Webster’s unabridged dictionary defines wisdom as “knowledge and its capacity to make due use of it.” It can also be explained as the quality of having experience and good judgment. How Prophet Nathan exposed King David’s infamous murder of Uriah, together with how he relayed God’s ruling on the matter, has been touted by many as one of the most fantastic displays of wisdom in human history. Exposing the secret act known to only the celebrated King of Israel then, and his loyal army commander who also happened to be his nephew, was a herculean task.
David, Israel’s greatest warrior of all time, who happened to be their King strangely declined to join the military campaign against the Ammonites at the time Kings go to war (2 Samuel 11:1). Strolling around his rooftop, he chanced upon a lady, by name Bathsheba, taking her bath. He sent for this lady, who was Uriah’s wife, and impregnated her. In his attempt to conceal this sinful act, he disingenuously called Uriah from the brazing battlefield and lured him to spend some days with his wife. David sought to push the responsibility of that pregnancy to Uriah. Tried as he did, his plan was unsuccessful. Therefore, he conspired with Joab, Israel’s army commander then, to have Uriah killed, so he can cover up and marry Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:6-27). After the assassination of Uriah, who also happened to be among David’s thirty mightiest warriors, God vehemently expressed His displeasure at what David had done (2 Samuel 11:27).
He sent His rebuke and ruling on the matter through Nathan to David. Nathan’s mission was primarily to bring to light what David had done in secret, express God’s displeasure about it, and inform him of the consequences of his action on his household. The socio-political stature of David and Joab made the revelation a sensitive task, although it was a God-sent mission. Even more complex about this mission was the tendency of the news to rip apart the entire nation.
Best practices required the provision of tight security and safety measures in such sensitive reproach, and the announcement of such verdicts. Nathan had none of these at his disposal, but he was required to go to the King’s palace and point out his secret act to him. The period before, during, and after this, was very crucial for both parties. Every minute of his posture, composure, and demeanor during the period was going to be critical. Unarmed Nathan was solely going to act as the bailiff, lawyer, cross-examiner, special prosecutor, the ruling judge, and a prophet within that short time. Any indiscretion on his part, by way of his presentation would have spelled doom for the whole nation – with himself as the possible first casualty. Such was the enormity of the task that confronted Nathan the Prophet.
It is, therefore, never out of place to attribute the success of that tough assignment to the display of Nathan’s wisdom. It was wisdom, because he could have chosen to share the content of the message with some of his trusted friends, which would have led to the leakage of the secret before meeting David himself. He could also have called a press conference or premiered the reproach for some financial gains. Nathan could have spoken anyhow to King, with the excuse of having lost the respect he had for him. Nathan, however, maintained his composure until he met his revered King and the Lord’s anointed. At the palace, he started with a parable that got David to appreciate the gravity of his offense before delivering God’s ruling to him (2 Samuel 12:1-6).
This approach by Nathan has been cited by many, during Christian leadership training and mentorship programs, as exemplary. It has to do with how he organized his presentation. It was a dossier mixed with the needed decorum, God’s fairness and love, but not without the accompanying punches (2 Samuel 12:1-14). It took courage to point out to the King, “You are the man…you killed Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites and took his wife to be your own wife” (verse 7, 9). Per the definition of wisdom, Nathan used the knowledge God had given him about what David had done in secret wisely. It was, therefore, undoubtedly wisdom at play.
The natural response from people of that stature in society in the caliber of King David would have been to deny any knowledge of the act. After all, at the time, the only person besides him who knew about the conspiracy was Joab, his nephew. David could also have retaliated against the Prophet and had him executed because he was one of the most powerful kings of the world then. Contrary to expectation, he admitted and said, “I have sinned against God.” (2 Samuel 12:13). David didn’t call it a weakness, short-coming, mistake, misstep, miscalculation, or indiscretion on his part. This was a king who, in another instance, openly admitted to God and prophet Gad in 1 Chronicles 21:8 that, “I have sinned greatly… and done a foolish thing” after he counted Israel’s fighting men.
Humility is what caused David to complement Nathan’s mission and made it successful, no matter the consequences that stared at him and his household. Humility is not showing a quiet,
or timid or weak personality. It is also not the ability to construct sentences before revered and respected personalities carefully. It is neither specializing in singing the praise of people when they are around. Ironically, it is the only fruit of the Spirit whose counterfeit is quite challenging to detect but in mass circulation. The dictionary defines humility as the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance. It is one priceless virtue that makes people admit their wrongs unconditionally. When was the last time you frankly admitted your sins before your fellow men or people you wronged?
