Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Spiritual Boldness - A Character Study on the Prophet Nathan

2 Samuel 7:1-3 "Now it came about when the king lived in his house, and the Lord had given him rest on every side from all his enemies, 2 that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of Goddwells within tent curtains.” 3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your mind, for the Lord is with you.”

Introduction: The prophetic office in the Old Testament
According to Dr. Gleason Archer in his book: "A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction", three main words are used to define a prophet in the Bible. The first term of course is the Hebrew word (Na-bi) translated "prophet", meaning a bearer of God's news, one who announces, summons or calls God's people to follow after God. The second term mentioned by Archer is the phrase "man of God". If the purpose of the prophet's office is defined by the title "prophet", then the one occupying the office itself is indeed a "man of God" or one who is devoted to God and personal fellowship with Him. The third term typically used to describe the prophetic office is that of "Seer". This term refers to the activity of the prophet. 

Prophets do not see things like most people see. A good example that comes to my mind is 2 Kings 6, where the prophet Elisha "saw" the armies of angels protecting he and his servant who could only see what was before him. According to Bible scholar Harold Wilmington, there are roughly 40 prophets, both writing prophets and non-writing prophets. 

The prophet Nathan - a spiritually bold prophet
As we just observed, there are roughly 40 prophets mentioned in the Bible. One of those prophets, Nathan, is used of God to bring forth the prophetic Word to two of Israel's greatest kings: David and Solomon. Nathan's name literally means: "He gives". Without a doubt, Nathan demonstrates courage and boldness in specific moments where such things were in short supply. Nathan was also priveleged by God to be the mouthpiece to deliver one of the the most important prophecies in all of the Bible - the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16). When we look at Nathan's career and ministry, we find 2 main episodes in 2 Samuel (parallel accounts are also found in 1 Chronicles) and one main episode in 1 Kings:

1. Nathan's prophecy of the humanity of the ultimate King, the Lord Jesus Christ, coming through David's bloodline (i.e The Davidic Covenant). 
2 Samuel 7:1-17; 1 Chronicles 17:1-15

2. Nathan's confrontation of David over his sin with Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 12:1-25; Psalm 51

3. Nathan, along with other court officials, boldy anointed Solomon as King in opposition to a well publicized attempt by a rival brother of Solomon, Adonijah, to ascend to Israel's throne. 
1 Kings 1:1-45. 

There are some valuable lessons to learn about spiritual boldness from these three episodes of Nathan's life. Let's briefly list them...

1. Boldness to hear God. 2 Samuel 7:1-17
When David told Nathan of his desire to build a temple for Yahweh, Nathan responded with the natural assumption that it would be no problem for the King to pursue such a project. However, God later told Nathan that it would not be David, but his son who would build the temple. Moreover, God had greater plans for David that included the bringing about of the humanity of the ultimate King. 

Imagine what it must had been like the next time Nathan saw the king. The day before he told the king it was o.k to build the temple. Now he was going to tell David that God said "no", and that God had a far greater plan. We know of course David's response of praise from hearing Nathan's prophecy (2 Samuel 7:18-29). 

Nathan had the Holy Spirit-given boldness to hear God and speak for God. When we see his boldness, we need to remember that it is God we must aim to bring pleasure, not men (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Nathan was willing to forego the fear of the moment for what God in faith was showing him concerning the Divine destiny of the King. Thus we see the first lesson in being bold for God, namely the spiritual boldness to hear God. But now let us notice a second lesson about spiritual boldness from Nathan the prophet....

2. Boldness to hate sin. 2 Samuel 12
Imagine if you will being not only the King's prophet, but one of his closest friends. Word has reached your ears concerning God's planned judgment on the King. As you begin to understand what took place, it is discovered that King David has been emeshed in a conspiracy that entailed murder and forced impropriety on the wife of the man he had murdered! If you were Nathan, how would you respond? In 2 Samuel 12:1-7, we see Nathan tell a parable to King David, with David's response: "Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said,
“There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 3 “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children.
It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man,
And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him;
Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6 He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” 

As you see the tension mounting, the ring of inevitability is about to strike. The hammer will soon fall on David's heart. Nathan's terse response to David is one of the most penetrating sentences in all of sacred scripture, notice 2 Samuel 12:7 "Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.

The Prophet risked his life to deliver God's stinging indictment to King David. It took spiritual boldness to deliver God's Word. Hatred of sin is necessary if we expect to be spiritually bold for God and boldness to hear God is a requirement. Jude 1:20-23 states - But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear,hating even the garment polluted by the flesh." In spiritual matters, only when we know what we love more than anything will equip us to despise and put away from ourselves those things that get between ourselves and the object of our affections. Now let's consider one more trait of spiritual boldness from Nathan's life...

3. Boldness to full obey. 1 Kings 1
We have learned from Nathan the need to boldly hear God and hate sin in the quest for spiritual boldness. But what about full obedience? In 1 Kings 1, the proverbial sun is sinking into the horizon of David's reign. For over 30 years the prophet Nathan had stuck by his master's side. We saw him near thebeginning of David's reign in Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 7 - boldly hearing God. Then somewhere approaching the middle of David's reign, perhaps near the zenith of his power, we see Nathan boldly hate sin and confront his erring King. 

However in this final scene, we find the same King David on his bed of affliction. The throne of Jerusalem was in the cross-hairs of David's overly-ambitious son - Adonijah. David's other son - Solomon, was to be the rightful heir. Adonijah had presumed upon the moment and set up a public coronation of himself. The sound of crowds gathering could be heard. Nathan and a few of David's closest family and friends were in a dangerous position. 

To oppose Adonijah's meteoric rise to power would mean possible death. However, Nathan recalls God's Word to David that he spoke to Solomon as recorded in 1 Chronicles 22:6-12. In that passage, David promised Solomon that he would be his heir. Nathan took that to be the Word of the Lord and thus he knew he had to heed the Word and fulfill his responsibilities, along with the remainder of David's court. As you read on down through 1 Kings 1, Nathan and the rest of David's court hasten to put together a public coronation of Solomon, with shouts of "Long Live the King". The ceremony is accompanied by a Divine quaking, causing the rival Adonijah to quake in fear.  

What would you and I had done? Is full obedience to God only popular when it seems to benefit our cause. What happens when circumstances are less than ideal and the prospect of failure, ridicule or even death looms overhead? Then what? Will following through in obedience to God be so eagerly embraced? Nathan finished well. He saw Israel's next - true king - crowned. What a life of spiritual boldness! To hear God, hate sin and fully obey! Would it be that each of us, dear readers, be a spiritually bold generation for God.