David Anointed and Opposed — Part One
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David Anointed and Opposed — Part One

2 Samuel 2:1–11  (ID: 3456)

In sharp contrast to the divisive tactics that often dominate politics, as David ascended to his role as God’s chosen king, he did so prayerfully and humbly. Like Jesus, he extended love to his enemies, invited them to follow him, and promised his faithfulness. Nonetheless, opposition soon followed. While placing hope in worldly power will inevitably disappoint us, Alistair Begg assures that when we come to know and trust Jesus, we will find Him to be the true leader for which we long.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel, Volume 5

The King and the Holy City 2 Samuel 1:1–6:23 Series ID: 109015

Sermon Transcript: Print

Now we’re going to turn together to 2 Samuel and to chapter 2. And this chapter will be the focus of our attention both this morning and then again this evening. And in light of that, I’m going to read the entire chapter. Two Samuel 2 and reading from verse 1:

“After this”—that is, after the lamentation that we considered a couple of weeks ago—“after this David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Go up.’ David said, ‘To which shall I go up?’ And he said, ‘To Hebron.’ So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

“When they told David, ‘It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,’ David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him. Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing. Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.’

“But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

“Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. And Abner said to Joab, ‘Let the young men arise and compete before us.’ And Joab said, ‘Let them arise.’ Then they arose and passed over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side, so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is at Gibeon. And the battle was very fierce that day. And Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David.

“And the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Now Asahel was … swift of foot as a wild gazelle. And Asahel pursued Abner, and as he went, he turned neither to the right … nor to the left from following Abner. Then Abner looked behind him and said, ‘Is it you, Asahel?’ And he answered, ‘It is I.’ Abner said to him, ‘Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and seize one of the young men and take his spoil.’ But Asahel would not turn aside from following him. And Abner said again to Asahel, ‘Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?’ But he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.

“But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner. And as the sun was going down they came to the hill of Ammah, which lies before Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. And the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner and became one group and took their stand on the top of a hill. Then Abner called to Joab, ‘Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?’ And Joab said, ‘As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely the men would not have given up the pursuit of their brothers until the morning.’ So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, … did they fight anymore.

“And Abner and his men went all that night through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, and marching the whole morning, they came to Mahanaim. Joab returned from the pursuit of Abner. And when he had gathered all the people together, there were missing from David’s servants nineteen men besides Asahel. But the servants of David had struck down of Benjamin 360 of Abner’s men. And they took up Asahel and buried him in the tomb of his father, which was at Bethlehem. And Joab and his men marched all night, and the day broke upon them at Hebron.”

This is the Word of the Lord. And thanks be to God.

And we pause before in prayer:

Lord, speak to me, that I may speak in living echoes of your tone. As you have taught, so let me teach. We’re erring children, lost and lone.[1] Amen.

Well, we take our Bibles, and we pick things up from where we were as the great journey in following David towards the throne continues.

You know, the task of the Bible teacher—whether it is my task right now or in life groups that are going on while we are present here—the task of the Bible teacher is clearly, in turning to the Bible, to help us to understand what is written there; if you like, what happened there and then. Because the there and then here is a long time ago. And so, as we turn to it, it’s important that the teacher is able to help us in that regard. And then, at the same time, the responsibility falls to bring the there and then to bear upon the here and now—for here we are, and it is now—and then, thirdly, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to show us how the there and then bears upon the here and now. Because if it doesn’t bear upon the here and now, it really is a somewhat futile exercise simply to engage in a rather exhaustive study of ancient Israelite history.

So how would that work, then? Well, first of all, one: What about the there and then? What do we have before us? We have before us the fact that David is anointed king at Hebron, and a rival almost immediately appears. There is actually a gap of some years, but nevertheless, he is anointed, and a rival appears. And what we’re going to discover is, of course, what we know. We often say to one another, “Truth is stranger than fiction,” which I think is probably the case, and history also is a lot messier than fairy tales. I like fairy tales. I like them for myself, and I like the fact that when you have grandchildren, you get to read to them for at least a third time in your life. And usually they resolve. History is a lot messier than that. So, the there and then is this story of the anointing of David, the opposition as it comes through Abner, and the fact that there is a lot of mess involved in the unfolding story.

