He Won’t Back Down
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He Won’t Back Down

1 Samuel 19:1–24  (ID: 3407)

Rather than repent for his failed attempts to kill David, Saul repeatedly refused to back down. The Lord’s perfect plan, however, would not be thwarted. As Alistair Begg demonstrates, God protected His servant through Jonathan’s intervention, David’s skillful evasion, Michal’s deception, and the Holy Spirit’s invasion. Like David, Jesus too is either hated as a threat or loved as a best friend. Neutrality is impossible; we must bow completely before His throne.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel, Volume 3

David, a Man after God’s Heart 1 Samuel 16:1–20:42 Series ID: 109013

Sermon Transcript: Print

First Samuel 19:

“And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, ‘Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you. And if I learn anything I will tell you.’ And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, ‘Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?’ And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan [and] swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’ And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan reported to him all these things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

“And there was war again. And David went out and fought with the Philistines and struck them with a great blow, so that they fled before him. Then a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing the lyre. And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.

“Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David’s wife, told him, ‘If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats’ hair at its head and covered it with … clothes. And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He[’s] sick.’ Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’ And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head. Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me thus and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ And Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go. Why should I kill you?”’

“Now David fled and escaped, and he came to Samuel at Ramah and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and lived at Naioth. And it was told Saul, ‘Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.’ Then Saul sent messengers to take David, and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing … head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. When it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they also prophesied. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they also prophesied. Then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, ‘Where are Samuel and David?’ And one said, ‘Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.’ And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, ‘Is Saul also among the prophets?’”


Our gracious God, we turn now to the Bible, asking for the help of the Holy Spirit that we might understand what we read, that the Lord Jesus Christ may be made known to us, and that we may be brought to love and to follow and serve him. For we pray in his name. Amen.

Tom Petty—that’s right, of the Heartbreakers—who died in October of 2017, is remembered not only for the portfolio of rock-and-roll music that he has left to us, but he is remembered, actually, especially by some, for the battle that he waged on a personal front against the entire music industry. And in the course of that, his victory actually changed forever how artists negotiate with publishing companies. It was a battle of the wills, and it was a battle that he won. It was no surprise, then, that some years after that memorable battle, he wrote a song which is called “I Won’t Back Down”: “No, I won’t back down. You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”[1]

Now, I know that you know that I have songs going round in my mind all the time. You think that they’re all hymns, and clearly, they are not. If you ever knew what was going around in my mind, you would probably never listen to me preach. And if I knew what was going around in your mind, I may not even preach to you. So, at least we’re on a level playing field.

No, this phrase was in my mind because I think that Saul would have gladly taken this as a motto. I think this is really Saul here, as we move from chapter 18 and into chapter 19. His murderous plots of the last chapter have afforded him nothing except the opportunity for him to take a moment to review where he was, to reconsider what he was doing, and to repent of his foolish hostility towards David. And yet, no. Now he has decided to take it out into the open. Previously, he’s wanting to work through the agency of the Philistines to accomplish his end, but now he is quite prepared to let those immediately around him know that his purpose is straightforwardly to kill David. You see that in verse 1: “And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David.” That they should kill him.

So, it’s very important for us to understand that in this conflict, there is a conflict which, if you like, is behind the conflict. And unless we get this, we will find ourselves having real difficulty in making the connection between this historical record and where we are now at the twenty-first century. People should be asking as we study in this way, “How and why is it possible that this event, these events, so far removed from us chronologically and geographically, how and why is it that they have any bearing at all upon our lives?”

Well, I want to tell you that this morning, in case we’ve missed it going along the way. Saul, as we’ve learned, has been rejected by God, his kingdom has been torn from him, and David has been chosen to replace him. And so, he still is in the position of king, but he is of diminishing influence, and David is now the anointed king, but the fullness of that plan has not yet come into being.

Saul is a type, or he’s an illustration, of all who reject the Lord and his anointed King.

“Oh,” says somebody, “well, I get that. It’s a kind of power struggle. It’s happened to us a few times in the last while in our office” or “in our school,” whatever it might be: the CEO is still in his corner office, but it’s been announced that he’s finished. His replacement is known to everybody, and in the tension that exists then, everybody else tries to get on with their work. Well, you see, that is the tension which exists from this point on throughout the remainder of the story.

