The Divine Fulcrum

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After rebelling against his father, King David, Absalom sought counsel from David’s former servant, Ahithophel. A traitor to the crown, Ahithophel entreated Absalom to grant him permission to kill David himself. But the Lord had ordained to defeat Ahithophel’s counsel by causing Absalom to seek secondary advice. This interplay between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility, notes Alistair Begg, is the divine fulcrum upon which life hinges, showing us that God is at work in everything to bring about His good purposes.



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. Let me invite you to turn to 2nd Samuel And to chapter 17 and to follow along. As I, as I read from here, two Samuel 17 and verse one mm hmm. Moreover, Hipfl said to Absalom, Let me choose 12,000 men and I will arise and pursue David Tonight I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic. And all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king and I will bring all the people back to you. As a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man and all the people will be at peace. And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel. Then Absalom said, call hush I the archive also. And let us hear what he has to say. And when hush I came to Absalom, Absalom said to him. Thus has a hit thoughtful spoken. Shall we do as he says. If not you speak Then her shy said to Absalom This time the council that a health official has given is not good fish. I said, you know that your father and his men are mighty men and that they are enraged like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war. He will not spend the night with the people behold even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, Whoever hears it will say there has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalon. Then even the valiant men whose heart is like the heart of a lion will utterly melt with fear. For all, Israel knows that your father is a mighty man and that those who are with him are valiant men. But my counsel is that all Israel will be gathered to you from Dan to beersheba as the sand by the sea for multitude. And that you go to battle in person. So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground and of him and all the men with him, not one will be left if he withdraws into a city then all Israel will bring ropes to that city and we shall drag it into the valley until not even a pebble is to be found there. And Absalom and all the men of Israel said The Counsel of Russia. The archetype archive is better than the Council of the Haida felt for the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of a healthful so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalon. Then who should I said 20, okay 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 lest the king and all the people were with him be swallowed up Now, Jonathan and thomas 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 am salon. So both of them went away quickly and came to the house of a man at your um who had a well in his courtyard. And they went down into it. And the woman too can 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 at the house they said, where are schemas 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 them, 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 jordans By daybreak, not one was left who had not crossed the jordans. When Hitler fell 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 said a mass over the army of over the army instead of Job. A massa was the son of a man named Ishmael Light, who had married Abigail, the daughter of a hash, the sister of zero ia jobs Mother and Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead when David came to Mahagonny, m show by the son of Natasha from raba of the Ammonites and Mac. Here, the son of a meal from Low Bar and Barzilai, The Gilead. Aight from rogue elim 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. Amen. We thank God for his word, and we seek constantly as help in our study of it. Father as we turn to the bible what we know now teachers what we have not give us what we are not make us for your son’s sake. Amen while they may encourage you to follow along as we Turn now to the 17th chapter Which as you will notice follows along from the 16th I mentioned that Now they like stating the obvious but also to point out that there were no chapter breaks in the original manuscripts and therefore we always have to make sure that we don’t allow ourselves to keep thinking that every time it moves from example from 16 to 17, that this must now b a new point of departure. But rather the council that is described in the closing verses of Chapter 16. Council. That is given by a health official to Absalon is the council which then follows as we have it in the opening section of 17. I want to give you three numbers. It’s not a quiz. I’ll tell you what the numbers are. I don’t think it’s likely that anybody would attach any significance to them at all. I certainly didn’t until I made the discovery myself. But here are the numbers 40-1 29 and 14. Yeah. Okay, no takers Right, that’s fine. I didn’t know either of 42 is the number of hebrew words in the Plan of a hit thoughtful. Which is recorded for us in verses 1-4 129 is the number of hebrew words contained in the plan. That is provided by hush I In verses 7-13 And 14 words is the content of the second half of verse 14 And you will see there in the second half of verse 14 for the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of a Hipfl so that the Lord might bring harm upon absalom. Now I’m going to in some ways spoil the story by beginning there. The way in which this story is told is, as we’ve noted, quite masterful building, suspense holding things for a moment or two until the reader