A Royal Shambles
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A Royal Shambles

2 Samuel 14:1-33  (ID: 3518)

Intervening on behalf of David’s kingdom, Joab conspired with a wise woman to resolve the conflict between the king and his son Absalom. When David acquiesced, Absalom returned to Jerusalem unpunished, unforgiven, and unashamed—and the saga of alienation and disruption within David’s family and kingdom continued. Reminding us that sin always ends in tears, Alistair Begg directs our gaze forward to the cross, where, with open arms, King Jesus graciously welcomes believers out of the chaos and shambles of rebellious lives.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Two Samuel 14:1:

“Now Joab the son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart went out to Absalom. And Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman and said to her, ‘Pretend to be a mourner and put on mourning garments. Do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning [for] many days for the dead. Go to the king and speak thus to him.’ So Joab put the words in her mouth.

“When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and paid homage and said, ‘Save me, O king.’ And the king said to her, ‘What is your trouble?’ She answered, ‘Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. And your servant had two sons, and they quarreled with one another in the field. There was no one to separate them, and [the] one struck the other and killed him. And now the whole clan has risen [up] against your servant, and they say, “Give up the man who struck his brother, that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed.” And so they would destroy the heir also. Thus they would quench my coal that is left and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.’

“Then the king said to the woman, ‘Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.’ And the woman of Tekoa said to the king, ‘On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father’s house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.’ The king said, ‘If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.’ Then she said, ‘Please let the king invoke the Lord your God, that the avenger of blood kill no more, and my son [not be] destroyed.’ He said, ‘As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.’

“Then the woman said, ‘Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.’ He said, ‘Speak.’ And the woman said, ‘Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast. Now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid, and your servant thought, “I will speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. For the king will hear and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son together from the heritage of God.” And your servant thought, “The word of my lord the king will set me at rest,” for my lord the king is like the angel of God to discern good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!’

“Then the king answered the woman, ‘Do not hide from me anything I ask you.’ And the woman said, ‘Let my lord the king speak.’ The king said, ‘Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?’ The woman answered and said, ‘As surely as you live, my lord the king, one cannot turn to the right … or to the left from anything that my lord the king has said. It was your servant Joab who commanded me; it was he who put all these words in the mouth of your servant. In order to change the course of things your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.’

“Then the king said to Joab, ‘Behold now, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.’ And Joab fell on his face to the ground and paid homage and blessed the king. And Joab said, ‘Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.’ So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. And the king said, ‘Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.’ So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence.

“Now in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight. There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar. She was a beautiful woman.

“So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king’s presence. Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but Joab would not come to him. And he sent a second time, but Joab would not come. Then he said to his servants, ‘See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.’ So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then Joab arose and went to Absalom at his house and said to him, ‘Why have your servants set my field on fire?’ Absalom answered Joab, ‘Behold, I sent word to you, “Come here, that I may send you to the king, to ask, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.’ Now therefore let me go into the presence of the king, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.”’ Then Joab went to the king and told him, and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.”

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Father, we come to the Bible aware of our need—our need of comprehension, interpretation, application. We look from ourselves to the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Grant that we might hear your voice in and through my little voice. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, our heading for this morning, I’ve decided, is “A Royal Shambles.” “A Royal Shambles.” We continue to be in the midst of lust, death, alienation, yearning, bereavement, rape, murder, and toxic family relationships. In fact, many of us were breathing a sigh of relief as we got to the end of chapter 13. I know that I was. And I was keenly looking forward to getting into the relative comfort of chapter 14, only to find that having, as it were, left behind these distasteful chapters, we now have this relatively straightforward account of Absalom’s return to Jerusalem.

And I was, quite honestly, unprepared for the sense of helplessness that one feels before the text of Scripture. I don’t know if you ever find this: you read a passage, and you say to yourself, “My, my, I think I better read this again and maybe in another version of the Bible that might make it a little clearer.” I was encouraged when I read one of my colleagues, who simply wrote, “2 Samuel 14 puzzles me.” I said, “Well, that’s good. I’m not alone. There’s safety in numbers.”

