David Anointed and Opposed — Part Two
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David Anointed and Opposed — Part Two

2 Samuel 2:12–32  (ID: 3457)

Second Samuel 2 provides an example of how the political endeavors of our world will inevitably disappoint us. When David’s nephew Asahel fell into conflict with Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, it became clear that Israel would only be united when they came under their true king. Likewise, Alistair Begg reminds us that the unity and peace our world longs for will be found not in a political system but under the kingly reign of Jesus Christ.

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

We are in 2 Samuel and chapter 2. We read the whole chapter, and I don’t think I should reread the whole chapter again tonight. You were very patient this morning, and despite how hard I tried, I still stumbled over a few words. And those weren’t the difficult ones either! It’s not easy to do this.

Why don’t we just read a verse or two? Let me see how we’ll do this. Well, let’s just read from 24 through to 32. This picks up the story after Asahel has pursued Abner and has ended up dead, but his two brothers decide that they’re going to keep up the pursuit. And so we read:

“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, nor 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. [And] 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.”

Amen. Amen.

Once again, Lord, in the stillness of this evening hour, we seek you. We want, in the pages of this book, to meet with you, the living God, individually. You know us. You know each of our needs tonight. You know where we are, what we are, what we long for, what we fear. God, grant that you will, in ways beyond our ability to even anticipate, meet us each at our point of need. And as a congregation, Lord, we pray the same, and as a nation. O come, gracious God, and do not give to us what we deserve in these days, but look upon us in your mercy and in your grace, for your Son’s sake. Amen.

Well, this morning we only got so far—two-thirds of the way—through what I had hoped to do. And I don’t want to rehearse that. I’m sure those of you who were present have got such a solid grasp of it that you don’t need me to. But we did say that we would try and make our way through the first eleven verses by noticing, first of all, David’s ascension, as we referred to it—his ascent as being anointed king in Hebron. And then his first deed as the newly anointed king was to extend an invitation to those who were the friends of Saul and the supporters of Saul and might easily have anticipated that David would be an enemy to them. And we saw how, in a way that foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ himself, his going up was an expression of his obedience, his inquiring of the Lord was a representation of his humility, and so on.

And then we had just reached the point where, at the end of verse 7, we’re left hanging concerning whether the men of Jabesh-gilead actually responded to his invitation and became followers. We don’t know that. But we said what we do know is that he immediately faced opposition. And that opposition comes in the form of Abner the son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army. And he is opposed to David becoming the king, and the reason he’s opposed to David as the king is because he’s actually opposed to God. It’s not possible to diverge from that. The one fits with the other part of it.

And Abner, as you will perhaps recall, was Saul’s cousin. He was also up to speed, if you like, with the ongoing story of what was taking place. And he knew that David was set apart to be the king as God had intended. And yet now he comes and decides that in opposition to that, he will take Ish-bosheth and make him—one of the sons of Saul, not one of them that went into battle and died with his father in battle, but another one—and this Ish-bosheth essentially becomes Abner’s puppet. It’s so very obvious as you read the text that Ish-bosheth is essentially passive in all that is taking place. And what he does is he brings him to this place, Mahanaim, and there he makes him king. And he makes him king, you will notice, over all of these different tribes. And as we saw this morning, David’s kingship is essentially only over one tribe—namely, the tribe of Judah. And here now, in opposition to him, all the strength and the numbers seem to reside.

Mahanaim—we’ll just say a word about and may come back to it later on—is also a place of significance. If, again, you want to simply do your homework, then you can look it up, and you will discover it in Genesis 32. And it is there in Genesis 32 that Jacob ends up dividing the company. And, in fact, the name itself means “two camps.” And so it is, I suggest to you, an entirely appropriate place for Abner to be going about his business. He refuses God’s chosen king, he sets up an alternative king, and essentially, he sets up what will happen for a fair while as we go through the story of the kings of Israel, the discrepancy that lies between Israel and Judah.

