Too often in our day promises are quickly made and then easily broken. In the Bible, you'll see that God does not treat promises so lightly. And today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg takes a look at God's response to a broken promise.
We're continuing our Encore 2023 series with a message titled, You May Not Want to Look. I invite you to turn with me to 2 Samuel and to chapter 21, and to follow along as I read from the first verse. And then, actually, you may just like to put a finger in Romans chapter 3.
I'll read just a brief section from there also. Now, there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the Lord, and the Lord said, There is blood guilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death. So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them.
Now, the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. And David said to the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you, and how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD? The Gibeonites said to him, It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house, neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel. And he said, What do you say that I shall do for you?
They said to the king, The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel. Let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD. And the king said, I will give them. But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Saul's son Jonathan, because of the oath of the LORD that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. The king took the two sons of Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth, and the five sons of Merib, the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Mehelethite. And he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the LORD. And the seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest. Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest, until rain fell upon them from the heavens.
And she did not allow the birds of the air to come upon them by day, or the beasts of the field by night. When David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah the concubine of Saul had done, David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan from the men of Jabesh Gilead, who had stolen them from the public square of Bethsham, where the Philistines had hanged them on the day the Philistines killed Saul on Gilbila. And he brought them up from there, the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan, and they gathered the bones of those who were hanged.
And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin, in Zelah, in the tomb of Kish his father. And they did all that the king commanded. And after that, God responded to the plea for the land. And then, just briefly, in Romans chapter 3, and verse 21, but now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Amen. So, Father, grant that as we turn to the Word of God, we might hear the voice of God. Guard and guide my lips, stir our minds that we might think sensibly and that we might open our hearts to the truth of your Word as it is revealed to us in the text before us. For we pray in Jesus' name.
Amen. Well, here we are resuming our studies in 2 Samuel, and what we have before us here this morning is certainly not a pretty picture. It is actually a perplexing picture, and I found it quite painful to study.
And I hope that you paid careful attention as it was read, because with other parts of the Bible it actually offends our moral sensibilities. The natural reaction on our part is to say, Well, how could this possibly be? Why would this unfold in this way? And so on. It confronts us with uncomfortable truths, and it challenges us with difficult questions. It is important for us, those who affirm our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we don't pass superficially over these things. We recognize that the world in which we live is a world that is a harsh and a cruel place.
What we see here from all these many, many years ago, we don't need to find simply in the pages of Scripture. We are aware of all that has been unfolding in the week that has passed, in the months of this year, and so on. At the same time, we recognize that Louis Armstrong was onto something when he sang, you know, I see skies of blue and red roses too, and I see them bloom from me and you, and I think to myself, What a wonderful world!
And it is a wonderful world. We are capable of being almost angelic. And at the same time, we are capable of being like apes. We are capable of harnessing nuclear power in order that we might sustain all kinds of necessities in our world and yet at the same time to use it to destroy vast swathes of humanity.
And we need to face up to this. And the problem, you see, is not a problem for the atheist. Atheists are often coming to us and saying, Well, how could you believe in a God like that? They say, Well, how could you believe in a God that is described in this way in the Bible?
But then if the Bible had left it out, they would say, Well, why wasn't all that stuff the bad stuff in the Bible? You can't win. And yet, if they're honest—and every so often you will meet an honest one, like Stephen Hawking, who died in 2018. He was the director of research at the Center for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge.
And he was honest enough to say this, to acknowledge this. If there is no God—which, of course, he believed—and we have evolved by chance through millions of years, then everything that happens, whether good or bad, must be viewed as simply the result of random, pitiless indifference. From this perspective, to ask why is not only meaningless, it is actually irrelevant. You see, the problem is that this is God's world—that God is a holy God, no sin passes unrecorded—and biblical history takes into account the presence of God in the world that he has made, so that the mainspring of history is actually God's providential rule over everyone and over everything. Now, just as you listen to me say that, you realize how radically different that is from the worldview of large parts of our contemporary culture—university faculties, schoolchildren—going about their business as if somehow or another there was no God to whom we are accountable and there was no one to whom we might look. But it is God's world, created by him, sustained by him, directed by him, and that's where the problem lies. Because people then say, How can such things happen in God's world? And that is one of the great challenges, of course, that we face as Christians in going about our days and in seeking to say to people, Well, we have to consider this, and we need to consider that. Well, it is a help, I think, to us to be confronted by this perplexing, sad, and difficult passage, because it demands careful thought. If this was actually a movie, then it would have a warning attached to it.
