David’s Last Words
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David’s Last Words

2 Samuel 23:1–7  (ID: 3553)

Nearing the end of his life, King David wrote his final words as the “sweet psalmist of Israel.” Yet they were not a chronicle of personal achievements; rather, he prophesied concerning God’s promise to one day send a King who would rule humanity in perfect justice and righteousness. As Alistair Begg explains, God’s preservation of David’s kingdom stands as historical testimony to His covenant. Our hope rests in the promise that Jesus is that perfect King, that He will one day return, and that He will rule and reign forevermore.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel, Volume 9

Epilogue 2 Samuel 21:1–24:25 Series ID: 109019

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn to 2 Samuel and to chapter 23 and to follow along as I read the first seven verses, which will be our passage for this morning. I’m going to assign to each of us the responsibility of memorizing the balance of the chapter before our time tonight so that we’re well ready to work our way through this list. But for now, 2 Samuel 23, beginning at verse 1:

“Now these are the last words of David:

“The oracle of David, the son of Jesse,
 the oracle of the man who was raised on high,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
  the sweet psalmist of Israel:

“‘The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
  his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
  the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
  ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
  like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
  like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

“‘For does not my house stand so with God?
  For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
  ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
  all my help and my desire?
But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,
  for they cannot be taken with the hand;
but the man who touches them
  arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
  and they are utterly consumed with fire.’”


Father, it is because we believe the things that we have just sung about the Word of God, the Bible, that we turn to it now, asking for the help of the Holy Spirit to speak and to hear in a way that is true to the Scriptures and points us unreservedly to the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Well, a great deal has elapsed since the day that Samuel appeared at the house of Jesse in order to let Jesse know that God had informed Samuel the prophet that God had decided to take a king for himself from the house of Jesse. Jesse, of course, had a number of sons, and the youngest of them, David, was fetched from the responsibilities of a routine day as one looking after the sheep, and coming out of the fields, he arrived. We were introduced to him way back at the beginning of our studies, a long time ago now, and we had a picture of him. He was a picture of health. We’re told in the text that he was bright-eyed and that he was a handsome fellow.[1]

And he was then in turn anointed, and we were told on that occasion that the Spirit of God “rushed upon” him.[2] And indeed, the story of David’s existence is directly tied to all that had not only happened on that day but all that God had chosen to do with him and through him since that day. And that’s why we’ve been following his story. We’ve seen him at his best; we’ve seen him at his worst. We have paused and been amazed, inspired by him on account of his leadership and his faithfulness, and then, at the same time, we had to shake our heads and be depressed and disappointed by his failings.

And now, as the end draws near, as you can see here from our text, it’s actually quite fitting that his final words, at least the final words as we see them here, come in the form of a song or in the form of a poem. Because, again, if you go all the way back to the beginning, we essentially began this story with the song of Hannah. And Hannah, giving voice to the work of the Spirit of God within her, said these words: “The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and [great glory to] his anointed.”[3]

So in other words, there is a prophetic word there. She could never know just all that that meant, who it would mean, who would be involved, and so on. But she spoke as from the Lord. And, in turn, David—who, of course, was the focus of that prophecy—receives a prophecy that we might say is of his very own, when Nathan comes and explains to David that God has a purpose that through the lineage of David, there will be one who sits on the throne of David, and his kingdom will never fail, and it will last forever and ever. That’s 2 Samuel 7. “Your house,” says the prophet, “and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”[4]

This King who is promised through the line of David is one who will embody all that makes it possible for the world to be the way that God originally intended it.

Now, that’s quite a while ago, because he was thirty when he became king. It’s now towards the end of his life, so we know that he’s at least in the region of seventy. Some of us are in the region of seventy, and we meet others who are in that similar demographic, some who are joyful souls and others with whom you certainly would not want to go on vacation—the latter category because they have now decided that the reason for their continued existence is in looking backwards, constantly going back either to great glory days (“It was a terrific time back then,” “If you’d only lived then…” “If you’d only known that then…”) or, even worse, going back to failures and disappointments and “Oh, goodness gracious! Could you please stop talking?” And then the other person, who’s always looking forward, full of anticipation, recognizing that foundations have been laid. There have been very many twists and turns on the journey of life, and yet here they are at this point in life, and they’re looking forward. They’re saying, “Now what is before us?” And essentially, that is what David is doing here.

