Death of the King — Part One
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Death of the King — Part One

From Series: A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel, Volume 9

1 Kings 2:1-4  (ID: 3561)

God promised that a king from David’s line would reign eternally; and so, facing imminent death, David established his son Solomon as his successor. Aware of his own failings but confident in the Lord's promises, David advised Solomon to walk in God’s ways. The Lord’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on our obedience, teaches Alistair Begg—but the enjoyment of His blessings does. Any success, whether great or small, always comes by God’s grace alone.


Sermon Transcript: Print

First Kings 2:1:

“When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.”

“‘Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace. But deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for with such loyalty they met me when I fled from Absalom your brother. And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, “I will not put you to death with the sword.” Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.’

“Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.”

Amen.

Father, what we know not, teach us; what we have not, give us; what we are not, make us, for your Son’s sake. Amen.

Well, I read from the passage which is the focus not only of this morning but, all being well, of this evening too.

Now, we come to this passage of Scripture on a day the memory of which has been etched into our minds now for quite a long time, hasn’t it, because of the terrorist attack which took place in 2001. And although time has passed since then, we recognize that there are those—some of us perhaps aware of them personally—whose lives were touched and changed forever as a result of all that took place then. And so it’s an occasion for us to recognize that we enter into their suffering and into their sadness and to share with them in moments of remembrance. If you’ve ever gone there to the city and gone to that amazing remembrance… I was going to call it a “thing,” but I don’t know; it’s amazing, and it’s well worth a visit.

At the same time, this morning, we are joining literally millions of people around the world who are mourning, as I am, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. If you have been alert to things, then you know that the media, and certainly in the United Kingdom, has been flooded with material acknowledging her service over the last seventy years to the nation—not simply acknowledging the longevity of it but also paying tribute to her life and to her character. And the journalists—even those who may like to avoid this aspect of her life—have been unable to do so, because when they have asked various people how we are to account for her unswerving devotion, for her kindness, for the fact that she thought the best of people and never thought the worst of them, for her loyalty to her cause, for her respect, for her love, for her kindness, the only answer that underpins all of this is her believing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Her Majesty went to church often twice on Sunday: first on her own in the early hours of the morning, and then again, a second time, in the company of the public, so that they might know, too, that she worshipped with them. She read her Bible. She said her prayers on her knees. There was only person to whom she referred as “Your Majesty”—namely, the King, the Lord Jesus Christ. In her Christmas address some years ago now, she says, “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. … I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”

It just seems somehow appropriate that on this particular Sunday, as we deal with the death of a king, it comes on the heels of dealing with the death of the Queen. We’re way back—way, way back—around 970 BC in the events that are described here. They’re certainly not immediate to us. We never met him. We never heard from him. It’s long ago and far away. And some people would say, “Well, I don’t know why you would spend time with such an ancient story, so far removed from us geographically and historically or chronologically.” And of course, we know the answer to that now, because we’ve said it again and again: that the things that were written in the past were recorded for us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.[1] And we read our Bibles not in a vacuum. We don’t read our Bibles in isolation from the rest of life as it goes on.

And so, as I’ve spent this week reading in 1 Kings, I’ve been reading 1 Kings while I’ve been thinking about the death of the Queen. And what has struck me more than anything else is the vast disparity, the contrast, between the closing scenes of Elizabeth’s life and the closing scenes of King David’s life. And it is to these closing scenes that we come in chapter 2. This study today serves as giving closure to a series which began for some of us on the thirteenth of January in 2019. You are very patient people! And I decided that rather than begin at the first verse of 1 Kings and work up to 2:12, that I wouldn’t do that, for a number of reasons—partly because I have been immediately drawn in to the narrative, and I thought, “Oh no, this may start off another really long series, and who knows if any of us will be left by the time we finish that one? So let’s just not do that,” I said to myself.

In fact, it occurred to me in the middle of the night during the week, because I was laboring over it, and I thought, “Golly, look how long the first chapter is.” And then I woke up in the night, and something said to me, “You don’t have to do the first chapter.” I said, “That’s right. Of course I don’t! That’s good.” Then I went back to sleep. But I do have to do the first twelve verses of chapter 2, and that is a challenge all of its own.

