Understanding the Promise — Part One
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Understanding the Promise — Part One

2 Samuel 7:8–17  (ID: 3478)

God’s message was clear: instead of David building the Lord’s house, the Lord would build David’s kingdom. David needed to remember God’s purpose for him and recall His past protection and faithful presence. As Alistair Begg points out, correct interpretation of passages such as 2 Samuel 7 requires diligent, Spirit-illumined study. Only when we put in the hard work of handling God’s Word with care will we realize that His promise to David was about far more than just his house.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in 1 and 2 Samuel, Volume 6

The Davidic Covenant 2 Samuel 7:1–29 Series ID: 109016

Sermon Transcript: Print

We turn now to 2 Samuel and to chapter 7. And I invite you to follow along as I read from the first verse. [Second] Samuel 7 concerns first of all the Lord’s promise or covenant with David.

“Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, ‘See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.’ And Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.’

“But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, ‘Go and tell my servant David, “Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I[’ve] been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more … as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”’ In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.”


Gracious God, as we turn to the Bible, we acknowledge our need of you to think properly, to understand, to believe, to love and to obey your Word, to follow your Son. So meet with us now, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, I hope you will have your Bible with you and that you have been reading along as we have found ourselves here in 2 Samuel. Some of you may have already concluded that we have all of a sudden stalled in 2 Samuel chapter 7, because here we are for the third occasion. Those of you who were here last Sunday night will know that we made a second attempt at it, as it were—a bit like trying to land the plane in severe weather, where you have to do a go-around. And we are now trying to make another landing of these verses in verse 8 to verse 17.

And I want to approach things differently this morning than normal and, in saying that, alert you to the fact that we may only finally reach the text when it’s time for us to stop. That may not be the case. I don’t know. But it may happen. And it argues, actually, for our evening service. I don’t say that as a mechanism for hoping that you will return but just to be factual about things. And the reason for that will become obvious as I proceed.

Let me begin by saying this: to understand and to interpret the Bible correctly is hard work. Any notion that we have of “You just read your Bible and it all pops out” is really coming from somewhere other than from a mind and a heart that has become a student of the Bible. The fact that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to illumine the pages of Scripture to us does not absolve us of the need for diligence. And it is to that diligence that the pastor and the teacher is committed, and it is on account of that that the church is then enabled to go on to maturity. And part of going on to maturity is maturing in our understanding of and our commitment to and our obedience for and love for the Word of God itself.

And this, of course, should be obvious to us in the reading of our Bibles. As we go through from day to day—as we read, perhaps, an outline from working through the New Testament or perhaps in the Murray M’Cheyne readings—we come on passages of Scripture which press us and which call for us to really dig down and think. And it should be obvious to us by now that 2 Samuel chapter 7 has become for us one of those passages. We noted last time that it is a hugely significant section of the Bible. In many ways, it is a fulcrum between all that was promised to Abraham and all that is finally ours in a new heaven and in a new earth.

The fact that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to illumine the pages of Scripture to us does not absolve us of the need for diligence.

And at the same time, we have discovered that it is a challenging passage. And as I have been in it now for a couple of weeks, I’ve been helped this week by reminding myself of the fact that the disciples, the followers of Jesus, who had been with Jesus, they had seen his miracles, they had heard his teaching—those same disciples were in need of a significant amount of help in understanding the application of the Old Testament Scriptures. And you will recall how, in the providence of God, two of them got an amazing Bible study that is mentioned in Luke chapter 24, when, on the road to Emmaus, they encounter Jesus, not realizing that it is Jesus risen from the dead, and as they share their despondency with this at-that-point-unknown individual, Jesus says to them, “How slow of heart you are to believe all that the prophets have written.”[1] And then he began, and he explained to them all the things in the Scriptures concerning himself.

Now, we need that too. We need to understand how our Bible fits together. We need to understand how to interpret the Bible. Because all of us come to the Bible with our own presuppositions, in the same way that we come to our newspapers with presuppositions. And so the real question is, how do we interpret the Bible—particularly the Old Testament—properly?

Now, the word for that in biblical theology is the word hermeneutics. It sounds a little bit like a medical condition, but it isn’t. It simply means the science of interpreting Scripture, or the methodology, or the theory, of “How do you approach the Bible?” And it is, of course, something that we all engage in. It may not be in the front of our minds, but we’re all doing it all the time as you listen to the Bible being taught.