And so, if that’s all it is, then why would we ever be bothered with it? An ancient story of a power struggle, a battle of egos. If that is the case, then I could preach a sermon like… I could call it “Learning to Leave Gracefully,” and we could talk about how Saul should have learned to leave gracefully, and since he didn’t, we should. Or perhaps at the other end we could have a sermon entitled “The Importance of Waiting Patiently,” and so I would give a talk about how if you hold on, your time will come. Eventually, you’ll be in a position. And that, of course, is the way that the Bible is often handled. People sit and wonder why we even use the Bible at all, because it just seems like a trampoline. It seems as though the person has just bounced down onto the text and then has bounced on to wherever he’s gone to, and it’s very hard for people to understand why we’re even using the Bible at all.

Well, that’s why I’m saying what I’m saying. Saul’s opposition to David is an outright rejection of David as the Lord’s anointed—as David, the one (as we read in verse 5) through whom the Lord has “worked a great salvation.” And whether, as we read this story, Saul realizes it or not, his hostility is actually directed to God. And it is at that point that the avenue of entry into our experience then becomes apparent. Because that is actually where the story of our lives are to be found. Saul, you see, is a type or is an illustration of all who reject the Lord and his anointed King. He is a type, or he’s an illustration, of all who reject the Lord and his anointed King.

You say, “Well, what anointed King?” King Jesus. For the story of the Bible is pointing us inevitably towards the one who in a few weeks will be recalled on Palm Sunday—in some congregations with pageantry, and certainly with symbolism—and people will take the same verses from Zechariah upon their lips that they’ve done over maybe thirty and forty years: “See, your king comes to you riding on a donkey, mounted and humble as he is.”[2] And if you were to interview people going out of the congregation—I hope not here, but maybe here too—and you say, “What is the significance of Jesus as a King?” they’ll say, “Well, I don’t really know.”

Well, wasn’t it at his crucifixion that the inscription read “King of the Jews”?[3] Wasn’t it before he ascended into heaven that he gathered with his disciples and he said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”?[4] That by any standards is a staggering statement. “All authority that exists anywhere in heaven or on earth has been given,” says Jesus, “to me.” Who is he? He is the King. And when you get to the book of Revelation, the angelic word says, “He is Lord of lords and [he is] King of kings.”[5]

Now, if you’re following with me, then you will see exactly where we’re going. In the same way that David was the Lord’s anointed, opposed by Saul, who was in fact opposing God himself, so Jesus is the Lord’s Anointed. And until my will is aligned with Jesus as King of my life, then I am living my life—whether I realize it or not—in opposition to God himself. Saul wanted the throne, and he saw David as a threat. By nature, I want the throne. I want to control my life. I want to rule my destiny. I want to make choices with my body. I want to do what I want to do. And in that context, I see Jesus as a threat. I don’t mind him as a bystander. I don’t mind him as a prophet. I don’t mind him as a philosopher who’s had a few ideas. But I flat-out reject him as a king.

It may never once have occurred to you that your plans—yes, your good plans, your nice plans, your moral plans—are actually opposed to God’s perfect plan. And what this chapter actually does in the clash of the wills is at least confront us with the question: If by nature I am opposed to God, am I prepared to change sides? Am I prepared to surrender the throne to the legitimate King, or am I going to say with Saul, “No, I won’t back down”?

Now, the text which is before us contains four incidents which are woven together—four incidents in which the attempt is made on the life of David, the Lord’s anointed. And it is the story of the way in which the Lord protects his anointed. All of Saul’s attempts have been unsuccessful, it’s a miserable failure at the end of chapter 18, and now he enlists those who are immediate to him.

Let me tell you what the four incidents are and the way in which God protects his servant. He protects his servant David, first of all, by the intervention of Jonathan, he protects his servant by the skillful evasion of David, he protects his servant by the deception of Michal, and he protects his servant by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You say, “Well, that’s a tremendous amount.” It is. But we’ll move through it directly.

The Intervention of Jonathan

First of all, then, by the intervention of Jonathan.

One of the questions as you come to 19 would inevitably be: Since Jonathan is such a bosom buddy of David, what will happen if he’s confronted with the question “Are you gonna support your father, or are you gonna support David?” And that is exactly what is called here at the beginning of the chapter. And you will notice the way in which the emphasis on the relationship between Jonathan and Saul is made. I won’t delay on this, but look at how many times Jonathan is referred to as “Saul’s son.” Why does it keep saying “Saul’s son”? Look at how many times, in speaking, he says, “My father,” “my father,” “my father.” The reason for the emphasis is to make the point so clearly. The ties of filial affection are deep, and they’re real. He really is his father, and he really is his son. And his father is asking him to take out this fellow who he loves, who is a kindred spirit. What is going to happen? Where will they go?