finally discovers what’s going on. But the more I read this chapter in the last 10 days or so, the more I said to myself, I I think I want to start with that second half of verse 14 with those 14 words because those 14 words provide for us what we might refer to as the divine fulcrum. Fulcrum is a word from the physics lab for me in Scotland about which I knew very little. But I think it is also fair to use fulcrum as that, which plays a key part, a significant part. Or if you’re like an essential part in an event or in a situation. And for that reason, the title of our study this Morning is simply then the divine fulcrum because this does not only come at the midpoint of the chapter virtually the very essence of the midpoint, but it also provides us with the key to understanding just exactly what is taking place, how it has taken place and why it has taken place. So, in other words, the key to really understanding the narrative of this section is in those 14 words. Now, we know that a great deal has been happening and it’s been happening in very short order Since David fled from Jerusalem back in the 14th verse of Chapter 15, only about a day has elapsed that will not be immediately obvious to us. But when we think about it, it maybe two days, but it certainly can’t be more than that. We know that David has discovered the defection of his trusted counselor. Again, that is in the 15th chapter we know too, that he has prayed to God asking him to defeat the counsel of his now defected trusted counselor. And we know too, that while he is very clear in the necessity of prayer, he also launches, if you like his own plan, by dispatching hush i as a kind of secret agent into Jerusalem, the Jerusalem to which Absalom has now returned. Um and Absalom has arrived in Jerusalem has received the counsel of a health official and by engaging in his rooftop activities, if we might put it that way, has publicly declared two things one, his rebellion against David as the king, he has become a stench in the nostrils of the king and he has thereby made it very clear to those who want to follow him in the rebellion, that he is absolutely serious about this rebellion and his plan is to make sure that he overturns the king. He has, as you can see there at the end of 16 followed the Health Officials Council. And as we come to the first verse of our Chapter 17, then, the question before us is, I wonder will he follow uh the council that a healthful gives him in this section. Now, to that we will return in a moment, but I want us to pause purposefully before we return to the storyline and acknowledge that what we have here in this divine fulcrum is one of the great illustrations of the interplay between the sovereignty of God and the human responsibility of man. It is important that we understand what the bible says, and this would be a series, all of its own, a series in systematic theology with this as part of it. But let me just give it to you in this short order, as might be helpful when we talk about the sovereignty of God. As it unfolds in scripture, we are affirming what the bible says, namely that God rules the world. God rules the world. It is a world that is distinct from God as creator. He has not made the world out of himself. Not only is the world distinct from him, but the world is entirely dependent upon him. It is his will, his purpose gods, that is the final cause of all things that unfolds throughout all of history. That involves human government. That involves the salvation of his people. That involves the sufferings of christ, that involves the sufferings of the followers of christ. It involves the smallest of details for he is aware when even to Sparrow’s fall to the ground and it involves the vastness of the end of the universe and our eternal destiny. Now when we affirm these things, we are affirming the fact that the sovereignty of God means that nothing is beyond his control. When we affirm the fact of our human responsibility, we are affirming the fact that we are genuinely accountable for all of our individual decisions, for all of our individual actions. And the interplay between them means simply this, that God is at work within the acts of personal freedom. He is at work within our own personal decisions, choices and actions. If you were, did your reading from this morning with Mcshane, you would have had a wonderful illustration of the extent of God’s over ruling providence in the story in Two Kings five of Namun and as you read that and how this magnificent beginning and the king of Syria had this man named who was a man of great favor because God had granted him favor in the victories in in army. He was a mighty man of valor. But he had leprosy and as you read this, you say, I wonder what is going to happen next. And all of a sudden you come on the phrase and it says a little girl from the land of Israel. What possible significance could there be for this girl snatched up from Israel, a servant to this mighty man’s wife in the house, wow, she was brave enough to say, you know, if my master, I would go to the man of God, he would be cured of his leprosy. The intervention that took place was by the sovereign purpose of God in and through the acts, the actions, the conversations of a little girl from Israel. Now, when I do Q and A. This question all comes up always comes up. Well, how could it possibly be that if God then is sovereign over all of these affairs, that anything I do or anything I say, and not least of all, for example, in the realm of prayer could ever even matter. Mhm. You know, I’m not that bright. Some of you are particularly clever. If I had a hat, I’d take it off. But none of us can know the mind of God. So our inability to grasp how this can be is beyond the point. It’s beyond the point because we are confronted by our inability to grasp how this can be. It’s enough for us