And so, as daunting as it is, we need to get down to the task, and so what we’re going to do is try and work our way all the way to the end. If you want some kind of outline, we’re going to consider Joab’s concern, the woman’s conversation, the king’s compliance, and finally, the king kisses Absalom.

Joab’s Concern

First of all, then, the concern of Joab.

We won’t take time to go back into previous chapters. We have already met Joab. If you only remember him for one instant, you will remember the gory occasion when he manages to encourage Abner to come into the passageway or into a hallway, and then he promptly sticks a knife into his gut, and that is the end of Abner. So, you wouldn’t want to mess around with Joab. We’ve seen him before. He’s a kind of get-it-done fellow, and here he’s concerned to get it done. We will be meeting him again, and for those of you who are alert, you will remember that as the son of Zeruiah, he is a nephew of David himself.

Now, we’re told immediately what he knew. And what he knew is that “the king’s heart went out to Absalom.” “Well,” we say to ourselves, “that’s fairly straightforward. But what does that actually mean?” And from our study last time, you will perhaps recall that I acknowledged to you that the original text of the closing verses of chapter 13 stretches the abilities of all Hebrew scholars. And there is a significant amount of debate as to just exactly what it means there as to David longing “to go out” after Absalom.[1] We concluded last time—at least I concluded last time—that the way to understand the end of 13:[39] is like this: “And this”—that is, the circumstances that have been conveyed (namely, that Absalom has made a run for it into the custody of his maternal grandfather and out of the jurisdiction of David)—“and this, held the king back from marching out against Absalom, but he mourned over Amnon because he was dead.”

Now, if that is correct—and I take it that it is correct—then what Joab is aware of here when it says that “the king’s heart went out to Absalom” is that he’s aware of his antagonism towards Absalom, not his affection for Absalom. In fact, as the story unfolds, it’s very hard to see why Joab would need to come up with such a convoluted plan to simply do what he knew David wanted to do—namely, go and reach out to Absalom and bring him back because of his affection for him. I think the context helps us, in 14, understand the end of 13. If we have that in mind, then I think we won’t go wrong.

His concern, then, is on account of David’s antagonism, not David’s affection. And he is seeking, you will find down in verse 20—because of what he knows, he is seeking (the lady explains this down in verse 20) “to change the course of things.” “To change the course of things.” What “course of things”? Well, the king and Absalom are on a collision course. And a collision course between the king and his potential heir may only result in all kinds of disruption—at least, so it seems to Joab. And so Joab’s concern here is a concern for the kingdom itself. And out of his desire to see things resolved, to see resolution, he intervenes.

We know that David as the king has failed to execute justice. He has allowed Absalom to get away. Absalom should have been prosecuted. He killed his brother. He at the same time, the king, has not only failed to show justice, but he is unwilling to show mercy, as we discover in this unfolding drama. In fact, the king fails to show any decisive direction in relationship to this unfolding shambles. And so it falls to Joab to seek to break the impasse.

That’s his concern. That’s what he knew. What did he do? Well, you can see it here in the text: he “sent to Tekoa,” and he “brought from there a wise woman”—Tekoa, about ten miles from Jerusalem, about five miles from Bethlehem. So he sends over there, and he brings back this lady. We know nothing of her. Perhaps she was a counselor. Perhaps she was well-known. Perhaps she had a drama school, for all we know. But he sends for her, because he has determined that he is not gonna get resolution in this circumstance by working through normal political protocol. He’s not going to be able to apply, if you like, the principles of a normal bureaucratic structure. In fact, what he’s seeking to do is to resolve the situation by presenting it to the king in a different light. He is, if you like, a turnaround specialist in some ways. Some of you in business are turnaround men or turnaround women, and you know: first of all, you define, and then you analyze the problem, and then you determine the scope and the strategy that is to be exercised. That’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s using a strange methodology, an indirect methodology, but a methodology that is going to prove effective.

Now, when it says that he sent for a wise woman, some of us who’ve been paying attention immediately go, “Wait a minute! The last wise person we had was none other than Jonadab, Mr. Crafty, and that wasn’t exactly wonderful. What is going to happen here?”

