“What a Tangled Web”
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“What a Tangled Web”

2 Samuel 13:1-22  (ID: 3511)

Sin wreaks havoc in human lives. In 2 Samuel 13, we see the ripple effects of King David’s sin extending to the next generation of his lineage. Consumed with lust, David’s son Amnon schemed to have his way with Tamar, his half sister. Alistair Begg looks at the lessons we learn from this disastrous event that devastated many lives. Although David let down his family and kingdom, his story points forward to a perfect kingdom full of sinful people whose lives have been wiped clean by Jesus.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Well, I invite you to turn with me to 2 Samuel and to chapter 13. And I should probably just say, as I read this passage and before we seek to look at it together, that in some ways, this talk should have not a government health warning, but it should have a little asterisk that says, “For mature audiences only.” And I don’t mean that in any superficial way at all. Some of you are here with your children this morning, and I want you to know, before we actually turn to this passage, that some of the material that we deal with may not be the kind of material that you want to have coming to your children in this context but may be the kind of material that you would rather deal with at another time and in another way. I say that not to dissuade anybody or to end with a mass exodus of young people but out of courtesy and out of a genuine concern for you in your parental responsibilities. Having said that, I will tackle it with as much care as I can.

Second Samuel 13:1:

“Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he said to him, ‘O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?’ Amnon said to him, ‘I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.’ Jonadab said to him, ‘Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, “Let my sister … come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.”’ So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.’

“Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, ‘Go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare food for him.’ So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, ‘Send out everyone from me.’ So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.’ And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. But when she brought them near [to] him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, ‘Come, lie with me, my sister.’ She answered him, ‘No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.’ But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

“Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, ‘Get up! Go!’ But she said to him, ‘No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.’ But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, ‘Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.’ Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.

“And her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart.’ So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar.”

Amen.

Well, for those of you who may be visiting, we are now, this morning, resuming our studies in 2 Samuel. We had left off some weeks ago at the end of chapter 12. And as you could tell from the reading of the passage, what we have here in chapter 13, not only in the first half but also in the second half too, is what we would have to say is a most distasteful section of the Bible and, at the same time, a disturbing passage of Scripture. In fact, we may find ourselves asking the question, “Why would it ever be contained in the Bible?” And indeed, one of the amazing facts of Scripture is that it is not airbrushed in any way—that it contains the stories of the lives of those whom God has chosen and whom God has used, representing not only when they’re at their best but also recording for us when they’re at their worst. And so, any temptation we might have to skip it we have to resist. And in fact, one of the benefits of doing what we do in our study of the Bible—and that is seeking to work systematically and consecutively through books of the Bible—means that it is very hard for the Bible teacher to skip anything, because the congregation knows where we were and therefore knows where we should be.

And so, let’s just remind ourselves of, if you like, two controlling passages that we keep in mind when we’re studying the Bible, and particularly when we’re studying the Old Testament. It’s some time since I quoted Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”[1] So, we come to this passage in light of what Paul is saying there.

Also in light of what Paul reminds Timothy of, recorded for us in 2 Timothy 3:15. He says to Timothy, “You’ve become convinced of this. You’ve known this from since you were a little boy—namely, that the sacred writings are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”[2] So the expectation that we have in studying the Bible, Old and New, is that God the Holy Spirit may be pleased to use his Word, which he has saved for us and given to us, in order that we might endure, that we might be encouraged, in order that we might have hope, and, indeed, in order that we might come to an understanding of salvation.

Scripture is not airbrushed in any way. It contains the stories of the lives of those whom God has chosen and whom God has used, representing not only when they’re at their best but also recording for us when they’re at their worst.

