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2995. Very Exceptional

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No. 2995-52:325. A Sermon Delivered By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, July 5, 1906.

He … put his household in order, and hung himself. {2Sa 17:23}

1. Ahithophel was a man of keen perception, and those who consulted him followed his advice with as much confidence as if he had been an oracle from heaven. He was a great master of diplomacy, versed in the arts of cunning, — far-seeing, cautious, deep. He was for years the friend and counsellor of David; but thinking it politically astute to be on the popular side, he left his old master so that he might, like many other courtiers, worship the rising sun, and hold an eminent position under Absalom. This, to use diplomatic language, was not only a crime, but a mistake. Absalom was not the man to follow the warnings of sagacity, and Ahithophel found himself supplanted by another counsellor; hence he was so incensed that he left Absalom, hurried home, arranged his personal affairs, and hung himself in sheer vexation.

2. His case teaches us that the greatest worldly wisdom will not preserve a man from the utmost folly. Here was a man worthy to be called the Nestor {a} of debate, who yet did not have enough wit to keep his neck from the fatal noose. Many a man, supremely wise for a time, fails in the long run. The renowned monarch, sagacious for the hour, has before long proved his whole system to be a fatal mistake. There are examples near at hand where a brilliant career has ended in shame, a life of wealth closed in poverty, an empire collapsed in ruin. The wisdom which contemplates only this life fails even in its own sphere. Its tricks are too shallow, its devices too temporary, and the whole thing comes down with a crash when least expected to fall. What sad cases have we seen of men, who have been wise in policy, who have utterly failed from lack of principle! For lack of the spirit of honour and truth to establish them, they have built palaces of ice which have melted before they were complete. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” The wisdom which comes from above is the only wisdom; the secular is folly until the sacred blends its golden stream with it.

3. I desire to call your attention to the text on account of its very remarkable character. “He put his house in order, and hung himself.” To put his house in order, showed that he was a prudent man; to hang himself, proved that he was a fool. This is a strange mixture of discretion and desperation, mind and madness. Shall a man have wisdom enough to arrange his worldly affairs with care, and yet shall he be so lacking in character as to take his own life afterwards? As Bishop Hall pithily says, “Could it be possible that he should be careful to order his house who did not regard to order his impetuous passions? That he should care for his house who did not care for either body or soul?” Strange incongruity, he makes his will, and then, because he cannot have his will, he wills to die. It is another proof that madness is in the hearts of the sons of men. Do not marvel at this one display of folly, for I shall have to show you that the case of Ahithophel is, in the spirit of it, almost universal; and since I shall describe numerous similar individuals, many of you will perceive that I speak of you. Thousands set their houses in order, but destroy their souls; they look well to their flocks and their herds, but not to their hearts’ best interests. They gather broken shells with diligent industry, but they throw away priceless diamonds. They exercise forethought, prudence, care, everywhere but where they are most required. They save their money, but squander their happiness; they are guardians of their estates, but suicides of their souls. This folly takes many forms, but it is seen everywhere, and the sight should make the Christian weep over the madness of his fellow men. May the series of portraits which will now pass before us, while they hold the mirror up to nature, also point us in the way of grace!

4. I. See before you, then, the portrait of AN ATTENTIVE SERVANT. He is faithful to his employers, and fulfils well the office to which he is appointed. He is up with the lark, he toils all day, he does not rest until his task is done; he neglects nothing which he undertakes. I see him among the throng, I will single him out, and talk with him.

5. You have been engaged for years in farming. You have ploughed, and sown, and reaped, and gathered into the barn, and no one has done the work better than you, and yet, though you have been so careful in your labour, you have never sown to the Spirit, nor cared to reap everlasting life. You have never asked to have your heart ploughed with the gospel plough, nor sown with the living seed, and the consequence will be that, at the last, you will have no harvest but weeds and thistles, and you will be given over to eternal destruction. What ails you to care for the clover and the turnips, the cows and the sheep, but never for yourself, your truest self, your ever-existing soul? What! all this care about the field, and no care about your heart? All this toil for a harvest which the hungry shall eat up, and no care whatever about the harvest that shall last eternally!

6. Or you have been occupied all your life in a garden, and there, what earnestness you have shown, what taste in the training of the plants and flowers, what diligence in digging, planting, weeding, and watering! Often your employer has congratulated himself that he has so careful a servant. You take a delight in your work, and well you may, for some remnants of Eden’s memories still linger around a garden; but how is it that you are so careful with that tulip and so indifferent about your own spirit? What! care for a poor rose, which so soon is withered, and have no thought about your immortal nature? Is this like a reasonable man? You were very careful, in the winter, to keep up the heat in the greenhouse, lest those feeble plants should suffer from the frost; have you, then, no care to be protected from temptation, and from the dread storms of almighty wrath which are so soon to come? Can it be that you are diligent in ordering the walks, and beds, and shrubberies of your master’s grounds, and yet are utterly careless about the garden of your heart in which fairer flowers would bloom, and yield you a far richer reward? I marvel at you. It seems so strange that you should be so good a worker for others, and so bad a carer about yourself. I fear your lament will have to be, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards; but I have not kept my own vineyard.”