Now, someone may immediately say, “Well, that’s very interesting, Alistair, but after all, that was a long, long time ago. We’re talking about thousands of years ago, and I’m glad that you’re excited about the fact that there was an ancient king of Israel who was feeling the way that you say he was feeling, but you don’t understand. I’m only seventeen years old,” or “I’m only twenty-six,” or whatever it is. “I’ve got a lifetime in front of me.” Or I might only be ten, and you’re saying, “What difference does it make what was happening to David, the king of Israel, for me as a twelve-year-old girl living in Cleveland, Ohio?” Well, I’m going to tell you. I’m going to tell you.

Here’s what I’m going to tell you: that the story of King David and the promise that was made to King David is the answer to your life —is the answer to your ten-year-old life, your twenty-year-old life, your fifty-, sixty-, ninety-five-year-old life. The promise that was made to King David is the hope for the world. The entire world! Not just Ohio. Not just America. The entire world! Because the story of the kingdom is the truth of the gospel. It is the fact that this King who is promised through the line of David is one who will embody all that makes it possible for the world to be the way that God originally intended it.  Because we know that when God made it, it was really good. In fact, he says that: everything he made was good.[5] But it’s not good now, is it? It’s broken. It’s messy. It’s filled with disappointments, pain. People have to go to hospital. Folks get dementia. Things are upside down. And as a result, people say, “Is there any way that this could be fixed? Is there any hope? Is there any hope in the entire world?” And so here you find that the answer to that longing, which is an understandable longing, is found here, in 2 Samuel, because it points us to Jesus.

In fact, when we sing in the Christmas carols, we sing it very straightforwardly, don’t we? We have that little couplet: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in [him] tonight.”[6] And we ended with a Christmas carol last Sunday—caught many of you off guard and went home to make sure it wasn’t actually Christmas and you’d been asleep for a long time. But no, we were just making the point. And it’s the same point.

Now, let’s get to the text and to recognize that “these are the last words of David.” Incidentally, we should not necessarily assume that they are literally the last words of David, because, as you will have to see, we need to get to 1 Kings chapter 2 before he actually dies. And he has a number of statements that he makes before he finally dies. So I take it that the way in which this is stated is, if you like, his kind of “This is my last will and testament”—or, as the book of Ecclesiastes ends, the closing verse or two of Ecclesiastes says, “This is the end of the matter. Fear God and keep his commandments.”[7] And so here, David writes, and he is saying, “This is… If you want to understand me, if you want to have a key to make sense of my life, if you want to know these things, then let me help you as I share these words.”

“The oracle of David,” you will notice: “The oracle of David,” “the oracle of the man.” That is a big, bold word. It means a declaration from God. “I am making,” he says, “a declaration from God”—God’s own word from David’s own lips. It’s a great mystery, isn’t it? It’s the mystery, what we refer to as concurrence, or the dual authorship of the Bible: that God speaks, and he speaks as Paul writes his letters or as Luke writes his Gospel or as Amos writes his prophecy and so on, God a hundred percent engaged in the process and Amos—or, in this case, David—a hundred percent engaged in the process. We don’t delay on that.

I have four words. I’ll tell you what they are so you can find out if we’re making progress. The first word is identity, the second word is prophecy, the third word is history, and the final word is destiny. All right?

David’s Identity

Identity. David says, “This is who I am.” “This is who I am.” It’s verse 1. “What would you like us to know about you, David? If we said to you, ‘What should we really know about you?’—we’ve been following your story, and quite a story it has been—what do you want us to know?” Well, here he tells us.

