It’s not that the older/wiser people in our lives never get it wrong. But when they do, it’s how they handle it that makes them someone you want to listen to
3 min read
Nathan replied to David, ‘Do whatever you have in mind, for God is with you.’1 Chronicles 17:2
Mentoring has been around for a very long time.
In fact, if you ever read Homer’s Odyssey (circa 8th century BC), you have met the original Mentor. In the story, Mentor was the older gentleman who watched over the main character’s young son while he was away on his long adventure. While Odysseus was gone, Mentor stepped in to nurture and guide the young and impressionable Telemachus. Years later, when Odysseus reunited with his son, he was impressed to see how Telemachus had developed into a man.
All because of the influence of Mentor.
But in a sense, the practice of mentoring even predates The Odyssey. The Old Testament also describes mentoring-type relationships between characters who weren’t physically related. One that comes to mind is that of David and Nathan (circa 1000 BC).
Nathan was the person who called out David on his sin with Bathsheba. He famously told him, “You’re the man!” By holding David accountable, Nathan helped him confess and repent of his sin and get back into fellowship with God.
You could say that Nathan mentored David through his season of personal failure. And it’s a good thing he did, because David has since helped so many of us navigate through our own personal failures. His story of redemption and his writing (e.g. Psalm 51) are hopeful reminders that God forgives and restores.
But Nathan, the mentor to David, did not always get it right. At least once Nathan gave David the wrong advice.
How so? 1 Chronicles 17 recounts how David really wanted to build the Temple so that there would be a permanent structure to house the Ark of the Covenant. When he ran this by his mentor, Nathan, the response was in essence, “Go for it.” Nathan gave David the thumbs up. He blessed the idea as if it were from God himself.
But the idea wasn’t from God. Not at all. It was premature. That very night God made it clear to Nathan that he had gotten ahead of himself on this one. He prompted him go back to David and make this correction:
You are not the one to build a house for me to live in…I will raise up one of your descendents, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house – a temple – for me. And I will secure his throne forever.”
-1 Chronicles 17:4, 11-12
How embarassed Nathan must have been! How difficult must it have been for him to go back to David and walk back his previous advice. How presumptuous he had been to sanction David’s plans without first hearing from God.
So Nathan went back to David and told him everything the LORD had said...(v. 15)
It happens. Sometimes our mentors/counselors let us down. They show us that they are human after all. These people that we think can do no wrong sometimes reveal that, in fact, they have feet of clay just like we do. They are still learning and growing, too.
But what makes people like Nathan so special is that they are willing to say so when they miss. A true mentor is one who doesn’t pretend to always get it right but is willing to humble themselves and make the correction when they get it wrong. They’re not too proud to say “What I said earlier…you can scrap that. I spoke out of turn.”
These people that we think can do no wrong sometimes reveal that, in fact, they have feet of clay just like we do. They are still learning and growing, too.
Thank God for all the mentors out there, all those who take time and energy to listen and to pour wisdom and truth into us. And especially to the ones who show us how to handle it right when we get it wrong, thanks a million.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.