We know also that Ish-bosheth reigned for two years. One of the challenges as we’ve gone through 1 Samuel and now into 2 Samuel is the challenge of chronology and trying to put the pieces together. Because we also know in verse 11 that “David was king [over] Hebron over the house of Judah” in Hebron for “seven years and six months.” Quite interestingly, Ish-bosheth has a two-year stint, which was essentially the stint that Saul, his father, enjoyed when we was, if you like, on his game, having been set apart to his responsibility. It would appear—and you can research this on your own—it would appear that some years, five years or so, have elapsed after David’s installation as king in Hebron, and that the events that then unfold in Abner stepping forward are not, if you like, a knee-jerk reaction to what has taken place but are actually a settled reaction to what has taken place. And although we do not know very much at all about those intervening five years, nevertheless, we do know that Abner decided, “What we’re going to do is respond in this way.” David’s move to Hebron was in response to Saul’s death, but Abner's reaction was in defiance of David’s place in the plan of God.

It is the reality of our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom that gives significance, meaning, purpose, and validity to all of the rest of our political engagements.

Now, I tried to say this morning, and I hope it registered, that when we think about this in terms of the big picture—when we think about the there and then and the here and now, and we think about the plan of God—let’s keep in mind what the Bible is telling us about the plan of God. It’s the plan of God which we studied when we went through the book of Ephesians together, where, in Ephesians chapter 1—I’ll just quote verse 10 and verse 21—Paul speaks of this plan of God, which has been “set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time.”[1] To do what? “To unite all things in him, things in heaven and things [in] earth.” So God has a plan from all of eternity to unite all things—unite all things—in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, just allow that to settle in your mind for a moment, in relationship to what we said this morning about coming to the here and now globally, in terms of a world that is so upside down; in terms of thinking of it nationally, in terms of the deep divisions that run through our nation; and in terms of so many relationships: his plan to unite all things in him, both things in heaven and things on the earth.

And this will be “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age,” says Paul in the first century—not only right now, he says—but “in the [age] to come.” It’s a quite magnificent statement. And when you think about the fact that Paul, as a devout Jew, was vehemently opposed to the notion of Christ, to finally be in a position to write in this way concerning the Messiah, Jesus, who has turned his life in the right direction and made him a new person is a tremendous testimony to the power of the gospel.

So, “the earthly reign” of David is, says Calvin, “a token in which we must contemplate the reign of [the] Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation of his Church to the end of the world.”[2] So, Jesus has begun his reign not in Hebron but in heaven. David ascends to Hebron and is immediately opposed. Jesus ascends to heaven, and as we read the story of the church from there, the work of Jesus is immediately opposed. In fact, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus is directly related to that: “Why do you persecute me? Why are you doing this?” he says.[3] And what is happening, of course, is that the kingly rule of Christ is being opposed.

And so it is that tonight, in Jesus, we face opposition. We may not face it to the extent that others do in the world, but we do face it. The idea of the apparent insignificance of Jesus and of the church and of the things that are said of Jesus and of his plans and purposes, of the distinctive elements of Christ’s moral rule in terms of marriage and sexuality, in terms of all that is given to us in the authority of Scripture in relationship to the sanctity of life and to the freedom that is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ—all of this is vehemently opposed.

And the kingdom of Christ is opposed, and some, in seeking to oppose it, are trying actually to establish it, but to establish it on their own grounds, and in their own way, and to reconfigure it, and thereby to change that which is unchangeable—to alter, if you like, the King’s mandate, and to say, “That is not really what Jesus meant when he spoke concerning this. That is not really what it says concerning heaven and hell, what it says concerning judgment and so on. So, we wouldn’t really want to oppose the kingdom of Christ. We simply want to rewrite the kingdom of Christ and thereby make it palatable to a world that has decided that it is, as an individual, at the center of the universe.” Now, we ended this morning by saying it thereby confronts us with the fact that there is no possibility of neutrality in relationship to this. And then we come to all that follows from verse 12.

And all that follows, actually, from verse 12 regards this coming of the kingdom of David and the attempts that are made to defeat it or, alternatively, to make it happen by some other means. And as I said to you this morning, what you really have in the balance of chapter 2 and 3 and 4 are the hopes and dreams, if you like, of man, from a human perspective, trying to put things together in a way that is both acceptable and apparently suitable. And as I said this morning, the political endeavors of our world lead inevitably to disappointment.

And indeed, one of the questions I think that has to be on the radar for anybody who is a sociologist or regards themselves as something of a historian is to ask the question, “Why is it”—why is it—“that the hopes and dreams of political systems inevitably and eventually disintegrate?” Why is that? Why is it that kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall? Because we realize that at its best, political systems of whatever structure eventually result in failure and disappointment.

