With the royal succession plan settled, the aged King David issued a commandment to his son Solomon, directing him to act on unfinished matters of the kingdom—with kindness for some and with justice for others. Was David’s decree simply a matter of personal vengeance? Or did God’s anointed king bear the responsibility to administer justice? Alistair Begg considers how the Bible’s answer points forward to the fixed day when Jesus, as King, will judge the world with fairness and finality.
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. Well, I promised that we would come back to First Kings which we’re going to do. And I’m going to read in a moment or two from First Kings to again, just reading from five through to 12. But before I read that, I want just to read to brief pieces from the new testament first of all, in Matthew and in chapter 13 towards the end of the parable of the weeds, which jesus explains, they come to him and they say explain the parable and he explains that the one who shows the good seed is the son of man and so on. The field is the world the good seed is the Sons of the Kingdom and so on. And then in verse 40 just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire. So will it be at the end of the age, the Son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all lawbreakers and throw them into the fiery furnace in that place. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father. He who has ears, let him hear. And then in first Thessalonians, I beg your pardon. In second Thessalonians And in chapter one Verse five, this is the evidence of the righteous judgment of God that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are also suffering since. Indeed God considered it just to repay with affliction, those who afflict you and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to ours. When the Lord jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord, jesus, they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. And then to our verses five, moreover, having given him the first part of his directive. Furthermore, he says, you also know what job the son of Zero Ia did to me how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel Abner, the son of near and the mass of the sun of Jeff for whom he killed. Avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals of his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to shell and peace but deal loyally with the sons of Barzilai the Gilead ICT, and let them be among those who eat at your table for with such loyalty. They met me when I fled from Absalom your brother. And there is also with you shimmy. I the son of God era, the Benjamin knight from the urine who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahogany. Um, but when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord saying I will not put you to death with the sword. Now, therefore do not hold him guiltless for you’re a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him and you shall bring his gray hair down with blood to shell. Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. And the time that David reigned over, Israel was 40 years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and 33 years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David. His father and his kingdom was firmly established. Amen. Well, Father grant us grace as we look at these verses help us to say what is said and not to miss what we need and not to invent what isn’t there for We pray in jesus name. Amen. Well, not all were present this morning, but I won’t go back through these first four verses. The direction or instructions that are given to Solomon. The commandment that Solomon gave to his son as that David gave to Solomon. His son, I should say is very straightforward. It’s actually not difficult at all to understand. That is of course part of the problem. And uh, the very clarity of it makes a challenge for us in terms of how we both understand it, how we interpret it and how we apply it. From verse five through to verse nine, we have David’s final words. These are the last recorded words that we have of David in his entire life. Of all the parts and pieces that we’ve been considering some 40 chapters out of 1st and 2nd, Samuel, all of the things we’ve known of him learn from him and so on, seen him in action, heard his directions. Now it comes down to this and as I read it again, reading again this afternoon, I thought of how we are familiar with presidential pardons is something that is unique I think to the United States certainly not something I was aware of before living here. It doesn’t imply I believe the innocence of the person who is pardoned, but it does mean that they are now free to live their lives no longer under that jurisdiction. And it is a quite significant thing. And I’m sure for those pardoned it is a wonderful thing. But this is something entirely different because although there is if you like an expression of providential care in the instance of bars illes sons, what is directed for Solomon to do in relationship to Abner to job, I should say because of what he did to Abner into a masa and the direction that is given in relation to shimmy i is of course very graphic and at the same time very striking if in chapter one, the matter of the succession of the kingdom has been settled, which it has largely and settled in such a way that although Adeniji had made a stab at becoming the king vaunting himself, setting himself forward. That was set aside, David finally wakened up and dealt with that prompted by Nathan and bathsheba. And we’re told then that the kingdom of Solomon was firmly established. That’s the summary statement at the end of verse 12, it comes again later on in the chapter and that that is actually the fact of the matter. It is the promise that God had given to David way back in second Samuel seven saying that I will establish a kingdom, I