The Divine Fulcrum
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The Divine Fulcrum

2 Samuel 17:1-14  (ID: 3525)

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.


Sermon Transcript: Print

And let me invite you to turn to 2 Samuel and to chapter 17 and to follow along as I read from here. Two Samuel 17:1:

“Moreover, Ahithophel said to Absalom, ‘Let me choose twelve thousand 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 Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.’ And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, ‘Thus has Ahithophel spoken; shall we do as he says? If not, you speak.’ Then Hushai said to Absalom, ‘This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.’ Hushai 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 Absalom.” Then even the valiant man, 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 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 Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.’ For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring harm upon Absalom.

“Then Hushai said to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, ‘Thus and so did Ahithophel counsel 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 pass over, lest the king and all the people who are with him be swallowed up.”’ Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz were waiting at En-rogel. A female servant was to go and tell them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they were not to be seen entering the city. But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So both of them went away quickly and came to the house of a man at Bahurim, who had a well in his courtyard. And they went down into it. And the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth and scattered grain on it, and nothing was known of it. When Absalom’s servants came to the woman at the house, they said, ‘Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?’ And the woman said to them, ‘They have 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 Ahithophel counseled against you.’ Then David arose, and all the people who were with him, and they crossed the Jordan. By daybreak not one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.

“When Ahithophel 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 Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. And Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.

“When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds 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 his help in our study of it.

Father, as we turn to the Bible, what we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us. For your Son’s sake. Amen.

Well, let me encourage you to follow along as we turn now to the seventeenth chapter, which, as you will notice, follows along from the sixteenth. I mention that—nothing 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, for example, from 16 to 17, that this must now be a new point of departure, but rather, the counsel that is described in the closing verses of chapter 16—counsel that is given by Ahithophel to Absalom—is the counsel which then follows as we have it in the opening section of 17.

Now, 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: forty-two, one-twenty-nine, and fourteen. Okay? No takers, right? That’s fine. I didn’t know either. Forty-two is the number of Hebrew words in the plan of Ahithophel, which is recorded for us in verses 1–4. One hundred and twenty-nine is the number of Hebrew words contained in the plan that is provided by Hushai in verses 7–13. And fourteen 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 Ahithophel, 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 ten days or so, the more I said to myself, “I think I want to start with that second half of verse 14,” with those fourteen words. Because those fourteen 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 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 fourteen 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 15:14, only about a day has elapsed. That will not be immediately obvious to us, but when we think about it, it may be 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 fifteenth 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 Hushai as a kind of secret agent into Jerusalem—the Jerusalem to which Absalom has now returned.

And Absalom has arrived in Jerusalem, has received the counsel of Ahithophel, and by engaging in his rooftop activities, if we’re going to 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;[1] 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 Ahithophel’s counsel, and as we come to the first verse of our chapter 17, then the question before us is, “I wonder, will he follow the counsel that Ahithophel gives him in this section?”

God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility

Now, to that we will return in a moment. But I want us to pause purposefully, before we return to the story line, 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 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—God’s—that is the final cause of all things that unfold 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’s aware when even two sparrows fall to the ground.[2] And it involves the vastness of the end of the universe and our eternal destiny.

All the events of our world—big ones, small ones, events which appear absurd, meaningless, unthinkably painful—are under God’s sovereign control.

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’s at work within our own personal decisions, choices, and actions.

If you did your reading from this morning with M’Cheyne, you would have had a wonderful illustration of the extent of God’s overruling providence in the story in 2 Kings 5 of Naaman. And as you read that and how his magnificent beginning—“And the king of Syria had this man Naaman, who was a man of great favor, because God had granted him favor in the victories in army; he was a mighty man of valor, but he had leprosy”[3]—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.”[4] What possible significance could there be for this girl, snatched up from Israel, a servant to this mighty man’s wife in the house? Well, she was brave enough to say, “You know, if my master would go to the man of God, he would be cured of his leprosy.”[5] 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 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—not least of all, for example, in the realm of prayer—could ever even matter?” 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’re 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 fact 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 fourteen words, that divine fulcrum—needs to be understood as we return now to the story line. That’s why I began with it. Because I might have run out of time to get to it under normal circumstances.