In terms of the here and now, we recognize, too, that the unfolding of our own history—our personal histories, our lives—is not marked, either, by a straight line. When we look back over the bounds of history, both in terms of the history of our world and the history of our individual lives, we realize that it is filled with all kinds of twists and turns, and that whether we are following Jesus or whether we are inquiring about Jesus, we would all be able to testify to the same. Globally, our world is clearly upside down. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate discussion to reach that conclusion. And it’s not merely rhetoric.

Personally, our lives are full of all kinds of dangers, toils, and snares. As I sat to my study this week, I thought about it very, very much. Because I had just, in the previous hour, been engaged with people on multiple fronts. And I actually was so cognizant of it that I wrote down the people that I either had spoken with or had written to by way of a note: a university student that was thankful for the benefits of the gospel; an older couple who were making a transition because of the dementia of the wife and the support of the husband; a husband and wife in their sixties whose twenty-seven-year-old son and his four-year-old and three-year-old boys had been consumed in a fire and whose other son had lost their seven-week-old child to SIDS. I wrote a note to a converted Jewish man who wanted to tell me that at the age of sixteen, a Sunday school teacher had pointed him to Jesus as the Messiah, and he was very pleased; a note to a lady in her seventies who is involved in what I call “treadmill evangelism”; a faithful lady who’s concerned because her husband doesn’t share her faith; ten Heritage Christian Academy students who had written to me to tell me that they kind of like me, but not a lot; and then a note to the office of Rob Portman, our senator, because his assistant had written to say how much she and others in DC benefit from the ministry of the gospel. Then I put my pen down, and I said, “Now, let’s turn to 2 Samuel chapter 2.”

Placing our hope in politics will mean that we are inevitably disappointed.

Now, what does that do? It does at least this: it prevents the teacher of the Bible from falling foul of the idea that one’s responsibility is simply to be able to say, “Look at what’s in the Bible, try your best to understand it, and let me give you a couple of ways in which you can make application of it.” That is not the primary aim about what is happening when the Bible is being taught. The primary aim is that the teacher and the taught—and we’re all taught—as the Word of God is opened up, have an encounter with the living God. In other words, we meet God in the Scriptures. And so, when we go to the there and then and we view it in terms of the here and now, we anticipate that that will be the case.

Globally, the world is upside down. Personally, our lives are all over the place. And nationally, we are in the midst of moral and political chaos. The political landscape dominates our thinking this morning. Anybody that would be coming to the occasion of teaching the Bible without an awareness of that would somehow be living in another planet entirely. It is almost impossible to turn a page, to click online, to do anything without this being pervasive, and understandably so. And the fact that it dominates the landscape also reveals to us the fact of a vast chasm which runs right through the heart of our nation—a vast divide through the very heart of our nation.

And so, it is very likely—and indeed, it is my experience—that the resolve then comes from those who know me, care for me, and others who don’t: “Pastor… Pastor, you’re about the there and then and the here and now. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity. Make sure you don’t evade your responsibility. After all, you’ve heard what others have been saying this week. Pastor, maybe this is a Sunday to set aside Samuel and to deal with present reality.” That’s what people say to me. They send me the notes, the quotes, they send me the things I’m supposed to watch online: “Come on now, Pastor. Be like those that we like.”

So, I have all this ringing in my head. But what if I could show you—what if I could show you—that this chapter may actually be the perfect chapter for a congregation such as ours to study two days before our election? Because when I was studying this week, I suddenly made the discovery—and what a delightful discovery it was!—it dawned upon me that a substantial part of 2 Samuel chapters 2, 3, and 4 is the story of human politics. It is about political endeavor.

I say that… When we think in terms of politics, we are talking about the process by which policies and actions are organized and established within an organization or within a culture or society. And so, when you read these chapters, you recognize that that is exactly what is happening. And that’s why I said by way of introduction that our study today must take us into the balance of the chapter in order to make it clear, in order that we might be reminded of one essential fact: that placing our hope in politics will mean that we are inevitably disappointed. Placing our hope in politics will mean that we are inevitably disappointed.

Now, with that said, what I want to do is look at the text and make sure that, at least up until verse 11, we can do something with it. The big picture that we have kept before us throughout all of our studies here—in 1 Samuel as well—is that David and his reign, as it is now being established, reveals the kingdom that God finally establishes in Jesus. So in other words, when you stand far enough back from the picture and you say, “That is there and then. That is a thousand—it’s a millennium before the coming of Jesus. It’s a long time away from us now.” What is going on here? Why would we study this? What is the purpose of this even being in the Bible? It’s not to teach us simply history per se, but it is because the establishing of the reign of King David is a token of the reign of Christ himself. And that is why when you begin the Gospels, it begins—picking up from all that has gone before—Jesus in Mark 1:15 says, “The time is fulfilled, … the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe … the gospel.” That doesn’t come out of the blue. That is in light of all that has preceded it. And part of what precedes is it is what we consider now.