will, there will be one that will come from your throne and the establishing of that kingdom is a promise that will not be broken and here as David dies, he looks to that promise and this initial fulfillment of the promise in real time with real people. Um not now at the end of the day with Jesus, but with Solomon himself and the idea, the very verb of I will establish this in second Samuel seven comes again and again and if you want to, you can go through the text and you will find that it comes I think four or five times. But I want I want to turn them turn you to them. So from the succession, David then is concerned with the security of the kingdom. How is if the kingdom is established under Solomon, how is this going to go? He knows how it has gone for him. He knows the challenges he’s faced, he knows the decisions that he’s taken, he knows the battles that he’s fought and so on. But now he is about to go the way of all flesh. He will not be here to hold anybody’s hand, He will not be here to give any kind of direction. And so seizing the moment that is available to him, he issues this command and in the balance of the text, he says there needs to be justice for job. There needs to be kindness for Bar Zilla boys and there needs to be justice for shimmy. Now, let me just walk us through that without spending an undue amount of time on it. Why is there to be justice for joe app? Well, if you allow, if your page is open like mine, you can see the balance of chapter two at least most of it. And the explanation is provided by Solomon there in verse 32 where he says, the Lord will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head. That is joe abs because without the knowledge of my father, he attacked and killed with the sword, two men more righteous and better than himself. Now he is then referencing what has been stated here by David in this section. And I’m in two minds as to whether to ask you to try and track back through this with me. I think you should probably trust me on this and then go and see if the passages are where I say they are. Otherwise we’ll be here for for a long time. You need to go back to second Samuel Chapter three for the Abner incident as we’re going to refer to it the Abner incident. When Abner returned to Hebron Job took him aside into the midst of the gate. Remember, he was gonna have a little private conversation with him and there he struck him in the stomach and he died. And when David heard of it, he said, I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord. We are guiltless before the Lord in this matter. I was not behind this. That’s what he’s saying. My kingdom is guiltless. I am not involved in this. Were guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Near May, it fall upon the head of Job and upon all his father’s house. He says, May that finally come home to roost in jobs experience. That’s what he says. It is in chapter 20 that we find the um AsA incident and again, just quote from it very briefly, so that we have it something of it in our minds. In second Samuel chapter 20. The Death of a Massa. You know, I can’t even see it in where it is. Then the king said to amass I I’d end up reading the whole chapter here to find it. Um Because I was using another bible up the stairs. Doesn’t matter. It does matter a great deal, actually. And Job and here we go, verse nine. And Job said to a massa, is it well with you, my brother. He didn’t really care. And Job took a master by the beard with his right hand to give him a kiss. But a master didn’t observe the sword that was in jobs hand. So Job did what Job liked to do. He struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground. And without striking a second blow, he died. Not a nice person. You’ve got to agree. And that is what he did Fascinatingly. Although it says here in the text, doesn’t it? Um to me, uh and moreover, we also know what Job the Son of Zero. I did to me to me in the death of Abner. You will remember that that David wept, wept buckets and everybody went along with him. He took it to heart that this had happened to him. He was concerned about what had happened to a massive but the one that isn’t mentioned is the one that broke his heart entirely because Job was responsible for killing. Absolutely. And you can find that also in the Bible three javelins in the heart of absalon supplied by Job. Now it does raise the question, doesn’t it? Why did David not deal with this at the time? Was it weakness on his part? Was it kindness on his part? The only hints that we have of it in the text are when he says at the end of the initial incident concerning Abner, he says, you know, the Sons of Zero IA are more severe than I, I remember as a hell and a bit shy and joe ab these guys were fighting crazy man. And there was nothing they like better than just. It would seem going into a battle and killing people. That wasn’t David, that wasn’t David. David as king realized he was responsible for justice, but he wasn’t granted the privilege of murder. The sons of Zero Ia are more severe than I. And also in that very same incident, he says, the Lord May the Lord repay the evil doer according to his wickedness. In other words, God, you’re responsible for the execution of justice. Now, it is also fair to say that that was part of his prerogative as a king. But it is as stated, the directive to Solomon is absolutely clear. According to your wisdom. Do not let his gray head go down to shell in peace, but deal with him and deal with him properly and deal with him quickly. So justice for Job and then kindness for bars Sillas boys, if we can put it in that way. The story of brasilia, you’ll remember was a lovely story. We found it quite endearing back in chapter 17 when uh, David was being chased around and in the context of absalom and when he came to Mahagonny m and crossed over the Jordan and so on, um, I still can’t find the jolly thing in here. This is