The word ‘prophet’ congers up many images to the modern mind. Many years ago, I used to think of a prophet as the guy with a beard standing on the corner yelling “Repent!” Haven’t seen one of those guys in a while and my understanding of the ministry of a prophet has changed quite a bit.
Many people think that a prophet only foresees the future. A prophet speaks for God (present past or future). His job is to speak what God wants spoken to his people and warn people as to the consequences of their actions. An example is found in I Samuel 20. The people had rejected God and asked for a king. Samuel was charged by God to listen to them and then ‘protest solemnly’ (warn) by telling them the down sides of of having a king rule over them.
In my trek through the Old Testament I have gotten to know several prophets. The first use of the word prophet comes in Genesis 20 referring to Abraham and it is an interesting story for it first use. Key words in that record are prayer, restoration, and healing (this is the first use of the word ‘healing’). Abraham got into a serious situation because of fear. Prophets are not perfect. It is an interesting study to read.
During David’s reign, Nathan, the prophet, appeared on the scene. The name ‘Nathan’ means ‘a gift of God’. Prophets are truly a gift in that they relate the truth from God’s heart. It is a loving ministry which genuinely looks after God’s people by listening to God.
In II Samuel 7 we read that David wanted to build a house for God and at first Nathan told him to do what was on his heart. As it turns out Nathan was speaking from his own thinking. That same day, God told Nathan to tell David that he would not be building the temple. Nathan went back to David and related God’s words to him. It was God who would make this decision and it was David’s son Solomon who built the house.
Nathan appears next in the famous record of David and Bathsheba. David had inappropriately exerted his power over a married woman and further complicated the matter in trying to solve his indiscretion by having her husband sent to the front lines of a battle where he was killed. Nathan was sent by God to confront David. He didn’t yell at him to “repent”. He told him a story about a single lamb belonging to a traveler that was slaughtered by a wealthy livestock owner to illustrate God’s heart on the matter and David woke up as to what he had done. David recognized his own untoward actions and repented. Psalm 51 shows his heart in his recognizing his sin and that of going to God for help to heal him and restore him:
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51
David eventually married Bathsheba and they had more children, two of which appear in the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. Bathsheba (as wife of Urias) herself, is listed in the Matthew genealogy (one of four women listed) and is part of the Christ line genealogy.
Nathan appears again at the death of David to help protect Bathsheba and her children and to make sure the right descendant of David inherited the throne.
Prophets don’t have X-Ray vision, they have God vision. Nathan didn’t read David’s mind as he was trying to clear up his mess and making more of a mess. At that point maybe david would not have listened. He went to David to get him to see what he had done. Prophets don’t see right through you. They hear from God and then act. It is a very loving ministry because what’s right comes from God’s heart.