God’s providence is often fulfilled in unexpected ways and with seemingly insignificant people. Looking to 2 Samuel 17, Alistair Begg explains how the actions of two spies and a quick-thinking woman at a well helped save David’s kingdom. Strange as it may seem, God used their bravery as well as their deception—and even the suicide of the defector Ahithophel—to fulfill His plan for King David. As believers in Christ, we can rest on the promise that nothing, not even our sin, can thwart God’s purposes for those He loves.
The following message by Alistair begg is made available by truth for life. For more information, visit us online at truth for life dot org. I invite you to turn to 2nd Samuel 17 we’re going to continue from where we left off this morning. And so let me read from verse 15 so that we have it fresh in our minds. Then hush I said to Z doc and abby after the priests. Thus and so did a health official council, Absalom and the elders of Israel. And thus. And so have I counseled now. Therefore, send quickly and tell David do not stay tonight at the Fords of the wilderness. But by all means passover less the king and all the people who are with him be swallowed up. Now, Jonathan and Amma has were waiting at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and tell them and they were to go and tell King David for they were not to be seen entering the city, but a young man saw them and told Absalom. So both of them went away quickly and came to the house of a man at Baturin who had a well in his courtyard and they went down into it and the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth and scattered grain on it. And nothing was known of it. When Absalom servants came to the woman of the house, they said, where are a Hamas and Jonathan. And the woman said to them, they’ve gone over the brook of water and when they had sought and could not find him. They returned to Jerusalem. After they had gone, the men came up out of the well and went and told King David, they said to David, arise and go quickly over the water for thus, and so has a Hipfl counseled against you. Then David arose and all the people who were with him and they crossed the Jordan by daybreak, not one was left who had not crossed the jordans. When a health official saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father. Then David came to Mahagonny. Him and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Now Absalom had set a massa over the army instead of joa. Um Aso was the son of a man named with ra, the Ishmael Light who had married Abigail, The daughter of now # sister of zero. IA jobs, mother and Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead. When David came to Mahagonny. Um Show be the son of Noah hash from robber of the Ammonites and Mac. Here, the son of a meal from Lo Debar and Barzilai the Gilead aight from row column brought beds basins and earth and vessels, wheat, Barley flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, honey and kurds and sheep and cheese from the herd for David and the people with him to eat for they said the people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness. I have been, it was hard reading it the first time and it wasn’t any easier the second time. Father, we turn now to the word we pray for the enabling the spirit of God to guard and guide my words, our thoughts, our understanding and our trust and confidence in you. A sovereign God who works all things according to the eternal counsel of your will and we pray in christ’s name. Amen. Well, we ended by noticing where we began actually this morning in the second half of verse 14 that the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Allhiphop fell so that the Lord might bring harm upon absalom. And we said this morning that those 14 words in Hebrew were the keywords more significant than the 42 word, 42 words of a health officials, council or the 129 words of the council of hush I and it is in light of that pivotal statement in the heart of the chapter that we then continue to follow the storyline. We follow it in the awareness that all that is unfolding is unfolding according to God’s plan, according to God’s plan because it is God’s plan that matters and it is God’s plan. That is the only plan that actually matters. I remember when I was first introduced to american christians and they taught me how to share my faith with campus crusade and my opening line to people was do you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and it is quite a statement. It is quite a question and we discover here that God is working according to his plan, that we seek first the kingdom of God, his righteousness and all the other things then follow. Now we’re not in any doubt about what God’s plan is in this context, It is to establish David’s kingdom and because he has determined that he will establish his kingdom, no one that stands against that kingdom will be able to prosper in much the same way that when we come finally to King David’s greater son, namely to jesus the Gates of Hell will not be able to prevail against God’s plan in God’s son. Now we know that, but we’ve been led into a secret because we’re reading the story and what we need to understand is that we know what the actors in this story themselves, don’t know. Ah ha hush. I doesn’t actually know what’s going on beyond the parts that he knows about, what’s going on. So he’s actually unaware of the way in which the matter is going to be resolved at this point in the record, he doesn’t even know whether Absalom is going to go with the ahi thoughtful plan or whether he is going to go with his plan and it’s important to keep that in mind and the way in which the narrative is provided for us is in order. That we might then follow the story and that we might get under the burden of it and we might be held in suspense by it. Now, I didn’t find it very easy to diagram this or give an outline that is particularly easy to follow. But I just wrote a number of things down in my own notes. I just decided to write down down by the riverside down by the riverside. Because what has happened between verse 14 and verse 15 is a change of scene. It has moved now to this context where David and his group have been hanging around if you like and waiting. He