So, he sends for the lady—and I’m going to summarize some of this so as not to simply repeat the text—he has her come, and he says to her, “Here’s the plan. I want you to pretend to be in mourning. I want you to dress accordingly. I want you to behave as a woman who has been mourning for quite a while, for day after day”—which was exactly what David had been doing over the death of Amnon. “And I want you to know, madam, that I have got an outline here for you. I have your script ready for you. I’m going to allow you to adopt it and to adapt it as necessary in order to achieve the objective.”

All right? So, the concern is he knows it’s a shambles, and he is concerned at the same time to try and fix it.

The Woman’s Conversation

Secondly, to the woman’s conversation. And this is the substantial part of this chapter, and it’s long. And I read it a lot during the week, and it took me a long, long time before I felt that I even had a handle on it. You’re about to discover whether I do have a handle on it. The woman’s conversation. Actually, we might better refer to it as the woman’s performance, because this is quite a performance. She plays the part with finesse. She plays the part with bravery.

And, of course, you will recognize that what is happening here is akin to what we already saw back in chapter 12 when Nathan the prophet comes to David, and he doesn’t come to him straight out and say, “What you did was wrong.” He tells him a parable in order to bring him to the point where the parable brings about a sense of conviction on the part of David, and then he plays the ace, and he says, “You’re actually that man.”[2]

Now, what’s going on here is very similar. She is going to seek the king’s help with a problem that isn’t real in the hope that it will help him with a problem that is real. Now, we’ve got a slight advantage over David, as the readers of the story, because we know that Joab has set her up. We know that her story is bogus. We know that she’s pretending. We know that when she comes and makes her appeal as she does, she’s very skillful. “She fell on her face to the ground.” There’s quite a bit of falling of face to the ground in the space of these thirty-three verses.

And her appeal is straightforward: “I need your help. Save me, O king. I need your help.” Now, what she actually knows is that the king needs her help. Anyway, it’s a good start. It’s very disarming. Incidentally, if you’re ever involved in a difficult discussion or a business dealing or something else that you’re not really looking forward to—especially if you have to do something that’s a little hard—then it’s not a bad beginning just to say, “I wonder if we might meet. I need your help.” “Oh,” he says, “yes, of course. I’d be glad.”

Now, how she was able to come directly to the king, presumably, is because of Joab himself. He could make it happen. So now she has the king’s ear. And she speaks: “I’m a widow. My husband is dead. My two sons got into a fight. They were out in the field.” (Might make you think of Cain and Abel, out in the field.) “And the one boy struck and killed him. The family, our whole family, the clan, has ganged up against me. They want me to hand over the son who did it so that they can put him to death as recompense. But if they do that, they will snuff out the only spark of my life.” That’s the coal there, you will see in the text. “They will snuff out the only spark of my life. I’ll be left with no husband and with no heir and with no name.”

Isn’t it amazing how we can know the forgiveness of God and refuse forgiveness to others? How we can be set free and seek to hold others at arm’s length from us? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

So in other words, this is very, very skillful, isn’t it? Because this is a problem of lineage. This is a problem of transition—the very transition that is before us now in the story of the kings, and particularly in relationship to David.

So, that’s the first part of her talk. He responds in a positive way: he says, “Why don’t you go home? I’ll take care of this. Go home, and I’ll take care of this.” But that won’t do. You will see, verse [9]: “And the woman of Tekoa said to the king…” She comes back again. She says, “Well, wait a minute. I want you to know that I’ll take responsibility if you are criticized for helping me.” An interesting thing to say. It seems like she actually has to… She can’t let the conversation stop. She’s gotta keep it going, because she’s not at the point—anywhere close to the point. So now the king says in verse 10, “If anyone says anything to you,” if anyone objects, “just bring the man to me and he’ll never touch you again.”