Number one: “I am the son of Jesse.” “I am the son of Jesse.” That doesn’t sound particularly striking, does it? “After all, who was Jesse?” we might find ourselves saying. Well, what he’s actually acknowledging is his humble origin. If they’d had a yearbook in those days, he wouldn’t have had a lot of stuff in his yearbook—I mean, at least, you know, “I looked after sheep. I’m a shepherd.” Probably nobody would have written against his photograph, “Most likely to succeed,” “Most likely to become the king of Judah and Israel.” No! And if someone had written that in, he would have said, “I don’t know where you got that from at all.”

No, he’s from Jesse—which is actually fantastic! I mean, everybody’s from somewhere. But in his case, his lineage, back through the book of Ruth, goes all the way back to Abraham. If you doubt that, then you just read the opening part of Matthew chapter 1. And here at the end of Ruth: “These are the generations of Perez: Perez [the father of] Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab … Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.”[8] And if you go further back—because it starts with Abraham—in actual fact, his genealogy is such that his is the most significant name, after the name of Abraham, in the genealogy that leads to the Lord Jesus himself.

The significance of who I am and what I am is entirely related to God’s plan and to God’s purpose.

Secondly, he says, “I was raised on high.” “Raised on high.” Yes, he was. He was the keeper of the sheep, and now he found himself on the throne of Judah and Israel. If you remember—and I would be surprised if you do; I had to look for it myself. But I just thought in my mind when I read this, “who was raised on high”—it took me back to 2 Samuel and to chapter 2, where David inquires of the Lord, “Shall I go up?” And the Lord says to him, “Go up.”[9] And up he goes. And we read that “David became greater and greater.”[10] He “knew … the Lord had established him.”[11] And he says, “Here’s the deal: I’m the son of Jesse, but I am the man who has been raised on high.”

Thirdly, “I am the anointed of the God of Jacob.” You can go in your mind’s eye to that day, 1 Samuel chapter 16, when he was anointed by Samuel. “The God of Jacob.” Jacob’s name was also Israel. In other words, he’s the father of the nation. That’s very significant. This is what the word to Jacob was from God—Genesis 35: “A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.”[12] That was the promise that was made to Jacob. And now he says, “And I was anointed in the name of the father of the nation. I was anointed in the name of Jacob himself.” In other words, his significance is not on account of any kind of human achievement, but his significance is on account of a divine appointment. The significance of who I am and what I am is entirely related to God’s plan and to God’s purpose.

And fourthly, he says, “And I am the sweet psalmist of Israel,” or “I am,” if you like, “the hero of Israel’s songs,” or “the focus of Israel’s songs.” Because he was, wasn’t he? That was one of the reasons that Saul was so annoyed with him: because they started to sing David’s name, and there was testimony to the fact that Saul had slain his thousands but that David had slain his tens of thousands.[13] And that rankled him, and understandably so. And he was, actually, at the very heart of the songs and psalms that we still use to this day. “I write the songs that make the maidens dance. I write the songs that make the soldiers brave. I am David, and I write the songs.” That’s what he’s saying. “That’s my identity. This is my dad. I was nothing. I got raised up. I was anointed by God. And people sang a lot of songs, many of them that I wrote, and most of them I feature in.”

David’s Prophecy

That’s identity. Now, secondly, we go from there to prophecy. Notice verse 2: “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me.” “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.”

Now, my words are carried at the moment to you by my breath. If I could not breathe, I could not form words, and I could not verbalize them in a way that you could hear them. So when David speaks, he says it is by the breath of the Lord. It is the Lord’s word that is on David’s tongue. So at a very crass level, he’s saying, “I didn’t make this stuff up. This is not an invention of my imagination. No, I am actually addressing you. This is the very oracle of God. And this, then, is the word of God.”

