The prophet Nathan is a valuable advisor to his king. He offers a devastating parable to David, and we all know the story, right?
The LORD sent Nathan to David,
and when he came to him, he said:
“Tell me how you judge this case:
In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor.
The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers.
But the poor man had nothing at all
except one little ewe lamb that he had bought.
He nourished her,
and she grew up with him and his children.
Of what little he had she ate;
from his own cup she drank;
in his bosom she slept;
she was like a daughter to him.
Now, a visitor came to the rich man,
but he spared his own flocks and herds
to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him:
he took the poor man’s ewe lamb
and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
You know the tale, right? David’s conspiracy to possess Bathsheba. Deep down, the king retained his sense of justice, and when the details of his particular sin were stripped away, he convicted himself. This seems to be the way for the very deepest contrition in a sinner. A person can’t be effectively told they have transgressed mortally–they must come to the realization from the inside out.
David grew very angry with that man and said to Nathan:
“As the LORD lives,
the man who has done this deserves death!
He shall make fourfold restitution for the lamb
because he has done this and was unsparing.”
David did feel the injustice, and then he was told, and the king felt it to his bones. Just read Psalm 51 if there is any doubt on that score.
Then Nathan said to David:
“You are the man!
Thus says the LORD God of Israel:
I anointed you king over Israel.
I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
I gave you your lord’s house
and your lord’s wives for your own.
I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah.
And if this were not enough,
I could count up for you still more.
Why have you despised the LORD
and done what is evil in his sight?
You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword;
his wife you took as your own,
and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites.
Then David said to Nathan,
“I have sinned against the LORD.”
Cue the 51st.
Nathan answered David:
“For his part, the LORD has removed your sin.
You shall not die.
This selection omits verses 10-12, in which Bathsheba’s unborn child dies. Probably just as well. Christians today realize God does not kill unborn children for the sins of the parents. But sinful acts indeed have consequences in this life as well as afterward.
I suppose pairing this reading with Psalm 51 is a natural thought. I’ve heard Osalm 51 quite often at penance liturgies. But not this reading. What do you think?