December 5, 2021
Sin always has consequences. Few people knew that better than David, whose once robust kingdom declined into a shadow of its former self, marked by instability and injustice. Focusing on the final verses of 2 Samuel 20, Alistair Begg draws a line between David’s sin with Bathsheba and the ultimate failure of his dynasty. But as we consider David’s failure, we also turn our eyes to the one perfect King, Jesus, who promises to restore what sin destroys.
Sermon Transcript: Print
And I invite you to turn to 2 Samuel and to chapter 20. As I said this morning, we will conclude our study in this chapter tonight. And as we turn there together, we turn to God in prayer:
Our gracious God and our heavenly Father, we thank you that in many ways of old you have spoken by the prophets, but in these last days you have spoken to us in your Son. And we pray now that as we read from the Scriptures and as we seek to bow beneath its instruction, that it will be used by the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our understanding, to draw us to a renewed commitment to the one of whom it speaks—namely, to Jesus Christ. And to this end we seek your help. In his name. Amen.
Well, we ended this morning, those of us who were present, having considered the opposition that came by way of this worthless man by the name of Sheba and the intervention that came by way of an unnamed woman who exercised considerable influence in the circumstances. And we left off, really, the concluding few verses: 23, 24, and 25. Perhaps I’ll just read those three verses: “Now Joab was in command of all the army of Israel; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and Adoram was in charge of the forced labor; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; and Sheva was secretary; and Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Ira the Jairite was also David’s priest.”
Well, they seem almost anticlimactic, don’t they? Or perhaps even so. What is this? It appears simply to be a list of the members, if you like, of David’s cabinet, the crucial people within the structure of government as it was to proceed from there. And the way in which we need to think about this is in relationship to the fact that this is the second occasion in 2 Samuel when such a list has been provided. On the previous occasion, it is to be found at the end of chapter 8. At the end of chapter 8, if you turn there in your Bible, you can see it. It is of a similar length. It is largely the same, but there are significant differences. For example, we’re told immediately in 20:23 here that “Joab was in command of all the army of Israel.” It is in the second verse of that list in chapter 8 that Joab is identified as being in command of all the army of Israel. And I think there is an indication in the way in which that falls of the very fact that, as we saw at least this morning, that Joab has risen, really, to a position of ascendancy in terms of the kingdom, and that as David continues to move, as it were, into a time of less encouragement than was previously part of his reign, Joab is doing what he does and in many ways is filling the gaps.
The important distinction, though, is this: that in 8:15, as we saw this morning, the chronicler, the narrator, wants to make absolutely clear that at this point—which is really the end of the first part of 2 Samuel—at this point, “David reigned over all Israel,” and as he did so, he “administered justice and equity to all [the] people.” So, his position as king was significant, and the implications of his kingship were seen not only in the decisions that he made but in the way he conducted his life and in the way he organized everything that was going on. By the time you get to the list in chapter 20, things are beginning to change. For example—and we won’t delay on this—you will notice in verse 24 that this man Adoram “was in charge of the forced labor.” There was no forced labor in the early part of David’s kingdom. The covenantal relationships that existed amongst the people were sufficient to cause the people to serve one another underneath the rule of the king. By the time we get to the end of the second section of the book and before the epilogue, which begins in chapter 21, things have changed. If we read forward into the era of the kings, we will then discover that this forced labor eventually led to the division of the kingdom in its entirety. And so, in 1 and 2 Kings, you have this great digression and dispersion, and that is seeded, if you like, in what we find here.
So, what we’re discovering and what the narrator is telling us, in simple terms, is that the order and, if you like, the grandeur that marked out part one of his kingdom has now diminished. It is no longer as it was then. The bright marks, if you like, have been overshadowed, have taken on a less than beautiful sheen, and the kingdom is no longer the remarkable kingdom that we began to study. And just as Saul’s dynasty failed, so David’s dynasty is failing too, as Solomon’s will also fade. Saul faded politically, Solomon is going to collapse religiously, and, of course, we know that David’s failure was a moral failure.
It’s actually impossible, you see, to read this without recognizing that from chapter 11 right through to the end of chapter 20, to read the story is to be painfully aware of the fact that everything in this decline which is revealed within the structure of the kingdom may be traced to David’s great offense—may be traced to that which happened late one afternoon, when kings had gone to war and when David stayed home.
Choices have significance. And the choices that he made on that occasion not only impacted him, impacted Bathsheba, but impacted the future of his reign. And so, when we read this, there is very little doubt, I think, that if he could have controlled his biography—if he had been able to say, “This is what I would like to be in there”—there is no doubt that he would have asked to omit certain sections from the record, and not least of all those that we refer to now.