Ahithophel’s Words

Okay. First of all, then, the forty-two words from Ahithophel. The forty-two words from Ahithophel. “The counsel of Ahithophel,” at the end of 16, was “esteemed”; it was esteemed both “by Absalom” and “by David.”[6] This Ahithophel fellow was quite remarkable. And the plan that he provides to Absalom is a plan which is, as 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 Ahithophel’s 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 Ahithophel 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 Ahithophel-centered it is: “Let me choose.” “Let me choose.” Notice, he is going to assemble the army. “Twelve thousand.” Remember, we’ve said before that a thousand, 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 Absalom out of things.

We said, didn’t we, a couple of weeks ago that Ahithophel 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.”[7] 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…”: “I will arise,” “I will come,” “I will strike.” That’s right there in verse 2, 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’s 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,”[8] and in verse 30, he “went up …, weeping as he went, barefoot … with his head covered. And all the people … with him covered their heads, and they went …, weeping as they went.” And Ahithophel 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, in seeking the life of only one man, then all the people will be at peace.” It’s quite tidy, isn’t it? It’s got a kind of “And we’re all going to live happily ever after.” That’s the layout.

What’s the reaction? You’re given it in verse 4: “And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel.” Well, I think we’re set, 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 Ahithophel 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 5: “Then Absalom said…” Now, if you’re reading this to your grandchildren or something and you put your hand over it, you say, “Now, what do you think Absalom said?”—“Well,” you say, “well, I think Absalom said, ‘That was a terrific idea. We’re gonna get on it tonight, and we should be finished with this in no time at all.’” But no, that’s not what he said. What did he say? He said, “Call Hushai the Archite”—the man that I have a hard time not referring to as “Hushai the architect,” as you would have noted in my reading. “Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.” I wonder if Absalom didn’t even surprise himself when these words came out of his mouth: “Well, let’s… Let’s see 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 15:31, the prayer has been very, very clear: “O Lord, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” But it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, does it? We know that Hushai was in Jerusalem, at David’s direction, to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel. But here we have an opportunity for Hushai to step forward.

I don’t think it’s beyond the bounds of possibility, when you think about what motivates a person to respond in certain ways at certain times… What we know of Absalom so far: from the tip of his toes to the top of his head, without blemish; nobody like him.[9] A hairdo that makes that New Age piano player, Yanni, look like nothing.[10] A chariot that he likes to sit in and have people come and talk to him.[11] 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 Absalom.

Hushai’s Words

And so, having sent for Hushai, Hushai shows up. And verse 6: “When Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, ‘Thus has Ahithophel spoken; shall we do as he says?’” Well, he just made Hushai’s job a lot easier, didn’t he? Because he actually tells him what the Ahithophel plan is, thus giving Hushai the opportunity to bring, if you like, a countering view. Proverbs actually addresses this: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”[12] That’s Proverbs 18. The first speech in a court case is always quite convincing until the cross-examination starts. And so Hushai 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 7: “Hushai said to Absalom, ‘This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.’” “Ahithophel 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 8: “You know…” Now, the inference here, of course, is, “You know, in a way that Ahithophel doesn’t necessarily know…” It’s always quite engaging, isn’t it, to say, “Well, we share an understanding”? No, “You and I know. You know. You know that your father and his men are mighty men. You shouldn’t buy the idea of thinking of 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,” he says, “they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in [a] field.” See the use of language—simile, metaphor? It’s very, very good. Because that registers, doesn’t it? He doesn’t just say he’s a bad act. He says, “No, like a bear with her cubs.” “Ooh, yeah!” You see Absalom 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 gonna spend the night with his people with a big flag up there, ‘Army of David,’ with him sitting there by a campfire, waiting for somebody to come along. Number 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 9: “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 appealed to his ego: “You know.” He has also stirred in him an awareness of his father’s prowess, of which he was absolutely clear. And so, on the strength of that, he gives his advice: “My counsel,” verse 11, “is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for [the] multitude”—and notice this—“and that you go to battle in person.” “You do this. You’re the man, Absalom. You go. And furthermore, whatever paltry group Ahithophel is planning on pulling together, whatever twelve thousand means, we’re not gonna do twelve thousand. We’re gonna do a wholesale deal. We’re gonna 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 Absalom’s, you know, ego rising within him. He’s beginning to see a picture of himself with his hair blowing out front and with a vast company coming behind him, and he’s saying to himself, “Oh, I wish it was possible to have my chariot here. It would be so good if I could only be in this chariot. 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 let’s 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 Hushai and Absalom, God is at work behind the scenes, in the scenes, beyond the scenes, and through the scenes.