It’s going to be important that you do some homework on this—that is, that you read for yourselves chapter 1. Because chapter 1 comes before chapter 2. And I can’t assume that you’ve been reading chapter 1. It would be surprising if you had. It’s possible. But nevertheless, if you backfill, if you like, then you will be able to understand better what we’re doing today. I will make mention of it, and recognizing with you that we’re not simply dealing with the death of King David, but we’re dealing with the end of an era. It’s the end of an era. Things were never going to be the same again. King David was the great king of Israel—the greatest of all the kings of Israel, without question. (And one could argue very similarly in relationship to the contemporary monarchy in the UK. We’ll leave that aside.) But it’s important to recognize that.

What you actually have in the entire story of the books of Kings is the story of the rise and fall of a whole succession of kings and kingdoms—that just in the same way as Saul’s kingdom collapsed, as David’s kingdom was impacted, so Solomon in relatively short order reigns over a kingdom that collapses around him. And the story remains throughout. And what is quite striking as you read through the account of the rise and fall of different ones is the fact that it really is the story of life itself. It’s an indication—in fact, it teaches us to see, if you like, human power and politics for what they really are. They’re fragile. The transitions of leadership, whether it’s presidents and kings or whoever it might be—as you review history, as you look over the landscape of the future, as you try and anticipate it, you realize, “I don’t know.”

And so the book of Kings is here to remind us that even though these kingdoms collapsed, even though the British Empire went away, even though the Soviet Union collapsed (only to reemerge in faint fashion), even though the Roman civilization and the Greek civilization went away, and even though the American civilization is on its knees, there is a King. There is a King. And so that’s what it’s doing for us. It’s reminding us of this—and nothing more salutary, I suppose, than this record of the time for David’s death. David died and was buried, in contrast to Jesus, who died and was buried and rose to life.

David’s Death

Now, I’ve given myself a few headings. I know you don’t pay much attention to them, but I’ll tell you what they are. First of all, I just simply wrote down, “David’s time to die.” You say, “Well, that’s not exactly brilliant. It says that right there, doesn’t it?” That’s why I wrote it down, smarty-pants. “David’s time to die drew near.”

Now, we saw the way in which the writer of 2 Samuel depicted the end of David’s life. He decides not to give us this picture. He decides to end the story of 2 Samuel, the narrative which has run all the way through, with a picture of David building an altar, sacrificing to God, and essentially looking out over the horizon. That’s his close. And we studied that in some fashion. But then you turn just one page, and we’re introduced to a very different picture. Now he is—in 1 Kings 1:1—he is “old and advanced in years.” I’ll leave you to read that; it’s an intriguing beginning in the first four verses. Not only is he old, but he is cold. That’s what it says: he’s cold. Why is it that old people are always cold? The blood is thinning? Is that it? Thank you. Thank you, doctor. No, that’s good. No, but I mean, it’s true, isn’t it? People say, “Oh, I’m blooming freezing in here.” You’re like, “No, it’s not that cold.” Why do you put blankets on old ladies’ knees? What is this? He’s old, and he’s cold.

They come up with a solution. I’ll leave you to read the story. They said, “Maybe we can get a girl to snuggle him and kind of revive him.” But it’s a tragedy. It really is. He’s incapable of being stirred or cheered by the services of a beautiful young woman. He’s decrepit. I don’t think it’s telling us that he’s unable to take advantages of the possibilities because it would be immoral. I think it was because it was impossible. He’s tumbling into ruin. He’s a picture of dealing with the indignities of old age. When you read the chapter, you find that he’s out of touch. He doesn’t really know what’s going on within the walls of the palace. He’s caught off guard by the stories that are told of him. But he’s very clear about what’s happening. Look at verse 2: “I am about to go the way of all the earth.”

So, here we have him. He looks like a tired old man in charge of nothing. And we’re supposed to say, “Well, if that’s the case, what’s going to become of the promise? What about that amazing promise that there was going to be one who would sit on the throne of David forever and ever, one of David’s greater sons? Was it this next one who’s up?” You see, that’s the questions that are raised. But the picture is a solemn picture—a picture of frailty, a picture of finality. David knows, ’cause he wrote it: “My times are in your hand[s].”[2]

People like you and me, who live our lives in the fear of death, may find in Jesus the only answer to death—namely, the forgiveness of our sins, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of the promises of God’s Word.