With that said, to the chapter before us. Chapter 12 concludes, as you will see, with David returning to Jerusalem. We learned that God in his mercy had forgiven David’s sin. He was involved in adultery; he was involved in murder—the record, the sorry record, in chapter 11. We made note of the fact, however, that although God in his mercy forgave his sin, the consequences of his actions were going to follow him throughout the remainder of his life. And we were helped—I was, and I think you were too—by Alec Motyer’s observation that repentance is like fetching back a stone that has been thrown into a pool of water, inasmuch as the stone can be recovered, but the ripples go on spreading.[3]

And so we come to chapter 13 in the awareness of the fact that the pronouncement, the curse, that was made upon David and on his house from the lips of Nathan in chapter 12 is now beginning to tumble in on David and on his children. And if you want, you can remind yourself of that. It is 2 Samuel 12:10–11: “‘Therefore,’” says Nathan to David, “‘the sword [will] never depart from your house, because you[’ve] despised me … [you’ve] taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.’” The whole sorry saga is not all contained, unfortunately, in one chapter.

We have seen David at his best. We met him as the man after God’s own heart.[4] In the heart of God there was an affection for, an interest in, a purpose and a plan for this man David. But the glory days are now in the past, and here his life begins to tumble into ruin. It becomes increasingly a shambles, one of decay. By the time he is an old man, he’s at the mercy of others, and he’s only a shadow of himself.

Now, one of the obvious reasons that a chapter like this is before us is in order that we would be left in no doubt that sin brings disaster into human lives—that to turn our backs on God, to reject his law, to seek to go in our own direction will bring into our lives chaos and darkness.

It is also, I think, important for us to recognize that despite the fact that you can find stories like this on Netflix and Amazon Prime—which is a sorry representation of the immoral state of our twenty-first-century Western culture—despite the fact that some of us have become inured to events like this, we are not supposed to be intrigued by what takes place here. We are supposed to be repulsed by it. And for that reason, I don’t want to belabor any part of it. I want to move through it, if you like, almost as quickly as I can. I don’t want to try and force on it any kind of external structure that is arbitrary. I want us just to follow the story line, to do so without elaboration and trying to make application as is applicable along the way.

So, here we go: “Now, Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister.” How come she was so beautiful? Because God made her that way—the same God who made Bathsheba beautiful, the same God who made Abigail beautiful, the same God who fashions everybody according to his own plan and purpose. And as we’ve seen before, now we see again: that good looks bring their own challenges. And that challenge is not only that which falls to Tamar but that which comes to those who look upon her.

She is a royal princess. And as a royal princess, the picture that we have of her is, if you like, tragic in its beauty. It is ultimately a dreadful picture, because she is the focus of Amnon’s affection. Or, better still, she is the focus of Amnon’s attention: “After a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her.”

Now, she was a half sister to Amnon. And this fellow, we’re told, “loved her.” In actual fact, love is the wrong word here. The reason… I’m not suggesting that it was put in the Scripture incorrectly, but we immediately read it wrongly if we think that he was, you know, predisposed to her, he liked to take her out for coffee, he liked to go around with her for a little while, maybe ride bicycles in the park and so on, and he’d often thought of writing her little notes and so on. No, not for a moment. No. No, no. He is besotted with her. He’s infatuated with her. He is tormented by her. That is what is being described here.

And incidentally, there is no indication in the text that she was aware at any point of this. There is nothing to suggest that she was alert to what was going on, if you like, in his bedroom. The problem for him, we’re told, is that she was unattainable. What is meant here by the fact that “she was a virgin” and “it seemed impossible,” the commentators differ on it. It’s not worth spending time on. The point is, he couldn’t get her. That’s the point. That’s what we’re being told. He was consumed with thoughts of her, because of all the feelings that he had for her. What kind of feelings did he have for her? Presumably the same kind of feelings that David had up on the roof in the late evening when others were out doing battle. Notice, too, that it says not “It seemed impossible for him to marry her” or “It seemed impossible for him to be with her” but “It seemed impossible,” verse 2b, “to Amnon to do anything to her.” Now, that verb there, I think, is very, very important.

So, what we have is infatuation, imagination, objectification, and self-gratification. For Amnon, it is not just Saturday night fever. It is every-night fever. You remember Saturday Night Fever? The Bee Gees. Remember it? “If I can’t have you, I don’t want nobody, baby. If I can’t have you…”[5] He goes to his bed thinking it. He sleeps, presumably, dreaming it. He wakes up desiring it. That is the context.