Three words to help us: ascension, invitation, opposition. Ascension, invitation, opposition.

David’s Ascension

You say, “Well, what do you mean by ‘ascension’?” Well, I mean simply making an ascent. Going up. We tend to think ascension, essentially, in the move of Christ. Clearly, that is not the way in which we are using the word here. But it is because five times the word in Hebrew for “going up” is used in the space of three verses. And we’re good enough students to know now that repetition is there in order to point us to something that we ought to understand. And you will see that: “David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go up …?’” “The Lord said …, ‘Go up.’” “David said, ‘To which shall I go up?’” “So David went up.” You get it? So, we’re supposed to know that he is going up. It’s not simply that he is making a geographical move from Ziklag to Hebron, but he is quite literally going up in the world. Now he is going to step forward into the position for which God has called him. It is for him an ascension, but as we will see, it bears nothing of presumption.

You will notice in verse 1 that he doesn’t make a move without asking God. He “inquire[s] of the Lord.” We might be tempted to think that since there had been so much background to this, that when it finally came to the moment, that David said, “Well, this is what I was here for, and let’s just get going, and let’s put the business together.” But no, it doesn’t happen. “David inquired of the Lord.”

Saul, we will remember, had been instructed by Samuel to listen to the Lord. And he wouldn’t listen. And as a result of his disobedience, both his potential kingdom and his life collapsed. Here we discover that David inquires, David listens, David obeys. In other words, his exaltation is along the path of obedience. He was the king that God had chosen for himself. He was the one who was a man after God’s own heart.[2] The heart of God was predisposed to David. He wanted him as his king. But David had not taken matters into his own hands. You will remember he had an opportunity to take Saul out on two or three occasions. He chose not to do so. He hadn’t sought his own agenda. He hadn’t pushed himself to the front of the queue. He wasn’t seeking to make much of his own personal advantage and his background and “Do you know who I am? Do you know what I’ve done? And you ever heard of the person who killed Goliath? That was me. Do you know how I’ve rallied together a group of four hundred ne’er-do-wells, and we’ve taken people on?” and so on. No, there’s none of that at all! No.

Well, you see, why would we be surprised? Because he’s pointing to Jesus, whose exaltation was along the path of obedience, was it not? Certainly that’s what Paul says when he writes in Philippians 2: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient [even] to the point of death, even death on a cross. [And] therefore God has highly exalted him”[3]—that the path to exaltation is the path of the inquiring mind, the listening ear, and the obedient spirit.

That’s why when Peter writes—and he would know about this, because he was masterful at putting his foot in his mouth and then taking it out so he could put his other foot in. I say that as someone who is sadly one of his disciples in that regard. But the fact is, he says, “Humble yourselves … under the mighty hand of God … that [in due season] he may exalt you.”[4] Isaiah 66:2: “This is the one to whom I will look,” says Yahweh. Who do you look to, God? “This is the one to whom I will look,” says the Lord: “he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

He inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up?” “Yes, you shall.” “Where shall I go up? Be specific.” And he said, “To Hebron.” To Hebron. Places are important. They’re important in our lives. We move somewhere and we say, “Oh, I hate to have to go,” or we go back and we say, “It’s so nice to be here again.” And that’s true out of all of human history.

Now, he’s told, “Go to Hebron.” If you say to me, “Pastor, how was this communicated to him?” my answer is I don’t know. Right? It may be that he used Abiathar, the priest, and the ephod or whatever. But we do know in the book of Hebrews that in the past, God spoke in many and various ways by the prophets.[5] So we can leave it at that, because the message conveyed is more important than the method employed. In other words, the main things are the plain things, and that is that the message was clear: “Go to Hebron.”

The path to exaltation is the path of the inquiring mind, the listening ear, and the obedient spirit.