I want to pause for a moment and say something about death, if I may. We live at a time in history, and not least of all after this COVID period, where it would seem to me that we no longer feel comfortable actually using the word, the d-word, death. Death is dealt with by a succession of euphemisms that somehow or another tries, if you like, to push away the dreadful reality of what is happening. Some of you are physicians and have to give this news to people—have become very, very good about telling people that they’re about to die without actually telling them they’re about to die.

In the United Kingdom, death is 100 percent certain. Only 40 percent of adults in the United Kingdom have a written will. The fact that we looked at the events of COVID, recoiled from them, and found ourselves virtually overwhelmed by the possibility that the inevitability of it would mean that we would join the number of those who had also died is quite fascinating.

Now, the Christian is supposed to be different from this. The Bible is not squeamish when it talks about death. It deals with it straight on. And of course, why would we be surprised? Because it is only in the Bible that we have the explanation for the existence of death. Romans chapter 5: one man sins, and death enters into the world, and all have sinned, and all die.[3] That’s the origin of death. Death is not a natural process. Don’t buy that story from people who tell you, “Well, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just another phase.” No, it’s not. It is an enemy. It is the worst thing you can possibly face: dying. The Bible says so. It is a punishment for sin.

We also have in the Bible the answer, the antidote to death. Romans 6: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”[4] So by nature, we earn the wages of our rebellion against God. The ultimate punishment is that we die. Into that circumstance comes this amazing news about Jesus, the person who has gone into death bearing the punishment and the curse of sin so that people like you and me, who live our lives in the fear of death, may find in Jesus the only answer to death—namely, the forgiveness of our sins, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of the promises of God’s Word.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I came across a quote from a palliative care physician who said—she said—“We have lost the etiquette that told us how to visit the dying and how to support the bereaved.” We’ve lost the etiquette. We don’t know what to do. And part of it is, of course, just to face it head on. There is “a time to be born, and a time to die.”[5] Some of you are looking at me, going, “When do we get to the good bit here?” Well, really, I’m not sure there even is a good bit. This is the important bit for now.

Listen to the paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 12. I read it in a paraphrase ’cause I know it so well, and so do you, which begins,

Remember your Creator
 in the days of your youth,
before the [time] of trouble come[s],”[6]

and so on and so on. But listen to this paraphrase of it. I think you’ll find it quite striking:

In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.
Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.
The shades are pulled down on the world.
You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.
The hum of the household fades away.
You are wakened now by bird-song.
Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.
Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.
Your hair turns apple-blossom white,
Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.
Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest,
While your friends make plans for your funeral.

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.[7]

“When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth.’”

David’s Command

So, from his death to his command. He commands Solomon, or he charges Solomon. This, if you like, is his final will and testament. There’s two parts to it. The first part we deal with now. We won’t get beyond the fourth verse if we get that far, and the second half of it is arguably harder than the first. But it is at least straightforward and clear.

He has been, as we’ve said, unsure of things going on around him. When you read your homework, you will discover that his son Adonijah had made a grasp for the throne. He had set himself up. He was the kind of kid that was never really challenged by David. In fact, the text tells us in chapter 1 that “his father had never … displeased him”[8] on any occasion. He never, ever said to him, said, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing? And why are you doing that?” He didn’t do that. Adonijah was spoiled, he was handsome, and he was ambitious. And as soon as he sees that his father is about to fade out, he steps forward, just like his brother Absalom. He says, “I’ll be the king of this place.” Fascinating: David misses it. It takes Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan to combine and go to him and say, “Do you have the slightest idea what is going on here?” And the answer is “No.” “Well, are you going to do something about it?” Bless him, he gets up, and he steps up, and he deals with it.

And now, having established Solomon as essentially his coregent… That’s in strictest terms what happens. He says, “Solomon is my coregent. As soon as I die…” I almost used a euphemism. I almost said “kick the bucket.” That would not have been good. So, “As soon as I die, boom: you’re the man.” Just like she died: “The Queen is dead. Long live the King.” That’s how it’s going to be: “The King is dead. Long live the King.”

And so he says—to himself, if you like—“As I review my life—successes, failures, ups, downs—I’d have to admit that I haven’t done the best of job as a father. After all, look at Absalom, and now look at Adonijah. But here I am, about to go the way of all flesh, and I’ve got a chance to speak to you, Solomon, and I want to speak clearly to you, and this is what I have to say. Number one—you will see it in the text—“be strong, and show yourself a man.”