It would have a caption that reads, The following film contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing, and viewer discretion is advised. Because look at the picture. Seven sons, hanged up, taken down.
A mother shows up to sit there in the morning to bat away the birds of the early part of the day and to protect the corpses from the wild beasts as the evening shadows fall. What is possibly nice about this? Now, why would we even study it at all? Well, of course, many people would not study it. Many pastors would not study it. I don't say to my credit that I'm studying.
I'm telling you, I'm stuck with it. I mean, we finished twenty, we have to do twenty-one. It's not like I woke up, you know, last Monday and said, You know, I think I'll do that horribly difficult passage there at the beginning of 2 Samuel 21. No, it's because of our conviction. It's about the Bible's conviction about itself, that it is profitable, having been inspired by God for correction, for reproof, for training in righteousness, that we may be presented faultless ultimately before God's glory, that it is able to make us wise for salvation. And in our kind of foundational verse that we've used throughout all of these studies, all the things that have been written in our former days were written for our instruction so that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. So, in other words, this is included in that whatever was written. And as we study it, apparently it's going to cause us to endure, and through the encouragement that we derive from it, we're going to be filled with hope.
Yeah! Okay. Now, what is our task? Our task is straightforward.
And it's the same task for every passage. And that is to ask of the passage, What is it actually saying? What is it actually saying? Not to ask, What would I like it to say? Nor, What kind of emphasis might I give to it?
Or worse still, How does it make me feel? But rather, What is it actually saying? Now, from 21 to the end of the book, we have four chapters which essentially form an epilogue. What we have here is a selection of material that takes countenance of various parts of David's reign. We ought to understand that it is not provided for us chronologically. Having said that, it is not haphazard. The way in which the writer puts together these chapters is very careful. But the way in which he deals with it is not by chronology but rather thematically. As becomes obvious when you realize that he begins verse 1, Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years.
Well, when was that? Well, we're not told. Except that it was in the days of David.
That's what I mean. So you ought not to assume, necessarily, that the first verse of 21 follows chronologically from the last verse of chapter 20. The writer is putting the material together in the way that he deems best, and he essentially pauses for a moment in the succession story, which will be picked up again at the beginning of 1 Kings. This epilogue, then, he decides to put not after the death of David but before the death of David, and he includes this material.
Now, let me try and work through the material here. First of all, in verses 1 and 2, we discover that famine was a problem, but it wasn't the real problem. It wasn't the real problem. You will notice the repetitious nature of it year after year. It wasn't that the famine had just popped up and was something in the immediacy of life, but it had come and come again and come again. In fact, people were beginning to starve now, and the impact of the famine would be clear for everyone to see.
And the famine is not a consequence of material forces alone. When we speak of natural disasters—which, of course, they are—behind the natural is the supernatural providence of God. Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, tides, winds, the trees that fell last night, the darkness that came in the afternoon, is under God's providential care. So that behind the natural disaster is the hand of an overruling providence. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace.
Behind that big dark cloud he hides a shining face. That's what Cowper is saying in that hymn. I find it distressing when people who fill the role that I fill like to tell people that they know the exact reason why certain things are happening now.
I wonder where they get it all from. They style themselves as prophets, but they're not prophets. They should have learned from somebody who is a prophet, namely David. Because David, you will notice, when he is confronted by this circumstance, sought the face of the Lord. He realized he didn't know the answer to the question, and therefore he needed to go to the one who did it. You see, famine was the calamity, but the underlying cause was a broken covenant which had incurred the wrath of God. The Lord replies to his investigation, his plea as it's referred to in verse 14. There is, says the Lord, and how he spoke to him we don't know whether David sought guidance from someone else or whether in a direct encounter. That is pure conjecture. If we needed to know, we'd be told. What we need to know is here, and that is that there is blood guilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.
