Nathan was a prophet who lived during the reign of David. David was a very powerful king yet being God fearing, he looked to Nathan often for spiritual guidance. One day Nathan told the king a story.
“There were two men in the same city-one rich, the other poor. The rich man had huge flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. The poor man had nothing but one little female sheep, whom he had bought as a tiny lamb and raised. She grew up with his children as a member of the family. She ate off his plate and drank from his cup and slept on his bed. She was like a daughter to him. One day a traveler dropped in on the rich man. The rich man was too stingy to take an animal from his own herds or flocks to make a meal for his visitor, so he stole the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal to set before his guest.”‘
David, a former shepherd who understood the sweet personalities of sheep, exploded in anger. “As surely as God lives,” he said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”
“You’re the man!” said Nathan. “You have everything, including many wives and children yet you weren’t happy. You stole another man’s wife and then had him killed. God has given you everything and yet you had to go and do this.”
David stood before Nathan with heart pounding. He could have defended himself, washing his hands by claiming Uriah’s death was due to his own lack of skill and choosing not to listen to Nathan. This is what many people would have done, this is what a lot of leaders especially do as power so easily chokes and threatens humility. David was a humble and godly leader and so he chose a different route. He fell to his knees overwhelmed by his guilt. He prayed for God’s forgiveness in a heart wrenching psalm that we can read and hear his disappointment at himself and his sadness at disappointing God.
Generous in love-God, give grace! Huge in mercy-wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.
You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
God, make a fresh start in me.
Don’t throw me out with the trash or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.
Strong leadership doesn’t mean bullheadedness, it means willingness to learn from your own unavoidable mistakes. David may have been king of Israel but he knew God was King of the Universe. He wanted God, he needed God and that was what made him great.