Now, of course, we are familiar with this. The beginning of the book of Hebrews, the writer starts off, you know, “You know that in the past, in many and various ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets”[14]—those whom God had entrusted with the responsibility of speaking his word. When Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, he points out to the listeners that this is the role that David fulfilled. How struck they must have been by that! Acts 2:29: “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence [that] the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne”—in other words, he was trusting the promise of 2 Samuel 7—knowing that (listen to this), “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.” What is Peter talking about there? He’s talking about the Sixteenth Psalm, which ends, “In your presence there is fullness of joy, [and] at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[15]

David, in a prophetic manner, writes these words, which Peter then says, “You’ve got to understand that what he was on about there, whether he fully grasped it or not, was the fact that there was going to be one who would come who would actually achieve that of which it speaks.” “He will not abandon me to decay. He will not let his holy one see corruption.”[16] Who has not been abandoned to decay and to corruption? The Lord Jesus Christ.

When Peter finally writes his second letter, and still on this theme of the prophetic ministry, he makes it clear: “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”[17] Remember, it says, “And he was anointed, and from that day the Spirit of God rushed upon him.”

So the important point is simply this: that all of the authority lies not in the speaker but in the source. In the source! There is no reason in the entire universe why any one of you would pay any attention to me or to any of my colleagues, save for a shared conviction that you prayerfully hope and trust that what we come here to share with you is not our imagination or our supposed intellect or our grasp of things but to try and serve the Word of God, so that, in a way that is distinct from David and yet in a way is in concurrence with David, that the very words that we have to offer are the words of God himself. Why are they the words of God? They’ve been kept for us in the Bible. We can’t live by bread alone but only by the word that proceeds from the mouth of God.[18] “For ever, O Lord,” the psalmist writes, “[your] word is settled in heaven.”[19] And that, of course, is what he’s saying here: “The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me…” The word of the Lord proves true.

That brings us, then, to the word itself. What is this word that is spoken? Well, there it is, in just a couplet:

When one rules justly over men,
 ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light.

Now, I spent a long time on this this week. In fact, I got stuck. All afternoon Thursday, I couldn’t get past this. Because I said to myself, “I wonder if there is another way of this being translated.” And I’ll tell you what the dilemma was. If you read that:

When one rules justly over men,
 ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like [a] morning light.

Okay. So it just reads like a proverbial statement, doesn’t it? Like, if there is anybody who fits this bill, then this is what you can expect—which, of course, is, in a sense, true. But is that the word of prophecy—just a sort of general statement about “If justice rules, then it will be a nice day in the universe”? Is that what we’re dealing with here?

Well, I went to the Hebrew—which is difficult for me, but nevertheless. Keil and Delitzsch—and if you have the commentary, you can check it yourself—Keil and Delitzsch, when I went to it, they said the difficulty with this little section here is its “enigmatical brevity.”[20] Its “enigmatical brevity.” Well, that kept me for about fifteen minutes, just figuring out what an “enigmatical brevity” might actually be. And what they were saying was, in the original Hebrew, in order to give it some kind of syntax that is readable in English, certain parts have to be assumed. For example, I can show you later on, down in verse 6, where it says, “But worthless men,” there’s no “men” in Hebrew. It’s simply the word “worthlessness”: “But worthlessness…” But in order for it to be translated in a way that is absorbable by us, that happens.

So I said, “Okay, then, Keil and Delitzsch, what is your translation of this?” This is their translation: so, “A ruler over the human race will arise”—when one rules justly. “A ruler over the human race while arise, a just ruler, and will exercise his dominion in the spirit of the fear of God.”[21] Now I said, “That’s beginning to make sense.” What he’s prophesying here is not just a statement about “If anybody does a good job being a king, then it’s a nice afternoon.” No. This is the last word of David. This is the summation of the matter. He didn’t get to this point in his life and just give us a few proverbs. No, what is he pointing to? Well, he’s pointing to the ruler, and the ruler… And it says here “rules justly over men.” Actually, that in Hebrew is “rules justly over adam,” adam being humanity, manhood. So it is a ruler who rules over humanity.