Now, you will notice in verse 3 that he “had a friend.” “Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?”[6] Well, not always, because it depends what kind of friend you have. I always tell young people, you know, “Make sure you choose your friends wisely, because there are friends in whose company it’s easy to do good, and there are friends in whose company it’s easy to do bad. You know the difference. Everybody at school knows the difference.”

And this nephew of David’s, we’re told, was “crafty,” or he was wise, or he was, if you like, street-smart. He was the kind of fellow who makes things happen. He was the kind of chap who “gets things done”—which, in a positive realm, you want to have him on your sales team. He can figure out how we can move the product, how we can make sure that we meet the challenges and so on. It is commendable when it’s used in the right direction.

But this fellow had craftiness without ethics. This guy had initiative without integrity. And that’s the problem. And he knew Amnon well enough to recognize that Amnon somehow or another was messed up. “He said to him,” verse 4, “‘O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning?’” It’s a super word, “haggard,” isn’t it? It’s a dreadful thing when you realize that it fits your face when you look in the mirror in the early hours of the morning. “Why are you so haggard? Not just every so often but every single morning, you look like a mess.”

Well, and he’s told: “Well, let me tell you,” he says, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Well, of course, the action man will have an action plan, and that’s exactly what he’s got. What a tragedy is this. Because this was a real crossroads, wasn’t it? What, I suggest to you, Amnon needed at this moment was a Joseph, not a Jonadab. He needed a Joseph fellow, who, remember, when he was under the seductive initiatives of Potiphar’s wife, responds by saying, “How could I do such a thing and sin against God?”[7] That was what was needed at this point, at this intersection on the journey. That’s the kind of friend you want. You want the kind of friend who’s able to quote Proverbs to you, who’s able to take you to Proverbs chapter 5: “Why should you be intoxicated … with a forbidden woman …?”[8] That’s Solomon, Proverbs 5. That’s the kind of friend we need. Not the Mr. “I’ll get it done for you.” Not “I can show you how you can achieve this.” He had a friend—not a good friend.

And so he comes up with a process—very skillful, as you will see, because he’s able to involve David in the process. He’s gonna inculcate David in it. It’s genius! So, “Let’s use David to go to Tamar to get Tamar to come to you. That way people will be able to say, ‘Well, you know, David knew all about it’”—which, of course, he didn’t.

“When your father comes to see you…” So, presumably, they lived in two different houses. Presumably, Amnon lived with his mom. I don’t know. “When [he] comes to see you, [you] say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So, verse 6, Amnon went with the plan. He “lay down,” and he “pretended”: he “pretended to be ill.”

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that David, in receiving this word, does what his son wants, which he probably, in this case, should not have done; and Tamar obeys her father, which was the right thing for her to do, never anticipating what awaited her.

So we’re told that we find, in verse 8, Tamar arriving at her brother Amnon’s house—notice, “where he was lying down.” The way in which this story is told is very, very good. Every time you get “lying” or “lay,” it’s there in order to build the context, for sure: “I want to be lying down. I want her to bring it from her hand. I want to…” The sense of what is unfolding is the kind of thing that you get when movies very skillfully create just the sense in your mind without it being immediately obvious. You say, “I think this is going to go badly,” or “I think this is going to go in a certain direction.”

And so, in verse 8, essentially, we have Tamar in the kitchen. He is lying down as she made food “in his sight.” So the picture, it would seem, is that this simply advances for him his sense of anticipation. From the vantage point of where he lies, he can see her. Given what’s going on in his mind, the very experience of her presence and the activity in which she engages would be stirring to him, without any question at all.

And when you think about this in literary terms—as we should do as well, because this is a masterful piece of narrative—this little section here slows the action down, doesn’t it? Isn’t it interesting that in the middle of this, you have a description of how she bakes, or what she’s doing? And in seeing her, as it were, in the kitchen, not only does the moment slow the story, but it also reveals or, if you like, establishes her character, and at the same time, it increases a sense of anticipation—an anticipation on the part of the reader to say, “How is this going to unfold?”

