Speak the Truth in Loving Confrontation

Proverbs 29-25

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. — Proverbs 29:25

Nathan loved David, the king of Israel.

The proof of this love was in Nathan’s allegiance to the monarch and his sincere attempts to encourage the king, even to the point of affirming his ideas of a grand temple when God had not blessed the venture.

But the acid test of the prophet’s affection was not in supportive or affirming words, but in truthful confrontation—the kind of confrontation that could cost the prophet his friendship with the king, not to mention his life.

Nathan was clever and creative. His involvement in the selection of worship music in the sanctuary (2 Chronicles 29:25) tells us of his sensitivity. His personal involvement in the naming of the baby Solomon hints to us of Nathan’s tenderness (2 Samuel 12:25).

But Nathan had been given a terrifying assignment fit for the bravest warrior. And, if the nature of the commission wasn’t tough enough, it had come as a directive of the living God.

Friendships are often put to the test over long hours of work or waiting. Friends pay a price by listening or issuing words of love and encouragement. But friendship knows no bravery like the bravery of brutal, truthful confrontation.

Those who have named this clash of emotions “tough love” have named it well. It is tough, but it is also the deepest form of love.

Although it was not Nathan’s only challenge during David’s reign, the confrontation following the king’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba and murderous attempt to cover it up was his most grueling.

But instead of going nose to nose with David—a strategy that could have gotten Nathan in serious trouble—the prophet told a story. Drawing out the compassionate shepherd in the king, Nathan told him a story of a poor man’s family, their only possession a ewe. Much more than simply an animal on the man’s farm, this lamb was in every way a household pet. It “shared the man’s food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms.” The lamb was “like a daughter to the man.”

Nathan must have known, as he watched the king’s face, that David was captivated by the tale.

“In the same town was a rich man,” Nathan continued. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal. . . . Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it.”

David was blind with rage. “The man who did this deserves to die!”

Nathan must have taken a deep breath, knowing he had the king exactly where God wanted him to be. “You are the man,” Nathan said in measured tones. “You are the man.”

The great challenge in truth telling, even with a close friend, is to keep the focus on the deed and the guilty party, not on the confronter’s need to be right. In this, Nathan was brilliant. In Nathan’s message, David clearly heard God’s voice. Years later David would write: “Against You [the LORD], You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4).

Nathan dared to prove his love for his friend by telling him the truth in loving confrontation. And so skillful was the prophet at dealing with the king that when the third child was born to David and Bathsheba, they named him Nathan after the man who risked it all.

Lord, my sin is always before me. There’s no hiding from it, no denying it. I know that you desire truth in my inmost heart. Therefore, I ask you to show me the truth about myself in light of the truth about your love. Cleanse me, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

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Your Turn

Because “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”  (Romans 8:1), we can, like King David say, “Against You only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). Have you ever spoken the truth to someone in loving confrontation? Or have you had a friend love you as Nathan bravely did in a way that was focused on the wrong done rather than the need to be right? How did either of those tough love situations impact your friendship? Please share your comments with us! We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and the author of many bestselling books, including Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, and Women of the Bible (with Jean Syswerda). Her most recent books are The Tender Words of God and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (with Lois Tverberg.) She and her two daughters live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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