After King David had slept with Uriah the Hittite’s wife, Bathsheba, and impregnated her, he arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle so that he could take Bathsheba as his own. This angered God greatly. So He sent the prophet Nathan to confront the King.
Nathan feared for his life. What if the King decided to kill Nathan right then and there to keep the rumor of his sin from spreading? It was not uncommon for powerful men to kill those that brought them terrible news. Still, God had sent Nathan to rebuke King David and he resolved to be faithful to his call. Nathan devised a creative way to confront the King. While David was sitting on his throne, judging the people and arbitrating their disputes, Nathan came forward and brought him a case:
“O King, in one of your towns lives two men. One of those men is quite wealthy and the other is vey poor. The wealthy was blessed with hundreds of sheep and cattle but the poor man had nothing but a little lamb he bought at the market place. The poor man loved this lamb. It grew up in his house alongside his children. He fed it with food and drink from his very own table. Often times the little lamb even slept in his arms.
O King, one day a traveler came to this town and, as it is custom, the rich man invited him in and offered him a meal. Only, the rich man refused to slaughter any of his own sheep for the meal. Instead, he took the little lamb belonging to the poor man, without his knowledge or consent, and slaughtered it to feed to traveler.”
King David was enraged when he heard this.
“As surely as the LORD lives, this man must die! Bring him to me and he will be forced to pay for that lamb four times over for doing such a cruel and merciless thing!”
Then Nathan stood up straight and his eyes flashed as with the fire of God. He pointed at King David and said, “You are the man!”
Nathan then told the shocked King how he had offended God and he laid out the severe consequences that would result. Rather than getting angry or defensive, David simply bowed his head and said, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
It is a difficult thing to speak the truth to power. So difficult that many stomach injustice rather than standing up for what is right. This story from the Hebrew Bible demonstrates the profound effect a little bravery can have. Nathan used the power of story to tug at the heart of his King so that he could see the error of his ways. Jesus, too used story to show the powerful their folly. He also challenged them directly. Disciples walking in the way of Jesus have a responsibility to stand up to the powerful when they wield it to hurt others. Sometimes this means being straight forward. Other times it may take a more creative approach. Through art, we can hold a mirror up to the face of the powerful and let them see just who they are and what they are doing. As Hamlet says: “The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…