Listen! Tips for Discerning Truth Based on Nathan’s Confrontation of David

People love to give advice, but when should you listen? Here are ideas on how to discern truth based on Nathan's confrontation of David.

men talking while walking to the sea

I think God wants us to love and respect other people, not just ourselves and not just him. One way he makes sure that we really love each other, see God’s presence in each other, and listen to each other is by speaking to us through other people. So, whether we like it or not, we need to pay attention to what other people are telling us because they may have the message we need to hear.

The talks that Nathan (a prophet and spiritual advisor) has with David (an anointed king) gives us an idea of the way God speaks through friends and family. One of the most memorable examples is Nathan’s confrontation of David about his affair with Bathsheba and coverup-turned-murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband and one of David’s top men. You’ll find this story in 2 Samuel, Chapter 12.

Considering this story and thinking about times when friends have spoken truth to me (or members of my family), I have put together a short list of clues that indicate that someone is speaking God’s truth:

The messenger doesn’t have a personal agenda; the point of the conversation is to help you see truth

Nathan opens his conversation with David by telling a story about a rich man with lots of livestock taking and killing the only lamb of a poor man. Nathan provokes outrage in David about this situation. He then explains that David is this rich man, behaving badly and contrary to God’s intentions despite having been anointed king, given wealth, and protected from his arch-rival Saul.

The point of the conversation is not to score points with a rich man, manipulate him into acting a certain way, or extort money out of him. The purpose is to get David to see truth and begin the process of restoring his relationship with God.

A nagging concern is addressed

At the time of Nathan’s meeting, David may have put the past behind him. But surely, at some point, he struggled with the problem of getting another man’s wife pregnant. The affair and pregnancy bothered him enough to attempt to cover up the affair by bringing Uriah back from war and encouraging him to sleep with Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife), and then sending him to the battlefront to be killed after the first plan failed. At some point, David must have felt fear or regret even if he later pushed those emotions aside.

So, whether David was presently wrestling with the problems of adultery and murder, it’s likely that he did have some major concerns at some point. The message from Nathan deals with this struggle.

The message is specific

After getting David to understand and admit his wrongdoing, Nathan lets him know specifically what is going to happen next. The prophet explains that God has forgiven him; however, the contempt David has shown for God will result in the death of his child with Bathsheba.

Based on my observations and experiences, messages from God through other people don’t necessarily focus on condemnation. However, they typically deal with a specific concern, circumstance, or recommended course of action.

The messenger has unusual insight about your situation

As far as we know, Nathan has not had much contact with David in the year or so leading up to this confrontation. He doesn’t seem deeply involved in the day-to-day activities of the king and his family. Still, Nathan comprehends what has happened, senses David’s emotional and spiritual condition, and tells a story that both illuminates the problem and resonates with David.

When someone has a pulse on your situation, not only the facts but also the feelings, this person can guide you in confronting a problem and taking a step in a new direction.

Sometimes we get annoyed when someone complains to us, calls us out, challenges us. It’s difficult to filter messages and easy to wish we were surrounded by a different, more compliant and supportive group of people. What’s tricky then is to know when we should be listening to our friends and when we should be developing a thicker skin. Nathan’s interaction with David and David’s response to Nathan gives us a guide for discerning truth.

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