You say, “Well, that’s a rather remote thing. I’ve never had that happen.” Really? Well, maybe not. I haven’t personally faced this challenge, but it’s the challenge that is contained in Matthew 10, when you do your homework later in the day. You remember where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace, but realize that I have come to bring a sword. And I’m gonna set husbands against wives and parents against children and siblings against one another.”[6] What is Jesus saying? Well, he’s saying this: love for the Lord’s anointed—in this case, Jesus—love for the Lord’s anointed must take priority over all of our other loves. Over all of our other loves.

The most precious and tender relationships are brought into focus when a member of a family gives up their throne to the King, Jesus. And the other members of the family say, “What in the world are you doing? Why did you become such a crazy person? We’ve always been a religious family. We took you to church! What has happened to you?” And suddenly, when you thought it was all gonna be a wonderful party and everyone sitting in the kitchen singing “Kumbaya,” you discover that every day that you walk out of the house to go to church, the conflict ensues all over again, and the question confronts you: “Am I gonna stick with the filial relationships of my family and preserve them for the sake of peace, or am I going to surrender to Jesus and have him reign as King on the throne?”

Love for the Lord’s anointed, Jesus, must take priority over all of our other loves.

Now, you see, it is that which is foreshadowed in Jonathan himself. He “delighted much in David.” Funnily enough, that is what Saul had told his servants to say was true of him—which, of course, it wasn’t. And it’s because of this that Jonathan warns David, speaks to him on behalf of his friend. And having given him this context—“Be on your guard, hide yourself, I’ll go out, I’ll stand beside my father in the field where you are”—so there’s obviously a reason why they’re setting it up in that way. “I’ll speak to my father about you, and then whatever I learn I will come and tell you.” That’s the setup.

And then Jonathan is the advocate of David with his father. Verse 4: “And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and [he] said to him…” Notice how he goes to the third person. It’s very deferential, isn’t it? He doesn’t call him “Dad.” He says, “Let not the king…” “Let not the king sin.” “Let not the king sin against … David, [for] he has not sinned against you.” And then he goes on and he says, “Anything he has ever done he’s done for good and for your good.” And his advocacy is masterful. One of my friends says that in appealing to Saul, his comments are—and you won’t get this, ’cause I’ll say it so quickly—rhetorically vigorous, logically persuasive, morally convincing, and theologically powerful. Anybody who’s a trial lawyer would do well to watch the way he goes in this matter. And he is very persuasive.

And so the response of Saul, says, “[Well, then,] as the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death,” swearing an oath to that effect. What a tragedy Saul is. He doesn’t even know himself where he is. I bet that he really believed this. He really said, “Okay, I’m going for it now. That’s good. Good work, Jonathan. Thanks for steering me in the right direction. As long as the Lord lives, David will live”—which is, of course, forever.

So, the opposition comes from Saul, the intervention comes from Jonathan, and the restoration is enjoyed by David. Look at the final sentence of verse 7: “And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.” I underlined that “as before,” because I wanted to say to myself, “Yeah, I bet it was as before.” And you go into verse 8, and it was.

So, the protection of God for his anointed by the intervention of Jonathan.

The Evasion of David

Secondly, by the evasion of David himself. The pattern repeats itself. The Philistines are there. The war is an ongoing rumble. David goes out, verse 8, fights with the Philistines, strikes them “with a great blow, so that they fled before him.”

And once again—once again—what ought to be the cause for rejoicing throughout the entire community becomes an occasion for dark and murderous thoughts. For the dog days, if you like—I think it was Churchill who referred to those days as the dog days—where there was a blackness and a darkness fell over him, and promoted by his jealousy, once again, he descends to murderous thoughts. Think about it: “As long as the Lord lives, he will not die.” We don’t know how much time elapsed between verse 7 and verse 8. Whatever it was, it was enough time for Saul to realize, “No, no, I still want him dead.”