to know that this is the case and to rest in the fight, that all the events of our world. Big ones, small ones events which appear absurd, meaningless, unthinkably painful, are under God’s sovereign control. Now that those 14 words that divine fulcrum needs to be understood as we return now to the storyline. That’s why I began with it because I might have run out of time to get to it under normal circumstances. Okay, first of all then the 42 words from a high, thankful the 42 words from a Hipfl, The Council of a hit. A fellow at the end of 16 was esteemed, it was esteemed both by absalom and by David. This a pitiful fellow was quite remarkable and the plan that he provides to absalom is a plan which is, you read it marked by brevity. It’s succinct, it’s clear it’s understandable, it’s the kind of thing that many a person at work would like to be able to present before their boss, who asked for an outline of a strategy for something and the boss said, well, this is quite wonderful, You’ve done a terrific job. Now, when we read it, we might imagine that it is motivated by a desire to protect David or it might actually have something of a hit shuffles desire to promote himself or it may actually be tied in a way that we have only given passing thought to, to the very personal dimension that is contained in the fact that if a hit thoughtful is, as we have suggested, the grandfather of bathsheba, what he’s actually doing here in this plan is creating it in such a way that it will be possible for him to settle a matter of great personal significance. Something that we’ve suggested has probably led to his defection. Something that has eaten away at him day after day and year after year, whatever his motivation. The plan is straightforward. Notice how a healthful centered it is. Let me choose. Let me choose notice he is going to assemble the army. 12,000. Remember we’ve said before that 1000, that word in hebrew may actually translate a military group of an unspecified size. It’s a matter of relative unimportance. He’s going to assemble the army also. He’s going to do it tonight. Tonight. Now. I’m assuming that this is the same night as the afternoon that our man absalom has just spent up on the roof. Let’s get on with this. Let’s get on with it tonight. And if the evening is of the same day as the rooftop activity, there may be good reason to leave absolutely out of things. We said, didn’t we a couple of weeks ago that Hipfl is a kind of precursor to another dreadful traitor, namely judas Iscariot. Remember it was said of judas that he went out and it was night. There’s a reason why people do things under the cover of darkness. Let’s do this, he said, and we’ll do it tonight. Notice the I I I will arise. I will come. I will strike. It’s right there in verse two, isn’t it? That’s why I say he may actually be somewhat of a self promoter in this. What we’re going to do is catch him while he’s off guard while he is weary and discouraged. And we know that they had been weary and discouraged because back in Chapter 15, they had crossed the Brook Kidron and all the people had passed on toward the wilderness. And in verse 30, he went up weeping as he went barefoot with his head covered and all the people with him cover their heads. And they went weeping as they went and hit the hill. Says, that’s the time to strike. Catch them while they’re off guard. That way, we’ll be able to create panic. And if we create panic, it will cause the people to flee and we will have the victory notice. Also, he’s very clear, I will strike down only the king. I’m going to strike down only the king. We will isolate him and we’ll take him out. And if we do that successfully, which he plans on doing, then that will give me the opportunity to bring all of his followers into your camp. And then finally, the in seeking the life of only one man, then all the people will be at peace is quite tidy, isn’t it? It’s got a kind of anti and that we’re all going to live happily ever ever after. That’s that’s the that’s the layout. What’s the reaction you’ve given it in verse four. And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel. Well, I think we’re said, don’t you? The advice has been given, the advice has been received. Everybody thinks it’s a jolly good idea. And I imagine that that he he fell fell leaves at this point. If he stays on, he certainly doesn’t have a speaking part in what follows. But I imagine that having done what he’s been asked to do, he can plan on proceeding accordingly. And then you come to verse five, then Absalom said, now if you’re reading this to your grandchildren or something and you put your hand over it, you say, What do you think Absalom said, well, he said, well, I think Absalom said that was a terrific idea that we’re going to get on it tonight and we should be we should be finished with this in in no time at all. But no, that’s not what he said. What did he say? He said call hush. I the archive. The man that I have hard time not referring to as who shy the architect as you would have different noted in my reading call hush. I the archive also and let’s hear what he has to say. I wonder if Absalom didn’t even surprise himself. But when these words came out of his mouth. Well, let’s let’s let’s let’s see, let’s see what, what he has to say. It’s always good to get a second opinion. That kind of notion. Now remember that behind all of this way back in verse 31 of of 15, the prayer has been very, very clear. Oh Lord, please turn the counsel of a hit thoughtful into foolishness. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, doesn’t it? We know that hush. I was in Jerusalem at David’s direction to defeat the counsel of a health official. But here we have a an opportunity for who shy to step forward. I don’t think it’s beyond the bounds of possibility. When you think about what, what motivates a person to respond in certain ways, at certain times what we know of Absalom so far um from the tip of his toes to the top of his head without blemish, Nobody like him a hairdo that makes that new age piano player, Yanni looked like nothing. Um, a chariot that he likes to sit in and have people come and talk to him and now his counselor has come with this thing that says, let me choose the troops, I will go, I will do, I will strike you got a big ego, You might not just like that plan. You might like a plan that’s got more of a starring role for you. A starring role for Absolutely. And so having sent for a shy who shy shows up and verse six when you she came to Absalom. Absalom said to him. Thus has a Hipfl spoken, shall we do as he says, Well, he just made who she’s job a lot easier, didn’t he? Because he actually tells him what the a thoughtful plan is. Thus giving him the opportunity to um bring, bring if you like. A countering view. The proverbs actually addresses this. The one who states his case first seems right until the other comes and examines him as proverbs 18. The first speech in a court case is always quite convincing until the cross examination starts. So who she is very quick on his feet. We move through it with relative ease. You can do this on your own at home. You can follow the text. He immediately goes on the offensive Verse seven. Who shall I say to absalom this time, the council that a health official has given is not good, vegetable is good. Nobody’s going to deny the fact that he’s good. He’s clearly good, but he wasn’t good this time. Furthermore. Let’s think about what, you know, verse eight, you know. Now the inference here, of course is, you know, in a way that the Hipfl doesn’t necessarily know. It’s always quite engaging, isn’t it said, Well, we we share and understand, you know what you and I know, you know, you know that your father and his men are mighty man. No, you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t buy the idea of thinking them as weary and discouraged, able to be picked off in a moment, able to be set aside so that the king can be isolated and taken. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. He says they are enraged like a bear robbed for cubs in the fields. See the use of language similar similarly metaphor. Very, very good. Because that registers, doesn’t, it doesn’t just say he’s a, he’s a bad act, says no. Like a bear with our cubs. Yeah. You see an absolute going, Yeah. And don’t kid yourself about the fact that your father is just going to be sitting somewhere and can be picked off because you know, you know that your father is an expert in war. He’s not going to spend the night with his people With a big flag up, their army of David with him sitting there by a campfire waiting for somebody to come along. # one, don’t think of him as weary and discouraged. Think of him as enraged and don’t think of him as isolated. You actually should think in the reverse of what has been said, Verse nine, you should rather expect that he and his men will strike instead of you being able to go and get him. He will come and get you. And as soon as one or two people are taken down, then panic will spread. The word will go out. There’s been a slaughter amongst the army and he will win. So what he’s really done is he has, he has appealed to his eagle, you know, um, he has uh, also, uh, stirred in him an awareness of his father’s promise of which he was absolutely clear and so on. The strength of that. He gives his advice. My council verse 11 is that all Israel be gathered to you from dan to birth, Sheba, as the stand by the sea for the multitude and notice this and that you go to battle in person, you do this, you’re the man Absalon. You go and furthermore, whatever poultry group of Haifa fell is planning on pull together. Whatever 12,000 means. We’re not gonna do 12,000, we’re going to do a wholesale deal. We’re going to gather the people from dan to beersheba. It will be a vast company of people. And once we put the vast company together, you will be leading the charge. You can just imagine absolute times, you know, ego rising within him. He’s beginning to see a picture of himself with his hair blowing out front, with his vast company coming behind him and he’s saying to himself, oh, I wish it was possible to have my chariot here. It would, it would be so good if I, if I could only be in this charity, but of course it would be of no use at all given the terrain. But nevertheless, in his own mind, there he is now just not forget the divine, through the use of flowery language, through the use of flattery through the use of stirring fear through the very human interaction of hush I and Absalom. God is at work behind the scenes, in the scenes, beyond the scenes and through the scenes will fall on him, verse 12. The way the do falls on the morning grass. You can’t go out and get bits of grass that do do doesn’t have on unless you left a blanket over it or something like that. It will be a comprehensive discovery. And Furthermore, you will notice verse 12 B will wipe out the whole company. Let’s take the whole group out. This idea of just going to get the king. Once we wipe out the whole group, there’ll be nobody left to oppose you. And by the way, in case you’re worried about the possibility that your father may retreat into a city. If he goes into a city, we’ll take ropes, we’ll attach them. We’ll pull the walls down. There will be nothing left. There won’t even be a pebble left. You see what he’s doing. This is your time. Absalom. This will go down in history As one of the Great Moments. He’s used all of his powers of language. He has as we now discover bold Absalom and the men of Israel over because there you have it verse 14 A. And Absalom and all the men of Israel said the Counsel of a hush I the arcade is better than the council of a hit a