“Before the Lord”
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

“Before the Lord”

2 Samuel 6:12-23  (ID: 3476)

After a three-month stopover at the house of Obed-edom, the ark of God finally arrived in Jerusalem. This momentous national occasion was marked by rejoicing, sacrificing, dancing, and shouting, with King David himself leading the procession, leaping before the Lord. When he returned home, though, he met his wife Michal’s disapproval for his undignified actions. His explanation? “It was before the Lord.” Alistair Begg challenges us to consider whether we, too, are willing to worship selflessly, exuberantly, and unashamedly in the Lord’s presence.


Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read from 2 Samuel 6 and beginning now at the twelfth verse; 2 Samuel 6, and I invite you to follow along as I read from there:

“And it was told King David, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’ So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.

“As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.”

It’s hard, incidentally, not to feel that you’re reading the story of the feeding of the five thousand there, isn’t it? At least that’s the picture I have. I don’t think there’s any obvious link.

“And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, ‘How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!’ And David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as [a] prince over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in [my] eyes. But … the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.’ And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.”

Amen.

Here we are, picking up from where we left off, which was at 2 Samuel 6:11. At least, that’s what it said in my notes. We sort of drifted towards the end this morning, and the ark had been taken and set aside.

It’s actually quite interesting that David, who said, you know, “How can this ark ever come to me?”[1] and as a result of that question and no good answer to it, he decides, “We’re not going to take it into Jerusalem, to this, my city,” but he decides that although he’s afraid of it, he’s going to put it in somebody’s house. And I imagine that Obed-edom… You will notice about Obed-edom what it says here: that he was a Gittite. That means that he was a foreigner. That means that he was a Philistine. So David says, “You know, this is getting really scary. Obed, maybe you could look after this for a little while.”

And, of course, that’s what happened. You can imagine friends coming into Obed-edom’s house and saying to him, “What’s this box that you’re keeping in here?” And Obed’s saying, “Well, I’m not actually entirely sure myself. But ever since it’s been here, things have been going swimmingly! Our family seems to be getting along. The crops are growing. The fruit is tasty. It’s kind of like the blessing of God, of Yahweh, has descended upon us.”

And in actual fact, that is what we’re told: three months—three months—during which time the blessing of the Lord was enjoyed not only by Obed-edom himself but, you will notice, by his entire household. The entire household enjoyed this. You can actually pick up something of his household later on when you read it in Chronicles, but we won’t go there for now. It’s a reminder, isn’t it, of what the psalmist says in Psalm 16: “In your presence there is fullness of joy.”[2] And, of course, we said this morning that the ark was a very graphic symbol of God’s power and of his presence.

What a wonder it is that God, who, in the opening section as we considered it, had reasons for burning with anger against Uzzah, chooses to bless this foreigner, who has no claim to him at all! As we’ve said in these studies, you know, the ways of God are remarkably strange, but they’re sure.[3] It is a reminder, actually, of what we just quoted, or what Terry quoted just from Isaiah 59:1: “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that [he] ca[n’t] save.” So we look on the scene and say, “What a strange thing, that in the providence of God, the ark should be put in there. I wonder what happened to that fellow and his family?” Well then, here you have it.

And what was going on with David for these three months? Can you imagine if you had lived with David for the three months? I think he would have been talking about it all the time: “Goodness, I wish I had never said to put that thing on a cart.” He would see vividly in his mind Uzzah lying on the ground there by the cart. There would be regrets. There would be questions. And the months are going by: one month, two months, three months.

And then what we know in verse 11 about the blessing of God in this house of the Philistine, that news is then conveyed to David, and in verse 12: “It was told King David [that] ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom.’” And that is the turning point in this record here. Verse 12a really is the fulcrum on which the two phases that are conveyed to us, both of the presence of God—one where the presence of God is the occasion of dread, and the other, now, where the presence of God is the occasion of great joy. The journey to Jerusalem, which had been stopped, is now recommencing. And the reason it is back on track is because of what we learn here about God’s blessing.

Now, what we should do is simply follow the text here. I don’t want to establish an outline on it, largely because I didn’t think I had an adequate one to use. And so, let’s just notice in verse 12: “And it was told King David, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’” In response—second half of the verse—“So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing.” “With rejoicing.”