Now, I am no student of history, but I read. And in reading, I learn, and so do you. And I am excited about the fact that many of the people whose signatures were on the Declaration of Independence came from Scotland. Many of them wrote that and penned their names to it, and happily so. For what an amazing piece of work! Those who framed the United States Constitution understood something of fundamental importance that ought to be said far more at this present juncture than it is said by anyone, and it is this; they understood that that constitution was only suitable and sustainable for what they referred to as “a religious people.” What they meant by “a religious people” was a people who believed that they were created by God; their lives were sustained by God; he watched over their coming and their going; he established the bounds of their habitation; he was the one who gave life, and he was the one who ushered in death. In other words, their entire existence was framed—no matter how well-versed they were in the nuances of Biblical theology—the framers of the Constitution realized, “The only way this thing will work, and continue to work, is as long as God is central to the events. As soon as he is removed, the thing will disintegrate.” That was what they said.

John Adams: “We have no Government armed with [the] Power [which is] capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by … morality and Religion. … Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate [for] the government of any other.” In that same quote, he said what the problem will be is “Avarice,” or greed, “Ambition, … Revenge,” or, he said, even “Galantry.” These things “would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net.”[4] Now, that’s impossible to misunderstand, isn’t it?

Now then, here’s the question: Why is that? To the extent that we say amen to that, why is that? Why is that? Why is it after all these years of humanity, no one but no one, no great political experiment, has worked beyond a certain period of time? And the answer is: because of the fall of man. Because as sinners, we aren’t good enough, wise enough, strong enough to build a just, prosperous, and peaceable society that will last. That is why when you turn to the Bible, the Bible is saying again and again, our only realistic hope is the kingdom of God, and that the people of God are the people of the kingdom; that our citizenship—United States, British, French, German, South African, New Zealand, or whatever it may be—our citizenship as members of Christ’s body is first of all a citizenship in heaven, and from there we await a Savior.[5] And in the meantime, we get on with the business of life, which includes the privileges and responsibility of political engagement, of social action, and all these other things. It’s not an either-or. But it is the reality of our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom that gives significance, meaning, purpose, validity to all of the rest of our engagements.

We’re reading about the there and then in light of the here and now. [A baby cries out.] I’m sure you do agree! So, with all that buzzing around in your mind, let’s just try and deal with the balance of this text.

They All Fell Down

Verses 12–17, I simply wrote a heading in my notes: “They All Fell Down.” “They All Fell Down.”

Now, what has happened here is that Abner has decided to take the initiative. You’ll see that in verse 12. He’s responsible for creating the context for the conflict. Joab we’re now introduced to as the commander of David’s army. Joab is the son of Zeruiah, who, of course, was David’s sister. And they are meeting up in Gilboa. The details of how that unfolds you can see in the text. And Abishai we’ve already met when he wanted to deal with somebody very vociferously back in 1 Samuel 26,[6] Asahel we’re about to meet, and Joab is here. So in other words, you’ve got David and his three loyal nephews, and you’ve got Abner, who now has Ish-bosheth as his stooge, as it were.

And there they find themselves on two sides, you will notice, of the pool. They met “at the pool of Gibeon.” I don’t think we should think of this in an entirely tranquil setting, but it does have a bit of a placid feel to it, does it not? I’m sure that as they gathered in that place, it was probably a nice place, and the men were there under Abner’s direction, Joab had taken his folks there, and they found themselves on either side. On the one side, the army that had struck down the Amalekites; and on the other side, the army that had been roundly defeated by the Philistines. On the one side, the servants of the king, who had been anointed in Hebron; and on the other side, those who were subservient to Ish-bosheth, who had actually been made the king by his commander, Abner.

Now, when they got together there, we are told what has unfolded: “Abner said to Joab,” and Joab would have said to Abner—they would have talked amongst themselves. We don’t have any background to it. There is nothing to suggest that, in the immediacy of these circumstances, that they were ready just to launch into full-scale warfare against one another. It would have been possible for them to sit there and ponder the possibility of compromise: “I wonder, we could split things up: perhaps you could be in charge of this, and I could be in charge of that. Or perhaps we could press them into capitulation, and we could take over part of their deal.”