quite, this is rather rather embarrassing. But oh no, here we go. He’s there. Barzilai the Gilead, ICT brought beds, basins and earth and vessels, wheat, barley flour, parched grain, beans, lentils, honey kurds, sheep cheese from the hard for David. And the people with him to eat for they said the people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness is a nice fellow right now. In chapter 19, I’m even afraid to turn to it. But anyway, in chapter 19, you have it again. Now, Barzilai the Gilead, I’d verse 31 had come down from row column and he went on with the king to the Jordan to escort him over the jordans. It’s a wonderful little piece. You can read it on your own. Barzilai was a very aged, man. How old was he? 80 years old. He had provided the king with food while he stayed at mahogany. Um, that’s what we were just looking for and found. And so the king system, you know, you ought to come with me and you remember Bar Zilla says, yeah, well, that’s a nice invitation. But I’m an old guy and I don’t really want to do that. I I think that uh it would be like a reward for me to do that. Why, why would you ever reward me in that? Why, why would you show me kindness in that way? Let me return. Let me go to my own city. Let me have my grave of my father and my mother. But here you can take if you want, Jim ham, great name, Jim ham. And whether he was one of his sons actually, or whatever, we don’t know, a servant. And the king answered, chim, ham shall go over with me and I will do for him, whatever seems good to you and all that you desire of me, I will do for you. And so all the people went over the Jordan, the king went over and the king kissed Barzilai and blessed him and he returned to his own home. The kindness kindness is long remembered in life. It’s remembered far more than than genius or brains or acumen kindness in brazil a was a kind man, and David was actually a kind king. He was a kind kid. And in his kindness, he of course, points us forward to the shepherd, king of whom when paul writes to titus, he says. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God, our savior appeared. Speaking of course of the incarnation of the arrival of the Lord jesus christ himself. And in the same way that brazil I responds to the expressions of generosity on the part of the king is surely right for those of us who are in christ to respond in the same way that you would have me come and eat at your table that you would give your life for me. Such kindness. Justice for job kindness for bar Zilla and justice for shimmy I she may I you remember this character as well. He he was he got up to his tricks with big lumps of mardin and stuff back in second Samuel 16 when King David came to be here um there came out a man of the family of the House of Saul whose name was she May I the son of Gara. And as he came he cursed continually. He’s got his picture and he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David and all the people and all the mighty men and she may I said as he cursed. Get out, Get out you man of blood, you worthless man. The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the House of Saul in whose place you have reigned and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalon. See your evil is on you for you are a man of blood. Well of course that really got a bit shy one of the sons of Zero, I write up on his, on his gander, as we might say. And the text says then Abbas I the son of Zechariah said to the king, why should this dead dog curse my Lord? The king, let me go over and do what I do best. Let me go over and take off his head. And again, David says, well, what am I gonna do with you? The sons of Zero? Ia, you’re far more severe than I am. This is not how we this is not how we operate. And you read on and into Chapter 19. And once again, the story unfolds Abbas I the son of Zero. Ia answered, shall not shimmy. I be put to death because he cursed the Lord’s anointed. And again, David says to him, What have I to do with you? The sons of zero. IA, that you should this day be as an adverse adversary to me. Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? It’s important that you should this day be as an adversary to me. Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day? King over Israel and the king said to shimmy, you shall not die. And the king gave him his oath. Now, the reason I emphasize this day, this day, this day is because obviously the oath that he gave to shimmy, I was conditional. It wasn’t uh an unconditional or an absolute pardon? He was saying to him, you know, if my friend here had his way, you’re a dead man, but I’m telling you, you’re not gonna die, not here at least and not like this. Now there’s there, that’s that’s what the text says, right? That’s it’s there. And it’s important then for us to note that in the directive that he gives to to Solomon in relationship first of all, to job and then to shimmy. His appeal to Solomon is not a call for revenge but is for wisdom for wisdom. He doesn’t say to him, I want you to execute vengeance on these people. In verse six, he says um you are a wise man. Where is it? This job for one, This is two, it’s alright, I got it. Yeah, but thanks. I appreciate you call at any time you like it’s a difficult evening, verse six. Act therefore according to your wisdom. Okay, I want you I want you don’t lose your head in this program here, Acts according to wisdom. And then in verse nine in relationship to Shimmy, I now therefore do not hold him guiltless. Use your head. You are a wise man. Now we need to take this first of all in the totality of the the unfolding story of it all. And clearly also in the totality of the scriptures themselves having urged Solomon in his part. One directive to be strong, right? I’m about to go the way of all of their be strong and show yourself a man. And we said this morning, then what kind of man is that to be? Well, it’s a psalm