Now, he’s not saying here something along the lines of “Make sure that you’re a tough guy”—you know, “Make sure that you are this.” No, because “Be strong,” and “show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God.” “You’re going to have to keep the charge of the Lord your God, and if you’re going to keep the charge of the Lord your God, you’re going to have to be strong.” It’s interesting to me when people tell me, say, “You know, doing things God’s way, that must be so easy—you know, just doing that.” They clearly have never, ever faced up to what the Bible says about living life God’s way as it relates to sexual purity before marriage, as it relates to killing the rising spirit of envy and animosity and jealousy, whatever it might be. No, they don’t know.

“No, you’re going to have to be strong and show yourself a man, Solomon, if you’re going to walk in the way of God. Because that’s what I’m saying to you to do. I want you to make sure that as you seek to display your delight in the law of the Lord, both by obeying its commands and trusting its promises, that you step up. Step up.” You see it in the context of the disaster of Adonijah just immediately before. “I want you to be different.” So he says, “I want you to keep walking in his ways. Keep walking in his ways.”

Essentially, what he’s saying is “I want you to be a Psalm 1 man.” Psalm 1 man. You know Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man
 who walks not in the counsel of the [ungodly],
[or] stands in the way of sinners,
  [or] sits in the seat of [the scoffer];
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
 and on his law he meditates day and night.[9]

That’s what he’s really saying: “I want you to be strong like this—strong in the strength that God provides.” And you will notice he says this is “as it is written in the Law of Moses.” You can go back and read the details of the law of Moses all the way through Deuteronomy and so on. We won’t take time now.

Now, this is quite telling, insofar as Saul’s failure, Saul’s collapse, had been a failure to obey. You can read that in 1 Samuel 13.[10] David was aware of the fact that his collapse was a failure to obey, was a failure to be strong and be a man. “Turn away. Do what’s right.” He didn’t have the strength to do it. He collapsed. Solomon, as we go on in the story—which we won’t, relax—we discover that he doesn’t even take the counsel that he gives to his son. He writes the book of Proverbs: “My son, obey the instruction,”[11] da-da-da—the instruction that he doesn’t even obey himself. He ends up a complete moral, social, political disaster zone.

Now, don’t shy away from this, because this has application. This, if you like, these are the rules of the kingdom. Who’s the King? Jesus. You remember what Jesus said? The people had gathered around him, and he says, “Listen, I want to tell you a story. Here’s a picture: A certain man, he decides to build a house. He built it on the sand. It fell flat. There’s another chap. He built a house, built it on the rock; it stood firm.”

The guys are like, “So what’s the point?”

“I’ll tell you what the point is. The first man, who builds on the sand, is the man who hears my word and doesn’t do it. And the second one, who builds on the rock and the foundation sustains him, is the man or the woman who hears my word and obeys it.”[12] Obeys it!

The statutes of God are perfect. The law of God is perfect. In fact, when David writes about it, what, in Psalm 19, he says it’s like honey.[13] You know, it’s really—it’s super. I wonder: Do we believe this? There’s such a spirit of rebellion in our age, isn’t there? Such a… Even in church circles: “Nobody’s going to tell me what to do. I don’t think… Why are you saying that?”

Well, look at all these things. They’re almost synonyms, aren’t they? “Walking in his ways … keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, … his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses.” “And,” he says, “you should know that when you do this, it is the key to your prosperity”: “that you may prosper in all … you do.” You say, “Well, wait a minute.” But do you see? David is actually—he’s working out of his experience.

You can also add to your homework studies 1 Samuel chapter 18 all over again: “And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him …. And this was good in the sight of all the people.”[14] “And David had success in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he [was] in fearful awe of him.”[15] “Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed.”[16] Why was that? Because the Lord was with him. Because the Lord had purpose for him. And because he lived in the light of and underneath the framework of and in obedience to the command of God’s plan.

I want to say desperately to young people… I was just with students this week down in Cedarville. I look out on those thousands of young people, and I want to say to them just, “You know, I was here twenty years ago or more. I thought I was old then, but look at me now. Goodness gracious! I want to say to you: ‘God’s way is perfect. The law of the Lord is perfect; it converts the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure; it makes wise the simple.’[17] As for God, his way is perfect. He has a perfect plan. He made you. He has got a design for you. He gave you your DNA. He don’t make no junk. And you have a plan and a purpose under the control and wise dealings of God which he deals with us through his Word.”