Well, whatever happened, it is Abner, again, who suggests that “the young men arise and compete before us.” We’re not really clear as to what that actually means, but we do know what happened. The idea that it was going to be for entertainment is hard to imagine, although the perversity of the time is such that that may well have been the case. Any possibility of any kind of negotiated settlement, of course, is immediately obliterated, because all twenty-four of them die an ugly death. And as a result of that, the place in which this incident happened is given a brand-new name, Helkath-hazzurim, “the field of sword edges.”[7] And as a result of what has happened there, everybody gets into the fight, and in verse 17, the narrator gives us, actually, the end of the story. What you have in verse 17, and then again in the details of verse 31, provides the framework. We know exactly what had happened: “The battle was very fierce”; “Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David.”

The Death of Asahel

Now, once he has described that for us, he then, without taking us back through the details of what was involved, gives us the detail of just one particular incident. And it begins in verse 18: “And the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel.” And Asahel was a bit of an Olympic athlete, it would seem. He was “swift of foot as a wild gazelle.” We’ve already met the gazelle earlier, and once again, it reappears.

And so, what actually happens here, if we could put it in a sentence, is this: that Asahel’s boldness, combined with his giftedness, resulted in his death. Okay? The gifts that God gives us, which are real gifts, we may actually use in such a way, to the detriment of ourselves. And that is apparently what happens here with this fellow. Abishai his brother was a tough guy, and apparently, he was a tough guy too—not only tough but also fast. And so, even though others wouldn’t be able to keep up, he could keep up for sure.

And so what we have is his pursuit of Abner. Verse 19: “And [he] pursued [him], and as he went,” he was absolutely focused. You will notice that: he didn’t turn “to the right hand [or] to the left.” He was completely focused on tracking down Abner. In verse 21—Abner having looked behind him and inquired if it was Asahel, and he said yes, it was—Abner says to him, “Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and seize one of the young men and take his spoil.” In other words, “Why don’t you go fight with somebody your own size? Why are you pursuing me? Why are you doing this?” And the answer is, he wasn’t only focused, but he was also fearless. And in verse 22, there’s the opportunity for another out: “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?’”

The place of unity for the people of God is only found in coming under God’s King, Jesus. This is the only place of unity in our whole world.

What an interesting character this Abner is! What do you care about his brother Joab? I’ll tell you why he cares: because he’s a politician. And he knows that if this thing goes the wrong way, it would actually be pretty good if he still had an ongoing relationship with Joab. So, “Don’t get me caught up in this,” he says to him. “How could I ever lift up my face to your brother?” “But he refused to turn aside.” So not only was he focused and fearless; he was foolish! I mean, there’s a point at which you have to say, “Look, I don’t think this is gonna end well.” No, but he can’t stop himself. And in verse 23, there he lies: “[And] Abner struck him in the stomach.”

Now, how did this happen? We don’t know. But it would appear that his speed was the reason for his demise. He was able to run so fast that when Abner decided to brake, as it were, in the middle of the thing and hold his spear behind him like this, that Asahel propelled himself right into the spear, which ran right through his gut and out of his back, horribly so. It seems that that is the case. Alternatively, Abner got fed up with him, turned around, waited for him to come, and drove the thing right into him. Whatever way it happened, “he fell there,” he “died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.”

It’s quite a picture, isn’t it? Nobody walked past. Nobody could pass. He must have been quite a well-known character. They must have said, you know, “He was such a brave fellow. He was such a fast runner. What a tragedy! What a waste of a life. Why wouldn’t he listen to sense?” Because he was foolish. Fearless, but foolish! Beware, lest the gifts that God has given you become the occasion of your own destruction.

Remember what was said of Uzziah. Uzziah became the king at the age of seventeen. Militarily, socially, economically, relationally, he was a genius. He was a genius. But he died as a leper. And the Chronicler tells us exactly what happened: Uzziah was greatly helped until he became strong; but when he became strong, he grew proud, to his own destruction.[8] He got to the point where the rules no longer applied to him. He was foolish. And his testimony is there, in the same light.

The Sun Sets, the Fighting Stops

Now, in verses 24–28, the sun sets, and the fighting stops. Joab and Abishai continue the pursuit, as we read. Abner and his forces muster at this hill of Ammah, and all “the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner,” and they “became [as] one group and took their stand on the top of a hill.”