“We’ll fall on him,” verse 12, “the way that dew falls on the morning grass.” You can’t go out and get bits of grass that dew isn’t on, unless you left a blanket over it or something like that. It will be a comprehensive discovery.

“And furthermore,” you will notice, verse 12b, “we’ll 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’ll 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, bowled Absalom and the men of Israel over, because there you have it, verse 14a: “And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, ‘The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.’”

Well, what has happened? Ahithophel’s plan in verse 4, which he presented and which “seemed right”—verse 4—was “good counsel,” 14b: “For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel.” 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 7—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 2 Samuel 7:16.

God is at work behind the scenes, in the scenes, beyond the scenes, and through the scenes.

In other words, the Lord reigns. And he answers David’s prayer through the manipulative speech by Hushai. Hushai did not make Ahithophel’s advice foolish; he made it appear foolish to Absalom. 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.

God’s Sovereignty Today

Now, we need to stop. We’ll come back to it in the evening hour. But we do not… When we study the Bible together, all these things happen; all of these bridges are attempted to be crossed. First of all, the person who’s 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 it, has gotta communicate it 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, if anything has ever effected, it is effected 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, our own neighbors, our own business, our own stuff. Therefore, all of that is interspersed with it as well. We’ve gotta understand what was going on seven hundred years or a thousand years before Jesus, and then we’ve gotta come to all these two thousand years after Jesus, and then we gotta try and make sense of it all. It’s fantastic! I mean, 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 its 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 two pictures. Well, someone will show you two pictures.

One is here, by America’s climate envoy, John Kerry, who “says the COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow is the ‘last best hope for the world to get its act together.’”[13] Now, 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 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? Do you not hear?
 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 princes to nothing,
 and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.[14]

Now, whatever your view is on climate change, that’s irrelevant to me at the moment. But 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. 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.[15]

Forty-two Hebrew words from Ahithophel, one-twenty-nine from Hushai, and fourteen from the narrator—by far the most important words of all. Do you believe this? Oh, I trust so.

Let us pray:

In heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar [about] me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And [shall] I be dismayed?[16]

Father, we entrust ourselves to you, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


[1] See 2 Samuel 16:21.

[2] See Matthew 10:29.

[3] 2 Kings 5:1 (paraphrased).

[4] 2 Kings 5:2 (ESV).

[5] 2 Kings 5:3 (paraphrased).

[6] 2 Samuel 16:23 (ESV).

[7] John 13:30 (ESV).

[8] 2 Samuel 15:23 (ESV).

[9] See 2 Samuel 14:25.

[10] See 2 Samuel 14:26.

[11] See 2 Samuel 15:1.

[12] Proverbs 18:17 (ESV).

[13] “John Kerry Says Glasgow COP26 Is the Last Best Hope for the World,” BBC News, October 19, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-58914524.

[14] Isaiah 40:21–23 (ESV).

[15] William Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” (1774).

[16] Anna Letitia Waring, “I Heavenly Love Abiding” (1850).

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.