So, the consequences of his sin had undermined the goodness of his kingdom. I know I mentioned this song. It’s a silly song, but it really fits. It was done by Cher. It was a hit. It had something to do with a love song, I’m sure. But the refrain is “If I could turn back time…” “If I could turn back time, if I could find a way…” That’s the refrain of the song. And there’s not a person listening to me right now who doesn’t have at least some section in our lives—perhaps very recent, perhaps in the dim and distant past—and we say, “If there was only the possibility that I could go back and deal with that.”
Well, of course, it was dealt with in David’s case. And if you’re trusting Christ, it’s dealt with in your case too. Because on account of his immense mercy and his amazing grace, he was forgiven, and he was forgiven and he was restored, but he wasn’t restored to the wonder of what had gone on before.
He was handicapped by it. And the prophecy of Nathan that we considered in chapter 12 was just fulfilled in graphic detail, wasn’t it? When we read it in 12, we hadn’t gone as far as we’ve gone now. When you read the prophecy in chapter 12 now, in light of all that we’ve been through, you realize what a statement it was. Nathan says to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of [the] sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”
Towards the end of his life, Oscar Wilde, whose life was a sorry life, writes in one of his books, “I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has someday to cry aloud on the [rooftops].” I say again to the young people who listen to me: keep your story simple. Keep your story simple. When in the—when was it?—the ’80s there was a 5.8 (on the Richter scale) earthquake in Washington, DC, and it destabilized significantly the National Cathedral, so much so that it cost millions to put it back the way it was—and I recall that the advertising campaign for the raising of money simply said, “See what a difference a few seconds can make.”
We read these things, and we recognize that the dark shadows that pervade this closing section are a reminder to us and a warning to us. And as the story proceeds from here, what happens, of course, is that again and again and again, it is represented in such a way that the people who, remember, back in the Judges, thought that everything would be sorted out if they could only have a king, and certainly a big handsome king like Saul—and that didn’t work. Maybe even the king of all kings, the ideal king David, a man after God’s own heart—and that didn’t work. And then perhaps Solomon in all of his glory, who asked for wisdom and was granted wisdom and yet got married seven hundred times and had three hundred concubines. That doesn’t sound like wisdom to me. And so eventually, the people are not simply looking for a king. They’re not even looking for a better king. They’re looking for a perfect king. That’s the question: “Where can we find a perfect ruler?” Actually, that’s the question that people are asking now in Western culture.
Motyer is very helpful in this. He says, “In so many areas the Old Testament prepares for the New by unanswered questions, and this is true not least regarding the kingly Messiah.” Who is this King, and where might he come from? And the answer is found in the opening sentence of the New Testament. “Well,” you say, “is it really?” Well, yes, it actually is. Matthew 1:1 reads, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”—he of whom we have sung, who is the Son of God and the Son of Man. It is he who—to remind ourselves of our third point as stated—it is he who is the one and only one who is able to restore our weary world.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this—and I hadn’t given a lot of thought to it. But since I had gone to Mathew, I read on, and I had never really paid attention to the phrase that Jesus uses. Peter said to him, “We[’ve] left everything and followed you. What … will we [then] have?”—talking about the kingdom of God. Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world…” In the new world! And Jesus says there’s going to be a new world. We’re not actually going to heaven. We’re going to be in a new world, with hills and valleys and mountains and trees and places to relax and people to see and things to do—and that the whole purpose of God is not simply to redeem a people for himself but to restore his people to things as they were in the beginning. It begins in a garden. The garden, through sin, becomes a wilderness. Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is immediately taken out into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. He triumphs over them. He establishes his kingdom. He deals with the demons. He heals the sick. He stills the seas and so on. And he’s saying, “I am the King, and I am giving you, in my miraculous interventions, a foretaste of what things will eventually be on that day and in that new world.” And as we said this morning, he comes as the second Adam to undo the effects of Adam’s fall and to accomplish all that Adam failed to do. The hymn writers are helpful in this: “O, loving wisdom of our God!”—we sang it this morning—“When all was sin and shame, a second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.”
So, here is the point that is not stated but is longed for as you come to the sorry end of chapter 20, and it is straightforward: namely, that the restoration of a broken and a weary world is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is only as our individual worlds find in the Lord Jesus Christ the one who puts things back together again that then the amalgamation of that experience when the people of God gather gives to us a sense of anticipation.