So, when we affirm the infallibility of the Scriptures, it doesn’t follow that any or every interpretation of a passage of Scripture is itself infallible. You understand that distinction? When we affirm the infallibility of the Bible, it doesn’t follow that every and any interpretation of a passage of Scripture is itself infallible. That’s very, very important. It’s very important! The Bereans understood it. In Acts, after Paul had been in Thessalonica and went on to Berea, you remember Luke says that the Bereans were more noble than the Jews who had been listening in Thessalonica, and then he says, “because they examined the Scriptures every day to see if these things were so.”[2] In other words, they went back to the Old Testament, they listened to the proclamation, and they searched the Bible, and they said, “Now, we better hold whoever it is who’s proclaiming what they’re proclaiming to the Scriptures themselves.” And we alluded to that last week with Newton’s comment, which I quoted, from the eighteenth century in England—you know, “Make sure that when you listen to the Bible being taught,” Newton said, “that you have your Bible there to make sure that you can check.”[3]

Now, if that was necessary when they were listening to the apostle Paul, it’s surely necessary when we’re listening to one another. And therefore, it’s inevitable that one is held up to scrutiny in this regard—that I am absolutely committed to the infallibility of the Bible; I wouldn’t be so bold as to suggest to you that all my interpretation carries with it the same imprimatur, because it doesn’t. And it’s very, very important we recognize that.

Now, one of the men—an Australian, actually, Goldsworthy—has done wonderful work on this which was a help to me some years ago, and I had reason to return to it again this week. Let me give you a quote from Goldsworthy, which I think you will find helpful as we proceed.

“Those,” he writes,

who adopt a thought-out and definite position on any matter will have the conviction that they are right. No one holds to a position that they believe is wrong. But thinking that we[’re] right about key issues does not mean that we think we have all the answers in interpreting the Bible, or that our position is infallible. It should not mean that we think [that] we have arrived at the ultimate truth about all matters biblical.[4] 

So I would say to you, as much as we want to be men and women of conviction, let us be wary of those who create the impression, by whatever means, that they actually know everything, that they understand everything, and that their interpretation of everything is the only interpretation possible. You have to be careful of that. There used to be somebody on the radio here called the Bible Answer Man. And I used to feel dreadfully sorry for him, because he had to keep coming up with the answer, and he had to sound like he knew the answer. And I would drive in the car and shout out, “Just tell ’em you don’t know! Tell ’em you don’t know!” Why wouldn’t you do that? “Oh, I’m called the Bible Answer Man. Therefore, I need to have all the answers.” No, the Bible has all the answers. The Bible has the answers. Our task is to read our Bibles.

Now, it’s obvious, isn’t it? We do this all the time. When we think about this, we then are alert to the dangers that beset us. You perhaps listen to somebody on the television, and they come away with something, and it just rings a bell in your head. You say, “Now, wait a minute. I don’t see how that could possibly be.” Or perhaps you listen to a sermon or you read something that somebody has written, and you say to yourself, “But that is just an eccentric way of trying to explain the Bible.”

Let me give you one from my own history. Someone that I respect very much gave me some sermons to read a long time ago. He felt that these sermons had been very helpful to himself and to others, and so I wanted to pay them pretty careful attention. And the one that stood out to me was a sermon that had to do—I think the title of it was something like “Running Aground,” or “Running into the Rocks,” or whatever. But it was from Acts chapter 27, where you have the record of Paul sailing towards Rome, and you remember that the nautical challenges are significant, and Luke is giving us the material. And so, as he records what’s happening, he makes it very, very clear that the difficulties were real. And they take soundings in 27:28, and they see how deep it is, and they find it’s twenty fathoms, and then they get a little further on, and they take another sounding; they find it’s fifteen fathoms. And then Luke records, “And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come.”[5]

Well, that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? “We’re gonna wreck ourselves here if we’re not careful.” So the word went out from the captain, “Let down the four anchors.” So far, so good. But now here’s the application. Here’s what the preacher did with it: he said, “Now, here you see a situation where they are in danger of running aground on the rocks.” And he said, “And you may be in danger of running aground on the rocks.” Well, it’s highly unlikely. I mean, look at where you are right now. But, of course, he uses that as a metaphor. And then he says, “And if you are about to run aground on the rocks, you better let down the four anchors.” And then he went on to give us the four points: anchor number one, prayer; number two, witnessing; number three, worship; and number four, Christian service.

