Nathan's heart went out to King David. The king had made some bad decisions. Even though he wasn't actually aware of it, he had messed up, and God wanted to help him. David had had an affair, and then he tried to remedy the problem himself. What had happened was unfortunate, and the prophet saw his job as one who was there to help bring some sort of healing to the situation.

He began his message by gently explaining to the king the good news that there was something missing from his life. That missing piece was "real and lasting peace," or as someone once put it, there was a "God-shaped vacuum" in his heart. It was the good news that God had a wonderful plan for the king's life, and that He wanted him to experience that plan.

What the prophet was steering towards was a moment of "decision." Would the king respond to this incredible offer that God had made him, or would he reject it?

To help the king, Nathan psychologically prepared him by telling him what he was going to do. He had said that in a few moments he would want him to respond by coming forward. The prophet had learned that this would help the king move closer to the decision he needed to make.

To help further, Nathan had David and the guards that stood around his throne close their eyes. This would help to make sure that the king felt a little less self-conscious about his decision when he did come forward.

David, like King Saul, had a personal musician close by, so as Nathan continued to speak, he nodded to the musician to begin to play some appropriate music. Even though the song was very moving, there was no movement from David. Nathan nodded to the skilled performer to play the tune again and then again as he pleaded with David to respond.

To help him further, the prophet let him know that if he did come he had prearranged with one of the king's guards to come forward with him -- to stand alongside him in support.

Still the king didn't make a move. Nathan gently reminded him that no one was watching him, and that every eye was closed. He again spoke of the incredible offer God had made to him.

Suddenly, it seemed that David was convinced about this new life that could be his, if he would just respond. He began to move slowly forward, and as he did, one of the closest guards gently took him by the arm and walked with him.

It was a very emotional moment. It was so touching that the rest of the guards couldn't contain themselves. They burst into joyful applause. David smiled slightly at their gesture of support. The guards smiled. So did Nathan. There was great joy. This was what it was all about...

 

Not quite. God hadn't instructed Nathan to talk to the king about a "God-shaped vacuum in his heart," or to talk about real peace, or of improving his life. He was there to reprove a devious murderer who had despised God's commandment and committed adultery with another man's wife. As a married man, the king had burned in lust after another woman, and knowing that she herself was married, he had illicit sexual intercourse with her, caused her to become pregnant with his child, and then as if that wasn't bad enough, he had her loving and faithful husband murdered, and married her himself. He had carefully covered his terrible sin, but as far as God was concerned, his wicked hands were dripping with innocent blood.

What an awful betrayal it would have been if the prophet had reduced the king's horrible crimes against a holy God to insignificance, by talking to him about a new and better life that could be his.

But Nathan didn't pervert the message. He told the king about a man who stole another man's pet lamb and slaughtered it, and when David became indignant, he said, "You are that man!" Then he said, "Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord!" and when David cried, "I have sinned," Nathan then gave him the good news of God's mercy and grace.

There was no mention of a vacuum in the heart, no music to stir the emotions, no deceptive psychological manipulation, no closing of the eyes to make things easier. David was a devious law-breaker. He was a conniving criminal. He was a man who had deliberately violated the moral Law, but God was willing to show him mercy.