Toward the end of the book of II Samuel, King David sought God's explanation for a prolonged famine in the land, but he failed to seek God for the cure.
He was an inadequate king with a faulty plan and the results turned out to be devastating. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg helps us find hope in this horrifying story. He's teaching from II Samuel chapter 21. 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, 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, 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.
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. How can these things be put right? How shall I make atonement that 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? Now, fascinatingly, they are the ones, the Gibeonites, to create the following process. Their first response is to say, This is not something that can be settled out of court. I mean, that's a paraphrase. They don't say that, so why did you say that?
I don't know. It's not a matter of silver or gold between us. I guess I have in mind the trial attorneys who are part of our congregation who tell me that very, very seldom do they actually get the opportunity to try a case in court, because most of the stuff is done in the corridor.
Not that it is wrong stuff in the corridor, but let's just try and settle it this way. So they come back and say, You're not going to be able to get out of this with a compensation, a monetary thing, that we can do over here. That won't work.
Okay. Well… And furthermore, they said, And it's not for us to put any man to death in Israel. You see, they already know that it's only going to be death. It's only going to be the shedding of blood that will be able to deal with blood-guiltiness.
Right? And so David says, Well, what do you say that I shall do for you? It's actually almost pathetic, this, really, isn't it?
He's the King, for goodness' sake. You've got to be careful where you take your advice. Is that what you're asking me to do? We're not the people to put anybody to death in Israel the inferences, but of course you could.
You could do that. So he says, Well, is that what you're asking me to do? And then they came back very specifically. Then they said to the king, The man who consumed us—for this is what Saul had done, they don't mention his name—and planned to destroy us, which was his zeal for Judah, whatever his motivation was. He was capable of all kinds of strange things. You remember that question by Samuel?
What is this bleating that I hear? Because he'd been told by God to destroy the Amalekites, and he did a poor job of it. So God told him to destroy the Amalekites, and he didn't do it, and God did not tell him to destroy the Gibeonites, and he made a jolly good stab at it.
What a mess, really. He planned to destroy us so that we would have no place in all the territory of Israel. And the promise that was there in the covenant was, You can be here in Israel. You tricked us, but we made a promise, and we keep our promises. And the reason we keep our promises is because God keeps his promises. Incidentally—and in passing it's so obvious, isn't it?—but the Christian in the world today, one of our great opportunities to impact our culture is by being promise-keepers, that what we say we mean, and when we mean it, we follow through on it, and we are committed. This is what they were up against. Let seven of his sons be given to us, that we may hang them before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul.
Whoa! And they refer to him, I think, ironically, or, you know, at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord. Yeah. He was the chosen of the Lord. Mm. And the king said, I will give them.
I will give them. Well. Now, again, the background to this is very important, and I say to you that if you research this, you will discover that the way in which a covenant was enacted—it was called the cutting of a covenant, which is there in the Hebrew—and the cutting of a covenant involved animals, it involved bloodshed, it was in many ways disgusting, the cutting it up, the washing of it, the putting some of the animal on one side, putting the rest of the animal on the other side, and then those who were committed to the covenant walked, often in darkness, down the corridor in between these two things. And as they made their promises, they said, As we have cut up this animal and parted it in this way, so may we be cut up and parted if we do not keep this covenant that today we declare. That's how significant it was.
Incidentally, having just come back from a minor trip in Europe, I hardly met a single person under the age of forty, male or female, that is actually married—married in a formal marriage, living together or single or whatever else it might be. And I said to myself, Here is another opportunity for the Christian church to establish what it means to live under God's purposes. We don't have to go around with party hats on our heads.
We don't have to come up with some strange sticker to put on our cards. Just do what God says! Just do it! And see what happens!
Try it! Well, yeah. I got the choir in here this morning.
It's very good. Bless you, sister. Yeah. And so, the king said, I will give them.
I will give them. Phew! Did that cost him anything? Do you understand what he just said?
Well, look on. Verse 7 to verse 9. The king spared one and gave up seven. Yeah, he spared Mephibosheth, because he'd made a promise to Jonathan. So he keeps covenant and spares Mephibosheth. Saul violated the covenant, and the result is death.
Now, the scene that is described is quite horrific, isn't it? The king took the two sons of Rispa, the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul. She was Saul's concubine.
Do you think she ever imagined she'd get herself into this when Saul said, Hey, you never know, do you? Yeah. The king, did he come to the front door? I came through your boys.
They're gonna be hanged. Which boys? Armoni and Mephibosheth. This is a different Mephibosheth. In fact, we just heard the last of Mephibosheth in verse 7. Interesting that this boy would be called Mephibosheth.
Leave that aside. And also the five sons of Merib, the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel, the son of Barzillai, the Mahalathite. It's so hard for me to imagine how you do this. The king brought them and gave them to the Gibeonites, knowing what they were about to do. I don't know if he kept a journal. I'd love to have read what he wrote that night. Dear Diary, my attempt today at dealing with the consequences of Saul's sin has proven totally inadequate. I'm trying to make myself feel better by what I just did for Mephibosheth. And the fact that Rizpah has done what she has done has set me on a track that also helps me to feel a little better about things. After all, although this has been an ugly, disastrous, devastating scenario—at least I've been able to provide a nice and tidy burial for everybody in the end—wow!
You're gonna have to really struggle to get some benefit out of that. This all happened on the mountain before the Lord. They wanted it to happen in the location of Saul's home, and it did. And they were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of the barley harvest. Presumably there was no barley harvest. There was a famine. So you get that little note, don't you? It's a bit like in the book of Ruth.
