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Speaking to the Soul: You are the man

Speaking to the Soul: You are the man

2 Samuel 12:1-25  


Of all the people in the Bible, there are a lot of people who are mentioned over and over. Names that come to mind are Abraham/Abram (294), Moses (803), and Paul (228). Of course, Jesus got 1,281 mentions, but the second-place winner (first in the Hebrew Bible) is David–shepherd, king, hero, God’s choice, and tragically flawed human being. 


David first came to our notice as a slayer of Goliath and a humble shepherd boy chosen by God to replace Saul as King of Israel. He was a hero, a giant of a man in a less-than-gigantic body. He was a leader, a more or less successful army general, and a man with great capacity for patience and forgiveness. He was so many things, but when he messed up, he did it pretty thoroughly.  


It’s an old story: David sees a woman and gets a serious case of lust. He gets her pregnant. To cover his tracks, David summons the husband, Uriah, back from the battlefield where he had been stationed with the hope that he would sleep with his wife and then the child could be passed off as his. It didn’t work; Uriah refused, so David had him return to the front with a letter to his commander, asking that Uriah be put in the most dangerous position on the battlefield. It worked. Uriah died, David married Bathsheba, and the child was considered legitimate.


Here’s where the plot thickens. Enter Nathan the prophet who poses a hypothetical question to David about a rich man stealing a poor man’s only lamb out of pure selfishness. David was incensed and ready to go out and tear the rich man limb from limb until Nathan revealed that it was David himself who was at fault. Suddenly the whole picture turned around completely.


We all have times when we are thoroughly convinced we are right and that everybody else is wrong. We will go to extraordinary lengths to prove or defend our beliefs and convince the world that this is the true path, idea, or objective. Then what happens when a Nathan appears and suddenly we are faced the fact that we were the ones in the wrong. It can be humiliating, but it can also produce one of those bright flashes of insight we call an epiphany, a flash of understanding or clarity that can be a total life-changer. It feels literally like a slap of the hand to the forehead and a wondering how we could have been so blind–or a blinding light that figuratively knocks us off our horse and into the roadway such as our friend Saul the persecutor experienced on the road to Damascus.


We don’t like to recognize our faults. It makes us uncomfortable and smears the mirror of the persona we want the world to see in us. It is contrary to a world that expects everyone to put on a controlled demeanor, an “I can conquer the world” sort of face. We like to be seen as compassionate, strong, never putting a foot wrong, and someone everybody would like to be. Inside, though, we hide the flaws, the mistakes, the hurts, and the griefs that are part of our personality and indeed, our very humanity. Sometimes an innocent comment by a friend can suddenly bring us up short and make us feel naked and exposed to the world. And that friend doesn’t even have to be a prophet like Nathan.


It is often at the height of someone’s greatness or public perception of it that something comes to light that completely changes the image of that person in the eyes of those who admired and/or supported them. It is hardly enough to say that the former star or hero was revealed as a human with flaws because we seem to glory in their fall. We can’t wait for the next revelation of depravity or misdoing. We seem to build people up just so we can tear them down some time later. It took Paul a while to gain the trust of the disciples at Jerusalem even after spending some years rebuilding his image to one who was as pro-Jesus as he had been anti-Christian. We know people snicker and talk behind our own backs when something negative has been revealed about us.


David went on to have another son by Bathsheba, a son almost as great as David himself. Solomon too had his flaws, proving that human frailty runs through royalty as surely as through the ordinary Joe/Jane on the streets. We are all human with flaws but it is how we deal with them that imprints our characters and moves us in certain directions. Weakness in admitting fault and not seeking to put things right, or as right as possible, leads to shame and guilt that increase our weakness even further. Strength comes from admission and repentance, followed by a change of attitude and behavior, not just to those we have wronged but to God as well.


When David was faced with Nathan’s story of the man and the lamb, David’s anger was apparent, yet four words stopped him in his tracks: “You are the man.” That was the mirror that made David see himself in a different way. What if someone held a mirror up in front of us and said “You are the man” or “You are the woman.” What would that mean? Where would we find weakness? Where would we find strength? Where would we see God?


What if God handed us a microfiber cloth and told us to wipe the mirror clean, without streaks or bits of fluff left behind? Would that encourage us to take a different path and follow God more closely? 

Would that help us change from “You are the person” to “You are the person!”? 


Funny how a single keystroke can change an accusation to a verbal high five, and God loves to give high fives.


Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter.  She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale


Image: The Sorrow of King David by William Brassey Hole via wikimedia gallery.




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AGAIN, please make comments with your first and last names. – ed

I want to thank you all for your comments and support. Now if only I could get myself out of bed on a Sunday morning to attend Mass at an Episcopal Church. (Work 2nd shift.) Mass is very early for me. Thank you again!

Leslie Marshall

hi nancy… As Christians we have full access to God the Father through his Son Jesus. Our confessions of sin are direct, not needing a priest.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness .” 1JN1.9

“Confess your sin to one another, pray for one another so that you may be healed, the fervent prayer of a righteous person avails much.” James5.16.

(When Jesus took his last breath, God ripped the 60ft curtain in the temple, from top to bottom. The people no longer had to depend on the Priests to offer the sacrifices to God. Jesus was the propitiation. )

more scripture re confession:

Gregory Orloff

“Confess your sin *to one another,*” a la James 5:16, is precisely what the Reconciliation of a Penitent in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church facilitates in the Anglican tradition of Christianity.

Leslie Marshall

yes, i know. Ive used my BCP since 1966. It’s a beautiful resource for us.

Ann Fontaine

You can read the liturgy for confession (also called Reconciliation of the Penitent) here. From the Book of Common Prayer


Please follow the stated comment policy by posting comments with your first & last names. Thanks-editor

This is a brilliant posting. I recently starting following the Espiscopal Cafe. As an unchurched former Roman Catholic who is searching for a progressive Christian church, does the Episcopal Church offer confession similar to what the RC Church requires? I always found confession terrifying, have not been to confession in 30 years, but I feel I am not forgiven for my sins unless I confess to a priest. Any thoughts on this?

Shirley Banks

Nancy, as Linda says, the Episcopal Church does have a rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent (our name for what other churches call confession), which is optional but available. The priest who administers this for me is quite formal about it, just as she is for any other sacramental office. For my temperament the structure is comforting. Regardless of whether the occasion is more or less formal, the emphasis is always on assurance and comfort. If you visit some Episcopal parishes, you may meet a priest that you feel you can talk to. You can make an appointment with her/him and talk about your past experiences with church and get acquainted, then ask for the Reconciliation rite when you are ready. Christ already did what was needed to restore us. Formal rites of reconciliation assure us of that, but they don’t initiate it.

It takes courage to come back to church. I know- I took a ten-year hiatus after thirty years of church life. Best wishes to you.

Linda Ryan

Thanks, Shirley. You said it so well!

Linda Ryan

Hello, Nancy, and welcome to the Episcopal Café.

The Episcopal Church has a saying, “None must, some should, all may.” This applies to confession to a priest. A priest wouldn’t be surprised if you asked for them to hear your confession, but neither will they wonder about you if you never do. In our liturgy we have a General Confession where we corporately kneel and confess to God without mentioning any specific sins. Those are between the individual and God. If, though, you did feel you needed confession to a priest, it will be a less structured, more informal setting with someone who is listening with care and compassion, not judging but helping you to get things off your chest so that you can heal. You can be the “some should” but also “none must.” It would be your choice. Your choice. The priest will do his or her best to make you feel comfortable and unafraid.

Thanks for liking my meditation.

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