Lessons From The Life Of Nathan

by William J. Stewart

When we focus on great people in the Bible, we often look at Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, etc., and rightly so, for these are wonderful people of faith. And yet there are countless “minor” characters who are equally worth our attention and consideration. Let’s look at what the Bible reveals about Nathan.


Have you ever spoken hastily, and then discovered afterward that what you said was wrong? Perhaps it was a misstated fact, or worse yet, given someone licence to act when it was not in your authority to do. That is exactly what happened between Nathan and David in 1 Chronicles 17. David sought to build a house for the LORD, and Nathan gave him the go ahead (v 1-2). Nathan was corrected by the LORD (v 3-4). To keep both himself and the king from doing contrary to the will of God, Nathan needed to admit his error—he had spoken without authority.

The prophet Isaiah speaks on behalf of the LORD:

‘For My thoughts are not your thought, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Whether it be a statement that needs to be retracted, a sin that needs to be confessed or a stand that needs to be made—may we like Nathan be willing to admit when we’ve been in error.


Not only was Nathan willing to admit when he was wrong, but he was ready to help another who was in error—king David. 2 Samuel 11 records David’s sin spiral. It began with an act of laziness (v 1), and ended with him murdering Uriah the Hittite (v 14-17). Between these two things, he was guilty of lust (v 2-3), adultery (v 4-5), and deceit (v 6-13).

Imagine being called by the LORD to go speak to a man who has so immersed himself in sin; a man who could very easily decide to have you put to death rather than have his sins made known. Nathan’s life was at risk when he went into David’s presence, and yet he was called by God to correct the king.

Coming before David, Nathan used a parable which appealed to David’s sense of justice. At the end of the parable, he made that powerful statement, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). David repented (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51).

Confronting sin is never an easy or fun thing to do, but it is necessary. As the children of God, we are called to confront the error that is in the world (Ephesians 5:11). We see John the Baptist doing this when he spoke out against Herod’s marriage—he lost his head over it (Matthew 14:3-11). We may need to expose sin among our brethren (Galatians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 5:1-6). Sin cannot be tolerated within the Lord’s church. It is essential that we confront it with the right spirit, seeking to help those who are in sin to cease and repent. And perhaps most important, we need to confront sin in our own lives (Romans 13:11-14; Colossians 3:4-ff; 1 Peter 4:3). If we have sin in our life, we will not be able to effectively help others (Matthew 7:1-6). Let’s be willing to confront error.


Having lost their first child, Bathsheba bore a second son to David. The last words we are aware of between Nathan and David dealt with the death of the first child because of David’s sin. What a blessing now, for Nathan to come to him and speak words of blessing about his newborn son.

David named the child Solomon (Shelomah in the Hebrew, meaning peace). When Nathan arrived, he blessed the child, and gave him a second name, Jedidiah, which means “beloved of the LORD.”

Nathan left David’s sin where it belonged; in the past. His focus was now on the hope of the future, on this young child Solomon (Jedidiah). His words were intended to build up his friend David and encourage him in the LORD, not a reminder of past failures. We serve a God who forgives and forgets. If the LORD does so, then we as His people need to also leave past wrongs that have been confessed and forgiven where they belong.

What if Barnabas had not given Saul of Tarsus a second chance? What if he held his grievous sins against him rather than showing confidence in his repentance (Acts 9:26-28). We ought to emulate this wonderful approach to sin. Leave the sin behind, and press forward together (Philippians 3:13-14).


In 1 Kings 1, David was a man of about 70 years of age. Nathan may be about the same. David’s health was failing, and it came time for the succession of the throne. It had been promised by David that Solomon, his son born to him by Bathsheba would be king in his place. However, his son Adonijah exalted himself and took the throne for himself (1 Kings 1:5-10). His renegade son invited several to participate in his self-proclaimed coronation, but among those who were excluded was Nathan. Why? No doubt because the prophet had a reputation for standing for that which was right, and he was thus of no benefit to Adonijah.

Learning of the plot to steal the throne, Nathan sought to overthrow Adonijah’s wicked plan and to establish the monarchy to the rightful heir, Solomon (1 Kings 1:11-13, 29-30). Later in his life, having succeeded his father as the king of Israel, Solomon would warn his own son about the abominable nature of Adonijah’s way (Proverbs 6:16-19). Had Nathan not stood for what was right, Solomon may not have had such an opportunity to instruct his son in the ways of righteousness.

When we see evil men executing their wicked plans, may we, like Nathan, stand against them, and pursue the right course.

What a fine example the prophet Nathan is for the child of God. May we:

  • · Admit when we have done wrong, and swiftly correct our words and actions;
  • Stand against sin, both in and out of the church;
  • Be a source of encouragement to our brethren, and
  • Endeavour to uphold the will of God, and defeat the wicked one.
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