Now, I’ve imagined that the king did this as something of a favor to Joab: “There’s a lady I’d like you to see.” The lady comes in. “Hello.” What’s she on about? She says, “Well, I got a thing with a son” and so on. He says, “Okay. Go home. I’ll take care of it.” She says, “No, no, wait a minute. I want you to know something.” And so he thinks that’s finished there. But no! There we go, verse 11: “Then she said, ‘Please let the king invoke the Lord your God, that the avenger of blood kill no more, and my son [not be] destroyed.’” Now, what she’s saying there is, “Intervene so that the cycle of vengeance that my family want to institute will be broken for the sake of my son.” He then says, with an oath—a familiar oath, “As the Lord lives,” a sworn decision by which he commits himself to the woman’s cause—“Not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.”

But of course, we know that she didn’t have a son. She was working the material to get David to see himself in the picture. So just when he thinks it’s case closed, verse 12: “The woman said, ‘Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.’” Or, “If I might just mention something else…” And “he said, ‘Speak.’” How do you think that come out like? “Speak.” Or did he say, “Oh, go ahead. Yeah, all right, fine. Fine. Go ahead. Speak.”

And then she joins the dots. Now she comes at him: “And the woman said, ‘Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God?’” “Why have you acted in this way and convicted yourself by not bringing home your banished one?”

What is happening is simply this: that David gives his ruling on her acted case, only to discover that he has passed judgment on his own case—a case which affects not only him and not only Absalom but the family, the people of God. That’s the significance of it. “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God?” In other words, she says, “What you’re doing here in relationship to your son Absalom has got ramifications far bigger than simply whether the two of you are getting along. This has to do with the whole history of the people of God.” It’s a dramatic moment—far more than father-and-son relationship. It has the potential, unresolved, for civil war.

And then she goes on, in verse 14, and she says, “We must all die; we[’re] like water spilled on the ground.” I take it that what she’s saying there is, “You know what? Amnon is dead, and he isn’t coming back. But God will not take away life.” Well, of course, God does take away life. We know that the Lord kills and the Lord brings back to life. That’s 1 Samuel 2:6. But what she’s saying is, God in this case is a life-giver. He’s a restorer. Or, if you like, she’s saying to him, “King, death is irreversible, but God’s dealings are far from irreversible”—or even, if you like, “God’s responses to things are far from irreversible.”

Well, of course, that ought to have rung even just a tiny bell in the back of his mind in relationship to 12:13, when he repents and Nathan says to him, “The Lord … has put away your sin.” Isn’t it amazing how we can know the forgiveness of God and refuse forgiveness to others? How we can be set free and seek to hold others at arm’s length from us? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

Now, interestingly—and this is where it gets hard, I think—in verse 15, she goes back into drama mode. She has stepped out of it to make her point, but she hasn’t said, in doing that, she hasn’t said, “Oh, by the way, all that stuff about me being a widow and my sons? No. I just made all that stuff up.” She hasn’t said that. She doesn’t say that. No, she comes right back into it in verse 15: “Now, I’ve come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid.” That’s the people that are coming against her. “And I thought, ‘I’ll speak to the king, because it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant.’ I came to plead with you for my son. Our lives have been threatened. So I said to myself, ‘Perhaps the king will listen to me and rescue us from those who seek to destroy our heritage.’ I was convinced that the king will give us peace, because he is like the messenger of God. He’s like the angel of God, the one to discern good and evil.”

Was he listening? She says, “I’m coming to you for resolution because you are like the angel of God. You’re like the messenger of God. You’re the one that knows the difference between good and bad. You know the difference between sleeping with your own wife and sleeping with somebody else’s wife. You know it all. You’re the king.” Oh, what a jab in the stomach!

No matter how good it feels for a season, sin always ends in tears.

And then she says to him, “[And] the Lord your God be with you!” Well, of course, the explanation for David’s victories lay in that reality: that it says, again, in 2 Samuel 5, “And the reason for David’s success was that the Lord his God was with him.”[3] And what we’ve discovered now is that that is a shaky context.

Now, “the king answered the woman…” “Is it okay if I ask you something?” I mean, that’s really it. And now she says—she says, “Yeah, you can speak.” So, first of all, he says to her, “You can speak,” and now she… It’s interesting. The petitioner has become the preacher, and now she is the one who is granting him permission to speak. And, of course, he inquires: “Is Joab behind this?”