7. It would be too long a task to dwell particularly on each of your tasks, but I will hope that, in each case, you are anxious to do your work thoroughly, so as to secure approval. The horse is not badly fed, nor the carriage recklessly driven, nor the wall carelessly built, nor the wood poorly planed, — you would be ashamed to be called a negligent workman. Ask yourself then, will you watch over another man’s goods, and be unmindful of your own highest good? What! do you care for the horse and the wagon, the parcels, and the errands, and all kinds of little matters, and shall that soul of yours, which will outlast the sun, and live when stars grow dim, be left without a thought? What! do you love others so much, and yourself so little? Are minor matters to absorb all your thoughts, while your own eternal concerns are left in utter neglect?

8. Some of you act as domestic servants, and endeavour to discharge your duties well; you have much to do from morning until night, and you would be ashamed for anyone to say, “The room is unswept, cobwebs are on the walls, the floors are filthy, the meals are badly cooked, because you are a bad servant.” No, you feel rather proud that, when you have a job, you can keep it, and that the mistress is satisfied with you. Allow me, then, to ask you, in the gentlest manner, “Is your heart never to be cleansed? Are your sins always to defile it? Have you no thought about the ‘house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens?’ ” Do you think God made you to be a mere sweeper and cleaner of rooms, a cooker of meals, and so on, and that this is all you were designed for? There must be a higher and a better life for you, and do you altogether disregard it? Will you weary yourself, day by day, about another person’s house, and have you no interest in your own soul? Have you so much care to please (as you should do) your master and mistress, and no care about being reconciled to God? I will not think that you are so bereft of reason.

9. I address an even larger class, probably, if I say there are many here who will go off to the City, in the morning, to fulfil the duties of confidential accountants. You never allow the books to be inaccurate, they balance to a farthing; it would distress you if, through your inadvertence, the firm lost even a sixpence. You have perhaps been many years with the same employers, and have their unbounded respect; from your boyhood to this day, you have been connected with the firm. I have known several admirable men, of high integrity and thorough faithfulness, whom their employers could never sufficiently value, for they laid themselves out with intense zeal to promote their commercial interests, and worked far harder than the heads of the firm ever did. Had the whole concern been their own, they could not have been more diligent, and yet these very men gave no heed to their own personal interests for another world; it was grievous to observe that God was not in all their thoughts, nor heaven, nor hell, nor their own precious souls. You good and faithful servants of men, will you perish as unfaithful servants of God? What! will you never look ahead to the last great reckoning? Is it nothing to you that the debts due to divine justice are undischarged? Are you willing to be called before the Lord of all, and to hear him say, “You wicked and slothful servant, I gave you a talent, but you have wrapped it in a napkin”? God forbid that I should diminish one grain of your diligence in your secular vocations; but, from the very zeal you throw into these, I charge you, if you are reasonable men, see to it that you do not destroy your own souls. Do not be like Ahithophel, who set his house in order, and hung himself. Do not set your master’s concerns in order, and then destroy your own souls, for how shall you escape if you neglect the great salvation?