Now, this, of course, is quite wonderful if you know your Bible at all. Because Hebron is a big place in the Bible. Genesis chapter [13], and God speaks to Abram, and he says, “‘Arise, [and] walk through the length and … breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.’ So Abram moved his tent and … settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.”[6] Now, for homework, if you like, take a good concordance, click on “Hebron,” and enjoy yourself. You will discover that it was here at Hebron that the momentous meeting with the three strange people took place, announcing to Sarah that she was going to have a son.[7] It was here that Sarah also died.[8] Here Sarah was buried.[9] Abraham was buried here.[10] Isaac,[11] Rebekah,[12] Jacob,[13] Leah[14] were all buried here at Hebron. “There are places,” say Lennon and McCartney,

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, … some have changed,
Some forever, not for better;
Some have gone, and some remain.
All these places have their moments.[15]

So, you see, when we read our Bibles and we come to something like this, we don’t just say, “Oh, he went to Hebron.” No, no, this was significant.

Why? Well, I will tell you why. Do you know how the Gospel of Matthew begins? You say, “Well, with the first verse.” Yes. But do you know how it actually begins? “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”[16] What are we discovering here? We’re discovering that the story of David’s kingship is directly related to the story of God’s call of Abraham, which is related to the coming of the King, of Jesus himself, which is related to the establishment of a kingdom, to which and in which we move. So, it’s no surprise that he didn’t go by himself. He took his wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail. You remember about Abigail, I’m sure. Took his entire company with him! It would be a big group by now.

And here, in a very silent, sort of surprising way in verse 4, it just says, “And the men of Judah came, and … they anointed David king over the house of Judah.” What had happened previously, remember, back in 1 Samuel[17]—privately, if you like—has now been ratified. It has now taken place publicly. But it really doesn’t look like very much, does it? It’s not very impressive: “And there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.” You say to yourself, “Well, we’ve waited our way all the way through 1 Samuel and all the way through the first chapter, and then we get here! It’s a bit of a nonevent, isn’t it? No trumpet. Nothing at all.” No.

But actually, what we’re being told is that here, for the very first time, God’s chosen king visibly rules on the earth. Here, for the first time, God’s chosen king, the man after God’s own heart, begins his visible reign on the earth. Doesn’t look like much. Fast-forward, and the people said, “Which one is Jesus? What’s all this fuss about? A carpenter with some fishermen?” Fast-forward to Paul writing to the Corinthians. He says, “Not many of you were mighty. Not many of you were noble. You really didn’t look like very much at all.”[18] Exactly! And here, as Dale Ralph Davis says in a wonderful little half-sentence, he says for the time being, for the moment, the kingdom of God is “tucked … away in the hills of Judah.”[19] The kingdom of God is “tucked … away in the hills of Judah.”

Anybody looking on would say, “Well, there’s nothing here at all. There’s nothing of significance going on here at all. The places and the powers and the empires and the rulers are of great significance. Whatever is going on up some side street in Judah really has got very little bearing upon me, and I can’t see any reason why I should pay any attention to it at all.” My friends, that’s exactly what your friends say about Jesus! There are so many things in this world that we need to be concerned about—so many vast encounters, so many things that may occupy and dominate our time. Why would I spend any time about some Galilean carpenter who wandered around for a long time two thousand years ago, despite what everybody says about him?

Well, there you have it. That’s his ascension.

David’s Invitation

And then comes what I’m referring to as his invitation.

Each of our candidates for president have been spending a long time, most recently, telling us what they are going to do if they are elected. And some of it goes like this: “The first thing I will do is x.” Okay, good, thanks for letting us know. That’s important. We need to know. It helps us. So what is the first thing David does when he is established as the king? What is the first action that he takes, and why does he take it? Well, actually, he hears about what had happened when these men of Jabesh-gilead had shown kindness to Saul and his sons. They come to him and they say, “You know, it was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul.”

Now, think about this. The men of Jabesh-gilead were Saul’s supporters. Saul’s supporters and his army were opposed to David. Saul had pledged himself to the annihilation of David. So what possible interest would David really have in what these supporters of Saul had done with Saul? Unless, of course, he really cared about Saul. And we know that he really cared about Saul. And if there was no other way of our knowing apart from the lament which is the balance of chapter 1, then we would recognize that that was not a fabrication, that that was not a political move on his part, but it was an expression of his heart. No matter the fact that he was pursued by Saul, that Saul wanted him gone, still he recognized that as the Lord’s anointed, he was worthy of respect and care.

