You Call Yourself a Friend?

What is a friend? The world has many ideas of what a true friend looks like. By definition, a friend is “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” Hmm, really? That’s all it takes to be a friend? I heard someone today say that a true friend is someone who will tell you that you have spinach in your teeth. Again, really? Even a perfect stranger will do that sometimes.

So, just what is a friend? Well, there is a story in the Old Testament that demonstrates what true friendship is all about. Now, this is not just another feel-good story about best friends…it’s a story of amazing courage and love. It’s the story of Nathan and David. David was the king of all of Israel. Nathan was a prophet. David had been in sin with Bathsheba for months, blatantly rebelling against God. It needed to be stopped and Nathan was the one sent to bring God’s message to David.  

There are four things we must notice. First, Nathan was a friend. God sent a friend. That’s important. It seems that they were good friends because David named a son after Nathan. David talks to him about his desire to build the temple and shares his heart about doing something for God. Another sign of their friendship is Nathan will name the second son of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam.12:25) It is quite apparent that Nathan remains loyal to David, Solomon, and the kingdom (1 Kin.1) (See WORD WISDOM for a deeper study of desire)

Second, Nathan was sent (2 Sam.12:1). Twelve times in the previous chapter (2 Sam.11), the word “sent” is used, usually it was David doing the sending. But here, it is Nathan being sent to David. And Nathan’s words were the very words of God (2 Sam.12:11).

David’s heart was ready and the timing was perfect. In these verses, David makes it clear that God is at work even when it does not appear to be so. During the time David tries to cover up his sin, God is at work exposing it in his heart. These are they are days of misery. David is plagued with guilt. He cannot sleep, and it seems he cannot eat. He is not sleeping nights, and he is losing weight. Whether or not David recognizes it as God who is at work in him, he does know he is miserable. It is this misery which tenderizes David, preparing him for the rebuke Nathan is to bring, preparing him for repentance.

When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. (Ps.32:3-4)

Third, Nathan was sent with the right word. The word God gave Nathan was actually formatted like a psalm, something David could understand. It spoke to his heart. And, fourth, Nathan came with a shepherd’s story…one only a shepherd could easily grasp and with which he could readily identify. If anyone understood the love of a special lamb, it would be a shepherd.

Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” (2 Sam.12:1-4)

What a story! It brought the issue home. It was not a re-hashing of the particular sin. It was not even about details. It cut to the heart of the matter. It was meant to expose David’s sin against the Lord. It was the story of the slaughter of a lamb which exposed the immensity of David’s sin. It is the story of God’s Lamb, Jesus, which exposes the immensity of our sin and David was clearly in the grasp of sin, and in rebellion toward God.

Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? (2 Sam.12:9)

What was David’s response to this rebuke? “I have sinned.” (2 Sam.12:13). Instead of responding in bitterness, David saw the love of a friend…and the love of God. He responded with godly sorrow that produced repentance. David understood the courage it must have taken for his friend to confront him. The confrontation results in David’s repentance and confession. You see, a good friend does not let you continue on the path of destruction.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Pro.27:6)

Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. (Pro.24:11)

Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. (Matt.18:15)

True friendship is manifested in the willingness to save a friend’s soul despite the risks. The darkest hours of life reveal the greatest friendships.

Nathan was the best friend David ever had.

Nathan could have defended his friend.

He could have attempted to justify the sins of David.

He could have simply covered over the sin.

But Nathan rose to the challenge and helped turn his friend back to God.

Nathan was willing to risk it all to save his friend.

And, what is the reward for such amazing, and courageous friendships?

My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (Jas.5:19-20, NLT)

Is there any greater reward? I don’t want a friend who will tell me that I have a piece of spinach in my teeth. I want a friend who will tell me I have something ugly in my life. And I want to be that friend to others. Amen.

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