Now, you notice that in all of this account, Abner is the one who takes the initiative. He’s the one who heads out with Ish-bosheth and goes to Mahanaim, and in response to that, Joab follows. And he is the one who has suggested that this competition takes place, and to that Joab has also responded. And now it is Abner who suggests some kind of a truce.

Now, it’s interesting that they are apparently in the vantage point, that they are in a secure position at the top of this hill. Why are you announcing a truce? Well, we already know in verse 17 that they got a royal doing in this battle—that they got completely wiped out, that 360 of their men had gone down in the battle. So although they’re all together at the top of the hill, Abner realizes, “If I don’t intervene here and do something, there’s no saying how this will end up”—even though it would appear that these two fellows that are pursuing them certainly couldn’t do very much about them, especially at the top of a hill.

But notice how he goes at it: “And Abner called to Joab,” verse 26: “Hey, are we gonna keep killing each other? Shall the sword devour forever? And don’t you know that this isn’t going to end well, that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” It’s pretty rich, isn’t it? And I tried to read it in a way that emphasized it: “When are you gonna tell your people?” To which Joab legitimately, in response, says, “Wait a minute! I didn’t start this thing. You’re the one who came up with the competition.” And that’s exactly what he says: “And Joab said, ‘As God lives, if you hadn’t opened your big mouth, this thing would never have happened. If you hadn’t suggested the competition, then things would never have reached such a stage. You started it with your suggestion! And now you want to stop what should never actually have begun.’” It’s legitimate.

So Joab says, “Blow the trumpet.” He blows the trumpet, “and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, nor did they fight anymore.” Well, it’s a wonderful picture, isn’t it? Can you imagine them looking at each other and going, “Well, I guess we can go home now. This is terrific. I didn’t know how that was going to end.” They said to each other, “Well, when the trumpet blows, that’s when we stop.” And so they stopped.

Homeward Bound

And then, from 29–32, it’s homeward bound—which is a good note on which to finish, right around 6:52. Homeward bound: “Abner and his men went all that night through the Arabah. [And] they crossed the Jordan, and marching the whole morning, they came to Mahanaim,” about which you know, because I told you—Genesis 32, verse 2, verse 7, verse 10, the two camps, the division. And here he is. By his aggression, by his unwillingness to acknowledge David as king, by his desire to oppose God and the rule of God, he sets up these camps, which will be a feature, as we see, in the story as it goes on.

See, actually, what becomes very, very clear is that Israel—the people of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel—could only be united when they came under their true king. And we have to wait to chapter 5 till we get there. But that’s actually it. They could only be united when they came under their true king. In fact, it is equally true to say that the place of unity for the people of God is only found in coming under God’s King, Jesus. This is the only place of unity in our whole world.

The only comprehensive global design for unity that I can see at the moment, on the horizon in our world, is the religious agenda in relationship to green things, to ecology, and to the issues of the destruction of the planet. It is quite fascinating to realize that this consideration is able to cross oceans, nations, political systems, territories, genders, and affiliations, so the people then can unite on the basis of the worshiping of that which is very counter to the worship of the true and living God. “They began to worship the creation rather than the Creator.”[9] Under the disguise of being really smart, they became really foolish—and suddenly, united the world stands: “We disagreed about this political system and that one, but we can do this.” The devil’s activity in the world is subterfuge from start to finish. He’s never had an original idea in his life. All he does is mimic the plan of God—the plan of God to unite all things in heaven and on earth underneath the rule of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

You see, David becomes the king in Hebron. Do you think he received the welcome that he deserved? Do you? Will you think about it? How he started out. How he is the unlikely one set apart by Samuel. How he is able to go out and show the manifest power of God in the defeat of Goliath. How the songs are sung about him. How he stands still in the line of supporting the king, even though the king is trying to kill him. And now he finally—the men of Judah come to him, and they say, “Okay, here we go. We are ratifying what happened in secret, now in public. And there’s another stage still to come.” Do you think he received a welcome? No, not for a moment! No, that should make you say to yourself: “Oh, but ‘he came [to] his own, and his own received him not.’”[10] He came to Israel. And the tribes lined up under Ish-bosheth to stand against God’s anointed king.

