How Much Does Conviction Cost? (Part 2)

“The man after God’s own heart” had followed the crooked path of self-destruction. One sin inevitably led to another, then another, then another. It all started with a small, perhaps even innocent, distraction from his palace rooftop (2 Samuel 11:2). Little did the monarch realize that this momentary lapse of judgment would lead to much more serious events. Incrementally, David would migrate from lust, to adultery, to lying and deception, to murder, and finally to an elaborate cover-up plan of his indiscretions.
Oblivious and unconcerned about the consequences, he continued this activity until God sent a preacher — Nathan — to confront him. The prophet’s divinely-ordained job description was to “call down” the king of Israel. Tell a story, expose hypocrisy, and then petition his majesty to humble repentance. A daunting responsibility, at the very least. I have often wondered about Nathan’s emotional and mental state just prior to that sermon. Exactly how did he feel? Was he afraid? Did he experience any heightened anxiety? (If it had been me, I would have been terrified!) If Nathan was like his contemporaries (1 Kings 19:3; James 5:17), he experienced some trepidation at his task. And why not? David had, with Joab’s assistance, murdered Uriah without remorse (2 Samuel 11:15-25). What prevented the proud king from doing the same thing to this “puny prophet” also? He had done it before; he could do it again, couldn’t he? I imagine Nathan was well-aware of the potential repercussions of delivering his message.
While I don’t know exactly what Nathan felt, because the Bible doesn’t tell me so, I do know what he did. He preached his “firing” sermon — the kind of sermon that sometimes gets a man his pink slip. Note the components of Nathan’s bold proclamation:
1. There was CERTAINTY. “Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon” (2 Samuel 12:9). There was no doubt as to what David had done and that he would be held accountable for his actions (2 Samuel 12:10-14).
2. There was AUTHORITY. The prophet appealed to, “Thus says the Lord God…” (2 Samuel 12:7, 11) rather than to his own human initiative. He spoke for God and announced his decree.
3. There was RIGIDITY. David was guilty of gross misconduct, and nothing short of full-fledged penance and contrition could clear his spiritual record (Psalm 51:1-4; 34:18; 2 Samuel 12:13) before Jehovah.
Telling a sovereign king what he didn’t want to hear had to be very difficult. It took conviction. That’s a trait that few preachers possessed then, or for that matter, possess today. Exposing sinful behavior is tough. It invites retaliatory criticism and personal attacks. It opens doors for insult. It can cost a man his reputation, his job, his livelihood, even his very life (Matthew 14:1-12; Acts 7:51-60). But that didn’t matter to Nathan. He knew the price of preaching (2 Timothy 3:3-6). He understood the expense of unyielding conviction (Matthew 16:24), and he willingly made the payment.
Sound preachers don’t enjoy pointing out people’s faults, but it is part of what God has called them to do (2 Timothy 4:2-5). “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” Folks bound up in the fetters of iniquity need release (Romans 6:1:17,18). Watered-down, wishy-washy sermonettes won’t bring that about. Firm, yet loving, gospel preaching will. “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority…” (Titus 2:15; cf. 1 Timothy 5:20).

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Mike Benson

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