The ark was a very graphic symbol of God’s power and of his presence.

And it doesn’t say it here, but the Chronicler records the fact that those who were involved in the movement of the ark on this occasion were the people who should be involved; namely, they were Levites.[4] And so, David’s lesson has been learned; “There will be no more use of carts, albeit new carts, but we’re going to do this the way that God says.” And it is with great rejoicing, as we see.

The rejoicing is also followed by sacrificing in verse 13: “And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed” an animal, “an ox and a fattened animal.” Some of the commentators suggest that they did this every six steps. I’m not sure that we need to go to that length. But we do recognize that what we’re being told is they had barely begun the journey before David said, “Now, let’s not just go any further here for a moment. Let us stop and acknowledge the goodness of God and to sacrifice to him.”

The sacrifices recognize the need for forgiveness—sacrifices of atonement, of propitiation, of thanksgiving, as we will see again later on. Again, David putting the pieces together. He never inquired of the Lord; he should have. He didn’t send it on its way the way he should have; it was on a cart, and it was not carried, and so on. And perhaps, even, he says to himself, you know, “I need to take myself in check here. I need to remember that God’s ways are right and that God’s plans are perfect.”

So, rejoicing, sacrificing, and in verse 14, dancing. Dancing! “And David danced”—now, notice—“before the Lord.” “Before the Lord.” We said this morning that when that phrase came up, we would come back to it again. And so, this is no display on David’s part. This is a response on David’s part. This is not something that he engages in as a spectacle for others to observe, but it is the response of his heart. He was, if you like, up on his feet, and he was dancing. He couldn’t prevent himself from doing so, and so he did.

It was not well received, as we are going to find out, but it was “before the Lord.” And it wasn’t some kind of liturgical dance. It wasn’t some kind of orchestrated thing, you know: “One and two and back and three and—,” the way I’ve seen in some of these churches. I don’t know what to make of it. But I can understand somebody jumping up on their seat. I can imagine somebody stepping out into the aisle.

I understood the old lady, when I went to the Church of God in Dulles Hill with my friend, the Pentecostal church, and before the service even started, she had started. And I didn’t know who she was. I’d never experienced anything like it in my life. I was the only white person in the place. But she was coming up the aisle, and then she was going back down the aisle again, and so on. And I was amazed! And then this minister, he says, “And we have a visitor this morning.” Oh, I wonder how they would have known! He says, “You come up here, and you say a word to us.” And so I came up, and I said, “Oh…” I said, “And, uh, ‘He shall be like a tree planted by … rivers of water.’”[5] What did I do. Psalm 1, right? “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,” da-da-da-da-da. “And he shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water.”[6] Well, that got her going again! And she stood up, and she started down the aisle, and she was saying, “‘Shall.’ That means certainty. That means certainty.” And then off she went back again. “Oh,” I said, “I’m starting to like this. This is good! At least I know there’s somebody there. At least I know that there is some engagement.”

This is the dancing: not liturgy, not something prescribed from the front, but something that emerges from within. This is not the craziness of Saul that we saw when, way long ago, we pondered the phrase “And is Saul also among the prophets?”[7] You remember on that occasion, he was out of his mind, he was out of control. Nobody knew what to do with him. That’s not what you’ve got here. No! No. With rejoicing they bring it up, they stop and engage in a sacrificial response to the goodness of God, and David himself dances “with all his might.”

And we’re told not only what he did, but we’re also told what he wore: he wore “a linen ephod.” Now, you know about this linen ephod, because, if you have a good enough memory, you can go all the way back to the beginnings of Samuel. And when we read in 1 Samuel 2:18, we have the description of Samuel “ministering”—notice the phrase—“before the Lord” wearing “a linen ephod.” It was the kind of garment that was accessible to all. It was the kind of garment that could be worn by any. It was also the kind of garment that was worn by priests.

And the commentators bounce back and forth trying to determine whether he wore only this or whether he wore it on top of his regular clothes. We could start two denominations, you know, on the basis of that: “No, on top!” “No, instead!” So we have the on-tops over here, we have the insteads over here. What’s the significant thing? That he did it “before the Lord.” That’s the recurring phrase: “before the Lord.” It is in response to God’s revelation of himself. He does it in the presence, you will notice, of “all the people.” It is an expression of his humility rather than a declaration of his majesty.