said, well, how do we know that? Well, because we already learned that if you turn back a page in your bible to chapter 15 and verse 28 Um the word was given to Zeta the priest and two Jonathan as well, make sure to Jonathan, the son of Abbie Arthur. I will wait at the Fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me and remember I said this morning that this, these events are happening within a very short period of time. They’re happening within 24 hours. So when you go back to 15, it may seem like a long time ago, but it wasn’t actually, he says earlier on, I’m going to wait at the Fords. If you go to verse 35, we learn there that Zeta and abby after the priests are with you there, he tells who shy. And he says, so whatever you hear from the King’s House, you tell it to Zadok and Abby Arthur, the priests. Now, that’s the background. You come back to verse 15 and here we are with the process unfolding then hush, I said Tuesday, doc and abby after the priests. This is what a health official said and this is what I have said. And so we have two competing plans. And again, hush. I was unable to be sure that Absalom was going to heed his advice and at this point he doesn’t know. Therefore he recognizes that time is of the essence and indeed it unfolds in the anticipation that the plan of a health official will actually be executed. You see that as you read on in the text. And so because time is of the essence, he wants to make sure that everything takes place quickly quickly. Therefore send quickly and tell David. And as you allow your eye to go down through the text, you will see that quickly is a recurring adverb and importantly, so it’s clear to us as we read on that the protracted speech of hush I the 129 hebrew words is not exactly, I would say drawn out, but the way in which he unfolds, It clearly has been a mechanism in part to buy time to buy time because remember his thoughtful said, we’ll get on this tonight. That was a hit shuffles advice. I’ll go down there. I’ll take him out. We’ll leave the rest. They’ll come and join you. Let’s do it tonight. You’re up on the roof. I’ll be on the battlefield. I’ll take care of it. I’ll be back. Let’s see what who she has to say. Then who shy starts is like he’s speaking rather slowly. Well, of course. And you know, why are you speaking so slowly while I’m buying some time because of what he seeks to achieve. Now the priest sons Jonathan and Yamaha’s were charged with the responsibility of getting the news to David. Right. That’s verse 17 Jonathan and Omaha has, we’re waiting at En Rogel. Um, It’s uh, what the name means is actually possibly the well of the spy. The well of the spy would be quite fitting if that were the case. Now they were located. That place was located about a quarter of a mile south of the city itself. And it was very important that they were not obvious in what they were doing. That’s the balance of the verse there. You will see towards the end of verse 17, they were not to be seen entering the city. Well, how are they going to handle it if they’ve got to get the information from the city and get it to David, But they don’t go into the city. Well, here’s the answer. A female servant was to go and tell them a no name. Female servant is given the responsibility of bringing the messages to them so that they will not be seen entering the city. Despite the undercover approach in relationship to this, we are told that a young man saw them and told absalom. So both of them went away quickly. Here’s our second. Quickly, two of three. They went away quickly and they came to the house of a man at behavior. Um, now and behold him. We saw before. That’s where shimmy hangs out. Remember the fellow that was cursing all the time and throwing stones. And if we thought for a moment, that behavior um, was just simply filled with people who were opposed to King David. At least we know that there were sympathizers to King David. And one of them is this man here who has a house at your um but pause for a moment and say to yourself, now listen, what is happening here is this chain of communication going to be broken? Is the plan about to come crashing to a halt as a result of the very humanity of the way in which it is seeking to be completed Because, as Robert Burns, the Scottish poet informed us in the 18th century, the best laid plans of mice and men gang Afterglow a Steinbeck stole that for his novel. But it is Scottish in its origin. The poem, I’m sure you have all memorized at at school is a poem written to a mouse by robert Burns, because Burns is plowing and as he plows, he realizes that he has turned up the nest of a mouse and he says, we sleek it kuerten beastie, or whether panics in thy breast, that shouldn’t wander off so quickly and as it goes on, you eventually get the line but mousey there are no to eileen improving foresight may be vain. The best laid schemes of mice and men gang Afterglow a and leave us knocked. But grief and pain for promised joy. Burns did not believe in the sovereignty of God Burns most famous diatribe against Scottish presbyterian Calvinism is a poem called Holy Willie’s Prayer, which is a straightforward assault on the very notion that a sovereign God works everything according to his will. I paused for that reason, because Steinbeck picked up on that. And in that novella, it is equally clear that Steinbeck was embracing the notion of a random universe, where the characters involved were working desperately as best they could against a merciless fate. How different is this? And how could we ever be assured that the plan of God would prevail. And the answer is because it’s God’s plan. It’s so human, isn’t it? It’s so ordinary. They went away quickly and they came to the house of a man and presumably they knew that he was a sympathizer. They must have known. Perhaps that he had a well in his courtyard and they went down into it. Wait a minute. We’re talking about the Kingdom of God, for goodness sake. We’re talking about this vast, unfolding drama and we’ve got these two fellows who are supposed to be doing their best getting the message from the female servant to get it to King David. And as far as we can tell right now, the whole thing has come to a crashing halt because the two of them are hiding down a well. Well, is