Okay. Who rules over humanity, so far? Right. Not David. He rules over Judea, he rules over Israel, and there’s rulers all around, in Egypt and everywhere else. But no, no, no. No, there’s a ruler who rules over humanity. And this ruler who rules over humanity will do so justly, executing justice and righteousness. And the dominion that he has will be in full accord with God’s rule: “ruling in the fear of God.” “I delight to do your will, O … God.”[22] Jesus says, “The words that I speak are not my own words, but they’re the words that my Father has given me to speak to you.”[23]

No, he anticipates a day when there will be one who can rule over humanity, have dominion over the ends of the earth, be the one who presides over a kingdom that will never come to an end, that transcends time, transcends distance, nationhood, gender, everything. That’s why I said to you at the beginning, the answer to your life is actually in this: that a King who will come… What will it be like? It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? And so he says in verse 4, “Well, let me give you an inkling of what it will be like: he dawns on them like the morning light.” “Like the morning light.” The hymn writer picked up on this and wrote a hymn that begins,

I am waiting for the dawning
Of the bright and blessed day
When the darksome night of sorrow
Shall have vanished far away—
When forever with the Savior,
Far beyond [the] vale of tears,
I [will] swell the song of [gladness]
[In those] everlasting years.[24]

Presumably, this is where he got it from. Because when he rules and when he reigns, it will be like a morning like you’ve never seen a morning.

I love the mornings! Do you love the mornings? I mean, every time you have a morning, you know you’re still alive. That’s the first thing. You might be walking a little slower than you did yesterday, but you suddenly say, “Oh, I’m alive! Good! Here we go. We’ve got a chance!” Especially if it’s still dark, and then you can wait a little. You can take your coffee and sit and wait. And then the dawn comes up: “[Oh] what a morning, gloriously bright, with the dawning of hope in Jerusalem,”[25] remember? The Easter song. That’s what David says it’s going to be like. It’ll be a dawn like you’ve never seen a dawn.

Secondly, it will be “like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning.” In other words, it will be warm. Warm! You can take the bins down in your pajamas. You can’t do that in November or December. Well, you can, but you shouldn’t. No, it’s going to be like living in South Carolina or something, only better.

And when the rain comes, the rain will make “grass to sprout from the earth,” without a hint of thorns and thistles. Now, I like grass. But I don’t like crabgrass. Crabgrass is starting to really annoy me. Because it sticks up taller than all the rest of your grass. And even when you go and get it, handpick it like you’ve got an attention disorder, and you pick it, and you go to bed, and you get up—and it’s back! It’s like “Nah, nah, nah, nah,” everywhere. Is there ever going to be just a perfect lawn? Everywhere it looks like Augusta National? It’ll make Augusta National look like a cabbage patch when the rain comes and the sprouts arrive. It’s a prophecy!

I was driving behind a car the other day. It had “Coexist” on it. It had something about Muhammad. It had about gender. It had… I don’t know what it had on it. But I was so excited to get up close to it so I could, you know, just expand my categories. And I actually… Sue was in the car, and I said to her, “Honey, you know, this is all answered—all, every longing here—is answered in King Jesus.” There’s coexistence. There’s no racial discrimination. There’s no gender dysphoria. When we bow our knees before the King, all for which humanity longs is met in him. This is a prophecy. This is going to happen. “Well, we’re destroying the planet.” Okay, don’t destroy it. But don’t worry. ’Cause there’s a new heaven and there’s a new earth in which dwells righteousness.[26]

David’s History

Thirdly, history. History in what sense? Well, I wrote in my notes, “See now what God has done.” You notice what he does here in verse 5? Having given this prophetic statement, he says, “Now, coming back to the present, doesn’t my house stand so with God?” In other words, what he’s doing here is he’s saying that the certainty of the ruler who is to come, about whom he has just given a prophetic word, is supported by the existence of David’s present-tense experience as king over Israel. The existence of the dynasty of David is a historical point along the journey that says, “See what he did with David. And what he was doing with David was just a foreshadowing of what he’s going to do.” Actually, it works the other way around as well: that what he’s going to do is what gives significance to David.