one man, and in other words, there’s a man who walks in the path of righteousness is a man who does the right thing, and we acknowledge the fact that it’s going to take strength of character and resolve and the enabling grace of God to be that kind of man. But if you take that, be strong and show yourself a man in relationship to the directive. Now, that is given vis a vis job and shimmy, you realize that there is a sense in which he may actually be saying, you know, I’ve been inadequate in this regard. Solomon, you now need to be what I failed to be. Now, that is purely conjecture. Similarly, though, perhaps having failed himself to do what he ought as king and as his prerogative as king, having failed to do what he ought, he now appeals to Solomon’s wisdom so that in using his wisdom, he will be unable to do what he ought to do. Now. The rest of the chapter simply gives to us. Then the way in which Solomon follows through on David’s command, and he does it swiftly, and he does it clearly, in fact, his speedy response may cause us to wonder are we have to assume that he does what he does, Because there is in Solomon a kind of ruthless cruelty, a streak of ruthless cruelty. That if you cut him open, you would find and that ruthless cruelty in him, if it’s there has been urged upon him by his father who from one perspective, presumably shares a desire for the same kind of cruel response, which of course is the interpretive question of the entire passage. Are we dealing here in the directive of David to Solomon and then Solomon’s execution of the directive? Are we dealing with a matter of personal vengeance? He has done this very bad thing to me. He’s absolutely um, involved in it at the very core of his being. But is that it is it just because of David a sort of personality thing that he’s now feeling bad about the fight, that he missed some opportunities and he should have done that and he hated him anyway, and he just take care of it now? Or is he telling Solomon that as the established king of God’s kingdom, as the anointed of God? It is his responsibility given him by God, to judge the people in equity and to administer justice. It is actually an obligation that falls to the king. It is a divine right and it is the same time, a huge responsibility. Now, obviously you can read of this on your own and as you search it out, you will find a variety of views. Um, I think the balance of interpretation lead leans towards the idea that this is just a disaster at the end of David’s life. He finally lost the plot entirely. And he has retreated, you know, to a kind of very earthly reaction to things. So, for example, one commentator says, the end of David’s life is marked by the same moral ambiguity characteristic of his earlier years, That he’s now decided to resort to the methodology of the sons of 00 IA from whom and from which he had distanced himself in the earlier part of the story. Somebody else suggests that the aging David’s view of the world is essentially simple. He has friends and he has enemies. He’ll be nice to the people he wants to be nice to. And he was sticking to the people that he doesn’t like. And his days of showing grace driven mercy from that perspective have now been left far behind. And these then are not actions of a godly king. That’s one view. And as interpreters of the scripture, we have to sit and think what we do know is that the writer does not provide any indication of David’s motives. It’s never there, nor does the writer pass any judgment on David’s decisions. And he simply reports the story as it has unfolded. And there is a sense in which the principle that we’ve often referred to in dealing with the acts of the apostles has a similar point of application here in the sense that what we’ve said in studying access that because everything that is described is not necessarily prescribed, so that you can’t simply say, well, look what happened there and therefore it must happen here. So that descriptive is not necessarily prescriptive in the old testament context of this, then we we would actually say that the narrative is not normative, that that we don’t operate simply from the narrative story. As it unfolds. We have to, as students of God’s word, take everything that we have been given in terms of the story, in terms of David, in terms of these characters and then ask the question, And David, as I’ve said to you, recognizes that the security of God’s Kingdom, the security of God’s Kingdom. The promise of Two Samuel seventh is actually in jeopardy from a human perspective, as he faces his death. He’s already seen the fact that on his own watch, Adeniji, another of his boys has made a run for it. He’ll be dealt with by Solomon as the story goes. And he recognizes that the the ongoing presence of these characters will at least be no help at all to Solomon. And I imagine that he sits and he says, you know what I’m asking Solomon to do should have been done by me after all, it was my role as king to establish justice. And if he was speaking to Solomon, he might have said to him, you know, Solomon, I tried my best to serve God faithfully. I acknowledge that I haven’t served him perfectly. Solomon, you’re going to discover what I have encountered. That leadership in the world. Service in God’s Kingdom is a real challenge. And the people that we are thrust in amongst our fallen and broken people like ourselves and it’s not easy is complicated. That’s why I’ve said to you essentially twice Solomon, be wise and do what you ought to do, do what’s right, what was right that justice would be served job and shimmy, I deserved death. That was the punishment. So he says, take the matter seriously. Now you can over coffee think this thing out for yourself. And if we find it easier to conclude that this is a kind of knee jerk, deathbed reaction on the part of this aging king, in light of his acknowledgement of his earlier failures to take