Let me ask you a question: What do we see when we see her in the kitchen? What do we see? I suggest to you that I see her beauty, I see her kindness, I see her skill, and I see her compassion. Apparently, her brother is ill, in need of attention. She has the wherewithal to help him. Don’t you see all of those things?

What do you think Amnon saw? None of that, save for her beauty. He wasn’t interested in her culinary skills. He wasn’t remotely interested in what she was doing. It was all a pretense. No, he didn’t have a concern for what she was doing; he was only focused on what he was planning to do—because, remember, it had been impossible for him “to do anything to her.” And what she’s engaged in now is merely a precursor.

Now, it takes an interesting turn—it must have been for her too—when in verse 9 we’re told that “she took the pan,” she “emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat.” What? Now, again I say to you, there is no indication that she is alert to what is going on here at all. You say, “She must be the most naive princess in the whole world.” And she may well be. “To the pure, all things are pure.”[9] “I made this for you. You don’t want to eat?”

He talks over her. He says, “Get everybody out of here. I want everybody to leave. Send all the servants out.” I would imagine that she had at least one lady-in-waiting with her. She was a princess. The princesses in Britain and in Holland and in Norway or Denmark, they don’t just move around on their own, usually. They have companions. So she wouldn’t just be walking starry-eyed into this prospect. But now even those who may have been her companions for a moment are dismissed on account of Amnon’s desire.

And once he has her on his own, verse 10: “Then [he] said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.’” He wants her close enough to be able to feed him hand to mouth. And it is in this context that he is honest for the first time. He’s honest for the first time. Because now he discards the pretense. Now he unmasks himself, if you like. And we’re told that he takes hold of her and says to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”

Now, that little “my sister” and “my brother” thing has been going on throughout. It is of interest that although the incompatibility of it in terms of the law of God is clearly stated, when you read Song of Solomon—which is an amazing erotic love story, amongst other things—you will find that the suitor often uses “sister” as a term of endearment: “Come to me, my sister, my love. Open yourself to me.” You’ll find it in Song of Solomon.

And I take it that in this strange, horrible, ugly way, you have in this incident the overpowering, obnoxious activity of this man so messed up in his head that he thinks he can sweeten it by his terminology. “He took hold of her.” She answers, “No.” “No.” Verse 12. And not just “No,” but “No” with her reasons. You’ll see them there. “Do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel.” “We don’t do stuff like this,” she says. “We’re the people of God, joined by his name, delivered from shame.”[10] “We don’t do this. We know the law of God. We do not do this.”

Notice that the first question to ask and to answer in every encounter, whatever the encounter may be—whether it is a business sales call or an injection or whether it is your homework—the question is “What is the right thing to do?”; not “What is the expedient thing to do? What will make me feel good if I do this? What will placate people if I do this?” No, “What is the right thing to do?”

He knows what he wants to do, and she recognizes that it is wrong to do. In fact, she says it’s wrong. It’s wicked. It’s outrageous. And then she says, “Think about the implications. Think about what this will mean for me. There is no place for me to go and hide my shame. Think about what it will mean for you. Do you think you’re gonna become the king after something like this? No. You’ll go down in the hall of fame for outrageous folly. That’s where you’ll be,” she says.

And realizing that the grip in which he holds her is not about to weaken, I take it that she suggests approaching the king simply as a last-ditch attempt to buy herself some time or to save herself—but to no avail. And there you have it in verse 14: “But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.”

Enough said. In need of no elaboration. The briefest of pauses, and then, in a psychology that is not unusual in incidents like this, we’re told that he “hated her with [a] very great hatred.” He lusted after her with an all-consuming lust, so for him to hate her in this way is an expression of a deep-seated hatred. “And Amnon said to her, ‘Get up! Go!’” So he moves from “Come, lie with me, my sister” to “Get up and go!” How long did that take? Not very long, for sure.

