Connections 08.01.2021: Self-Awareness

2 Samuel 12:1-13

At the end of our Scripture passage, David says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” But that is only after he hears Nathan’s story and absorbs the prophet’s accusation. Before Nathan confronts him, David seems to be carrying on as if the events involving Bathsheba and Uriah never happened. As Nathan tells the troubling story of the rich man who took the poor man’s only lamb to serve it for a guest’s dinner, David seems unaware that the story is (or at least could be) about him.

I find myself wondering how someone as spiritually sensitive as David could be so lacking in self-awareness?

We can’t tell how long it has been since David committed adultery, had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed, and married Bathsheba. She has already given birth to David’s son, but we don’t know how old the child is. However much time has passed, you wouldn’t think that adultery and murder would be the kinds of events that one would easily forget.

David had done what he had done. He had to know it was wrong.

How then could David not realize that Nathan’s story about the rich man who took the poor man’s only lamb was about his taking Bathsheba from Uriah? How could he not have realized that Nathan was talking about him?

I can think of some things that might have gotten in the way of David’s perception.

Might David’s position have gotten in the way? Maybe David was accustomed to receiving affirmation from Nathan. After all, it was Nathan who delivered God’s promise to David that his kingdom would be permanent (2 Sam 7). And court prophets weren’t paid to go against the king. Perhaps as Nathan told his story, David had a fleeting thought that the circumstances might apply to him. If he did have such a thought, a follow-up thought such as “My court prophet wouldn’t dare confront me” would have quickly driven it away.

Might David’s power and privilege have gotten in the way? Maybe David had learned to rationalize and justify his actions. Perhaps he had come to think that what was good for David was good for the nation, and if what was good for David required destroying people’s lives, then so be it. Maybe he had convinced himself that something that was ordinarily wrong wasn’t really wrong if the king did it. It’s hard to imagine David saying he was above the law. We don’t have to imagine that he was willing to behave as if he was.

Might David’s guilt have gotten in the way? It’s possible that he in fact regretted what he had done. It wouldn’t be unusual for someone—even a powerful ruler—to shove guilt so far back in their mind that they could hardly detect it. Maybe David had told himself not to think about what he had done and then managed actually not to do so.

I’m speculating, of course. But as I said before I started speculating, I wonder how someone as spiritually sensitive as David was could be so lacking in self-awareness that he evidently didn’t perceive that Nathan’s story was (or at least could be) about him?

David says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” But he does so only after Nathan makes his “You are the man!” declaration and expounds on it for a while.

I reckon it’s better to confess upon being caught than not to confess at all.

But we do better—and don’t we want to do better?—when we develop enough spiritual sensitivity to realize the ramifications of our actions before someone calls us out for what we have done. And we do even better when we develop enough spiritual sensitivity to realize the harm our actions would do before we do them, thereby avoiding damaging other people, ourselves, and our community and society.

Discussion

  • Can you think of any other reasons David may have lacked insight into Nathan’s story before the prophet clarified its meaning?
  • What does David’s response to Nathan’s story tell us about his sense of justice and fairness?
  • How does Nathan get David to pronounce judgment on himself?
  • How do we think about the judgment that God pronounced through Nathan against David?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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