What is a Prophet? Nathan Confronts King David

Overview: As you know, our theme for Church School this year is Prophets, Poets, and Preachers. The Saints we covered over the past two months are great examples for each of these identities (some hold several at once). Now, we turn to prophets, poets, and preachers in Scripture. This week, your class will spend time on one or more of the following things:

  1. Thinking about and characterizing the role of the prophet as we see it in Nathan;
  2. Attending to the story of Nathan confronting David over his sin;
  3. Reflecting on David’s confession and response to Nathan’s confrontation over his sin, a confession traditionally considered to have inspired Psalm 51.

Most classes will not be able to do all of these things, so feel free to stay focused on one or two, but please discuss what a prophet is since it will help lay the foundation as we work through several other stories of the prophets this year.

First, we first have to figure out what meant by the word prophet.

Biblical prophets are called by God to speak for God to the people. Biblical prophets are not future or fortune tellers; rather, they offer an alternative vision of the world. To that end, they remind the people of God’s law and confront the people with God’s justice particularly when law and justice are violated. Sometimes they confront those in power (as in this weeks story) and other times they confront the whole assembly of the people of Israel.Older children may already have an image in their mind about what or who a prophet is from books, television, and other forms of popular culture so it may be helpful to start a discussion by allowing students to identify what they think a prophet is before reading the story together and sorting out the definition further (this could be a good long-term activity for your class too). A suggestion for this activity is number 1 below.

Hear the Word

Read the story of the prophet Nathan confronting King David in II Samuel 12: 1-13. This story may be in some of our children’s Bibles, but I was not able to check before I left the church.

As an aside: For this you may have to have a brief conversation about David’s sin. A good suggestion is to stick to simple details “David’s sin was wanting another person’s wife and then killing him to get her.” Clearly that is a loaded description, but I have never had further questions. I also heard the great suggestion from someone who was asked by a child to describe the meaning of the word adultery as “something adults do.” If you get these questions, they are worth addressing a bit. Our children do hear these words in church every week when we hear the Ten Commandments.

Respond to the Word

1. A Prophet is…: Start by discussing what a prophet is. Our older children (2nd grade and older) may have some ideas about what a prophet is and does from popular culture (Harry Potter…) while younger children will not have any context and will have a slightly different focus. Create a word map with all of the association words the students can think of. Then read the story together and identify what Nathan does and the role he plays as prophet to King David. How are these two understandings of prophet similar to one another? How are they different? Keep your word map up and in the coming weeks add to it occasionally when students identify a new role for the Prophet (you might have columns General associations, Nathan, Elijah, Jeremiah, etc.). Aside from creating a clearer picture of Scripture’s understanding of the prophet, we are also taking note of how Scripture has some changing emphases and details when it comes to identifying prophets.

2. “You are that man!”: After hearing the story together, break the text down into several scenes and then act out the story together. Nathan’s encounter with David is quite dramatic, and if teachers get really into sharing the story with students, students may also get into sharing the story through play with one another. Afterwards, discuss why Nathan confronts David. Reflect on how David responds and wonder together about what would have happened if David had responded in another way. How does David’s response lead to healing, repentance, and reorientation to God? Take your theater outside if the weather is nice (we are running out of good outdoor time!).

3. The Prophet in Parable: Prophets use stories to get at what they are getting at. Work with the parable Nathan tells to David. What does this story say and what does it mean? Use one of the suggestions below and then wonder together: Older children might be interested in discussing other realities this parable describes. Are there situations in our world to which this parable might speak? Perhaps younger children have a sibling to whom they might compare one of the characters. These kinds of questions do rely on an understanding of metaphor–feel your class out, but in general students begin to understand the basics of metaphor as early as first grade, but probably can’t describe it entirely until they are much older.

a. Further conversation: Do you think Nathan’s story was a good way to get King David’s attention and make him repent? Why do you think the prophet told David the story this way?

b. Parable images: Use the pom-pom sheep and peg person basket (in the Christian Education library) to act out the parable Nathan tells King David. There are lots of sheep and extra pegs in the supply closet, so feel free to divide the kids into small groups. When I have the kids do this kind of activity, they often want to retell over and over again, especially when they get to move the pieces themselves.

C. Veggietales: In episode King George and the Ducky, there is an account of this parable to David. The rest of the episode is a little too different from the story to play the entire thing, but the parable is actually pretty similar. It’s about 2/3rds of the way through the episode (after the silly songs segment). They name the prophet Melvin.

4. The ten best ways: In Godly Play, the Ten Commandments are called the “ten best ways.” David violates the law–he wants something that does not belong to him, he kills someone to cover it up, and he abuses his position of power (more about that in your teacher email this week). Nathan confronts David and in doing so highlights another role of the prophet: prophets confront the people (the community and/or those in power) and remind them of what God requires from them. There are many activities you could generate if you are interested in this approach. Here are some past lessons we have done. You may find a game or project that helps you highlight the role of the prophet in upholding God’s law.

5. Truth-telling: Nathan is truthful to David when perhaps no one else would even dare to be so. Prophets tell the truth about the world and the state of things. Use this aspect of prophetic work to explore truth telling by playing two truths and a lie.

6. David’s Repentance, “Have mercy on me, O God”: The prophets help those they confront to confess and repent. Later, we will see this play out again and again with the prophets, but here it is especially apparent. Some Bibles note that Psalm 51 is a Song of David, after David’s visit from Nathan (many of these notes are added to our text and are not “original.”

a. Read part of Psalm 51 together and discuss sin, confession, and transformation. You can explore this Psalm through music. Charles Pettee and Folk Psalm have put this Psalm to music and it’s pretty great. I have the CD in my office, but no working CD player. You may be able to find the song online. Please let me know if you would like the CD for your class.

Close with Prayer and a Feast

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