Well, that is all very good stuff. But I ask you—you’re sensible people—do you think that’s why we have it in Acts chapter 27? So that you can turn to the Bible and use it like a trampoline and just jump up and down on it? And so you come to something like “four anchors,” and then you make up a talk called “Four Anchors,” or you come to the rocks, and you make a talk about the rocks. No, we’ve gotta understand that the way in which the Bible is written is written so that we can understand it in the framework in which it is given. That is an historical record of a voyage and the events that unfolded. Therefore, it is to be read as such.

Now, if we’re going to get serious about this, we have to have certain controls that prevent us from the eccentric and the wrong. We’re not going to work our way through them all, but let me just give you two or three.

There is a value in reading the Bible backwards.

Number one: Scripture can be interpreted only by the Holy Spirit. Scripture can be interpreted only by the Holy Spirit. It is God who wrote the Bible, and he knows exactly what he wrote. Therefore, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, as we say, to illumine to us the printed page.

Secondly, Scripture must always be interpreted by Scripture. So the way in which we understand one passage of the Bible is in relationship to what we find in other passages of the Bible, particularly where we have something that comes across as difficult. The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes it as follows: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: … when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture … it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”[6] All right? So when we come to a passage that we find is challenging to us, then we say, “Now, I know that if I were to pay attention to my Bible, I will be able to get some light on this subject.”

And then thirdly, we interpret what is earlier in light of what comes later or in light of what is fuller. That, of course, I think makes perfect sense. This is why we say to one another that there is a value in reading the Bible backwards: because the way in which God has made known his Word, the mystery that he has made known… This comes again and again in various places. When Paul is writing to the Ephesians, you know, and he talks about how “this mystery was never understood before,” and he’s speaking about the mystery of the two becoming one and the work of God’s grace in the life of a Jew and in the life of the gentile. And when you read that section there, he says, “And this was not something that people understood before, this mystery. It is only now that we are able to see exactly what is going on.”[7]

Now, let me give you an illustration from the passage that we have before us in 2 Samuel 7. How, for example, does the New Testament understand 2 Samuel 7? How does the apostle Peter understand it? You say, “Well, why did you choose that?” Well, I chose that because he mentions it. And in Acts chapter 2, in his sermon on Pentecost, as he works his way through this great historical record, he eventually comes to David. And as he quotes David—we’re in verse 25 now, and David is speaking of the Lord, and when Peter is speaking, he’s pointing out that David looks forward to the one who is to come.

And then he says in verse 29, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about 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…” Okay, so here we are. We just finished there, at verse [16]: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” And so, here is Peter, and he says, “He foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades.”[8] So when we try to come to terms with 2 Samuel 7, we learn that Peter explains that section as being fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. How else was this going to be fulfilled? Well, of course, it is by reading what is later that we understand.

Similarly—and let me just give you one other, in Hebrews and in chapter 12. And I go here because one of the great questions that is before us in dealing with 2 Samuel 7 has to do with the city, it has to do with Zion, it has to do with Jerusalem, it has to do with the place and so on. And I can guarantee you that if I were to conduct a survey throughout the listening congregation right now, there would be a significant divergence on views in relationship to how all of this is fulfilled or will be fulfilled. And many will be saying, “That is why we must always be looking to what’s going on in Jerusalem, that’s why we must always be looking to what’s happening in the Middle East, because it is all about what is there in the Bible.” Well, of course, there’s a tremendous amount there in the Bible, but is that what it’s all about? And how do we determine that?