it over? It’s actually not very impressive, is it? The Kingdom of God is unfolding Where? Well, at the moment it’s at a guy’s house in Buriram, he has a well and they’re down the well. I sat and thought about it quite a bit this afternoon. Made me think of the new testament scene. I wonder does it come to your mind as well in acts. Do you remember? How do you remember how paul gets out of Damascus? Yeah, they let him out through a hole in the wall and lowered him down in a basket. The Kingdom of God is unfolding from Damascus and on with a funny little man in a basket. Are you surprised that God would use you? You funny little man, You’re unknown lady. No, it is all according to his plan. And not only do we have that lady and that man, but we have the woman at the Well for there she is. Who is she? She’s the woman of the house. What did she do? She covered the top of the well with a piece of fabric. And because she was skillful, she covered the fabric then with grain to make it look as though in the routine of life the grain was simply being dried in the sun. The people who came searching on behalf of Absalon clearly weren’t doing a very good job. And she lied to them That the man had gone over the Brook. They seemed to pay scant attention to that. And eventually they returned verse 20 to Jerusalem. Mhm. Did it matter what she’d done? It was absolutely vital. But didn’t she tell lies? Yes, she did. Does that mean that the bible then condones the telling of lies? No, it doesn’t. But what it does remind us of is simply this that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. It reminds us that God controls evil, but he does not create evil. And when you consider the unfolding of the providence of God, whether it’s in the life of joseph, whether it’s in the in the life of Esther and so on, or certainly here in this chapter, you realize the wonder of it all. But that’s just noticed before we move into this final section because it is a wonderful illustration of George Eliot in Middlemarch. I haven’t been able to quote this for a long time. And I used to quote regularly to the point of ad nauseum and some people I think, but it is such an amazing quote, I corrupted a little bit. But remember Eliot writes, the Growing good of the world is partly dependent on un historic acts upon the impact of those who live faithfully. A hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs. The faithfulness of those who live a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs. You mean the hidden life of a little girl from Israel this morning. And the story of norman, you mean a female servant who doesn’t have a name, you mean a man who had a house with a well. You mean a woman who was brave enough to do what she did. Yes, and yes. So what happens? Well, the men, when he had gone the group, the searchers leave, and uh the man came up out of the well and then they went and did what they were supposed to do in the first place. And that is they told King David and no surprise. But they said to him, you should get up and go quickly over the water for thus. And so has a thoughtful counseled against you. In other words, the Hipfl plan may well unfold. And if it unfolds it’s vital that you get out of here. And it would be better that you left now rather than later on. And so what you actually have in that little incident is from a human perspective, what is actually a rather narrow escape. But it is all proceeding according to plan, Including the tragedy that is contained in verse 23. What do we do to do with Allhiphop Fell here is a picture. It is a tragedy. It is marked by a measure of dignity. It establishes unequivocally his memory. We’re told that when a Hipfl realized that his counsel had not been followed, that things have not gone according to his plan. When he realized that if you like for him, the writing was on the wall because if David was going to triumph, as he inevitably would, then there was little chance and hope for him because he had been a dreadful traitor to the cause of David. He knew how that would work. His life was essentially over. There was no future for him at all. And so in a methodical, clinical organized fashion. He went off riding on his donkey back to his own city, set his house in order hanged himself, died and was buried in the tomb of his father. Well, of course, we’ve been comparing all the time to the later traitor, judas himself who also, you will remember hanged himself. But by comparison with judas, there is actually much to commend a health official. Yeah, I I thought that I would write in my notes a tragic end to a good man. He said, well, he wasn’t really a good man. Well, yes, but he wasn’t actually particularly wicked man either, was he? He’s not presented to us in the text as a wicked man. He’s presented to us in the text as a wise counselor. Indeed, his counsel was as if one consulted the word of God. That’s this man. That’s this this this gentleman. He was a wise counselor and his advice was good counsel. 14 b. for the Lord God had ordained to defeat the good counsel of the Hipfl. Well, you see if our understanding of what drove his defection is accurate. E that as the grandfather of bathsheba, responding to the heinous nature of the crime of David, not only in the rape of bathsheba, but in the destruction of in the death that follows from it. Then why would we be surprised? Why would we be annoyed that he was enraged by that? He should be enraged by that. And so should we? Because in actual fact, if you go back in the text, you will discover that that was exactly the reaction of God to what took place. So in this strange scenario, a hit to fell in this respect is on the side of God. Therefore, I think we should respect ahead of fell for despising David’s crimes. Woodhouse, I think puts his finger on it. When he suggests that a health officials. Big failure was his failure to accept the grace of God that was extended to David. He couldn’t handle that. And his failure to accept that the purpose of God was to establish a kingdom through somebody like David. God did not prefer David over absalom because David was better than absolute God preferred David because God preferred David. Remember I did not love you because you were brighter, larger, more significant than