And so he realizes these fellows felt the same way. And a kindness is long remembered. A kindness is long remembered. I don’t remember my schoolteachers who were geniuses. There were a number of them. I remember the kind ones. I remember the ones who said, “Oh, come on, Begg, you’ll be okay.” And so do you. You remember the kind people.

You see, the men of Jabesh-gilead could not forget when the messengers came to them—when the messengers came to them—announcing the fact, on behalf of Saul, “Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you shall have [deliverance].”[20] And Saul had intervened on behalf of the men of Jabesh-gilead. The men of Jabesh-gilead, in remembering that kindness, then expressed a kindness of their own in doing what they did with Saul’s body.

Now, once again, messengers are dispatched. This time, the messengers are dispatched from David, and he has a message for them. And you’ll see it there in the text: first of all, “God bless you for your loyalty.” “Bless you for your loyalty.” You see, the fact that the people of Jabesh-gilead had been themselves the friends of Saul did not mean that they were ipso facto the enemies of David. And, if you like, there is a measure of politics in this as well. It’s very skillful. He does a little campaigning here, and he says, “I want you to know that you should be blessed by God. You’re very loyal people.”

This is the great need: steadfast love and faithfulness. This is who and what God is.

Secondly, he says, “And I want to pray that you will know the steadfast love and faithfulness of God to you.” That’s why we began as we did, with that great hymn this morning. “May you be blessed by the Lord: you showed loyalty. May the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” This is the great need, you see: steadfast love and faithfulness. This is who and what God is.

I was thinking this morning when I wakened—and I meant to go and find it, and I didn’t. You can read it yourself in the introduction to Knowing God by J. I. Packer, the late J. I. Packer. And in the introduction, he quotes from a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon when he was only twenty-three years old. And I’ve quoted it to you before, but it is worth remembering, where Spurgeon says to his congregation at the age of twenty-three, he says, “Would you drown your cares? Would you bury your sorrows? Would you deal with your problems?” and so on. Then he says, “Go drown yourself in the sea of the immensity of God.” “Go drown yourself in the sea of the immensity of God.”[21]

People come to me and say, “You know, what we need is a political solution. What we need is guidance and wisdom from you.” I’ll tell you what we all need: we need to drown ourselves in the immensity of God. You need to go to bed at night saying, “‘The abounding, steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. In the morning, his mercies never come to an end.’[22] He is absolutely faithful to his word. He is absolutely sovereign over the affairs of time. The big issues of the world, the matters of our nation, and the personal concerns of my tiny life are under the care of an everlasting God.” You see, that is why “the people [who] … know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”[23] Why are we not doing exploits? Because we don’t know God as God is to be known.

That’s what we need to say to our world: “God—this God, you see, this God—is worthy of your faith.” It is a God like this that makes faith possible. Think about it! If God is a fabric of your imagination, if God is an internal mechanism, if God is some kind of philosophical construct, why would you have faith in this? It’s your own invention! I can only trust in somebody who is vaster, bigger, stronger, brighter, loving in every dimension. And I do! And how has he made that love known to us? In a King, buried in the hills of Judah, seen on the streets of Jerusalem, sung of on the fields in Bethlehem—and walking the streets of Cleveland in the body of Christ himself. Those “who trust him wholly find him wholly true.”[24]

Woodhouse observes, “David’s message to those who had every reason to regard him as their enemy … was about [the] grace [of God].”[25] Isn’t that right? They were on the wrong side. He said, “Why don’t you come here? I want you to be blessed because of your loyalty. I want you to be in an awareness of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God to you.” It gives us just an inkling of Jesus, doesn’t it? You can imagine these people getting together and, you know, having an evening meal after the messengers have come with this great news from David the king. And they said to one another, “You know, even while we were still his enemies, he showed us his love.” “Oh,” you say, “that’s it, isn’t it?” Yeah, that’s it! Romans 5: “Even when we were yet sinners, enemies, Christ died for us.”[26] That’s what’s being portrayed here.

And thirdly, he says, “You can count on me.” That’s quite a thing to say, isn’t it? “I will do good to you because you have done this thing.” On what basis? Well, he’s the king. The king can dispense the bounty.

