It is a terrible thing to be accused of something bad, especially when the accusation is false. The resulting damage to one’s reputation and life can be devastating. As Raymond Donovan, former U. S. Secretary of Labor, once asked after being falsely charged with a crime, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?” How many people’s lives have been ruined because someone carelessly or, even worse, maliciously, spread a lie about someone else. But there is something even worse than this–when the charge is true and it comes from God!
David was the recipient of just such a charge. Nathan the prophet came to him and described an incident in which a man, who had many flocks and herds, took the only, precious lamb which another man possessed to serve it up to a stranger that had come his way. David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man who would do such an evil and selfish thing as this. But what David did not realize was that Nathan was describing David’s actions in other terms. When David pronounced punishment on the person he believed Nathan was describing, Nathan told him plainly: “Thou art the man.”
Sometimes we fail to see the wrong we do when, in principle, it is the same as what we condemn in others. The apostle Paul, for instance, sated, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Rom. 2:1). The Jews, who had condemned the Gentiles as being evil, did many of the same things as they did, all the while professing to be following God. It was not that the Gentiles were not evil, its just that the Jews were also sinners (Rom. 3:23).
When Ahab, the evil king of Israel, charged Elijah with troubling Israel, Elijah responded by saying “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim” (I Kings 18:18). Elijah was telling Ahab, “Thou art the man.” There are those in the Lord’s church today who likewise accuse those who contend earnestly for the faith of troubling the church by being “church police” when in reality it is they who trouble Israel, the Lord’s church, by not zealously following God’s will.
Many in the religious world are confident that they are doing the will of God and boast of their good works. But Jesus said many will make this claim on the day of judgement saying “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (Matt. 7:22). Then He will say to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23). Jesus will, in effect, say to so many, “Thou art the man.”
We tend to think of others as the ones committing sin, as the ones who speak unkindly, as the ones who lie, as the ones who accommodate doctrinal error, as the ones who cheat, as the ones who harbor ill will, as the ones who slander, and so on, when, in fact and/or in principle, we are equally guilty. Let us examine ourselves (I Cor. 11:28), prove our own selves (II Cor. 13:5) and take heed lest we, thinking we stand, fall (I Cor. 10:12).
David committed a series of horrible trespasses against the Lord and his fellow man, but he had the right attitude when he was confronted with his sin. He said “I have sinned against the Lord.” (II Sam. 12:13). He acknowledged his sin and was resigned to the punishment that was meted out to him by God. May it never be the case that the Lord can say to us, “Thou art the man.” But if He does, may we have the heart of David and acknowledge our sin and repent.
Eric L. Padgett