action if that is our response to it. Yeah, I think it was just he made a hash of it at the end. There may be a number of reasons for that and one of them would be this because the alternative, it’s really hard to deal with that this actually is a genuine expression of God’s righteous judgment on these characters And the execution of judgment in any shape or fashion at this point of the 21st century is challenged at every turn along the road to legal justice. The difficulty in having a jury of 12 individuals that are able to think simply in terms of jurisprudence that do not sit there and think, well, I wouldn’t have liked it if it happened to me or apply all kinds of relative perspectives. That in itself is a huge challenge. Many of you are in the legal profession. The last time you settled the case in court was a long time ago because it’s all settled out in the corridor because we know if we get it much further in there, there’s no saying what is going to happen justice in itself. But then when you add into that, leave that aside for the moment. But the notion of the justice of God, it is an unpopular notion and it makes us feel uncomfortable and therefore perhaps we would rather say, yeah, I think it was just that David ken went a bit goofy at the end. Well, the whole notion of the justice of God of course, extends far beyond King David. It goes all the way to King jesus when paul preaches engagingly to the inteligencia of Athens, starting with the doctrine of creation and working his way through. You remember where he ends up, he says, And I should tell you just before I close that God has appointed a day when he will judge the world by the man he has appointed and he has given proof of this by raising him from the dead. This was not an appeal to their felt hopes and dreams. This was a declaration of the reality of sinful man’s condition before a Holy God and the anointed of God the king. Whether he did it right at the beginning or not, it was for him to declare to the king that would take his place. Justice and equity and righteousness are on your tab there, on your watch, take care of it the day that God has appointed. Well be absolutely fair. It’s a day that is already fixed and the judgment of that day will be absolutely final. That’s why I began in Matthew, these are the words of King jesus in force, Thessalonians, these are the expectations of the apostles. It is appointed unto man wants to die. And after this comes judgment, Jesus didn’t come to judge the world, but to save. What does that mean? It means that in his coming, he came with a message of salvation. But those who are invited, as I would invite you to respond to the offer of his salvation need to know that the same jesus who holds out a hand of welcome to you as a repentant sinner will execute judgment on that day. And we read it well, I don’t want it to say. And then the congregation slept, it says then then David slept. David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David and Solomon sat on the throne and the kingdom was firmly established. So where’s David? You know? It’s interesting when you read the old testament and it talks about sleep and it talks about shale and it talks about things, it’s really, really clear that the uniform testimony of the old testament is that the dead are still alive. They’re still alive. That in death they have experienced a change of place. They have experienced an altered state and their individuality has been retained. That’s for another sunday evening that story. But think about it. Think about it. Listen to our friends and neighbors talk, see that, see that the saddest things. Well, I think we’re all fine now. Well, after all, death evens everything out. All the bets are off. All the pieces go back in the box doesn’t matter. You can live like Hitler or you can live like Madame Mother Teresa or whatever where you wanna go. It’s all just because it’s all starts fresh from that point. That’s a lie of the devil. You don’t die. And go to nowhere, death changes your place, death alters your state. But death does not eradicate your individuality. So somehow or another, I’m holding out for the idea that when this thing finally shakes out into a new heaven and a new earth, we can actually find David as David, Not just like number 4,972. You know, some kind of strange existence. No, it’s got to be far better than that. God had made this fabulous world. It’s not gonna it’ll be good, it’ll be good. And this is we’re supposed to do this because this is just a foretaste of the meal that we’re gonna have. I mean, this is this is a, this is this is a we thing. That’s gonna be a big thing. I don’t know how you serve all those people. When I listened to Graham preached the other sunday when I was gone and followed it online, he quoted one of my favorite verses. Remember when he was talking about you’re not somebody with with an unfulfilled future or something. I can’t remember what it was, but he said, you know, I haven’t seen it’s invisible nor ear heard is inaudible. Neither has it entered into the heart of man is inconceivable the things that God has prepared for them that love him. But every so often he gives you a little inkling of it. Sometimes when you sing sometimes in the breaking of bread, just sometimes Mayor Time have something of that. Now, as we draw things to a close father, we we are all learners from the one who knows the answers. Thank you again for our answer in this morning’s catechism, what does the Holy Spirit do for us, amongst all the things he does. He enables us to pray and he explains the bible to us. So we look to the fulfillment of that as we continue to be students of your word as we seek to gather around the table, maybe be struck in you by the wonder of your kindness towards us. Even as brazil. I was amazed by the kindness of David and we pray in christ’s name. Amen. 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.