“Solomon, pay attention to the Torah of Moses.” When you read “Law,” don’t always think legislation. That is part, but that’s not the totality of it. It is instruction—the instruction of Moses. That’s why in our baby dedications sometimes we read Deuteronomy 6: “These things are to be upon your hearts, and you shall teach them to your children when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”[18] What are “these things”? They’re these things—the statutes, the commandments, the rules.

And this is conditional—verse 4: “[Do this in order] that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me.” Incidentally, just so that I don’t get any letters: you cannot argue from this, nor should you argue from this, nor should we argue from this the contemporary expressions of “prosperity gospel.” It’s got nothing to do with this, ’cause it’s basically got nothing to do with the Bible. Nobody who ever became a follower of Jesus, if they read their Bible for more than half a minute, would realize that this path is a narrow path. The broad road’s real easy; the narrow path’s real tough.[19] The way to up is down. “If you don’t hate your father and mother more than you love me, you’re up a creek,” and so on. So the idea that “You get serious about this, you get healthy, you get wealthy, you get wise, you get everything else”—leave that to somebody else to deal with. That’s not what he’s saying here. No. He says, “And you need to pay attention to the fact that this will take place if your sons pay close attention to the way they walk before me.”

Now, I’m going to end here. But I want you to notice whom this sets us up for later on. This statement here in verse 4 is conditional. Is conditional: “If this happens, then this happens.” But we also know that the promise that God had made to David, recorded for us in 2 Samuel 7, is unconditional. Unconditional. The promise of God to David in that context was not if he was very obedient, then he would discover that God was going to do this. No. God was going to do it. He promised it: “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” And “in accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, [the word of the prophet] Nathan [came] to David.”[20] This is before Bathsheba. The promise of God was not overturned by David’s rebellion, because it was an unconditional promise. So, what do you do? How do we fit the conditional aspect into the unconditional aspect?

Well, what the Bible is making clear is this: that God has pledged himself to fulfill his covenant promises, in spite of the individual disobedience of any particular king. In spite of. At the same time, on the pathway of those individual kings, there will be for them no enjoyment of God’s covenant blessings when they are disobedient. When they’re disobedient. It’s not their obedience that establishes the covenant.

Even the best of God’s servants only make it by grace.

The covenant promise of God from all of eternity… Actually, you know, way back in Genesis, what, 17, when the word of God comes to Abram, and he says, “You know, you’ve got a great future in front of you, and kings will come from you”[21]—that’s Genesis 17. Here they come! First of all, Saul: gone. David: marginal. Solomon: on his way. God has pledged himself, so that when the King comes riding on a donkey, “gentle and lowly in heart,”[22] all of these bits and pieces are seen to be fulfilled. But for the time being, we need to recognize that this is important.

Now, I sat and fiddled with this for a long time. You say, “Judging from what you’re saying now, you didn’t fiddle long enough.” But that is by the way. You remember on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, they used to have that program, and you got three lifelines? I can’t remember what they were except one; that is “Call a Friend.” You could call a friend. (I hear, like, an echo. This is terrific. That’s all right.) You could call a friend. And so I said, “Well, that’s what I’ll do. What friend do I have could help me with this?” Well, that would be John Woodhouse, of course. Well, I didn’t call him, but I just went to see what he said.

Let me give you a quote from Woodhouse to help us with this notion of the conditional and unconditional interaction: “We must[n’t] think,” writes Woodhouse, “that God’s faithfulness depends on our obedience.” God’s blessings are “all of grace … not a reward earned by … obedience. On the other hand, we must not think that God’s promised blessings can be enjoyed without obedience. In other words, God’s grace cannot be received in disobedience.”[23]

It’s not uncommon in the course of pastoral ministry for somebody to come, often a young person, come and say, “You know, I asked God to fix this, and frankly, he just hasn’t done a thing.” And I know from the circumstances of their life, by their own testimony, that they’re just living in flat-out disobedience to the clear instruction of God’s Word. And so I have to say to them that God’s grace is sufficient, but it’s not supplied in the face of our disobedience, save to show us our need and get us out of it.