Now, the chances are that Joab had already addressed this with the king. And even if he hadn’t already addressed it with the king, the king is savvy enough to recognize that there’s something, there’s someone behind this lady’s little pantomime here.

And, of course, she explains. She answers, and she says, “Yeah, I can’t deny it. It was Joab who put me up to it. He did it out of a concern”—back to verse 20 now, so we are making progress—“he did it out of a concern to change the course of things. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things on the earth.” Nothing like a burst of flattery just to close it out! And with the drama over, she exits stage left.

So, Joab’s concern is a concern for the kingdom. The woman’s conversation is this parody, this ruse, this subterfuge, in order that by an unorthodox methodology, David may be brought to realize the predicament that is before him.

The King’s Compliance

Then we come to the king’s compliance. I’ve chosen the word compliance; I think it is the right word.

Verse 21: “Then the king”—he’s sent for Joab, obviously, and he says to him, “Okay, Joab, fine. I’ll go along with this. I grant this. Go bring back the young man Absalom.” And here we have a second falling on the face: “Joab fell on his face to the ground … paid homage … blessed the king,” and “said, ‘Today your servant knows that I … found favor in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.’” In other words, he must have been so wonderfully encouraged that his little strategy had yielded this benefit. And he acknowledges it. And so verse 23, he goes to do what the king has said: he goes to Geshur—which is, of course, the jurisdiction of Absalom’s maternal grandfather, as we saw—and he “brought Absalom to Jerusalem.”

Now, keep in mind: three years have elapsed between the end of chapter 13 and the beginning of chapter 14. For three years, Absalom has lived banished.

We’re then introduced to Absalom. I’m not gonna delay on that, this little sort of… If it was in contemporary terms, there would be a click on it on your phone. You could click on it; it’d bring up a picture of Absalom, and it would give you a little bit of background on him. He’s Mr. Handsome. There’s nobody more handsome. He’s striking in his appearance. There is a hint of Saul about him. Remember, Saul was the guy: big, tall, everybody loved him, all the girls fancied him. It’s a dangerous predicament—one that I’ve never known—and it is a circumstance that ought to cause concern for us. And there we have it. He’s striking in his appearance. He’s forceful in his personality. He’s got a thing about his hair. Clearly he’s got a thing about his hair and gets it cut once a year.

And so, he returns. He returns. He has a daughter, Tamar. (We’ll come back to Absalom later.) He returns to Jerusalem unpunished, unforgiven, and, as we’re going to discover, unashamed. He returns unpunished, unforgiven, and unashamed. And I say to you again that this is acquiescence on the part of the king. This is the king’s reluctant acceptance of Absalom’s return. He does it without protest.

How is this then going to end? Because actually, we’re at the point in the story where Absalom has now become the central character. “Well,” you say, “let’s just go immediately to the end of the chapter, and you have it: ‘And the king kissed Absalom.’” Yes, but how did we arrive at the kiss?

Well, we’re told. He lives for two years in limbo. He says, “You can come back into Jerusalem, but you’re not coming anywhere near me.” You wouldn’t call that much of a welcome, would you? And so he determines that he is going to have to intervene in some way. And he is contacting Joab, but, in contemporary terms, Joab is not returning his calls. He called, tried to put in a call to Joab: “I want to go see the king.” He doesn’t even reply. He doesn’t want to know. He tries it once, tries it twice.

And so he takes a leaf from Joab’s playbook. Because remember, Joab decided that in order to achieve his end, he would have to try and use an unorthodox strategy in order to achieve his objective. And so Absalom says, “Well, I’ve got a rather unorthodox strategy.” He calls his servants, and he says, “You know, his field is right beside ours. It’s full of barley. Why don’t you just go and set fire to it?” And that’s exactly what they do: “[And] so Absalom’s servants,” verse 30, “set the field on fire. Then Joab arose and went to Absalom at his house.” It’s a rather dramatic way to get your next-door neighbor to pay attention, but there you have it.