You get it again here. So people, like at 9-11, they would remember. They would say, You know, that was at the barley harvest.
I mean, we had no harvest, but it was the time of the barley harvest. It marked it. It was unforgettable. It was ugly. It was devastating. It's unsurpassingly sad.
And it's supposed to be sad. It's a solemn story. Squeeze your eyes together, you know, and see if you can't manage, as an outsider, to look and think about a mother getting herself a bolt of sackcloth from wherever you get it—you know, Michael's or wherever they have that stuff—and showing up with it, and spreading it out, and sitting on it, maybe making a lean-to out of it, so that she might be able to protect the corpses of her boys from the sun, that the vultures may be beaten back by her hands, and the wild beasts scared off by her cries. The horror, I suggest to you, defies description. We need to end.
Let me end by suggesting a couple of things. One is that the sights and sounds and smells that are represented in this scene are not to be run away from by us. The reason that laments are in the Bible, in the Psalms, is because we all face harsh, cruel, devastating bits and pieces of our lives. And the response of belief is to make sure that we do not judge the Lord by our feeble sense nor that we try superficially to say, Of course, this doesn't really affect me. It affects us horribly.
It affects us radically. And so, let's learn to allow the parts that cause us to wince to wince for a wee while, to learn from this. Let us also recognize that what we actually have here is an attempt by David at human justice in a sin-disordered world.
Right? And that's what's happening every day in our country—attempts to right wrongs in a sin-disordered world, without taking into account that this is God's world, that no sin goes unnoticed, that his wrath is real, and that judgment will ensue. So how in a world can you deal with justice without the fact that the God of all the earth will do right?
Well, ultimately, you see, you can't. And parenthetically, that is one of the reasons why our Western civilization totters on the brink of a kind of moral extinction. Because God has gone, left town. The last thing is this—that the inadequacy of David's attempt should cause us to say, the fact that he couldn't pull it together in his kingdom—that absence points us to the fact that great David's greater Son is the only one who is able to deal with sin, is the only one who is able to deal with the wrath of God. He is the only one who is the propitiation, as we read in Romans chapter 3. I haven't concluded on this chapter, I must say, and you may have a great sense of that, but there are a number of things that I'm struggling with. One is that I want to preserve David's image, just instinctively.
I want to get David out of this as good as I can. But instead of seeking the advice of God, he sought the advice of the Gibeonites. That was a bad move. Then, when they responded, he granted their request.
Their request. That was also a bad move. Because their request was not God's way of dealing with sin. God's way of dealing with sin involved repentance. God's way of dealing with sin was not human sacrifice. God's way of dealing with sin is the provision of a substitute.
That's the whole point of all the sacrifices, so that eventually the one substitution for sin is provided in the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Furthermore, David… I hate to even say this, but I'll say it anyway, because maybe I'm wrong, and then I can feel bad about it later on, but it seems to me that David broke the explicit command of God in doing what he did. Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers.
Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. The death of Saul's sons was not God's idea. It wasn't his idea. Nor was it his requirement as recompense for what Saul had done in breaking the covenant oath and in slaying the people.
That wasn't God's plan. And last but by no means least, there's a more than even chance that in doing what he did, he actually broke the specific promise that he gave to Saul himself. Back in chapter 24 of 1 Samuel, after David has spared Saul's life again, and they have a big, long conversation, and Saul finally says to him, Now I know that you will surely be the king… You might remember this conversation. … and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my offspring after me, that you will not destroy my name out of my father's house. And David swore this to Saul.
Then Saul went home. Well, I don't know how you can get out of that. He said, I won't do it. You say, yeah, but, you know, maybe he was thinking about Mephibosheth. Maybe he was.
I don't know. No, the horror of it all points to the horror that is there in the atonement when Jesus Christ, the healer, the helper, the friend of sinners, the carer of children, when he is taken and stripped and beaten and has a crown of thorns rammed on his head, and they make fun of him, and they abuse him. And now he has to die, the way some people died during COVID, with nobody there to hold his hand, nobody there to speak a word to him, nothing at all. That's how he died. Why? So that you and I may not face the wrath of God but that we might be the beneficiaries of his sacrifice of atonement. And perhaps this sorry saga here in chapter 21 of 2 Samuel exists simply that through endurance of this attempt at exposition and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might be pressed forward to Calvary. They don't get up too soon.
Look at that. Wounded for me. Wounded for me.
There on the cross he was wounded for me, and gone my transgressions, and now I am free, all because Jesus was wounded for me. Through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope, we might have hope, a hope that stands the test of time. Bible teaching for just five dollars. You'll find the USB in our online store at truthforlife.org store. And then let me recommend some newly released vintage teaching from Alistair from the book of Genesis. This is a series we have recently remastered from the archives. It's a 12-message study about faithfulness in the story of Abraham. It's titled Venturing in Faith.
The series comes with a corresponding study guide that you can download for free or purchase as a hard copy at our cost. You'll find it online when you search for Venturing in Faith at truthforlife.org slash Abraham. Next week we're beginning a series in the book of James, and as you get ready to hear that series, we want to encourage you to request a copy of the book Radically Whole Gospel Healing for the Divided Heart. This is a chapter by chapter study through the book of James, which he wrote to provide instruction to believers on how we are to live as faithful followers of Jesus. Ask for your copy of Radically Whole when you give a donation to support Truth for Life at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. It seems like the world has completely changed since the days when Jesus walked the earth, so how are we supposed to stay strong in our faith when we're surrounded by so much contemporary chaos and confusion? 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 / 2023-08-24 05:18:40 / 2023-08-24 05:26:45 / 8