, not by principle. The spirit of lust is represented by the traveler who came to the rich man mentioned in the parable. Lust is a wandering vague desire, yearning after what is lawless and wrong. It hastes to be rich, and ruins the heart that yields to it. It pants like a bear for its prey, and can never have enough. Lust must have a thing just now, and must have it right or wrong, It is sad when it is allowed to seduce the rational faculty, for thus it carries out its schemes, but it ruins the soul, and entails the most grievous misery. We should always beware of these greedy spiritual travelers, who are thieves and murderers, and seek only to make us their accomplices, that like David we may sin, and like him only be recovered by severest sorrow and repentance.
We have said the rich man represents the spiritually-minded members of the Church, and surely they are divinely rich, and can always afford to be gentle and merciful. They are like the king who had exceeding many flocks and herds. They are possessors of the Word, which is a vast treasury of heavenly wealth of gold, silver, and precious stones in never ceasing abundance. They possess the wealth of all the kind sentiments of innocence, charity, devotion, and heavenly affection that have placed them in relation with heaven itself.
How strange that having these riches at their command, they should forget themselves, and instead of cultivating their own heavenly-mindedness, they should descend to straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
Yet so it often is. The Lord is constantly giving us the divine advlce–“I counsel thee to buy of me gold, tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed” (Rev, iii. 18).
“In every age the Lord was kind,
And to His Church revealed His mind;
But we enjoy a wondrous store,
Of blessings never known before.
The gold and silver,-truth and love,
And all the wealth of heaven above,
Are Thine, blest Lord! Thou wilt bestow
This treasure on Thy Saints below.”
And yet, instead of enjoying these heavenly treasures, which the Lord imparts in such abundance, we often allow ourselves to be drawn aside by vague feelings of an unkind character, by desires to find fault and blame others, and in various ways we increase anxiety, care, and sorrow, both for ourselves and others. Instead of having a heaven upon earth, we dwell in the wilderness, and often the divine rebuke is true of us, “Thou sayest thou art rich, and hast need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art poor and miserable, and blind and naked.” How true was this of David, when he was confronted by the prophet. How small, how poor, how blind, how abject he seemed when the tremendous words fell upon him, “Thou art the man.” Will it be less true with us?
Do we carefully guard against all the instigations of the lust of domineering over, and condemning others. Let us live up to the sacred gifts which divine mercy has given us in such abundance, and so shall we never hear in judgment the startling announcement of divine truth, “Thou art the man.”
The sin of David in relation to Bathsheba had relation no doubt to his typical character in reference to the Lord Jesus; for David in the Word throughout represented the Lord; but we must remember that the transaction of David only represented states in the Lord, and the evil acts of David represent the evils suggested by the iniquities of our hereditary nature which the Lord deigned to take upon Him, for He was made in all points like unto His brethren, “yet without sin.” No actual guilt of any kind took place with the Lord, although He was tempted that He might be able to succour them that are tempted.
To His holy spotless inner nature the shade of temptation would be immeasurably more painful and vivid than it can ever be to us. This should add to our dread of everything that is contrary to His divine purity, and our care against every sin, that we may escape the denunciation “Thou art the man,” and trust hopefully to receive instead, “Well done, good and faithful servant j enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)