Where do these murderous thoughts come from? Why do people murder? If they don’t murder another, why do they seek to murder themselves? Why do people cut themselves? What is it that draws people into such dark passages that from their very essence they find that they cannot escape? Every attempt by secular psychology to explain it and to fix it will eventually have to bow before the clear instruction of Scripture.

“Let not the king sin.” And what does he do? He says, “I’m choosing sin. I’m going to make sure that the torment and the jealousy and the malevolence that I feel is expressed in the destruction of David.” That’s verse 9: “A harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand.” In contemporary terms, he’s like a man who doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or what he is, sitting in the evening, watching the TV with no sound, and he sits with a handgun in his hand. That’s the picture. Don’t be waylaid by thinking of a spear and “We don’t know spears.” No, we’ve got plenty of ways to spear people.

And so it is that if he had been a better aim, if David had not been so fleet of foot, then we could have ended the story there at verse 10. Some of you are saying, “Oh, I wish they had.” Not so fast! “And David fled and escaped that night.” He knows “when to walk away,” he knows “when to run.”[7]

Actually, David fled, never to return to Saul’s house. He lived as a fugitive until the death of Saul. This was a pivotal moment. This, if you like, in terms of Saul’s own encounter with the Lord’s anointed, if ever there was an opportunity for him to resolve the issue and to realize deep down inside that “he is this one who has been chosen by God who is better than me,”[8] the opportunity was there.

There he sits. Pathetic picture, actually, with an embedded spear, sitting there in his chair, looking at the wall. And that’s the evidence of his endeavors. Did he take it out himself? Did he call for his servants? And the servants came and said, “How did this happen?” Did he lie about it? Who knows? But God was protecting his anointed.

Michal’s Deception

Thirdly, by the deception of Michal. Because “Saul sent [immediately] messengers to David’s house to watch him”—hit men to case the joint. And Michal, who is the daughter of Saul, now plans not the great escape, but it’s certainly a jolly good escape. And here in these verses, she uses the old “pillow under the duvet” trick. And with the help of an image or an idol that she has sitting around in the house—why it was there we don’t know—she dresses the whole thing up and sets it in position. She does this having told her husband, David, “If you do[n’t] escape with your life tonight,” verse 11, “tomorrow you[’ll] be killed.” So, the word had filtered through to her. We don’t know exactly how, but it wouldn’t be difficult.

And so, “Michal,” in verse 12, “let David down through the window.” Unlike she who came in through the bathroom window, he now exits through the bathroom window and “fled away and escaped.” It’s quite a touching, strange picture, isn’t it? This fellow who fought Goliath and took him down in the might and majesty of God’s enabling, you see him crawling out through the window. It’s interesting, too, that, you know, when you get to Paul, and when Paul gets let in a basket down through the window—and actually, that’s in chapter 11, I think, of 2 Corinthians. It says that he was “let down in a basket,”[9] and you get to chapter 12, and it says, “There was a man who was caught up in the Spirit.”[10] You see, that’s the key. It’s going down in the basket that is the precursor to being caught up in the Spirit. Some of us, you see, we don’t want to go down in the basket. We don’t want to go down at all. Here, the king, the Lord’s anointed, suffers the ignominy of having his wife let him down in this way.

And then having her do this amazing cover-up in verse 13—so much so that, verse 14, “when Saul sent messengers to take David,” she lied. She said, “He[’s] sick.” Presumably, that word would have then caused the response in verse 15: “Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, ‘[Well, in that case,] bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’” It’s quite remarkable, isn’t it? “Just bring the whole kit and caboodle. I’ll kill him in the bed!” That’s what he’s saying. “Don’t be nice about this anymore. I’m done with this idea of, you know, the Philistines doing it so that I can be clear of it. Just go get him. Get him in the bed. Bring him over here, and let’s take care of it once and for all.”

I wonder, were the servants pleased to discover that it was a dummy in the bed? “Well, why do you say that?” Well, because it says all the servants loved David. They loved David, and they served Saul, the king. I don’t know.

Then you have this amazing father-daughter moment: “And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats’ hair at its head.” It’s quite funny. And “Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me thus …?’” Well, that’s pretty rich, coming from him, isn’t it? His whole thing is based on deception. “Why have you deceived me? Why did you let my enemy go?”

