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“His Craft and Power Are Great” (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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April 29, 2024 4:00 am

“His Craft and Power Are Great” (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 29, 2024 4:00 am

God is always working out His redemption plan. So how do we explain those times when evil appears to overwhelm His people? On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg explains why even the evil work of God’s enemies isn’t beyond the boundaries of His providence.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!

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All through history, God has been working his plan of redemption so how are we to make sense of those times when it seems like evil is defeating God's people? Alistair Begg has the answers for us today on Truth for Life as he explains why even the evil work of God's enemies is not beyond the boundaries of his providence. We're studying 1 Samuel 22. Any news of David seems to set Saul off his rocker.

And once again, this is exactly what happens. Saul said to his servants, having discovered that David was in the offing, let me say to you that when you think about what I can do for you—and this character, who is just a troubler for me, this son of Jesse—let me ask you, he says, do you think that he would be able to give you fields and vineyards? Do you think that he would be able to make you a commander of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and you have all conspired against me?

Now, again, I wrote in my notes, when I wrote down, he won't be able to give you what I give you, and then I wrote underneath it. That's a line from the devil, if there ever was one. That's what the devil comes and says to us. Why would you obey God? Why would you trust this Jesus? Why would you follow him at all?

Why would you get involved with such a motley crew as hangs around your church and your friends? If you'd come with me, I've got so much for you. Now, this, of course, had been a warning that had been sounded out back in chapter 8. I won't go back to it, but I'll tell you where it is. Back in chapter 8 and in verse 14. And the warning was the warning that was given from Samuel, concerning the king that the people asked for, who was the desire of the people but not after the heart of the Lord. And you remember that he says, Now, if you get this king, this is what he will do. He will take these things from you. He will take your daughters and so on. And the vineyards and the olive orchards and stuff like that, he will give them to his servants.

Here we are, as he said. Do you think you could get servants and olive trees and so on from them? No. No. I'm the powerful one.

That's what he's saying. I'm the king of the castle. I can't believe what you people have done. Now, what does he say they've done? Well, he says, You've conspired against me. None of you are sorry for me that I am the hunted one, that he is the one—verse 8—who is lying in wait as at this day.

Which, of course, is the reverse of the case. It is Saul who is the protagonist. It is Saul who is lying in wait. Well, of course, none of that was actually happening. I imagine just a silence.

Is it all looking at one another, saying, Do you want to say something? I'm not going to say anything. I'm not going to get into it. Oh, but here we go. We wondered where when Doeg would show up. Right on cue, verse 9, Then answered Doeg the Edomite. Now, he's referred to as the Edomite three times in the chapter so that we might know that he is not part of God's covenant family. Now, the report that Doeg gives is largely true, but he leaves out parts. He leaves out parts. For example, he doesn't let Saul know that Ahimelech gave the stuff to David on the basis of the mistaken notion that David was serving Saul.

All right? He leaves out that part. He says he took these provisions, or he gave him those provisions—which he did. But the reason that he gave him the provisions is because David had said to him, untruthfully, I am on his majesty's secret service, as it were.

So he leaves out parts, and then he adds a part. He adds this part in verse 10. He inquired of the Lord for him. And then he says he gave him these provisions. When David reflects on this, you find this in Psalm 52. He speaks of one who he says, Your tongue plots destruction like a sharp razor.

You worker of deceit, you love evil more than good. And I think Psalm 52 has a heading. Yes, it does.

Yeah. Psalm 52. To the choir master, a maskel of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, David has come to the house of Ahimelek. And David, reflecting on that, writes in that way.

Well, thirdly—and we must keep on—verses 11–15. Ahimelek then is accused of complicity. Ahimelek is accused of complicity. Remember, he was unaware of the conflict between Saul and David. Then the king sent to summon Ahimelek the priest, the son of Ahitub or Ahitub, and all his father's house.

The priests who were at Nob. And then it just says, And all of them came to the king. I just think… I imagine Ahimelek saying, Well, we're supposed to go and see Saul, and I think we ought to make a day of it. Don't you think? I mean, we haven't been together for a while.

We can call it a road trip. There's that sense of it. There's no sense of threat as it's conveyed to us here. They were summoned there, and so they all came. All of his father's house in verse 1 were in safety, and now the same phrase—"all of his father's house"—were to be confronted with treachery.

You see that, what I'm pointing out? After the son of Ahitub and all his father's house—that's verse 11—you back to verse 1, when his brothers and all his father's house. There's another contrast in the safety of the cave confronting the treachery in the context of Saul. Now, you'll notice that Saul has a hard time calling anybody by their proper name. He's certainly—David's name sticks in his throat, so he refers to him always as the son of Jesse. Now he's decided he's going to do this with Ahimelek.