The story, incidentally, of the development of the history of the church may be understood in these terms too. I listened to a very fine address by a Roman Catholic priest just yesterday, in order to help me in my life. And it was a political address, and it was jolly good. And I was paying very careful attention. And he explained at one point that the organization and the commitment of the Church runs all the way, he says, from Pope Pius IX to Benedict. I said to myself, “Oh! So what happened to Francis?” Exactly what happened to him.

God’s work is to bring his kingdom. And when he does, then and only then will we know the peace for which each of us longs.

Oh, you see, do not be naive. The narrator is making a very strong and straightforward point by, in all the things that have happened, he finally concludes by telling us about Asahel once again, who was buried “in the tomb of his father, which [is] at Bethlehem.” Now, again, we’ve said these places are important. “There are places I’ll remember all my life.”[11] And, of course, here we are in Bethlehem. It was in Bethlehem that David had been born. It was in Bethlehem, actually, that Ruth was there. It was in Bethlehem that he had been anointed by Samuel. And what we’re actually discovering here—and Woodhouse has helped me immensely by this observation. He says what is being displayed here is this fact: that if you want to be on the right side of history, despite all of the hopelessness of the events described, you need to know the significance of Bethlehem.[12]

“Unto us a child is born, and unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government there will be no end.”[13] His government will not crumble like two hundred years of democracy. It cannot. It cannot. His kingdom cannot fail. He “rules o’er earth and heav’n.”[14] That is why Christian people are supposed to be, in the midst of all of this stuff, unique in their perspective. Of course we have political views. Of course we have deep-seated concerns. I could run through the whole thing for you tonight, bore you half to death, annoy many of you, make some of jump up in your seats and clap. But that is no help to anybody. No! Because we need to realize that our gaze needs to be on Christ.

The kingdom of God comes first in the person of Jesus, then through the preaching of the gospel throughout the world, and then and only then, universally and visually, in the return of Jesus Christ. And in the meantime, the fact is we are not good enough, wise enough, strong enough to make human communities work as we believe they should. I don’t care which side you go at it. We are not by nature wise enough, strong enough, good enough to make communities work as we believe they should. Why? Because we’re sinful.

So, if you want to talk in terms of fiscal policy, and on this side of fiscal policy is your conviction about the freedom of enterprise and everything else, and on the other side it is your conviction that health care ought to be the provision of the government, that people have a right to that and it should be something that the government provides—so you’ve got those two views. What’s the problem? They’re on both sides. Man exploits his fellow man—on both sides! Why? Because we’re not good enough, wise enough, strong enough to create the communities the way they should be.

So someone says, “Well, what are you saying then, Begg? Are you saying that we just give it up, forget it?” No! Of course not! We press on. We take it seriously. I stood for an hour and a half to vote, for goodness’ sake, with my wife on a blooming trolley, meeting people all around: “How are you doing?” “I’m pretty good.” “What happened to your leg?” “Oh, what happened to my leg?” I met a whole ton of people just so that I could finally get in that booth, so that I could mark those things. If you don’t know what a political animal I am, you don’t know me. But this is not my place. This is not my place.

No, we press on, we take the opportunity, in the awareness of the fact that our best human efforts inevitability achieve less than what we hope for. And God’s work is to bring his kingdom. And when he does, then and only then will we know the peace for which each of us longs. And the peace, actually, for which our world longs, and the unity for which our world longs, is only to be found not in a political system but under the kingly reign of Christ. Only when we remember and understand Bethlehem will we then be able to say, “Your kingdom come.”[15]

[1] Ephesians 1:9–10 (ESV).

[2] John Calvin, “The Dreadful ‘Game’ of War,” in Sermons on 2 Samuel: Chapters 1–13, trans. Douglas Kelly (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 61.

[3] Acts 9:4 (paraphrased).

[4] John Adams to Massachusetts Militia, Quincy, October 11, 1798, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-3102.

[5] See Philippians 3:20.

[6] See 1 Samuel 26:8.

[7] 1 Samuel 12:16n (ESV).

[8] See 2 Chronicles 26:15–16.

[9] Romans 1:25 (paraphrased).

[10] John 1:11 (KJV).

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

[12] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 96.

[13] Isaiah 9:6–7 (paraphrased).

[14] Charles Wesley, “Rejoice, the Lord Is King” (1744).

[15] Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2 (ESV).

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.