And he actually comes and inquires—he must have known the answer—“Why did you send your people to set my field on fire?” He says, “Are you kidding me? I sent word to you, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be still there.” I’d be better off living there, banished, than living here, unwelcomed. No welcome would be better than a half-hearted welcome. So I want an interview with the king.’” He’s not asking to see his father. You will notice it’s “king,” “king,” “king,” “king,” “king.” I was underlining “king” in my Bible until I just stopped. It is the king. It is the kingdom. This is what it is about. This is not a sort of—just a family feud. No, “I want an audience, an interview, with the king.”

And then in verse 33, there you have it: “Then Joab went,” “told,” “summoned,” “came,” “bowed”—“and the king kissed Absalom.” Actually, I don’t think we need to regard Absalom’s professed willingness to accept his fate, if he were guilty—I don’t know that we need to take it very seriously, as we’re about to see.

The King Kisses Absalom

So, here we end: “And the king kissed Absalom.” “You must remember this: a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.”[4] What kind of kiss was this? This was a protocol kiss. This was a political kiss. This was a gesture. This is the reaction of the king who has been manipulated into an environment that he was unprepared for and unwilling to enter into wholeheartedly.

“Well,” you say, “that’s fine, though, isn’t it? It ends with a kiss. Surely the kiss has fixed everything.” If you think the kiss has fixed everything, it’s only because you haven’t read chapter 15. No, what we have here—and I’ll conclude in this way—this royal shambles is a terrible picture of alienation and disruption, first of all within a family, and then within a kingdom, or, if you like, within a nation. It is a picture that leaves us in absolutely no doubt that sin—no matter how good it feels for a season—that sin always ends in tears. These chapters, and this chapter, make it absolutely clear how terrible our world would be if God gave us over to the consequences of sin without providing for us a righteous King, without giving to us the gospel.

Where does God run out to us? Where does God stretch his arms to welcome us out of our chaos and out of our shambles? In the cross of his dearly beloved Son.

Who can deal with the shambles of our world? Who can deal with the shambles of our nation? Who can deal with the shambles of some of our families? Who can deal with the shambles of my rebellious heart? Certainly not David. Certainly not David. Then who? Well, the one to whom David points. She says, “You’re the one who knows everything. You’re fantastic.” Well, he wasn’t. But the prophet said, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. And he will execute justice and righteousness, and he will bring peace to the nations.”[5] Jesus.

Jesus was happy to tell stories that had kisses in them. You remember? The people were around him, and he says, “I got one for you. There was a man, and he had two sons. And the younger of them, he got banished. He banished himself, actually. He ended up—his life was a complete mess. He recognized it. He decided he would go home. He had a speech: he would say to his father, ‘I screwed up. I sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. I’d be happy if I could have a place just down in the garden. I’d gladly cut the grass for you.’ But when he was a long way off, his father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”[6]

That’s the kiss you’re looking for. Where does God come to kiss us? Where does God run out to us? Where does God stretch his arms to welcome us out of our chaos and out of our shambles? In the cross of his dearly beloved Son. Two arms outstretched to save us from the shambles of a life lived in disinterest and rebellion against the one who has made us for himself, that we might rest in his provision.

Oh, I hope that this will at least be a help to some of us. And it may be that one of you, one person, is here today and says, “That’s it for me. I don’t know about that woman. I don’t know about Joab. I don’t know about much. But I do know this: that my life is a walking chaos, and I have been unable to fix it. If that Jesus stuff is the answer, that’s for me.”

Well, may it be so.

Father, thank you. Thank you that all Scripture is inspired by you, the living God. It is profitable for correction, for reproof, for training in righteousness. It is given to us in order that we might be made wise for salvation.[7] So may it be that it leads us to the cross, that it leads us to Christ, that we might, as this woman did, bow down in obeisance before the King and, in humility of heart and in expression of our need, ask him to rule and reign over our lives. Certainly, the answer is not in our endeavors but only in your amazing grace. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.


[1] 2 Samuel 13:39 (ESV).

[2] See 2 Samuel 12:1–7.

[3] 2 Samuel 5:10 (paraphrased).

[4] Herman Hupfeld, “As Time Goes By” (1931).

[5] Isaiah 11:1–4 (paraphrased).

[6] Luke 15:11–20 (paraphrased).

[7] See 2 Timothy 3:15–16.

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.