The respect accorded to the prophets of God in those days couldn’t have been the only reason David accepted and confessed his sin before Nathan. Prophet Micaiah got a haughty slap in the face, imprisoned, and fed with the bread or food of affliction when he told King Ahab what was going to happen to Israel in one of their military campaigns (1 Kings 22:24-27). In another instance, God sent a prophet to ask King Amaziah why he imported idols from the people of Seir after his victorious military campaign against them. In 2 Chronicles 25:14-16, the King interrupted the prophet and said, “Since when have I made you the king’s counsellor? Be quiet now before I have you killed!”
The usual backlashes of people of authority, when faced with God’s word against their expectation, is why Elisha instructed the Prophet who he sent to anoint Jehu as Israel’s new King to run away without delaying afterward (2 Kings 9:3). John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded by King Herod, the tetrarch, when he pointed out his immoral act to him (Matthew 14:1-11). I beg to differ with the school of thought that John could have lived a little longer had he been a little wiser in his presentation on the King’s conduct. At nowhere did the Bible say John took a microphone to announce to the hearing of all Israel of Herod’s immoral behavior. According to Matthew 14:3, he went to discuss the issue with him. Even when John told soldiers to stop taking bribes and warned the crowd following him to bear fruits worthy of repentance, the Bible says, they still run to him asking; what they must do to be saved (Luke 3:9-14). If Herod had humbly accepted John’s reprimand, I believe there would also have been expression such as “John’s wisdom or approach.”
Similarly, if Ahab had taken Micaiah’s warning to him, a phrase such as “Micaiah’s wisdom” would have
also been cited, during leadership training sessions. In John 18:20-22, the Lord Jesus was slapped in front of the high priests, when he told them a simple undeniable truth concerning his teachings. Deacon Stephen had his share, when he was stoned to death after his response to the members of the Sanhedrin and telling them what the Holy Spirit had for them (Acts 7). It suffices to say from the few Biblical illustrations given above that no matter how the word of God is sugar-coated, it will still hurt, discomfort, and irritate a proud heart.
The pride in many people shows up in times of reprimand, correcting, or disciplining. Whereas some repent for their wrongs when rebuked, others show rebellion in return. Proverbs 15:10 says, “Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die.” In 2 Chronicles 15:7-19, Prophet Oded’s words of encouragement from God, inspired and encouraged King Asa to continue the good works he had started as a king. Unfortunately, during his last days when he erred, and God reprimanded him through Prophet Hanani, he became angry and so enraged that he imprisoned the prophet. He became afflicted with a disease in his feet. In 2 Chronicles 16:12, the Bible says, “…Though his disease was severe, even in his illness, he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.” He died two years later as a result. Similarly, when the priests of God confronted King Uzziah to reprimand him for burning incense to the Lord, he became furious and started raging at them right in temple until leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead (2 Chronicles 26:16-19). The canon of scriptures had this to say about him, “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.” (2 Chronicles 26:16).
On the other hand, King David’s humility became evident when he went to God in fasting and prayers for seven days pleading for the life of his son. Although Nathan had told him the child was going to die, he laid down every ego, and before his servants, cried unto God for His merciful intervention when the child was taken ill (2 Samuel 12:15-18). No wonder David became the only Biblical character to have won the accolade, “a person after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).
Interestingly, it was the same Prophet Nathan God sent to name David’s second child with Bathsheba after he rightfully married her (2 Samuel 12:25). The name given by God was Jedidah, which meant “loved by the Lord.” When David became old and could not keep warm, it was Nathan who God used to foil the palace coup that was staged by Adonijah (1 Kings 1:11-40). If David had killed Nathan or maltreated him, would he have continued to benefit from his ministry? Many people, out of sheer pride, have maimed the “Nathans” God sent on their way to correct and straighten them and have thus suffered needless ordeals as a result. From the above discussions, I can safely conclude that King David’s display of humility largely contributed to what has become known as “Nathan’s wise approach.” The successful outcome was, therefore, not as the result of Nathan nor David but the right proportional mix of the former’s wise approach and the latter’s humility.
By Pastor James Agyin