fella. Well, what has happened, health officials plan in verse four which he presented and which seemed right verse four was good counsel 14 B For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of a healthful. What does that mean? Not that it was good in the moral sense, but it was good counsel in terms of its objective, the objective being to destroy David and his kingdom. But what we have to keep in mind and I hope you have in your mind Is that God’s plan and we have to go all the way back to Chapter seven. God’s plan was to establish David’s Kingdom and remember what we said earlier. Your house, your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me, your throne shall be established forever. That is two, Samuel seven verse 16. In other words, the Lord reigns and he answers David’s prayer through the manipulative speech. By who shy hush. I did not make a health officials advice foolish. He made it appear foolish to absalon. God’s plan was unfolding in this straightforward way in and through the events naturally humanly freely. The hidden hand of God is working his purpose out. Now we need to stop, come back to it in the evening hours, but we do not when we study the bible together. All these things happen. All of these bridges that are attempted to be crossed. First of all, the person who is teaching the bible has to read the bible has to study the bible has to pray for God’s help in understanding the bible because now that person who has done his best to understand is God has communicated to a group of people who may have been doing their homework, but many of them will not have been doing. Therefore you’re starting almost from ground zero every time. How do you bridge that? Well, you can’t bridge that. How can I know what you’re thinking? How can I know if you’re even thinking? It is a great mystery and only only if anything has ever affected. It’s affected by the spirit of God. But all of us together do not study now, engaged with one another in a vacuum. We’ve come out of our own world. We live in our own culture, we have our own friends and our neighbors, our own business, our own stuff. Therefore all of that is interspersed with it as well. We’ve got to understand what was going on 700 years or 2000 years before Jesus. And then we’ve got to come to all these 2000 years after Jesus. And then we’re gonna try and make sense of it all. It’s fantastic. I mean, it’s a it’s a privilege beyond order. So let me just tell you how I was articulating this during the week, not in a vacuum and not in a preoccupied way, but I’m fascinated by the fact that we’re seven days away from the whole world turning his gaze on my hometown Glasgow? Because within a week the nations of the world, it’s questionable whether the premier of china will come, but the nations of the world are arriving in Glasgow, you know this, I think you pay attention to the news for the United Nations climate change conference and already the rhetoric is quite striking. Let me just show you um uh two pictures. Well, someone will show you two pictures. One is here by America’s climate envoy, john Kerry who says the cop 26 climate change summit in Glasgow is the last best hope for the world to get its act together. Now, I know I was born in Glasgow terry mccutcheon lives in Glasgow. He sent me a text this week. He said we are in deep trouble if the best hope for the world is in Glasgow, we got a real problem on our hands. That’s like saying the best hope for the world is in. Well, let’s just leave it in Glasgow as I was absorbing that. I then came on a short video by none other than the prince. Okay, it is hard for me to, to to miss the irony of this picture as in this short video introduction to the climate conference. He literally holds the world in his hands. I looked at that and I got my bible and I read do you not know you’re not here. Has it not been told you from the beginning. Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth it is he who sits above the circle of the earth and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a curtain. He spreads them like a tent to dwell in. He brings princess to nothing and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Now. Whatever your view is on, climate change, that’s irrelevant to me at the moment. But the fact of the matter is that the security of our world is in the providence of God, the security of our big world and our little worlds, because it is his sovereignty that lies in and beyond and behind and through all of our conversations, all of our activities, all of the cries of our lives and you get back to monday tomorrow, you and I only see the surface of it. We only see the everyday routines. The school runs the grocery lines, the hellos, the goodbyes of friends and lovers, the missteps, the broken bits and pieces and in it all and through it all. God at work. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace. Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face. 42 he rewards from the NFL 1 29 from hush I and 14 from the narrator by far the most important words of all. Do you believe this? No, I trust so let us pray in heavenly love abiding no change. My heart shall fear and safe as such. Confiding for nothing changes here. The storm may roar about me. My heart may lo be laid, but God is round about me and shall I be dismayed, father? We entrust ourselves to you, mm hmm. In jesus name. Amen. This message was brought to you from Truth. For life, where the learning is for living, learn more about truth for life with Alistair begg visit us online at Truth for Life dot org.

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Alistair Begg is the Senior Pastor of Cleveland's Parkside Church (located in Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio), a position he has had since 1983. He is the...

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