So, we have him here as, essentially, an ordinary man—if you like, even perhaps a poorer man. We have him here as a member of the general worshiping population. He is not before us now in his kingly status. He is before us now in his servanthood.

So, rejoicing, and sacrificing, and dancing, and in verse 15, he and the rest of the company are now shouting: “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.” So, we’ve got a real problem here if you’re big into decorum, you know? If you like everything sort of very sorted, you know. If you come from the Church of the Holy Refrigerator, you’re gonna have a real hard time with this kind of expression. Of course, we’re not going to just dive from 2 Samuel 6 into the twenty-first century, but we are going to pay attention to what is being described for us here. You remember Psalm 47, which begins, “Clap your hands, all [you] people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”[8]

Now, you know, I have a responsibility up here, in some small measure, in relationship to these things, but I am not the leader of the praise. And frankly, these folks are not the leaders of the praise. God Almighty is the leader of the praise, by the Holy Spirit. And indeed, the Scriptures suggest to us that Christ, in and by the Holy Spirit, leads the people in praise; that he, as it were, stands in the midst of the congregation and enters into praise. And it is in the company of the risen Jesus that we then respond. And the response of all the people is here, is to shout out.

Now, in the ’60s, we had that. I know Psalm 47, and so do you, if you’re of the same vintage, because we used to sing, “Clap your hands, all you people, shout unto God with a voice of triumph.” Then you did that again: “Clap your hands, all you people, shout unto God with a voice of praise.” And then you did “Hosanna, hosanna”—which was really risky for a number of us—“shout unto God with a voice of triumph. Praise him, praise him, shout unto God with a voice of praise.”[9] Well, essentially, that was what was happening here. Because that’s what it tells us was happening: “So David and [the whole] house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord,” and it was a kind of spiritual hullabaloo, if we might put it that way—that if people had come on the scene, they would have said, “There is something that lies at the heart of this that is not simply the constraints of some externalized form of praise.” And they would have been absolutely right.

Now, it is at this point that the narrator moves from the description of what is going on on the ground and takes us, as it were, behind the scenes: “As the ark of the Lord,” verse 16, “came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul…”

Now, I want you to notice that she is referred to as “the daughter of Saul” here, throughout the entire balance of this chapter: here in verse 16; down again when it comes back… I’ll point it out when I see it again. But there’s three times. It ends in verse 23 in that way. I know where it is: it’s 16, it’s 20, and it’s 23. She is “the daughter of Saul.” She’s set before us by the narrator not as the wife of David, which she is, but as “the daughter of Saul.” In other words, in the response of Michal here, you’re getting the response of, if you like, the Saulite party. We’re getting an insight into the fact that although she had become betrothed to David, the roots of her convictions lay far more within the framework of her family life. That actually can happen and often causes great trouble in marriages even today. And what the narrator wants us to know is that Michal has been watching this spectacle. She “looked out of the window,” and she’s not at all pleased, to say the least.

Now, if we were in class, I would say to you, “Now, who remembers the last window incident with Michal?” And some bright person would say, “Well, that is back in chapter 19, when she found a way for David to escape when Saul was after him.” And that would be right. You would win a prize; you can have a mint from the free mint box that is over there near the bookstore. And “so Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped.”[10] And now here she is back at the window. She’s looking out from behind the curtain or the lattice, and she looks down on this scene.

If you think about it, a lot of time has passed since she was doing that, helping her husband to escape. There’s been a lot of water over the dam. In fact, if we had time—which we don’t—we could just go back through the history of their relationship: how, back in chapter 18 of 1 Samuel, he won her, remember, as a result of his triumph over Goliath;[11] how he lost her when, in that context, she was given away by her father;[12] how he reclaimed her, as we saw in chapter 3, now, of 2 Samuel;[13] and how we wondered on that occasion where, in chapter 3, he wants her back, we wondered, “Does he want her back?” And I remember saying I wanted desperately—the romantic in me wanted desperately—to say he wanted her back because he loved her and he couldn’t live without her, but that there was a fair possibility that he wanted her back because of a political alliance. And after all, he had taken to himself other wives.

And so you imagine—at least I imagine—the jumble of regrets, remembrances, animosities, disappointments that’re all up there in her head, and some of them filling her heart. You know, when you see a response like this to something like this, you don’t have to be a psychologist to realize there’s more to this than meets the eye. “And she despised him in her heart.”