You see, the problem for him was that there was a witness to what he’d done. And the witness to what he’d done was Tamar herself. So how was he ever going to be able to look Tamar in the face? How was he ever going to be able to meet her in the street? How was he ever going to be able to bump into her at the local grocery store without once again being unmasked, without once again being reminded of this intolerable confrontation which he had initiated and, despite her protestations, he had proceeded to fulfill? He could not ever think of doing that without being revealed the shortcomings of himself as a person. ’Cause his whole personhood is revealed in this incident. He knows nothing of affection. He knows nothing in this incident of that which would be regarded as the beauty and purity and wonder of it all.

You see, what makes this so unbelievable and so horrible is the fact that the very nature of what is taking place, when that activity within the framework of the love of a man for a woman, within the context of marriage as God intended—all of those exciting elements are part and parcel of it. Right? It’s okay for me to watch my wife as she makes food for me in the kitchen and for me to be thinking not only about pasta but about other things. It’s entirely okay, because of the context. And that’s what makes it so ugly. That’s what makes it so jarring. That’s what makes it so despicable. For when you remove that physical bond from the realm of the framework in which God intends, it becomes in itself a monstrosity. A monstrosity.

And so, he has no future. No future. “Get up! Go!” “No,” she says. “No,” once again. “This wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” How desperate is the prospect of her shame, that she’s even prepared to suggest staying with her oppressor? That’s what she’s saying, even in light of what has happened: “If you kick me out now and I go out on the street, I’m done forever.” She’s making, actually, an appeal, almost, to his humanity.

But notice again, this guy’s ears don’t work. Verse 16: “But he would not listen to her.” That was in verse 14 as well, wasn’t it? “‘Don’t do this!’ But he would not listen to her.” “‘Get out!’ ‘Don’t do this!’ But he would not listen to her.” And “he called the young [servant man] and said, ‘Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.’”

Actually, Woodhouse, my professor of Old Testament now for months, points out that “woman” is not actually in the original:[11] “Put this out.” “Put this out.” So, she’s no longer even a woman. She’s something to be discarded. “Get up! Go!” “Put her out! Bolt the door!” Why bolt the door? Does he really think she’s coming back? No, because by bolting the door, he can create an impression in the community that he needs to get her out because she was the seducer and he was the victim. He could perhaps make it appear that way.

So, look at her clothes: “She was wearing a long robe with sleeves.” You remember Joseph’s coat of many colors? The terminology is very similar in the two passages. She was wearing the clothes that expressed her status—her status as a princess, as a daughter of the king. But no outfit could cover her shame. And so she “put ashes on her head,” she “tore the … robe,” she “laid her hand on [the] head,” and she went out.

What a picture, huh? Can you see her going down the street? I think I can. A picture of desolation and utter misery. Even her clothes testify to the dissonance between what she wears and how she feels and what she is, and how, in a moment or two, her life has been shattered and she is in tatters.

Now, we need to move on and finish, but you will notice that her brother Absalom appears once again in the picture. He’s very perceptive. I think he understands what he’s up against with this Amnon character: “Has Amnon your brother been with you?” So, “[Listen,] hold your peace, my sister. … Do[n’t] take this to heart.” Is he being unfeeling? I don’t think he’s being unfeeling. I think what he’s actually saying is “Don’t break your heart, because I’m about to break his neck.” Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

And so, Tamar is gone. You see that sentence there at the end of verse 20? “So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house.” That’s all we know of Tamar. That’s the end. What an epitaph!

Sin wreaks havoc in human lives. Where the fear of God is absent, all kinds of manifold chaos may easily unfold.

What about David? Well, he was angry. But we’re told elsewhere that he didn’t really take any action at all. After all, he was compromised, wasn’t he? It was a real problem. What are you gonna do when your son says to you, “Hey, who are you to say? Who are you to talk?”

You see the implications for fathers and bad decisions? ’Cause these two characters, Amnon and Absalom, are two chips off the old block. Chapter 11 is about sexual sin and murder. Chapter 13 is about sexual sin and murder. Dare we say, like father, like sons? That’s why there’s no communication between them. Why would he talk to Amnon? He’s planning on killing him. We’ll see that later.

