Nathan—Loyal Advocate of Pure Worship
IT IS not easy to make a man who has great authority realize that he has done something wrong and that he needs to change his ways. Would you have the courage to go and talk to a powerful man if you knew that he had killed a man just to protect his own reputation?
King David of ancient Israel had committed adultery with Bath-sheba, and she became pregnant. To hide their sin, David had her husband killed and then took Bath-sheba as his wife. For many months, David continued to do his work as king and did not tell anybody about his sin. But Jehovah did not ignore the king’s sins. He sent his prophet Nathan to make David understand how serious his sin was.
This was a difficult assignment. Imagine that you were Nathan. Nathan’s loyalty to Jehovah and his firm decision to defend God’s commands motivated him to remind David of his sins. How could the prophet do this and help King David to understand that he needed to repent?
Why not take a few minutes to read 2 Samuel 12:1-25? Imagine that you were standing in Nathan’s place as he told David this story: “There were two men that happened to be in one city, the one rich and the other of little means. The rich man happened to have very many sheep and cattle; but the man of little means had nothing but one female lamb, a small one, that he had bought. And he was preserving it alive, and it was growing up with him and with his sons, all together. From his morsel it would eat, and from his cup it would drink, and in his bosom it would lie, and it came to be as a daughter to him. After a while a visitor came to the rich man, but he spared taking some from his own sheep and his own cattle to get such ready for the traveler that had come in to him. So he took the female lamb of the man of little means and got it ready for the man that had come in to him.”—2 Samuel 12:1-4.
Nathan’s story made David very angry, and David exclaimed: “As Jehovah is living, the man doing this deserves to die!” Then Nathan powerfully declared: “You yourself are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:5-7) David had been a shepherd himself, and it seems that he believed this story to be a real situation. He may have thought so because, as one Bible commentator says, Nathan might have often gone to David to speak for those who had suffered injustice and had no one to help them. Even if that was true, Nathan had to have loyalty to God and courage to speak to the king in the way he did.
Think about why Nathan chose to speak about the problem in the way he did. It is not easy for a person who has become emotionally involved with someone to think about his situation clearly. All of us tend to make excuses to explain our wrong actions. But Nathan’s story made David condemn his own actions without realizing it. The king saw clearly that the conduct Nathan described was terribly wrong. It was only after David himself had condemned it that Nathan said that the story was about the king. Then David could understand how serious his sin was. This helped him to have the right attitude to accept discipline. David confessed that he had “despised” Jehovah by his conduct with Bath-sheba, and he accepted the needed discipline.—2 Samuel 12:9-14; Psalm 51, superscription.
What can we learn from this? A Bible teacher’s goal is to help his students to be able to think about matters and understand for themselves what is right. Nathan respected David, and he spoke to him tactfully. Nathan knew that David loved righteousness and justice. So he used a story that he knew would have an influence on a man who had these qualities. We too can help people to understand what Jehovah thinks. How can we do this? People have a general idea of what is right. We can help them to use their own knowledge of what is right without making them feel that we are better than they are or that we have the right to tell them what to do. The Bible, not our own opinion, tells us what is right and what is wrong.
It was mainly because of his loyalty to God that Nathan was able to reprove a powerful king. (2 Samuel 12:1) Our loyalty to God will give us the courage to defend Jehovah’s righteous principles.
DEFENDER OF TRUE WORSHIP
It seems that David and Nathan were good friends. David later even named one of his sons Nathan. (1 Chronicles 3:1, 5) The first time Nathan is mentioned in the Bible, he is with David. Both of them loved Jehovah. We know that the king trusted Nathan’s opinion because he told the prophet how much he wanted to build a temple for Jehovah. David said: “‘See, now, I am dwelling in a house of cedars while the ark of the true God is dwelling in the middle of tent cloths.’ Upon that Nathan said to the king: ‘Everything that is in your heart—go, do, because Jehovah is with you.’”—2 Samuel 7:2, 3.
Nathan was a faithful worshipper of Jehovah, and for this reason, he was ready to support David’s plan to build the first temple of true worship on earth. But on that occasion, what Nathan said was his own opinion and not what Jehovah told him to say. That night, God instructed his prophet to give the king a different message: David would not build Jehovah’s temple. It would be built by one of David’s sons. But Nathan said that God was making a covenant with David so that his throne would become “firmly established to time indefinite.”—2 Samuel 7:4-16.
Nathan’s opinion about who should build the temple did not agree with God’s will. But this humble prophet did not complain. He accepted Jehovah’s direction and cooperated with it. Nathan is a good example for us to follow if we are ever corrected by God in some way. We know that Nathan continued to have God’s favor because of how Jehovah used him later as a prophet. It seems that Jehovah inspired Nathan and Gad the visionary to direct David in organizing 4,000 musicians in temple service.—1 Chronicles 23:1-5; 2 Chronicles 29:25.
DEFENDER OF THE KINGSHIP
Nathan knew that Solomon should become king after David. So Nathan acted immediately when Adonijah tried to take the throne away during David’s older years. Again Nathan showed tact and loyalty. First he urged Bath-sheba to remind David of his promise to make their son Solomon king. Then Nathan himself went to the king to ask if David had chosen Adonijah as the next king. David realized how serious the situation was, so he instructed Nathan and other loyal servants to have Solomon anointed and declared king. Adonijah’s plan to make himself king failed.—1 Kings 1:5-53.
People usually agree that Nathan and Gad were the writers of 1 Samuel chapters 25 to 31 as well as all of 2 Samuel 1-24. First Chronicles 29:29 says about those inspired books: “As for the affairs of David the king, the first ones and the last, there they are written among the words of Samuel the seer and among the words of Nathan the prophet and among the words of Gad the visionary.” The Bible also mentions that Nathan wrote about “the affairs of Solomon.” (2 Chronicles 9:29) This means that Nathan probably continued to serve at the royal court after David’s death.
Much of what we know about Nathan may have been written by Nathan himself. But we can also learn much about him from what he did not write. It seems that Nathan was a humble historian, and he was not interested in being famous. One Bible dictionary says that he is mentioned in the Bible with no introduction and no information about his family. We know nothing about Nathan’s personal life.
MOTIVATED BY LOYALTY TO JEHOVAH
From the few things we read about Nathan in the Bible, we know that he was humble and zealous in supporting God’s way of doing things. Jehovah God gave him heavy responsibilities. Think deeply about Nathan’s qualities, such as loyalty to God and love for God’s standards. Work hard to imitate these qualities.
You will probably not have to reprove kings who committed adultery or stop someone’s plan to become ruler. But with God’s help, you can be loyal to God and defend what he says is right. You can also be a courageous but tactful teacher of truth and a defender of true worship.
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As a defender of the kingship, Nathan tactfully spoke to Bath-sheba