He's the son of Ahitub. I take it that it is derogatory, that it is demeaning, and that it's seeking to convey the notion again that respect is due to Saul and due supremely to Saul. And yet, given that that is the case, the response in verse 12 of Ahimelek is just quite straightforward. Here I am my lord. No antagonism, almost deferential in its tone.

And then he goes straight into it. Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse, in that you have given him bread and a sword and have inquired of God for him, so that he has risen against me? Again, notice, to lie in wait at this day. This is one of his phrases. He's lying in wait. Right now, here he is. You see the paranoia.

You see, somewhere, he's around here, somewhere, he's coming for me. Why have you taken sides with the son of Jesse? Now, the response of Ahimelek, as you read it, displays what one commentator referred to as an innocent naivete.

An innocent naivete. There's a beauty about the kind of humble honesty of Ahimelek's response. Given the fact that Doeg invented the notion of inquiring of the Lord, he responds to that.

No mention was made of inquiring of the Lord back in chapter 21. And so he says, you know, you think that this is the first time that I've inquired of the Lord? No. Not at all.

But think about it. Who among all your servants is as faithful as David? He's your son-in-law. He's the captain of your bodyguard.

He's honored in your house. It'd be surprising if I didn't inquire of God for him. But please, don't let the king impute anything to his servant, or to all the house of my father. For your servant has known nothing of all this, much for little. In other words, he says, I've got no idea where all your conspiracy theory comes from. And then in verses 16–19, we have death at the hands of Doeg. It is quite remarkable, isn't it, that 16 follows 15?

I haven't known anything about this. But you see, in his blissful naivety, he assumes that commanding David will be the kind of thing that Saul wants to hear, when it is the reverse of what he wants to hear. And so he says to him, Ahimelech, choosing to use his name for the first time, Ahimelech, you will die and all your father's house. And turning to his guard who stood about him, he said, Turn and kill the priests of the LORD, because their hand is with David. They knew that he fled. They didn't disclose it to me.

Now, this is a big moment. But the servants of the king would not put out their hand to strike the priests of the LORD. They refused to carry out the death sentence, putting themselves at risk in doing so. But they would have said, Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and this wouldn't be right to do, and frankly, we're not going to do it.

There is a time to say no, and they say no. Now, Saul's world is just absolutely crumbling around him. His influence is clearly waning. He's now lost control not only of his family, but he's lost control of the company that serve him. And all that is left to him now is to enlist the help of an Edomite.

And doing the Edomite, he says, You're the one. You turn and strike the priests. So this member who is not part of the covenant family of God, who is a descendant of Esau—you read about it back in Genesis—is going to do the deed.

Let me make two observations before we hasten to our conclusion. If you have been following along carefully, then what Saul commands to have happen here should remind you of what Saul was supposed to do back in chapter 15, when you will remember the Word of God to him was to carry out the destruction of the Amalekites. And on that occasion, they were supposed to, in a very singular way, devote the whole place to destruction.

You may remember that phrase. And then we read in the ninth verse back in 15, But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and of the oxen, and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them, but all that was despised and worthlessly devoted to destruction. So in other words, his own self-serving mentality prevented him from actually doing what he'd been told to do. So he refused to carry out the command of God to kill the enemy, and now he commands the enemy to kill the people of God. You see what happens when people start to unravel, when they turn their back on the law of God and on his truth?

That's the first observation. And the second observation is even more striking, in that doing slaughter here fulfills a word of prophecy that was given back in chapter 2. Because, if you turn to it—and you can read it for your homework—back in chapter 2, the word of God through his servant was such that he promised that the house of Eli would actually be destroyed. And so it is that we now find ourself all these years later, probably fifty years later, when the prophecy is fulfilled.

Here is what was said then, 2 31. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out, to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. What is actually happening here is that the priesthood of Eli is being decimated and paving the way for a whole new priestly function, a whole new priestly group.

Actually, what is happening is that the shift is taking place from Nob as the center of religious life and moving it to Jerusalem, where it will be focused. We can't see all of that now. But it is. The butchery in this circumstance is actually tied directly, linked to the behavior, the wickedness of Ahimelech's great-grandfather, who was Phinehas, who was the brother of Hophni, the depraved sons of Eli. You say, Things don't matter. These things are buried in the past. Time fixes everything.

No, it doesn't always. The evil work of Saul and Doeg is the evil work of an evil king and his sidekick. And yet what we discover is that this eventuality is not beyond the boundaries of the providence of God. And so what you're confronted with here is what a German commentator refers to as we're given an unnerving insight into the mysterious, intricate ways of divine judgment, confronted by irony and mystery—the same irony and mystery that ultimately finds its focus in Jesus and in his death.

As Peter preaches on the day, and he says, This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. You see, what we actually have here is the discovery—which we've known for some time, but it comes into focus—that Saul is actually the enemy of Israel, that Saul is seeking to crush the people of God. And as he seeks to crush the people of God, he actually takes his line—or joins a line, if you like—of others throughout the history of the Bible and throughout the history of the world who have done and who do the same. We couldn't work our way down the line.