Well, one of the ways in which we determine it is by recognizing that the earlier is explained by the later and is explained by the fuller. So, Hebrews chapter 12. What the writer does here is make a big distinction between two mountains. One mountain is Mount Sinai, and he’s referring to all that took place there when the people came trembling before that. And you’ll see that in verse 18. I’m not gonna read it all to you. The word was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” It was so terrifying that even Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”[9] He says, “Now, that’s what was going on. You know that in the history of the people of God—that that was there on that mountain. But that’s not where you are. Because you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God.”[10]

Now, he’s not talking about Jerusalem. “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God.”[11] You say, “Well, why did you say he’s not talking about Jerusalem?” Because it says it in the text! “The heavenly Jerusalem.” “The heavenly Jerusalem.” Now, how had they come to the heavenly Jerusalem? Well, they had come through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ: “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is given for you for the remission of your sins.”[12]

And so: “You have come now to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. You are now part of a huge congregation. Some of them have already finished the race. Some of them are already in heaven. But you are united in this company. You are already united in this company. Why? Because your names have been recorded in the register of heaven. And if that’s not enough to jazz you, think about it before the creation of the world! And this assembly is made up of those who have been gathered through the gospel, as a result of the gospel being proclaimed to you, and you have believed. And others have finished the race, and you’re still in it.”[13]

But what he’s actually saying there is something absolutely amazing: “You have come … to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, … to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”[14] Do you get it? You understand what he’s saying? Boundaries of time and space and even death are meaningless to those who are in fellowship with Jesus. So when we think about the 2 percent in Vietnam, they are part of this assembly. Through Christ, we are part of this assembly. So what are we looking to? To the Middle East? To modern-day Jerusalem? No! Why not? Because the Bible is helping us to understand where our gaze is to be set.

Palmer Robertson says quite categorically—and I think he’s absolutely right—“The only Zion that remains is the place of Christ’s rule at the right hand of the Father.”[15]

Now, I say to you again—and that’s why I began as I began—our commitment to the infallibility of Scripture is not a commitment that acknowledges the absolute infallibility of the interpretation of any one passage of Scripture. So we can all relax, you see. We know that the Holy Spirit knows, we know that the Bible will make itself plain, and we know that when we say we’re gonna take the Bible literally, we don’t mean something silly.

And people say, “Well, when you say these things, aren’t you guilty, then, of failing to take the Bible literally?” And what they usually mean by that is “If it says this, it must mean this.” Well, no, because the Bible uses all kinds of literary forms, doesn’t it? I was pointing out in Acts chapter 27 that if we take the literary form of Acts 27, which is an historical record, there is no legitimate basis for turning that into a sermon on reading your Bibles and on prayer. You can do it if you want. No one’ll die from it. But that’s clearly not why it’s there. When, for example, in Chronicles it says that “the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth,”[16] there’s not a person over the age of seven who actually thinks that there are two literal eyes scanning the entire universe. It is a metaphor.

Therefore, to understand the Bible literally means that we understand it in the literary form in which it is conveyed, so that there is analogy, there is poetry, there is history, there’s imagery, there’s typology, and so on. And if we’re going to take it in that way, then we need to make sure that we don’t go wrong.

You take, for example—maybe a strange illustration of this. But you remember after the transfiguration. And people always ask me about this, because we haven’t sung it for a long time, but we used to sing, “These are the days of Elijah.”[17] And people would write to me, say, “What are you talking about, ‘the days of Elijah’? This is not the days of Elijah,” and so on. I didn’t even know the answer. But I’m closer to it now, since I was studying this week. And after the transfiguration, the disciples, in Matthew 17, as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus says, “I don’t want you to tell anybody of this until the Son of Man is raised from the dead,” and the disciples asked him, “Well, in that case, why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And Jesus said, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. And in the same way, the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”[18]

Now, here’s the question. John the Baptist is not literally Elijah. He’s John the Baptist. Verse 13: “Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” “If you want to see the prophetic ministry of Elijah, you’ll see it in John the Baptist.” Now, what is Jesus doing there? Well, he’s doing what I’m suggesting to you we need to be able to do.

The Bible is a book about Jesus. And when we take our eyes off Jesus, then we’ll inevitably go haywire. There’s little doubt about it.

You see, the Bible is a book about Jesus. And when we take our eyes off Jesus, then we’ll inevitably go haywire. There’s little doubt about it.

