The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” – 2 Samuel 12:1-7a (NIV)
David was a shepherd at heart and it was the pasture that prepared him for the tasks God set before him later in life. He learned to be brave as a shepherd protecting the flock from lions and thieves. He learned to be watchful to spot strays and the aforementioned predators. It is likely that the Psalmist developed his gift with song before an audience of sheep. All of this did not stop David from behaving like the lion and the thief.
David had forgotten too much about caring for the flock and had become what he hated most. Nathan’s story cut David to the heart quickly and effectively, taking him back to those long days and nights of vigilance and care for the sheep of his father. I wonder if David thought back on his time guarding those simple animals with bitter tears and regret. It was undoubtedly one of his lowest moments, but altogether necessary.
We all need a Nathan in our lives who can remind us who we are supposed to be when we are being something else. God has called us to be sheep and shepherds – to be both led and followed. David became so defined by his status and position that he forgot who he belonged to and followed his own passions. He also forgot that he was a shepherd and should have been looking out for Bathsheba and Uriah. We need to keep both roles in perspective as we move forward in life.
The Good Shepherd leads us with perfect love, so if we follow Him we will always be where He wants us to be and where we need to be. If our eyes are on the needs of those God has put in our care to shepherd, we will be less defined by the things of this world and more defined by the things of God. When we are fully trusting in the Good Shepherd to meet all of our needs, we can be used by Him to meet the needs of others. This is the beauty and power of the flock. It is the intersection of “take up your cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24) and “Take care of my sheep.” (Jn. 21:16)
Reality is not what we know; it is what we are discovering in our journey with God. Every now and then we need a reality check like David. We need to be reminded in a clear and honest way that we are forgetting our place as His sheep. I pray that I will listen when the shepherd calls. I pray that I will not begrudge the prods and pulls from His rod and staff. I pray that I will be a better sheep and in doing so, become a better shepherd. But thank God for His grace when I don’t.