What is he doing with David? Well, he’s making a name for him. He’s giving victory to him. David is administering justice and equity to all the people.[27] That’s back in chapter 8, remember—the distinction again. It said, “David was a good guy. He was doing this.” But it was inadequate, wasn’t it? That’s why I began as I began: we’ve seen him at his highs, but we’ve seen him at his lows. It didn’t last. He wasn’t able to see it through. But nevertheless, it provided historical testimony to the promise of God.

Our foolish choices and our sinful disobedience have not removed us from the unfolding purposes of God.

And that promise is tied to this “everlasting covenant.” He says,

For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
 ordered in all things and secure.
… Will he not cause to prosper
 all my help and [all] my desire?

In other words, “This has begun with the initiative of God,” he says. “It is God who reached out to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees and called him to himself. It is God who sent Samuel to my house. It is God who has anointed me and put me in this position. He can’t have brought me thus far just to dump me.” “Well, you made some really bad moves, David.” Yes. So on what basis does he have confidence that his bad moves have not taken him out of the running? The same basis that you and I have for confidence that our foolish choices and our sinful disobedience has not removed us from the unfolding purposes of God.

You remember Nathan comes to him, and he says, “Your sin is forgiven.”[28] “Your sin is forgiven.” He is not here saying, “You know, since I’ve done a terrific job, it’s no wonder that I have enjoyed the privileged position that is mine as the king.” No, he’s acknowledging the fact that any good stuff he really did he did on account of God’s amazing grace, and the keeping power of God is in an everlasting covenant. “He cannot have taught us to trust in his name and thus far have brought us to leave us in shame.”[29]

“Will he not cause to prosper all my help and [all] my desire?” I think David would have been happy with Augustus Toplady’s hymn, which reads in part,

The work which his goodness began
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is [Yes] and Amen
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below [and] above
Can make him his purpose forgo
Or sever my soul from his love.[30]

The covenant is an everlasting covenant, and the kingdom is forever. If you are in Christ today, you know this. You don’t have to go out and get yourself a dandelion and blow on it and ask the question—you know, “He loves me, He loves me not. I’m in, I’m out.”

Are you living your life that way? Then you have never understood the finished work of Jesus Christ. He never saved you because you were so good, and he doesn’t keep you on account of your being good. Goodness gracious, if everybody were to know every evil thought that was in my heart, you’d never listen to me preach. And if I were to know the thoughts of your cumulative hearts, I’d never show up on a Sunday. It would be beyond possibility, wouldn’t it? Unless the God who saves is the God who keeps—all my longings met in him, all my desires; all my fears, all my failures swallowed up by his amazing grace. That’s what he’s saying. And that’s his present history. And that’s the history of grace.

Our Destiny

Finally, destiny. Destiny. Eternal life or eternal punishment. You see, this is unavoidable. The promise of the kingdom comes with an unavoidable warning. Worthlessness is the enemy of righteousness. Opposition to the King is ultimately both worthless and hopeless. The people say, “Well, I don’t want to believe these things about Jesus. I want to believe what I want to believe and live my life as I choose to live it, and I am an autonomous self, you know.” That’s an understandable reaction, because it’s the sinful reaction of all of us by nature. We live in darkness. We live in the realm of self-assertiveness. We are without God, and we are without hope in the world.[31]

You see, what is true for humanity as a whole is true for us as individuals. You know, how is a ten-year-old boy going to make his journey through life? How is a teenage girl going to manage her way through this? Well, you see, that’s children’s ministry, isn’t it? That’s Midnight Madness. That’s what we’re talking about. Jesus is the King.

You say, “Well, I know that. I’ve heard that so many times. But I just… I didn’t think I had to do anything about it. I thought I was in on my…” You know, like when people go to the club, and they sign my number. It’s like, “Does anybody pay for this?” Uh, yeah. I do! And some of you are operating on that basis: “Well, my dad, he’s good. He goes to the Bible study. And my mom, she’s in children’s ministry. I guess I’m getting a free pass.” No, you’re not. You need to actually bow your knee to Jesus, the King, however young you are, however old you are, however much time you’ve got left in your life. Because either in bowing to Jesus our lives are filled with hope, or in rejecting Jesus our lives are ultimately worthless.

