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We find it very hard and tiring to turn back from the darkness of earthly pasions to the serene clam of the divine light.

St. Augustine, Commentary Psalm 6

Begin your search with Christ and stay with Him and cleave to Him ... I should and will know of no other God than Christ, my Lord.

Martin Luther, Commentary John XIV

Remember always the end and how that time lost never returns.

Thomas á Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

I know much may go on in a person's mind before they are brought to prayer ... I dare not say anyone believes until they pray.

J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, on Happiness

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! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.' "This is what the LORD says: `Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.' " Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die."

2 Samuel 12.1-14

The story of David's sin does not end with adultery and murder. Judgment follows. The fact that the Bible records the story of David's sin is remarkable enough in itself. What is even more remarkable is the way the story develops. Nathan the prophet goes to David and tells a story about what appears to be an act of great injustice by one of the king's students.

David takes the bate and is outraged. He demands to know the name of the man swearing that justice will be done. Then Nathan springs the trap with the stunning words "You are the man!"

Once again the Bible has given us the earliest story in ancient literature where a king, who is the hero of his people, is judged and found wanting by someone whose sole authority rests on a higher law. Thus the Law of God prevails over humans, even great rulers. Nathan the prophet is not a great king or political leader. His only claim to authority is that he speaks for God. Yet David hears Nathan and repents.

This is why in many medieval cathedrals, like Charlemenge's great Dom in Aachen, there are mosaics and other pictorial representations prominently displayed so that they remind rulers and all in power that they too stand under the judgment of God. No other religious system takes the responsibility of rulers towards God as seriously as those of the Biblical tradition. In both Judaism and Christianity stories like that of Nathan and David serve to remind all people that they are responsible to God and that no human being is beyond the law.

Day: 5 - 6 - 7

These readings are based on a) John E. Rotelle O.S.A's., excellent Augustine Day by Day, (New York, Catholic Book Publishing, 1986). Permission to use these passages has been sought, although I believe what I have used falls within a "fair use" policy; b) Various works of Martin Luther (1483-1546); c) Thomas á Kempis (1380-1471); d) Anglican Bishop J. C. Ryle's (1816-1900) Holiness (18??) or Practical Religion (1900); e) Zondervan's New International Version of the Bible.

Copyright Irving Hexham 2001