any other people. I loved you because I loved you. Oh, it is a mystery, isn’t it? And God, according to plan, works it out. Health officials plans were doomed to failure because he was on the wrong side of history because God had chosen chosen David promised David that his kingdom would endure. And so actually a health official suicide is not just the account of a government official who is embarrassed by the fact that his plans had been rejected and he’s lost face and he’s lost on and he’s lost hope and he’s lost purpose. It’s not that at all. His suicide is the record of the adversary of God’s chosen king and therefore identifying him as the adversary of Yahweh and his kingdom. If we, if we had time we could go back and we won’t. But homework assignment read again, you know, Sam too. Now, therefore all kings be wise, be warned or rulers of the earth serve the Lord with fear, rejoice with trembling kiss the son lest he be angry and you perish in the way for his wrath is quickly kindled but blessed are all who take refuge in him. Well, in many ways, the story ends there because in verse 23 with his suicide, the chapter is essentially closed. Well, you say it’s not because you’ve got from verses 24-29. All those difficult names to read. Well, what this is actually building towards is this great battle as we will find who those of us who have patients to get in to chapter 18. The negotiation time is over. The preparation time is essentially over and the confrontation is about to begin. And so what you have there in those names is the record of the assembling of the forces, first of all, of absalom and then of the forces of David himself. These individuals are going to line up on one side or the other is a kind of choose you this day, whom you will serve moment. And when the teams are put together and the personnel, the friends of David bring all of these provisions in order that the progress might unfold. And I find it quite interesting that the final sentence of the chapter is, we have it affirms uh, part of a hit the fellas council because remember if you look back up the passage, you can go and get him while he is weary and discouraged and who she comes and he says, you know, a health officials council is not good. You shouldn’t think of him as being weary and discouraged. You should think of him as enraged. You should think of him as being like a bear seeking to go for the creature that has invaded the cubs. Well, who was right? I think that Hipfl was right because there’s what it tells us there. They were hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness. So he was right about that. But in the end, he was foolish because he should never have defected. He should never have deserted the king. You wouldn’t defect, would you? It’s not unusual in pastoral ministry to come across someone who has defected, someone who has deserted someone who once marched alongside the others. And when you press, you may find yourself in a circumstance not dissimilar to a health officials. When you press, you find that there was some moral degeneracy. Something that happened in the family along the pack, something that enraged and disappointed and confused and sidelined the individual and they’ve lost out because they can’t believe that God would forgive that person. They can’t believe that God would continue to use her or to use him. It’s the same problem. It’s the same issue. Wood houses right. A health official got to where he was because he couldn’t believe that God would forgive somebody who did that. And he found it hard to believe that God would build his kingdom through somebody like him. Let’s make sure tonight that we deal with the issues that may tempt us to defection or to deserve them. And don’t sit on your high horse. For let those of us who think we stand take heed last. We fall, take your side on the king’s side. Do not be foolish. Trust the counsel of God rest entirely in his providence. In the end, all will be well, the bits and pieces that we can’t fix are under his sovereign control. And whether we’ve got a name like brazil I or show B or macular, whether we’re a name as it were in the unfolding story of God’s purposes as limited as we might understand it to be, or whether in eternity, we will just find that it was fine for us to be the female servant. It was fine for us to be the man who had a house with a well. It was fine for us to be a young boy from Cleveland, to be a little girl from Israel. I have a maker. He formed my heart before even time began, my life was in his hands. He knows my name. He knows my every thought. He knows each tear that falls and he hears me when I call, I forget people’s names. He never forgets a name. And sweeps the good, the bad and the ugly into the vast panoramic drama of his purpose from all of eternity to put together a people that are his very own, who are the utterly undeserving beneficiaries of his relentless love and his amazing grace. And so the story of the kingdom continues. So whether you’re down or well this week or crossing a ford or driving a ford for that matter, perhaps it will do you well to remember that when you’re just about to press for the buttons on the tv thing and press mute and go into one of your many tirades about, I don’t know what’s going to happen to the future of this place. I can’t believe what will happen to my grandchildren. If this thing continues the way it’s going to continue, we might as well all just ship out and move on and be done with it said, hey, wait a minute, don’t you believe there’s a higher throne. Mhm. Then all this world is known. I hope so, Father, thank you for the stories of the bible, Thank you for the great story that you love the world so much that you gave your only begotten son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life Lord. We acknowledge the night that our times are in your hands for give us Lord for setting out on on an average day as if um it was all up to us, Help us. We praise students of your word and as servants of christ to encourage each other along the journey for we pray in jesus name. Um and this message was brought to you from truth for Life, where the learning is for living. To learn more about truth. For life, with Alistair begg visit us online at Truth for Life dot org.