Well, his enemy is actually God. Why didn’t Michal say, “Hey, that’s my husband you’re talking about, and I let him escape because I love him”? Hm. I don’t know. I can only assume that the fear which gripped Saul and led to his hostility may well have been the fear which overwhelmed Michal and led to her duplicity. Some people get really stalled out over the fact that she’s telling lies. She’s not the only lady that tells lies in the Old Testament narrative in order that the unfolding plan of God may be accomplished. We won’t delay here. All that you really need to think is that what we have here is the record of what happened. It is not here given to us as an example to follow.

The Spirit’s Invasion

That brings us, finally, to the fourth way in which God protects his anointed. First by Jon’s intervention, then by David’s evasion, then by Michal’s deception, and finally by the Spirit’s invasion.

God’s overruling hand is overt here. David heads off, we’re told, “to Samuel at Ramah.” Ramah would only be a couple of miles away from where Saul lived. Therefore, it’s not a big distance. And it’s interesting that David now heads for Samuel. After all, Samuel was there at the very beginning of this adventure. Samuel was the one who came and anointed him back in chapter 16. And we’re told that as he reaches Ramah, he tells Samuel “all that Saul had done to him,” and the two of them settle in together. Wherever Naioth is, we don’t know. It might be like Bethany, a little tiny community. It might be a gathering of shepherds’ huts. It might be a special place where the community of the prophets met. We don’t know. It’s near Ramah. “Behold, David is at … Ramah,” and the word got back to Saul, verse 19.

And so, once again, off the messengers go. And instead of taking David, they are caught up in this amazing encounter. Verse 20, look at the text: “When they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as head over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.” Well, that wasn’t what was supposed to happen. And so, when that was reported to Saul, in verse 21, he sent another group of messengers. And guess what? The same deal. And Saul sent a third group of messengers, and they did the same thing!

This is so good. It’s a bit like, you know, Daddy Bear’s chair, Mommy Bear’s chair, and Baby Bear’s chair. It’s like “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.” It’s the development of a story. It’s fantastic. It’s not invented, but it’s very skillful in the way it’s told. It could simply have had one sentence that said, “And all the people went there, and there was a great hullabaloo, and none of them did what they were told to do.” But that’s not as good as the way when you read it: “And the first group went, and they prophesied.” You’re going, “What does that mean?” “And the second group, they showed up. They did the same thing. And the third group showed up, and they were doing it as well.” All that we know is this. We don’t know whether they were rejoicing or whether they were raving, in terms of this prophetic encounter, but what was happening was that by means of the Spirit of God, they were neutralized. They were unable to go about their business. They were caught up in a way that took them out of the realm of normal engagement, normal interchange of things.

And so it’s no surprise that when you get to verse 22, if you want a job doing, then what do you say? Do it yourself. And so he says, “Well, I’ll go; I’ll take care of this.” And “then he himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu.” See how the story slows down? It’s good. It’s very good storytelling. What about the great well? We don’t know what the great well was, where it was. It was significant, though. That’s where he came to.

So, you don’t have the picture of it: “And he marched straight up to the front door, and he said, ‘Listen, now, I don’t know what the carry-on is here, but I’m here to take…” No. He went to the well at Secu, “and he asked, ‘Where are Samuel and David?’” So he actually knows less than the servants. They at least got to the destination. If you track back in the story, you know that he is found asking similar questions. Remember he said, “Where is the seer? Where can I see the seer?”[11] You have this picture of sort of profound cluelessness. And so they told him, “Well, this is where he is.” And verse 23: “And he went there to Naioth in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also.” So he, like his servants before him, is overwhelmed by the Spirit of God.

It is impossible to be neutral concerning the Lord’s anointed.

And whatever is happening here seems to be very different from what had happened to him way back in chapter 10 when “the Spirit of God” had “rushed upon him.”[12] In that context, the response was still the same as we find here; the people said, “Is Saul among the prophets now?” That’s what they said in 10.[13] That’s the word still said.

But look at the picture in verse 24. What a pathetic picture: “And he too stripped off his clothes.” Why does it say “He too stripped off his clothes”? Well, it must mean that other people were stripping off their clothes—or that the writer wants us to think back to the way in which, at the beginning of chapter 18, Jonathan took off his clothes.[14] He took off his clothes as a sign of abdication, as a sign of devotion. Maybe. Or maybe this ecstatic frenzy that was going on had people all taking off their clothes. In other words, it’s a pretty pathetic setup. But what a picture! “And he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night.” So you have a picture of him sitting in his room, looking at the spear that has been embedded in the wall, a testimony to his malevolent hatred of the Lord’s anointed; and then you have the picture of him lying naked—whatever he was saying and whatever he was doing—causing people to say, “Is he actually among the prophets too?”