Let me give you just one other one. I’m sure you’re just having as much fun as I am. So, remember after the wedding in Cana of Galilee, the cleansing of the temple. And the Jews said to him… Because incidentally, the Jews were big literalists, right? “We take this thing literally. We’re very concerned about the Bible, we want to know exactly what it says,” and so on. And justifiably so. So they said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” He’s cleansed the temple. He’s turned water into wine. Essentially, they’re saying, “Who do you think you are?” And Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”[19] They respond literally: “Are you kidding me? It took forty-six years to build the temple,” they said to one another, “and you will raise it up in three days?”[20]

Now, I’d love to hear from John or one of the other disciples exactly what they were thinking in that moment. ’Cause there’s a more than even chance… You know when you’re not that bright at school, and you don’t understand what’s going on, and then somebody asks the question, and everybody thinks they’re silly for asking it, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m so glad they asked that question, ’cause I don’t know the answer either”? Well, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we got the disciples together and they said, “You know, when the Jewish guy asked that question, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I’m saying to myself, ‘What’re you on about now? “Destroy the temple and I will raise it up in three days”?’”

“But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that [he] had spoken.”[21] You see? That the later confirms the former. The later explains it. When he said it, the people said, “That’s impossibility.” He wasn’t referring to that. And if you read on in John’s Gospel, you find that this comes again and again: Jesus addressing the Jews, himself a Jew, recognizing the way they approach everything.

Let me just give you one other. “The testimony that I have,” he says, “is greater than … John.” He’s talking about John the Baptist. This is John 5.

For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I[’m] doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you[’ve] never heard, his form you[’ve] never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you.[22]

Well, that’s a real stinger right there. Because that was one thing they were into, was the Bible, was the Old Testament Scriptures, was the Law. “If anybody has the word abiding in us, we have the word abiding in us. We’re Word people. We’re Bible people.”

You do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you [might] have life.[23]

We’ll say more about this this evening, but this is, of course, the great dilemma, isn’t it, in witnessing to our Jewish friends? Many of my Jewish friends have just no interest at all, and so you have to start from square one. Others of them are very politically oriented; and so, especially if they’re Zionist Jews, they’re desperately keen that my interpretation of Jerusalem and the land will fit, you know, with them. And you see this all the time on Christian television and on Christian radio.

But very few of the Christian professors are prepared to do what Jesus does here and say to their Jewish friends, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and yet they bear witness to Jesus, and you want me to unite with you on this political agenda? But listen: the political agenda will die, no matter who’s right and who’s wrong. And you too will die, and you will die lost for eternity without the one of whom the Scriptures speak. When the psalmist says, ‘We find our refuge in you, O Lord,’[24] he is speaking ultimately about Christ himself.”

Now, you see, when we get this, then it will help us in 2 Samuel 7. “Oh, this is about 2 Samuel 7?” said somebody. “I had forgotten all about that.” No. No, I get that. Some of you are confused. Some of you are distressed. Some of you are annoyed. Three of you might be remotely helped. But let me just remind you of what I’m telling you.

To understand the Bible is hard work—helped by the Holy Spirit, but it’s still hard work. And the reason that many of us are where we are is because we’ve never done the hard work of Scripture. We don’t really read it. We don’t ask questions of it. We don’t memorize it. We pretty well just wait for somebody to tell us something about it, and then we go home and don’t worry about it for another six days, and “Maybe he’ll tell me something about it again next week, and that’ll help me through.” Oh, shame on us! How would anybody coming from another country ever believe that we’re committed to the study of the Word of God?

Well, we’re going to come back to this, as I say, this evening. And last time you will remember that we dealt with the proposal that David brought to build a house for God—i.e., a place for the ark. That was responded to by the perspective of God, who says, “You’re not gonna build a house for me, but I will make a house for you.” To that we’re going to come. And he says, “The reason you’re not is because I never had one, I never needed one, and I never wanted one.” And then he said, “But when it comes to my making a house for you, I want you to make sure you understand.”

And it is that that is entrusted, then, to Nathan in verse 8: “Therefore … you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts…’” And before he actually gets to the promise itself, he charges Nathan with the responsibility to remind David of the facts as they have unfolded.

Number one, of God’s purpose for him. (And I’ll just outline them for you here. You can take them away with you.) “Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.” That was his purpose for him. It was a surprising purpose. It wasn’t something that David initiated. It wasn’t something that any member of his family thought was going to happen. “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘… I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’”[25] Very interestingly, he says, “I have provided a king for myself.”[26] You remember when they put Saul in position, they wanted a king for themselves, “so that we can be like all the other nations.”[27] And now God says, “You need to remember, David, that I am the one. You’re the one who’s sitting around your house trying to think up something good to do for me? Well, let me tell you, don’t forget what I’ve done for you. Don’t you forget my purpose for you. I came and got you when you were a shepherd boy.” And this is the wonder of God’s initiative.