And then here comes, if you like, the straightforward invitation. Verse 7: “Now therefore let your hands be strong, and … valiant.” “You’ve been strong and valiant before. It was pretty brave of you to make that journey and go and get Saul down off that wall.[27] But now your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me as the king over them. Come on. Come and join me.” If while we were his enemies we were reconciled to God… Again, that’s Romans 5, isn’t it, as I think about it—5:8? We quoted 5:10. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”[28]

We sing of it, don’t we, in that hymn about the work of God’s grace? I can’t remember how it starts, but we have that line:

Your enemy you made your friend;
Pouring out the riches of your [generous and] glorious grace,
Your mercy and your kindness know no end. …

Once your enemy, now seated at your table.[29]

You see, unless we understand the reality of the fact that by our nature we are separated from God, and that although separated from God on account of his wrath and on account of our sinful rebellion and indifference, still he loves, still he seeks, still he is what he is, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness and pursuing to the very end those upon whom he has set his heart. This is the story. “This is my song.”[30]

Abner’s Opposition

The third word is opposition. I’ll just mention it; we can pick it up this evening. But in verse 8, just when it seems to be going along quite nicely: “But…” “But Abner the son of Ner, [the] commander of Saul’s army…”

Interestingly, we’re not told how these folks responded to this invitation from David. They’re mentioned a little while later on, but it’s only in reference to something that went before. We don’t know if they joined up. But we do know that the opposition immediately arrives in the form of a rival. Abner was Saul’s cousin. Abner was aware of the fact that the kingship was for David. But he was flat-out unwilling to accept the fact.

Now, what he’s actually doing here in saying no to David is he’s saying no to God. Because God is establishing his rule through his king. And our time is over, and so we will cease. But that’s where we pick it up.

The picture that we have in our strange culture is that somehow or another, everybody is really sort of at various levels of okayness, that there is no real reason to jeopardize our feelings of security by thinking about our death, nor of considering the claims of this King. But my friends, the Bible is absolutely clear: the possibility of neutrality in relationship to the kingship of Jesus is actually impossible. We are either on the Lord’s side or we are on the side of the opposition.

The Bible is absolutely clear: the possibility of neutrality in relationship to the kingship of Jesus is actually impossible. We are either on the Lord’s side or we are on the side of the opposition.

Well, we’ll pick it up when we come back.

Let us pray together.

I want to use the prayer that Calvin prayed when he came to the end of his sermon on these verses. He said to his congregation,

Now let us prostrate ourselves before the majesty of our good God, recognizing … our faults, praying to him that he may touch us with such repentance; that groaning over and confessing our sins, we may be displeased with them; and that we may be confused in ourselves and may seek in him all that is lacking in us. May this not only serve to abolish our past offences, but may it renew us in such fashion that, being clothed with his righteousness, we may glorify him in all our life and words and deeds and thoughts.[31]

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[1] Frances Ridley Havergal, “Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak” (1872).

[2] See 1 Samuel 13:14.

[3] Philippians 2:8–9 (ESV).

[4] 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV).

[5] See Hebrews 1:1.

[6] Genesis 13:17–18 (ESV).

[7] See Genesis 18:1–10.

[8] See Genesis 23:2.

[9] See Genesis 23:19; 25:9–10; 49:30–31.

[10] See Genesis 25:9–10; 49:30–31.

[11] See Genesis 35:27–29; 49:30–31.

[12] See Genesis 49:30–31.

[13] See Genesis 50:12–13.

[14] See Genesis 49:30–31.

[15] John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “In My Life” (1965).

[16] Matthew 1:1 (ESV).

[17] See 1 Samuel 16:13.

[18] 1 Corinthians 1:26 (paraphrased).

[19] Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Adversity (1999; repr. Fearn: Christian Focus, 2018), 33.

[20] See 1 Samuel 11:9 (ESV).

[21] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Immutability of God,” New Park Street Pulpit 1, no. 1, 1. Paraphrased.

[22] Lamentations 3:22–23 (paraphrased).

[23] Daniel 11:32 (KJV).

[24] Frances Ridley Havergal, “Like a River Glorious” (1876).

[25] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 78.

[26] Romans 5:8 (paraphrased).

[27] See 1 Samuel 31:12.

[28] Romans 5:10 (ESV).

[29] Pat Sczebel, “Jesus, Thank You” (2003).

[30] Fanny J. Crosby, “Blessed Assurance” (1873).

[31] John Calvin, “The Dreadful ‘Game’ of War,” in Sermons on 2 Samuel: Chapters 1–13, trans. Douglas Kelly (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 62.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.