Now, we know this ’cause we’re reading it. He doesn’t know it. And so the narrator takes us back down onto the street. And now we’re in real time once again, and in verse 17. What Michal had failed to see was what was really happening in this incident. You remember we said this morning that when the ark had been taken away in 1 Samuel 4, the word was that “the glory of the Lord has departed.”[14] And we said this morning that why this day was so momentous in the life of Israel… Because with the return of the ark after some seventy years, the glory of the Lord was once again returning to Israel, as it were, and was being set right in the middle of their national lives.

Now, David again, I want you to see, despite the exuberance that is part of this whole incident, is under control. And the ark, you will see, is then “set … in its place.” There is a place for everything and everything in its place. The tent that David has put together is a temporary arrangement, because the tabernacle is not here. But he makes this provision pro tem for the ark. And he would be giving directions: “And I have created this tent, and this is where I want it to be placed.”

And once again, the offerings—the offerings of burnt offerings, the offerings of peace offerings: “We need, Lord, your cleansing provision for us. We need to know the peace which comes from knowing you, that you are the living and the true God. We want to give to you the praise and the honor that you deserve.” Again, in a song from the ’60s, “We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord, and we offer up to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving.”[15]

Let me ask you a question—my question too: Would anybody ever imagine for more than two seconds, as a result of sitting next to you or standing beside me, that any aspect of my response to God and the revelation of his power and the sense of his presence would be responded to in such a way as for somebody to say, “I can see that he is sacrificing himself; I can see that she is not concerned about herself; I can see that this is something far different and far beyond”? It is a challenging question. It is a question that we must face.

And so David proceeds. “And when [he] had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings,” verse 18, “he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts.” “In the name of the Lord of hosts.” Da-ding! “Hey, come here, David. You come out against me with sticks? Who do you think I am, David? Don’t you realize that there’s none of the army prepared to fight me? Don’t you realize how big and how tough and how strong I am?” He says, “Hey, you come against me with your big head and your big sword and your big mouth. And I come against you in the name of the Lord of Hosts. And he will strike you down, and I will cut off your head.”[16]

So it should be no surprise that “he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts.” Did he say to them, “Hey, let’s just pause for a moment, and let me say to you, ‘The Lord bless you and keep you’”?[17] Was it the Aaronic blessing? I don’t know.

And before they all went home, he had this distribution—tokens of blessing. I don’t know if the menu appeals to you. It seems pretty good—although I don’t know about a cake of bread. It sounds like that stuff they have in the South. What kind of bread is that they have? Cornbread! That’s it. Yeah. Yeah. I say it with respect, but not good stuff. No. I think you gotta be born to that stuff. So when I saw that, I said, “Nah, take that off the menu. I don’t want that cornbread, a cake of bread. I’ll have the portion of meat, if I may”—which, of course, rules out all the vegetarians. And then the cake of raisins for each one.

It’s a lovely picture, isn’t it? And I think the emphasis here is “and [it was] distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel.” No outsiders. And “then all the people departed, each to his house.” You say, “Well, that sounds like a good idea. After all, it’s almost seven o’clock. We could all depart, each to our own house.” Well, we will in just a moment.

But think about this as you imagine the crowd departing, filling the air with conversation. You just hear snippets of things that people are saying. Someone’s saying to somebody, “You know, it’s quite remarkable. I never imagined a king wearing one of those ephods.” And “Yeah,” said somebody, “it was memorable. Yeah. Do you want to give me a bit of that cornbread?” “No, you’re not having that! I like that myself.”

So, they’re all gone, and all that remains—all that remains—is for David, verse 20, to return to “bless his household.” Oh! What a day, huh? What an unbelievable day! Now all that remains for him to do is go home himself—to go home and to bless those under his own roof. And, of course, the one to whom he goes is none other than Michal, the daughter of Saul. And you will notice that she doesn’t even give him time to get his shoes off. He can’t even hang up his linen ephod before she’s on him. And now from her mouth she declares what we know: that she despised him for what he did from her heart. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.[18]

And it just exudes sarcasm, doesn’t it? She speaks now, you’ll notice, in the third party: “How the king of Israel honored himself today.” “Boy, did you do something fantastic today, dancing around like that.”