Some of you are saying, “Well, yeah, but I can get that… You and the Old Testament. I’ve never really understood the Old Testament. I’ve never really liked it, and I’ve always been much more happy with Jesus.” Okay, here’s Jesus: “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’” By nature, we are in darkness. Light is in the Lord. By nature, we are spiritually dead. Life is in the Lord. “‘If anyone hears my words and does[n’t] keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.’”[32]

Either in bowing to Jesus our lives are filled with hope, or in rejecting Jesus our lives are ultimately worthless.

“Oh, there you go, you see? That’s the one we were looking for. That’s the part I like. See, Jesus said he didn’t come to judge the world but to save the world.” Well, just read what he said. It doesn’t mean that judgment won’t eventually come to the people to whom he’s speaking. Judgment will eventually come to all. That’s absolutely certain. What he’s saying is that his first purpose in coming was to save. To save those who rejected him. To save those who said, “No, I’m not going to march in your army.” Isn’t that quite amazing?

And so the inference is clear. We heard it in Hannah’s song: the Judge will come.[33] The Judge will come. One day we will face the Judge, and that Judge whom we will face has come first of all as the Savior. He came to deliver men and women from the judgment. That’s John 3:16. Peter says he has no desire that any one of us should perish.[34] So that means simply this: that we’re on one side or the other. There is no middle ground.

C. S. Lewis got it right, didn’t he, when he said there are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Your will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right then, have it your own way.”[35] That will be the execution of God’s judgment. That’s why we have the King set before us now, so that we may fall at his feet and embrace him as a Savior, so that on the day when we face him, we may do so unashamed, clothed in the righteousness that alone provides.

Hope-filled or hopeless?

Father, thank you that your Word is clear. Any cloudiness is on our part. Even the parts that we don’t really want to pay much attention to is just unashamedly clear. And we thank you that it does set before us a broad road, a narrow road. Jesus speaks about sheep. He speaks about goats. It’s unpalatable in our day. And only the Bible is going to help us with this, and it is to the Bible we look. Fulfill your purposes in us and through us, we pray, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

[1] See 1 Samuel 16:12.

[2] 1 Samuel 16:13 (ESV).

[3] 1 Samuel 2:10 (ESV).

[4] 2 Samuel 7:16 (ESV).

[5] See Genesis 1:31.

[6] Phillips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (1868).

[7] Ecclesiastes 12:13 (paraphrased).

[8] Ruth 4:18–22 (ESV).

[9] 2 Samuel 2:1 (ESV).

[10] 2 Samuel 5:10 (ESV).

[11] 2 Samuel 5:12 (ESV).

[12] Genesis 35:11 (ESV).

[13] See 1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11; 29:5.

[14] Hebrews 1:1 (paraphrased).

[15] Psalm 16:11 (ESV).

[16] Psalm 16:10 (paraphrased). See also Acts 2:27.

[17] 2 Peter 1:21 (ESV).

[18] See Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4.

[19] Psalm 119:89 (KJV).

[20] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 2, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 695.

[21] Keil and Delitzsch, 695.

[22] Psalm 40:8 (ESV).

[23] John 12:49 (paraphrased).

[24] Samuel Trevor Francis, “I Am Waiting for the Dawning” (ca. 1902).

[25] Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, “See What a Morning (Resurrection Hymn)” (2003).

[26] See 2 Peter 3:13.

[27] See 2 Samuel 8:15.

[28] 2 Samuel 12:13 (paraphrased).

[29] John Newton, “Begone, Unbelief” (1779). Lyrics lightly altered.

[30] Augustus M. Toplady, “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” (1771).

[31] See Ephesians 2:12.

[32] John 12:44–47 (ESV).

[33] See 1 Samuel 2:10.

[34] See 2 Peter 3:9.

[35] C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (1945), chap. 9.

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.