Well, let’s finish. Let’s finish. Let’s just say a couple of things.

This is a chapter that, as one of the commentators puts it, rubs our noses in the sinfulness of sin.[12] There’s no question about that. It’s a chapter that leaves us in no doubt that sin wreaks havoc in human lives. It’s a chapter that reveals that where the fear of God is absent, all kinds of manifold chaos may easily unfold. It is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom.[13] The absence of the fear of the Lord will be revealed in expressions of folly.

It’s a chapter that reminds us that when infatuation comes our way, as infatuation may come our way… In fact, it would be strange if people did not suddenly say to themselves, “You know, I was married for fourteen years, and I saw this person, and then I began to think about her,” or “I began to think about him,” or whatever it was. Listen. Listen! Recognize that when that day comes, you don’t need a Jonadab. I don’t need a Jonadab. I need a Joseph. When temptation comes—when desire is conceived, it gives birth to death[14]—don’t let’s kid ourselves; let’s make sure that the advice we take is good advice, not bad advice; and let’s recognize the challenge of the example we leave to our children.

Finally, two thoughts—really, back to where we began. When you stand back from this, when you consider the promise of God in the prophecy of Nathan—not in the most recent one but in the one where it talks about the establishing of the house of David[15]—you say to yourself,
“What about the house of David now? This thing looks absolutely hopeless. David’s glory days are gone, Amnon’s a complete disaster, Absalom is about to prove the same,” and without even reading on through the chapters, it’s just one slow sorry slide into oblivion.

Well, what does it do? It does exactly what the Bible does: it leaves the people saying, “If this is the best we have, we need somebody else.” And the story of the Bible is exactly that—because there is someone else. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”[16] This is the King you need! The only person who can be a Messiah is not a messiah who’s tinted and tainted by the sinfulness of coming out of this lineage. The only Messiah who is the Messiah is one who is morally perfect. Do you know one who is morally perfect? Only Christ, in whom there was no sin.[17] And it is that Lord Jesus Christ, it is that King, who is putting together a kingdom. And I owe this insight to Woodhouse: he is putting together a kingdom that is actually full of people—people whose lives are, in places, guilty of the same corruption of Amnon but whose lives have been washed clean.[18]

You see, “Do you not know that your body is [the] temple of the Holy Spirit …?”[19] “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? [So] do[n’t] be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor … greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Oh, goodness gracious, what are we to do? “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.”[20]

So when we gather around the Lord’s Table this evening, we gather there united in the reality of the fact that we are only sinners saved by grace, and that the mess of chapter 13 is part of the vast mosaic that sends us forward in search of the one who not only fulfills all the expectations but the one who bids us come to him to be washed, to be made new, to be made members of his kingdom.

Well, Father, help us to digest this—perhaps even to set aside parts of it that have represented confusion. Lord, I pray for some who will be deeply disturbed by this, that the closing notion of the transforming power of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ may prevail in every way. For Jesus’ sake we ask it.


[1] Romans 15:4 (paraphrased).

[2] 2 Timothy 3:14–15 (paraphrased).

[3] Alec Motyer, Treasures of the King: Psalms from the Life of David (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007), chap. 13.

[4] See 1 Samuel 13:14.

[5] Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, and Maurice Gibb, “If I Can’t Have You” (1977).

[6] Carole King, “You’ve Got a Friend” (1971).

[7] Genesis 39:9 (paraphrased).

[8] Proverbs 5:20 (ESV).

[9] Titus 1:15 (ESV).

[10] Wayne Watson, “People of God” (1982). Paraphrased.

[11] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 345.

[12] See, e.g., Woodhouse, 2 Samuel, 348.

[13] See Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10.

[14] See James 1:15.

[15] See 2 Samuel 7.

[16] Luke 2:11 (ESV).

[17] See 1 John 3:5.

[18] Woodhouse, 2 Samuel, 349.

[19] 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV).

[20] 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (ESV).

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.