I imagine it going something like this: “You call that acting like a king? No king acts like that! I know about kings. My father was the king. You don’t really know much about being a king. After all, you were just an upstart shepherd boy. You’re fortunate that you managed to get where you are. But I am of the kind of background that gets this stuff. Kings,” she says, “carry themselves with dignity. Kings clothe themselves with majesty. Kings are the classic examples of propriety. But you? Before the eyes of the female servants of your servants…” Notice, she goes down as low as she can go. It’s not just “before some of your work colleagues” or “before some members of your army.” No, no: “before the eyes of the female servants of your servants.” These are the people who are cleaning stuff out at the end of the day in that kind of context. “That,” she says, “is the kind of thing you find amongst the vulgar people. You don’t find that coming out of the palace.”

Well, quite a deal, huh? Well, David says, “Oh, I’m sorry, Michal. I just shouldn’t have done that. I’ve had a bad day. I mean, I started off with the cart. I shouldn’t have… That was way back, but it’s just…” No! No, he took on Goliath; he can handle this. No! He gives as good as he gets: “And David said to Michal”—here we go!—“‘It was before the Lord.’”

You see how crucial this phrase is? It was “before the Lord” that all this happened. In other words, what he’s saying is “This was not about me. If you want people to bow to me because I’m the king, if you want people to cheer me, you’re gonna be very disappointed. And let me remind you,” he says in verse 21, “the Lord chose me. And incidentally, while I’m mentioning it, he chose me above your father and any heirs of your father.” That must have stung just a little bit. But there’s no expressions of self-pity on his part, and there’s actually no sense of self-assertion. It’s been an unbelievable day.

Now, you’ll forgive me for a Beatles reference here. You might say that it’s been “a hard day’s night,” right? And so the crowd departs, and he’s singing as he comes up the driveway, “But when I get home to you and find the things that you do, you make me feel… horrible!” Horrible. To which she replies, “Well, you don’t exactly make me feel like a natural woman”—which is Aretha Franklin. All right.

Now, I’m not doing that just for fun. What an unbelievable disaster it is when the church leader is able to lead the people into the presence of God, only to return to his own home unable to enjoy that same presence with those who, in human terms, mean everything to him. I could give you chapter and verse for pastors I know who have experienced that very same thing. And here David is stuck with it.

And so he says, “I need you to know…” And here, incidentally, as you listened to me read this closing section, you said, “Oh, but you made a mistake.” Well, I made a mistake in terms of the text before us, but the text before us here, where it says, “And I will be abased in your eyes”—the ESV takes that from the Septuagint translation, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. So the Greek, when the Greek translates the Old Testament, it translates it as “your.” In the Hebrew, it translates it not as “your eyes” but as “my eyes.” And I’m not a linguistics scholar, but I think “my eyes” works better than “your eyes.” In other words, what he’s saying is this: “I will actually make myself smaller than this. I will make myself, in my eyes, small and abased. But the female servants of whom you’ve spoken, by them I will actually be held in honor.”

Now, we’re dealing with this in the immediate terms of David. You understand, then, in light of this why David in his psalm said, as we sang the psalm this morning, “I[’d] rather be a doorkeeper in the house of [the Lord] than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”[19] You can hear him saying that, can’t you? “I would rather dance in the streets to the glory of God than ride in a chariot, Michal, just to keep you happy. Because you’re concerned about dignity. You’re concerned about position. You apparently are not remotely concerned about the glory of God and his purposes for his people. And so I want you to know that that is the case.” Calvin, when he takes this up, he applies it to the church, and this is what he says: “When, therefore, the Church is considered scum and as a little handful of misfits, yet God holds it more dear and precious than all the pomp and crowns of the great kings who are magnificent only in this life.”[20] I think that gets the point entirely.

And then the final verse. What a verse! “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her [life].” Now, the commentators react differently to this. One says, “And she, for her arrogance and pride, was rewarded with childlessness.” Others say, “No, this was just the end of any kind of marital relationship between David and Michal. There was no possibility that an heir would come from their union, because there was no union.” We don’t know the background, but we do know that she did not have a child.