10. II. Look now at another portrait, — THE PRUDENT MERCHANT.

11. I must briefly sketch him. He knows the ways of trade, studies the state of the market, is quick to perceive the opportunity for gain, has been cautious in his speculations, has secured what he has obtained, and is now financially independent, or well on the road to it. He prides himself, in a quiet way, on the prudence with which he conducts all his worldly transactions; and, my dear friend, I am sure I am glad to see you prudent in business, for much misery would be caused to others as well as to yourself by recklessness and folly. But I want to ask you, if you are thoughtless about religion, how is it that you can be so inconsistent. Do you study how to buy, and buy well, but will you never buy the truth? Do you put all that you get into a safe bank, but will you never lay up treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupts? You are wary of your speculations, but will you take such great risks as to jeopardize your soul? You have been for years accustomed to rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness; will you never rise early to seek the Lord? Will you never act before the night-watches to find a Saviour? Is the body everything? Is gold your god? Why, you are a man of intelligence and reading, and you know that they are higher considerations than those of business and the state of trade. You do not believe yourself to be of the same order of beings as the brute that perishes; you expect to live in another state; you have a Book here, which tells you what that life will be, and how it may be moulded for joy, or left to be drifted into endless sorrow. Am I a fanatic, my dear sir, if I respectfully put my hand on yours, and say, “I beseech you, do not think everything of the less, and nothing of the greater, lest perhaps, when you come to die, the same may be said of you as of a rich man of old, who had been as cautious and as careful as you: ‘You fool, tonight your soul shall be required of you: then whose shall these things be, which you have provided?’ I charge you, if you are prudent, prove it by being prudent about the weightiest of all concerns. If you are not, after all, a mere bragger concerning prudence, a mere child enraptured with silly toys, then show your wisdom by following the wisest course.” I have heard of one, the stewardess of an American vessel, who, when the ship was sinking, saw heaps of gold coin scattered on the cabin floor by those who had thrown it there in the confusion of their escape; she gathered up large quantities of it, wrapped it around her waist, and leaped into the water; she sank like a millstone, as though she had studiously prepared herself for destruction. I fear that many of you traders are diligently collecting guarantees for your most certain ruin, planning to bury yourselves beneath your glittering hoards. Be wise in time. My voice, indeed, my heart pleads with you, for your soul’s sake, and for Christ’s sake, do not be like Ahithophel, who set his house in order, and hung himself. Buy a secure bond for enduring happiness, invest in indisputable securities, be finished with infinite risks, and be assured for everlasting life.

12. III. A third portrait shall now be exhibited. This will describe a smaller, but a very valuable class of men, and if they were blessed by God, how glad should I be, — THE DILIGENT STUDENT.

13. He seeks out the best of books to assist him in the pursuit of his branch of knowledge; he burns the midnight oil, he is not afraid of toil, he does not care for throbbing brain and weary eye, but he presses on, he trains his memory, he schools his judgment, and all with the hope that he may be numbered with the learned. The examinations of his university are to him the most important times on the calendar; his degree is the prize of his high calling. Knowledge is sweet, and the honour of being associated with the learned is coveted. My young friend, I would not for a moment abate your zeal, but I would ask for time for one consideration worthy of immediate attention. Ought the best of sciences to be left to the last? Should self-knowledge and acquaintance with God be treated as of secondary importance? Should not the Word of God be the chief volume in the wise man’s library? Should you not burn the midnight oil to peruse the infallible page, written by the divine finger? With all your gettings, should you not get the understanding which comes from above, and the knowledge which is the gift of God, and which will introduce you, if not among the learned, yet among the gracious; if not into the academy of savants, yet into the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven? Should there not be with you the wish to train your complete manhood, and to educate yourself to the fulness of the stature of what a man should be? Should not the noblest part have the chief care? I speak to a wise man; I would have him be truly wise; I would not have him set his study in order, and tutor himself, and then forget the eternal life, and the destiny that awaits him. Oh student, seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and then your temple of wisdom shall be built on a rock!

14. IV. I will take another character, a character which is very common in great cities, — I am sure it is common enough, — THE REFORMING POLITICIAN.

15. I value our politicians highly, but we scarcely need to be oversupplied with those who brawl in public houses and discussion rooms while their families are starving at home. Some men, who spend a great deal of time in considering politics, are hardly benefiting the commonwealth to the extent they imagine. I will suppose I am addressing a man who feels the home and foreign affairs of the nation to be his particular department. Well, my respected friend, I trust you occupy a useful place in the general economy, but I want to ask you one or two questions well worthy of a Reformer’s or a Conservative’s consideration. You have been looking up abuses, have you no abuses in your own life which need correcting? There is no doubt about the Reform Bill having been needed; but do you not think a Reform Bill is needed by some of us, at home, in reference to our own characters, and especially in reference to our relationship with our God and our Saviour? I think only he who is ignorant of himself will deny that; and would it not be a fine thing to begin at home, and let the politics of our house and our heart be set quite right, and that immediately! You have in your brain a complete scheme for paying off the National Debt, elevating the nation, remodelling the navy, improving the army, managing the Colonies, delivering France, and establishing the best form of government in Europe; I am afraid your schemes may not be carried out as soon as you desire, but may I not suggest to you that your own heart needs renewing by the Spirit of God, your many sins need removing by the atonement of Jesus, and your whole life requires a deep and radical change; and this is a practical measure which no aristocracy will oppose, which no vested interests will defeat, and which need not be delayed for another election or a new Prime Minister? I daresay you have faced much opposition, and expect to face much more in agitating the important question which you have taken up; but ah! my friend, will you not sometimes agitate questions with your conscience? Will you not discuss with your inner nature the great truths which God has revealed? Would it not be worth your while at last to spend some time in your private council-chamber with yourself thinking of the present, and of the past, and of the future, — considering God, Christ, heaven, hell, and yourself as connected with all these? I press it on you, it seems to me to be the greatest of all inconsistencies that a man should think himself able to guide a nation, and yet should lose his own soul; that he should have schemes by which to turn this world into a paradise, and yet lose paradise for himself; that he should speak passionately against war, and all kinds of evils, and yet, himself should be at war with God, himself a slave to sin. Shall he talk about freedom while he is manacled by his lusts and appetites? Shall he be enslaved by drink, and yet be the champion of liberty? He who teaches freedom should himself be free. It is bad to see a man contending for others, and a captive himself. To arrange the nation’s affairs, and to destroy yourself, is as foolish as Ahithophel, who put his household in order, and hung himself.