It would be too long. But think of Pharaoh in the day of Moses, who decided that all the children were to be obliterated, and yet God had Moses in a basket. Think about the killing of the innocents when Herod, another paranoid, tyrannical king, endeavored to do the very same thing. He was opposed to God and to his purposes.

Or think about Haman in the book of Esther. Now when you think about this for just a moment—and I hope you do—and you stand back from it, you say to yourself, How can you explain such malevolent, tyrannical, horrific activity against the people of God? How do you explain the pattern? Because the pattern hasn't finished. Think about the events of the twentieth century and the people of God who have been martyred and who have remained martyred for their faith. They're not out causing trouble in the streets.

They're not raising banners. They're simply following Jesus. How do you explain the pattern? Well, I can tell you how to explain it, and we will come back to it on another occasion. We can only explain it in terms of what is said in the Bible concerning the antichrist. In 1 John chapter 2, John is writing to his followers, and he says, Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming—you know that antichrist is coming—so now many antichrists have come. He goes on and forth to say, The spirit of antichrist is in the world already. Antichrist simply means one who opposes Christ. And just as there will be a last day to all the last days, so ultimately the devil is the antichrist, and there will be an antichrist with a capital A. But meanwhile, says John, if you reflect on the story of the Bible, you will realize that there are antichrist figures dotted all over the place who actually provide a foretaste of the full embodiment of evil that is to come. Paul refers to it differently when he refers to the man of lawlessness, when he writes to the Thessalonians. The mystery of lawlessness, writes Paul, is already at work in the world—the mystery of lawlessness.

And suddenly, you may find yourself saying, You know, this study from so long ago and so far away seems to have something to say to explain the upending of our contemporary world. In Thessalonians, Paul says, God sends them a strong delusion so that they may believe what is false. That is exactly what Saul does. That is exactly what Herod does.

That is exactly what Haman does. And, fortunately, there is a conclusion in 20–23 where we are told that Abiathar escapes, and he finds safety with David. Ironically, his name means, My Father Remains. Of course, his father has gone with the other eighty-four. And as he conveys the news to David, David says, I take responsibility for my part in these events.

Presumably, he regrets not having dealt with Doeg back in chapter 21, when he showed up then. Let's just finish by comparing the statement in verse 16 made by Saul to Ahimelech. And the king said, You shall surely die, the rejected king, the antichrist. For Christ actually is the anointed one. Therefore, David is the anointed one a thousand years before Jesus.

He is the king who points to the ultimate king. And Saul is the antichrist who points forward to ultimately the antichrist with an A. You shall surely die, says the antichrist. With me you shall be in safekeeping, says the Christ. You see, his logic is simply that of the gospel. David, as the Christ, is opposed by the antichrist.

To stay with the antichrist makes no sense at all, unless you have decided to believe a lie and reject the truth when safety is found in Christ alone. Well, as I say, plenty of fodder for follow-up. You are listening to Truth for Life. That is, Alistair Begg with the conclusion of a message he's titled, His Craft and Power Are Great. Keep listening.

Alistair will be back to close today's program. In the gospels, Jesus taught his disciples to understand what we now call the Old Testament in a brand new way, not by changing its meaning, but by showing them how he truly completes the story. And so today we want to offer a short 45-page booklet that will help you grasp these same connections. It's titled, Does the Old Testament Really Point to Jesus? This book gives you six specific ways to identify where Jesus is predicted in the Old Testament, so that as you read the New Testament, you're able to better understand all the ways he has fulfilled those predictions. Ask for your copy of the booklet, Does the Old Testament Really Point to Jesus?

When you donate to Truth for Life, you can give a gift through the mobile app or online at slash donate, or you can call us at 888-588-7884. By the way, if you are in pastoral ministry and you'd like to benefit from Alistair's experience leading a congregation for more than 40 years, you can watch the upcoming Basics Conference for Pastors and Church Leaders via live stream. The conference begins at 3 p.m. Eastern Time a week from today on Monday, May 6th. It will conclude at lunchtime Eastern Time on May 8th. Alistair will be joined by guest speakers Sinclair Ferguson and Rico Tice.

You can watch the conference free online at Now here is Alistair to close with a prayer. Lord, we want to take seriously the exhortation of Paul to Timothy to study in such a way as to live under your approval and to learn to be rightly handling the Word of truth. We pray, Lord, for your help in this both in our public ministry and in our personal study. We ask it in Christ's name. Amen. Amen.

I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for studying with us today. As we're learning in this study, the Lord delivers his chosen ones. So what is our role in life's battles? How are we even involved? We'll hear the answers tomorrow. I hope you can join us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-29 07:20:53 / 2024-04-29 07:29:27 / 9

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