Calvin speaks of her in disparaging terms. In fact, his terms are so graphic that I chose not to quote them. Alec Motyer leans more on the side of Michal. And you might want to talk about it on the way home, whether you felt sorry for her at all or whether you feel like she just kind of got what she deserved. Motyer says David had no call to “treat her in such an utterly unhusbandly … way … just because she voiced a wifely and understandable word of caution.”[21] That’s actually really worth pondering. After all, she was his wife, and she had a reason to say at least part of what she said. It’s a sad verse at the end of a great chapter.

Do I fear God’s disapproval enough to live in obedience to his Word? And do I rejoice in his presence to the degree that I am prepared not only to rejoice and to sacrifice but to sing?

Let me end by making two comments. First of all, from the morning: in the presence of God, the question is “Do I tremble at the thought of displeasing him? When I come into God’s presence and I live in his presence, do I tremble at the thought of displeasing him?” And now, in the evening hour: “In the presence of God, am I willing to rejoice selflessly, exuberantly, unashamedly, in a manner that is not only noticeable to my friends and colleagues but may actually prove to be the occasion of disapproval among my family and my friends?”

Back in the church in Scotland years ago, a young fellow was converted. He’d been going with a girl. She was a hairdresser. She met him. He was a hairdresser too—Italian. But he’d been converted in another place, and he came to the church where I was serving. And on a Wednesday night, when we gathered for prayer in one of the halls, he was there. And he would sit very close to the front, and when we sang, he was very exuberant in his response. And immediately, his hands were up in the air, no matter what we were singing. Slow, fast, or medium, he was there.

And as I sat at the front and watched this—and he was a standout in the context—I could see the looks of, you know, disapproval from people all around. And I thought, “This is a very harmful thing to this boy. He’s a new Christian and so on.” And so I said, “Well, there’s only one way to handle this.” And so, since he put his hands in the air, then I put my hands in the air too. Whether I felt like it or wanted it or anything else, I said, “That’s good. We’re good, just you and me. That’ll be fine. Frankly, I don’t care what you think. It is before the Lord.”

And the question is for us as a church: Do I fear his disapproval enough to live in obedience to his Word, and do I rejoice in his presence to the degree that I am prepared not only to rejoice and to sacrifice but to sing—and maybe, like the granny from the Church of God in Dulles Hill, just every so often to take a little walk up the aisle? There are a number of people walking up the aisle here at Parkside, but I don’t think it’s the same kind of spirit that’s moving them.

Well, that’s more than enough. Let’s just pause for a moment before we end in song.

You know, it’s usually the hardhearted who don’t like it when people get extravagant. You remember the lady who came with the alabaster flask of expensive ointment? She poured it on Jesus’ head? Man, the fragrance must have been amazing. It would be unmistakable. It would be on people for days. And when the disciples saw it—the disciples!—they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? This could have been sold.” And Jesus said, “Why would you trouble the woman? She’s done a beautiful thing to me. You’ve got the poor with you always. You won’t always have me. I’m gonna tell you boys something: wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”[22] What was that? It was an extravagant display of affection that was unmistakable and memorable forever.


[1] 2 Samuel 6:9 (paraphrased).

[2] Psalm 16:11 (ESV).

[3] Alec Motyer, Roots: Let the Old Testament Speak, ed. John Stott (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus, 2009), 131.

[4] See 1 Chronicles 15:2–15.

[5] Psalm 1:3 (KJV).

[6] Psalm 1:1–3 (paraphrased).

[7] See 1 Samuel 10:11–12; 19:24.

[8] Psalm 47:1 (KJV).

[9] Jimmy Owens, “Clap Your Hands” (1972).

[10] 1 Samuel 19:12 (ESV).

[11] See 1 Samuel 18:27.

[12] See 1 Samuel 25:44.

[13] See 2 Samuel 3:13–15.

[14] 1 Samuel 4:21–22 (paraphrased).

[15] Kirk Dearman, “We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise” (1984).

[16] 1 Samuel 17:43, 45–46 (paraphrased).

[17] Numbers 6:24 (ESV).

[18] See Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45.

[19] Psalm 84:10 (ESV).

[20] John Calvin, “‘Before the Lord,’” in Sermons on 2 Samuel: Chapters 1–13, trans. Douglas Kelly (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 292.

[21] Motyer, Roots, 131.

[22] See Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8.

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.