His purpose for him; his presence with him. Verse 9: “And I have been with you wherever you went.” What a wonderful reminder it is. And David knew that. And his protection of him: “And I have … cut off all your enemies from before you.”

It’s wonderful, isn’t it? God’s purpose, God’s presence, and God’s protection. So instead of David thinking about what he might do, he’s reminded of what God has done for him.

Let’s just end with that thought of reminder. It is vitally important. It comes again and again in the Scriptures. We know that—how the word of God to his people is constantly “Take care lest you forget.” “Take care lest you forget.” I think that’s Deuteronomy 6:12: “Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” What is that a picture of? What’s the exodus a picture of? The later in light of the former: it’s the great picture of our being brought out from the slavery and bondage of our own lives.

When God commits himself to his people, he brings to completion the good work that he begins.

“Take care that you don’t forget. Don’t forget what you were. Fear him. Serve him. Don’t go after other gods.” How would that happen? Because you forget the Lord. That’s why you teach it to your children when you walk along the road, when you lie down, when you get up.[28] That’s why your parents bring you in here. You’re going, “Oh, is he going to stop soon? Why is he saying this?” Yeah, but listen. Listen: they love you. They love you so much that they bring you so that you might even know this—that we might know who God is, that he loves us; so that you might remember the Lord your God.

You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you [will] surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.[29]

Newton writes that great hymn which begins, “Begone unbelief, my Savior is near.” And he has that lovely verse:

His love in time past forbids me to think 
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink; 
For each Ebenezer,

each picture, each emblem, each memorial to his faithfulness,

For each Ebenezer I [hold] in review 
Confirms his [great promise] to bring me [right] through.[30]

How was David gonna navigate his way through this? He wasn’t a perfect king. He messes up. How could it possibly be? Because God, when he commits himself to his people, he brings to completion the good work that he begins. And so, when he says that his promise is that he will set his king on Zion’s hill—which is actually Psalm 2—and even though the nations of the world laugh at him and rebel against him and say, “Let us break his bonds, and let us have nothing to do with him at all,”[31] he says, “Don’t you worry. Don’t you worry. Don’t you worry. Cheer up.”

Let’s pray:

Father, we want to learn how to read our Bibles. We want to learn how to study properly. We want to meet Jesus in the pages of Scripture, and we want to ask you to help us. We thank you that you don’t take on all of our bright ideas; you don’t need them. And we thank you that your plans and purposes from all of eternity will be brought to completion, and that when you have told us, as we find it here in the pages of your Word, that you will accomplish your purposes in this way, we take you at your word, and we rejoice in it. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


[1] Luke 24:25 (paraphrased).

[2] Acts 17:11 (paraphrased).

[3] John Newton, “Of a Living and a Dead Faith,” in The Works of John Newton (1820; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985), 2:558. Paraphrased.

[4] Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 167. 

[5] Acts 27:29 (ESV).

[6] The Westminster Confession of Faith 1.9.

[7] Ephesians 3:1–6 (paraphrased).

[8] Acts 2:31 (ESV).

[9] Hebrews 12:20–21 (ESV).

[10] Hebrews 12:22 (paraphrased).

[11] Hebrews 12:22 (ESV).

[12] Matthew 26:28 (paraphrased).

[13] Hebrews 12:22–23 (paraphrased).

[14] Hebrews 22, 24 (ESV).

[15] O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004), 182n33.

[16] 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV).

[17] Robin Mark, “Days of Elijah” (1994).

[18] Matthew 17:9–12 (paraphrased).

[19] John 2:18–19 (ESV).

[20] John 2:20 (paraphrased).

[21] John 2:21–22 (ESV).

[22] John 5:36–38 (ESV).

[23] John 5:38–40 (ESV).

[24] Psalm 91:2 (paraphrased).

[25] 1 Samuel 16:1 (ESV).

[26] 1 Samuel 16:1 (paraphrased).

[27] 1 Samuel 8:20 (paraphrased).

[28] See Deuteronomy 6:7; 11:19.

[29] Deuteronomy 8:18–20 (ESV).

[30] John Newton, “Begone Unbelief” (1779).

[31] See Psalm 2:1–6.

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.