Now, again, this won't mean very much to any of us unless we have been doing a lot of homework on our own. And what we need to do is go back and read Joshua chapter 9. Because you will see there that almost parenthetically the king is going to speak to the Gibeonites, but before he speaks to them, the writer tells us that the Gibeonites weren't of the people of Israel.
They were part of the remnant of the Amorites. And Joshua chapter 9 tells the story of how the Gibeonites came up with a form of trickery and scalduggery and managed to get Joshua and the leaders of Israel to include them within the framework of their covenant promises. And the fact that they had done it by deception meant that some of the people said, Wait a minute, this shouldn't happen. And the leaders, in response to the congregation, said, We have sworn to them by the LORD the God of Israel. In other words, God's name is at stake in this. You see, when you swear an oath before God, as it were, when you take God's name, you daren't take his name in vain. You know, in Ecclesiastes it says, you know, when you make your vow, make sure you follow through on it. The reason we will have difficulty with this concept, incidentally, is because we're not good at promises. When I say we, I mean humanity. We break promises all the time. And so you look at this, and you say, This is an overreaction.
No, it's not an overreaction. The people of Israel, the leaders said to the congregation, We have sworn to them, this we will do to them, we will let them live. Notice the phrase, Lest wrath be upon us. Because the breaking of the covenant would incur the wrath of God.
Because of the oath that we swore to them, we promised, and the leaders said to them, Let them live. So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them." Now, what we discover is that Saul, in an unrecorded incident in terms of 1 and 2 Samuel, he had set aside the covenant with the Gibeonites and had killed a number of them—probably quite a large number of them—and as a result had incurred God's wrath. David says to God, What's going on here with this famine? God says, I'll tell you what.
I am against Saul and what he has done, for he is offended against my name, he has broken the covenant that was made in my name, and therefore that is why you are up against things as you are. But you will notice that the Lord had told David the cause, but he does not inform him of the cure. In other words, he doesn't tell him what to do about it. It would have been better perhaps if he had. But he doesn't.
And fascinatingly, David does not, in this instance, then seek the Lord again. There's a big famine, three years. I'm the king. What's going on?
What's the problem? There is blood guilt on the house of Saul. Okay, I've got that. Well, why not go back to him and say, And how shall we handle this? But he doesn't. He doesn't make it up. He gives the opportunity to the Gibeonites. Look at verse 3. God doesn't tell him what to do about the issue.
The proposed solution comes from the lips of the Gibeonites. How can these things be put right? How shall I make atonement? The covenant has broken things. How will there be reconciliation? What shall I do for you? That you may bless the heritage of the Lord, the heritage of the Lord, God's people, God's place, which has been impacted by this famine now over these three years. How are we going to put this back together again?
What price is it going to take? We're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. Alistair will wrap up this message tomorrow. Here at Truth for Life, our desire is to make clear, relevant Bible teaching available to everyone without cost being a barrier. We're able to offer many free resources or low cost resources because of faithful giving that comes from our truth partners. So if you are one of our truth partners, thank you on behalf of so many who are benefiting. And if you've been listening to this daily program for a while, enjoying our free online access to archived messages or transcripts or devotionals or more, why not make today the day you join the team that makes all of this possible? You can sign up to become a truth partner at truthforlife.org slash truth partner, or call us at 888-588-7884. And when you do, we'll say thank you by inviting you to request a copy of a book called Radically Whole, Gospel Healing for the Divided Heart. Ask for your copy today when you become a truth partner or when you give a one-time donation at truthforlife.org slash donate.
There's another offer we're making that is available for just a few more days for the remainder of August. You can download the free audio book Brave by Faith, God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World. This book is written and read by Alistair. It explores God's faithfulness to Daniel living in the unbelieving culture of ancient Babylon. In the book, we see what we can learn from Daniel's experience about navigating our world today. As you listen to Brave by Faith, you'll discover how to trust God, even when everything appears to be spinning out of control and it seems like God no longer has his hand on the wheel. Download your free copy of the Brave by Faith audio book today at truthforlife.org slash brave. I'm Bob Lapine. King David was an inadequate king with a faulty plan, so how do we find hope in David's horrifying story? We'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-27 13:17:22 / 2023-08-27 13:25:51 / 8