Neutrality Is Impossible

Well, we have to end it here. But let’s end where we began. What is happening in this? Saul is opposing and seeking to destroy the Lord’s anointed. Why? After all, David has only ever done him good. It’s true, but still he saw him as a threat. By contrast, Jonathan loved him as a friend. Jonathan was prepared to disrobe the signs of his potential princedom and rejoice in the kingship of David.

Now, we made the connection—I hope it’s still there in your mind—between the reaction and hostility of Saul, the love and affection of Jonathan, and the way it points forward to Jesus. Because remember, when Jesus came, the reaction was the same. Some said, “Let’s kill him, he’s a threat,” while others came to love him as the best of friends. It is impossible to be neutral concerning the Lord’s Anointed. You cannot walk out of this building in neutrality. You either walk out saying, “No, he is a threat to me. If I bow under his authority, that means that morally I am under the direction of the Bible. That means that in every way I will then do what he, the Lord and King, demands.”

It’s quite amazing, isn’t it? David had never done him any harm. And in that day when they cried “Crucify him, crucify him!”[15]—you mean, this gentle Shepherd who took the children on his lap?[16] You mean this man who spoke so graciously to the woman who’d had five husbands and was living with a guy?[17] You mean this man who called the little thief down from the sycamore tree?[18] This man? What has he ever done, that you or I would live in an ongoing spirit of rebellion and say, “Yeah, I heard you, but no, I won’t back down”?

The choice is yours. “Today, if you hear [God’s] voice”—and I know you can hear my voice—“today if you hear [God’s] voice, do not harden your [heart].”[19]

We have a closing hymn, but we’re not going to sing it. But I would like to read it for you, and the words are on the screen. I’d suggest we maybe sing this this evening with the melody, but for now… I had two songs. One was “No, I won’t back down,” and the other was by George Matheson, who was born in a very great city—Glasgow, Scotland—in the nineteenth century. He studied at Edinburgh. He lost sight of his eyes in his teenage years, and he wrote a number of hymns; included in those hymns, this hymn. And it goes like this:

Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within thine arms,
And strong shall be my [stand].

My heart is weak and poor
Until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure,
It [changes] with the wind.
It cannot freely move
Till thou hast wrought its chain;
Enslave it with thy matchless love,
And deathless it shall reign.

My will is not mine own
Till thou hast made it thine;
If it would reach a monarch’s throne,
It must its crown resign.
It only stands unbent
Amid the clashing strife,
[Till] on your bosom it has leant,
And found in thee its life.[20]

What a masterful use of paradox. What a wonderful response, if today you hear God’s voice and you say, “I’m changing sides. I am moving from the rebellious track to the track of those who are declaring Christ as King.”

Just a brief prayer:

Father, your Word is fixed in the heavens,[21] and we receive it as from your lips. And we pray that you will, even in these closing moments of our time, so work within our hearts and minds that we may give up, as it were, the sword or spear of our rebellion and bid you take your rightful place on the throne of our hearts. For Christ’s sake. Amen.

[1] Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty, “I Won’t Back Down” (1989).

[2] Zechariah 9:9 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 21:5; John 12:15.

[3] Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19 (ESV).

[4] Matthew 28:18 (ESV).

[5] Revelation 17:14 (ESV). See also Revelation 19:16.

[6] Matthew 10:34–35 (paraphrased).

[7] Don Schlitz, “The Gambler” (1978).

[8] See 1 Samuel 15:28.

[9] 2 Corinthians 11:33 (ESV).

[10] 2 Corinthians 12:2 (paraphrased).

[11] See 1 Samuel 9:11, 18.

[12] 1 Samuel 10:10 (ESV).

[13] See 1 Samuel 10:11–12.

[14] See 1 Samuel 18:4.

[15] John 19:6 (ESV). See also Mark 15:13–14; Luke 23:21; John 19:15.

[16] See Mark 10:16.

[17] See John 4:16–18.

[18] See Luke 19:5.

[19] Hebrews 3:7–8, 15; 4:7 (ESV).

[20] George Matheson, “Make Me a Captive, Lord” (1890).

[21] See Psalm 119:89.

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.