We shed tears watching emotional movies. We’re sorrowful when we see a dog stranded on the streets. But do we have a heart heavily burdened with empathy for the lost?
May 18, 2021
Nathan’s heart went out to King David. The king had made some bad decisions. Even though he wasn’t actually aware of it, he had messed up, and God wanted to help him. David had had an affair, and then he tried to remedy the problem himself. What had happened was unfortunate, and the prophet saw his job as one who was there to help bring some sort of healing to the situation.
He began his message by gently explaining to the king the good news that there was something missing from his life. That missing piece was “real and lasting peace,” or, as someone once put it, there was a “God-shaped vacuum” in his heart. It was the good news that God had a wonderful plan for the king’s life and that He wanted him to experience that plan.
The prophet was steering toward a moment of decision. Would the king respond to this incredible offer that God had made him, or would he reject it?
To help the king, Nathan psychologically prepared him by telling him what he was going to do. He had said that in a few moments, he would want him to respond by coming forward. The prophet had learned that this would help the king move closer to the decision he needed to make.
To help further, Nathan had David and the guards who stood around his throne close their eyes. This would help to make sure that the king felt a little less self-conscious about his decision when he did come forward.
David, like King Saul, had a personal musician close by, so as Nathan continued to speak, he nodded to the musician to begin to play some appropriate music. Even though the song was very moving, there was no movement from David. Nathan nodded to the skilled performer to play the tune again and then again as he pleaded with David to respond.
To help him further, the prophet let him know that if he did come, he had prearranged with one of the king’s guards to come forward with him—to stand alongside him in support.
Still the king didn’t make a move. Nathan gently reminded him that no one was watching him and that every eye was closed. He again spoke of the incredible offer God had made to him.
Suddenly, it seemed that David was convinced about this new life that could be his if he would just respond. He began to move slowly forward, and as he did, one of the closest guards gently took him by the arm and walked with him.
“It was the king’s breach of God’s Law that shaped the prophet’s message, and it’s the sinner’s breach of that same Law that should shape our message.”
It was a very emotional moment. It was so touching that the rest of the guards couldn’t contain themselves. They burst into joyful applause. David smiled slightly at their gesture of support. The guards smiled. So did Nathan. There was great joy. This was what it was all about….
Not quite. God hadn’t instructed Nathan to talk to the king about a “God-shaped vacuum in his heart” or to talk about real peace or of improving his life. He was there to reprove a devious murderer who had despised God’s Commandment and committed adultery with another man’s wife. As a married man, the king had burned in lust after another woman. Knowing that she herself was married, he had illicit sexual intercourse with her, which caused her to become pregnant with his child. And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, he had her loving and faithful husband murdered and married her himself. He had carefully covered his terrible sin, but as far as God was concerned, his wicked hands were dripping with innocent blood.
What an awful betrayal it would have been if the prophet had reduced the king’s horrible crimes against a holy God to insignificance by talking to him about a new and better life that could be his.
The Uncompromised Message
But Nathan didn’t pervert the message. He told the king about a man who stole another man’s pet lamb and slaughtered it, and when David became indignant, Nathan said, “You are that man!” Then he said, “Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord?” When David cried, “I have sinned,” Nathan then gave him the good news of God’s mercy and grace.
“The modern message is a betrayal of our commission and a victory for the enemy.”
There was no mention of a vacuum in the heart, no music to stir the emotions, no deceptive psychological manipulation, no closing of the eyes to make things easier. David was a devious lawbreaker. He was a conniving criminal. He was a man who had deliberately violated the moral Law, but God was willing to show him mercy.
It was the king’s breach of God’s Law that shaped the prophet’s message, and it’s the sinner’s breach of that same Law that should shape our message. We too have the same commission—to reprove and rebuke those who have despised God. We are to preach the Word, in season and out of season, and to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). In the sight of God, every sinner is a devious criminal, but neither the Church nor the world will see that as being true without the Law to show sin as being “exceedingly sinful” (see Romans 7:7-13).
The sinner enthrones himself as a king, enrobed in the filthy garments of self-righteousness. He commits adultery in his lust-filled heart. His throat is an open sepulcher. His mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. There is no fear of God before his eyes. He lies, steals, blasphemes, and hides murder in his heart; and, in doing so, he sins against a holy God and stores up His wrath. He has a desperately wicked heart and a multitude of sins which he thinks his Creator doesn’t see. The Bible tells us that God is filled with indignation and wrath, and it promises that He will bring tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that does evil (see Romans 2:5-9).
The Law Trivialized
We have such a wicked heart. Without the light of the Law, we reduce sin to insignificance and trivialize the claims of the Divine Prosecution. The modern message is a betrayal of our commission and a victory for the enemy. Like the Pharisees, contemporary preachers prefer their traditions to the truth of God’s Word. They cling to the security blanket of closed eyes, emotional music, and psychological manipulation, misguidedly pleading with wicked criminals about the promise of a wonderful new life in Christ.
“An unbiblical, Lawless gospel will almost certainly produce lawless converts—workers of iniquity—who the Bible warns will be cast out of the gates of Heaven into the waiting jaws of Hell.”
Such folly is perhaps the greatest deception of the last days. It is to do the work of the enemy, by planting tares alongside the wheat. An unbiblical, Lawless gospel will almost certainly produce lawless converts—workers of iniquity—who the Bible warns will be cast out of the gates of Heaven into the waiting jaws of Hell (see Matthew 7:21-24).
Stop the Insanity
A forsaking of biblical evangelism has left our churches looking and acting just like the world. This has happened because our pulpits have reduced the glorious gospel of God’s grace to a 30-minute, low-budget infomercial, peddling the Word of God as a competing product for life enhancement.
If you have been trusted with a pulpit, or if you are someone who cares about the lost, please stop this insanity. Don’t think of the use of the Law as a “method,” and don’t look for “results” as a legitimate criterion to measure its worth. Our churches are filled with misleading “results.” The impressive numbers are the product of unbiblical methods. The use of the Law brings the knowledge of sin. Jesus and Paul used it (see Luke 10:17; Romans 2:20-24). Ask the question: “Is this principle biblical?” If it is, then instigate it and leave the numbers game up to God.
Adapted from The Way of the Master.