Years ago now, somebody gave me a series of DVDs that chronicled the rise of the Calvary Chapel movement, and particularly the Jesus Movement on the West Coast and all of the music that went along with that. And the thing that was so striking to me out of all of it was the very simplicity of what was being said and sung in the ’60s—that the people there were essentially saying to one another and to their friends and to their neighbors, “Do you know? Do you know that God, in Jesus, has come to make you and me brand new, to make us new people?”
And of course, the hippies in Haight-Ashbury were experimenting with all kinds of things. People were open to all kinds of ideas. And I didn’t verify this, but I think I’m right in recalling the fact that one of the encounters that took place was with a young lady who then became part of a gospel group called the 2nd Chapter of Acts. She was living in San Francisco. Her life was a royal shambles, by her own testimony. She had regrets and disappointments such as she could hardly bear. And someone met her in the street and said to her, “Do you know that in Jesus you can be made new?” And she said, “Do you mean I get a redo?” And the person says, “Yes. You get a redo. He makes you new from the inside out.” Then she said, “I need a redo. I want a redo.” And her life was restored.
Well, the amalgamation that is eventually there as described in Revelation 21 and 22—that’s why I read it—is an expression of that reality. It is quite wonderful to think that when the Bible is coming to an end, it’s absolutely masterful in the way in which it happens. Because Genesis chapter 1 is the description of the creation of the world. Genesis 1! And Revelation chapter 22 is the record or the anticipation of God remaking that world. So you begin the Bible, it says, “God made the world. Man messed it up. We live in a fallen world. We need a Savior. Jesus is the Savior.” Well, then what? Well, “There’s a land that is fairer than day.” There is a time when things will be restored—Revelation 21:4, and the word is “The former things have passed away,” and “Behold, I am making all things new.” I’ll leave it to you to read for yourself: “No longer will there be anything accursed … the throne of God and the Lamb will be in it …. They will see his face, … his name will be on their foreheads.” I guess the reflection; I don’t know. And the fruitfulness of the garden of Eden will now be matched by a continual fruitfulness: “It will yield its fruit every month.” And this, you see, is the Christian’s hope.
C. S. Lewis… I thought I would give you one C. S. Lewis quote just to get us ready for next Sunday night. C. S. Lewis, at least for children and for those of us who still know ourselves to be children, was masterful, wasn’t he, at being able to take vast concepts and describe them in a way that would encourage people to, in their imagination, look beyond themselves. And in The Last Battle, which is the last of the Narnia series, as you will know—which is set, I think, two and a half thousand Narnia years into the future, or forty-nine earth years… Anyway, it’s set in the future, and the things are now anticipated, and Lewis writes in the book,
The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; [and] in which every chapter is better than the one before.
So I said this morning, “You’re weary, are you, for someone to be able to say of this Davidic dynasty, ‘And they all lived happily ever after’?” Well, we’re unable to say it, except in the completion in the one who is the King of Kings.
Well, just a moment of silence:
Lord, here we are as creatures of time, reading history, reading the story of your dealings, aware of our own small histories and understanding the warnings that are contained in this story, and yet at the same time recognizing the wonder that is provided in the promise. And so, the reason that David could proceed, albeit with a somewhat tarnished kingdom, was because Jesus was his Savior. For he is the Savior of all who believe.
And we thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that you reign; that you have come to reign; that your kingdom is established first of all in your person; that your kingdom grows, advances, by the proclamation of the gospel throughout the world; and after that, one day, finally, visibly, and universally, it will become manifestly plain.
So, Lord, we pray that you will help us not to chafe under the difficulties of our present circumstances; to pray more keenly for those whose circumstances are vastly worse than anything that we have ever known; to pray for the persecuted church tonight throughout the world, that they somehow or another, as they turn to the Bible, may be reminded of the fact that the story actually begins in the future, and in that great future, all that has marred and dispirited and discouraged and destroyed life here will be entirely unknown. And how do we know this? Because you said so. Because you promised. This is a long, long promise. We continue to trust it and to believe that there is in Jesus a hope that stands the test of time. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 See Hebrews 1:1–2.
 Diane Warren, “If I Could Turn Back Time” (1989).
 2 Samuel 12:11–12 (ESV).
 Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (1905).
 Alec Motyer, Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), 36.
 Matthew 19:27–28 (ESV).
 John Henry Newman, “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” (1865).
 Sanford Fillmore Bennett, “In the Sweet By and By” (1868).
 Revelation 21:5 (ESV).
 Revelation 22:3–4 (ESV).
 Revelation 22:2 (paraphrased).
 C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (1956), chap. 16.
Copyright © 2023, 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.