Now, two things to say in conclusion.

Church conferences abound on all kinds of subjects—you know, “How to develop your programs,” “How to engage in the culture,” all good stuff. Very few of them are actually convened on the subject of Jesus Christ, you know: “We’re going to have a conference on Jesus. And we’re going to have a conference on obedience.” No, no, we want to have a conference on programs, developing the personality of the leader, the political things, and so on. But didn’t we read this in 1 Samuel? Didn’t the word of God come, “To obey is better than sacrifice”?[24] Just straightforward: doing what God says.

And isn’t it quite amazing, and yet ought not to be particularly surprising, that when we read these records, when we meet these people—and Solomon, we’re about to see (well, we’re not, actually, but you can read on)—even the best of God’s servants only make it by grace? The best! They only make it by grace. How do you finish well? By grace. How do you keep going? By grace. “Oh, you mean you can just disobey, and he just does grace?” No, no, no. His grace causes our hearts to say, “I delight to do your will, O God.”

My obedience to my married vows didn’t create the covenant of marriage. But I can’t enjoy the covenant of marriage without obedience to my marriage vows. Your obedience did not bring you into a saving relationship with Jesus. That’s grace, start to finish. But our continuance is not outside the narrow path he calls us to walk.

You see, actually, David’s story is marginal. None of our ministries—none of our ministries—are very impressive this side of heaven. They’re not. They’re really not. Which is good, for two reasons. Because it deals, then—when we recognize it humbly—it deals both with our conceit, and it deals with our despair. When we realize that it is all on account of God’s amazing grace, then we’re not going to do the survey thing like David at the end of 2 Samuel so that we can go, “Wow, you see, the things… Ooh!” No. Because only God makes things grow.[25]

But at the same time, when you go home, and you sit in your room, and I sit in my room and say, “We’re not really making a dent in this place. We’re not really making much of an impact in the vastness of greater Cleveland. Oh, we have little groups, and we have different things.” And the Lord says, “Hey, it’s not about you and your groups. It’s about me and my glory. Go ahead and plant. Go ahead and water. Grace will make it grow.” When a church family gets that, it really changes everything. It really changes everything—gets rid of spiritual snobbery, gets rid of judgmentalism. Because everybody’s life is a mess. Some are just messier than others. But it’s all mess.

You say, “Well, that was very encouraging. Thank you.” No, I want it to be encouraging. I want to say to you… Because then where do you run? You run into the arms of God. You run into the arms of God. We get together tonight: You see what David says to do to these characters? See what happens to Adonijah? There’s no escaping it. It’s amazing.

Lord, out of all of these abundance of words, help us to hear your Word. Help us to read your Word. Help us to obey it. Thank you for the privilege of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices to you, holy, acceptable, a spiritual form of worship, so that we can then test and approve what your will is, that it’s an absolutely pleasing and perfect will.[26] And that’s why we need your strength, in order that we might be men and women that march underneath the banner of King Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.


[1] See Romans 15:4.

[2] Psalm 31:15 (ESV).

[3] See Romans 5:12.

[4] Romans 6:23 (KJV).

[5] Ecclesiastes 3:2 (ESV).

[6] Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NIV).

[7] Ecclesiastes 12:3–7 (MSG).

[8] 1 Kings 1:6 (ESV).

[9] Psalm 1:1–2 (ESV).

[10] See 1 Samuel 13:8–14.

[11] Proverbs 1:8 (paraphrased).

[12] Matthew 7:24–27; Luke 6:47–49 (paraphrased).

[13] See Psalm 19:10.

[14] 1 Samuel 18:5 (ESV).

[15] 1 Samuel 18:15–16 (ESV).

[16] 1 Samuel 18:30 (ESV).

[17] Psalm 19:7 (paraphrased).

[18] Deuteronomy 6:6–7 (paraphrased).

[19] See Matthew 7:13–14.

[20] 2 Samuel 7:16–17 (ESV).

[21] Genesis 17:6 (paraphrased).

[22] Matthew 11:29 (ESV).

[23] John Woodhouse, 1 Kings: Power, Politics, and the Hope of the World, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), chap. 5.

[24] 1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV).

[25] See 1 Corinthians 3:7.

[26] See Romans 12:1–2.

Copyright © 2022, 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.