Summary: We can and must speak truth to power. We can do so if we receive our own power through prayer; and so speaking makes a difference if there is compassion in it.
You’ll remember the old fable called "The Emperor’s New Clothes". In that story there is a crafty tailor, who persuades the emperor that he can make a suit of clothes out of a magic fabric, a fabric which can be seen only by the wise and intelligent. Stupid people, foolish people supposedly cannot see this fabric. "Surely, your majesty, you would want me to make you a suit out of this very special cloth?"
The emperor, as you recall, cannot see a thing, but he is too proud to admit it. So he commissions a new suit, and, when the tailor returns, proceeds to put on the nonexistent garment and parade down the main street of his royal city.
Well, here goes the emperor, prancing proudly along, dressed in exactly nothing. But not only is he too proud to admit that he cannot see these imaginary clothes -- because, remember, only the stupid and foolish cannot see them; but also the entire population of the city is drawn up into the farce. They also are too proud to admit that they don’t see anything. Or maybe it is that they have learned that it’s better to tell powerful people exactly what they want to hear. Whatever the reason, everybody lining the parade route cheers and comments on the emperor’s new clothes.
But there is one child, one sweet, innocent, unspoiled child, who just won’t pretend. Just has to tell the truth. "New clothes? But the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!"
The world desperately needs people who will tell the emperor he isn’t wearing any clothes. People who will tell the truth. Persons who will have the courage to voice their convictions and speak their minds, even when it isn’t the ambitious thing or the popular thing to do. The world, especially the world we know in Washington, needs people to tell the truth.
My thesis this morning is that you and I can get the courage to tell the truth, even to people in power, if we will become persons of prayer. Prayer power tells the truth to people in power.
David, King of Israel, had done a terrible thing, an unspeakable thing. He had seen the wife of one of his army officers and had decided that he liked what he saw. The woman Bathsheba became an obsession with him, and he used his royal position to have his way with her.
That wasn’t the end of the matter, either. Not only did David defile Bathsheba; and not only did he father a child by her; but then he conspired to have her husband set up for death. Uriah, David’s loyal soldier, was simply wiped out. And David the king thought he had managed it all and could now just coast along without any challenge.
Obviously there were some people who knew what he had done. David’s general Joab had carried out the setup. Some of Joab’s soldiers had participated in the ambush. The messenger who brought David the news about the battle had to have been in on the plot. There were plenty of people who knew what David had done. But how many of them spoke out? How many of them told the truth to the man in power? Not one. Not one. They all chose to see the emperor’s new clothes.
But out in the countryside there was someone else. Beyond the fawning courtiers and the tight-lipped soldiers there was a man named Nathan, whom they called a prophet. Nathan had been associated with David for a long time, and yet Nathan had always been independent. Nathan had not asked for, nor had he been given command of a garrison of soldiers. Nathan had only one command, and that was the command of his own mind. Nathan had not asked for nor had he received some fancy title or some prestigious post in the palace; he wanted only one title, and that was prophet. God’s prophet.
So one morning, just as David was congratulating himself on how well he had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, in walked Nathan, God’s prophet. He had come to tell the truth.
Nathan had determined to tell the truth. His strategy is interesting. He might have blasted King David to Kingdom come, telling him of his gross sin. Or he might have soothed the king and assured him that, after all, everybody understood, and it would be all right by and by. But instead, Nathan told a story. Essentially its point is that the emperor had on no clothes!
“David, let me tell you about a man in your kingdom, who was very rich and had all he could want. But he looked out one day and saw a poor man, who had only one little ewe lamb. Just one. Nothing else. But the rich man, who had flocks and herds a plenty, just reached out and took the poor man’s one little lamb. What do you think of that, King David? Is that fair? Is that justice?