16. V. We will pass onto another character, and how much of what I am now to utter may concern myself I pray God to teach me, — THE ZEALOUS PREACHER.

17. The character is no imaginary one, it is not suggested by bitterness, or coloured by fanaticism, there have been such, and will be such to the end; men who study the Scriptures, and are masters of theology, versed in doctrine, conversant with law; men who teach the lessons they have gathered, and teach them eloquently and forcibly, warning their hearers of their sins, pointing out their danger, and pleading with them to lay hold on Christ, and eternal life, and yet, — for all this, they themselves are unconverted! They preach what they never felt, they teach what they never knew by experience. Brother ministers, I do not allude to you any man than to myself, but of all men who live we are most called on to watch lest our very office should help us to be hypocrites, lest our position as teachers should bring on us a double curse. Do not let us seek the salvation of others, and lose our own souls. To preach Christ, and not to have him; to tell of the fountain, and not to be washed in it; to speak of hell, and warn men to escape it, and yet go there ourselves; — may God grant it may never be so with any of us!

18. But, notice that, the point of this warning comes to many here who are not altogether ministers. You are not preachers, but you are Sunday School teachers, tract distributors, Bible women, or city missionaries. Then hear the same warning. Will you go around with those tracts from house to house, and yet have no religion in your own houses? Oh miserable souls! who has required it from you to teach others about God when you are not reconciled to God yourselves? What can you teach those children in the Sunday School? I say, what can you teach those children, when you yourselves are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity? May not the very words you spoke to your classes today rise up against you in the day of judgment, and condemn you? Do not be content to have it so. Do not point out the right way to others, yet run in another road yourself. Do not set others in order, and kill yourselves.

19. VI. I have another portrait to look at, — it represents A CAREFUL PARENT.

20. Many, who may not have been included under other descriptions, will be mentioned here. You love your children well and wisely; so far as this world is concerned, you are careful and prudent parents. You were very watchful over them in their childhood, you were afraid that those infant sicknesses would take them to the grave. How glad you were, dear mother, when once again you could lift the little one from the bed, and press him to your bosom, and thank God that he was recovering his health and strength! You have denied yourself a great deal for your children. When you were out of work, and struggling with poverty, you did not so much grieve for yourselves as for them; it was so hard to see your children lacking food. You have been so pleased to clothe them, so glad to notice their opening intellect, and many of you have selected with great care places where they will receive a good education, and if you thought that any bad influence would come across their path, you would be on your guard at once. You wish your children to grow up as patterns of virtue, and good citizens; and you are right in all this. I wish that everyone felt as you do about their families, and that none were allowed to run loose in the streets, which are the devil’s school. Now, since you have been so very careful about your children, may I ask you, ought not your own soul to have some thought bestowed on it, some anxiety exercised about it? It is a child, too, to be educated for the skies, to be nurtured for the Father’s house above. Look in the babe’s face, and think of the care you give to him; and then turn your eyes inwardly on your soul, and say, “What care have I given to you, my soul? I have left you unwashed, unclothed, unhoused. No blood of Christ has fallen on you, my soul; no righteousness of Christ has wrapped you around. For you, my soul, my poor, poor soul, there is no heaven when you must leave this body; for you there is no hope but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. My soul, forgive me that I have treated you so badly; I will now think of you, and bow my knee, and ask the Lord to be gracious to you.” I wish I could call on you personally, and press this matter on you. Think that I am doing so; when you reach home, think that I am following you there, and saying to you, “If you care for your children, care for your souls.” Look at the boys and girls sleeping in their beds tonight, and if you are unconverted, say to yourself, “There they lie, the dear ones, they are little sermons to me; I will remember what the preacher said when I look at them. My God, my Father, I will turn to you; turn me, and I shall be turned.”

21. VI. The last of my crayon sketches is one which may concern many, it is that of THE OUTWARD RELIGIONIST who yet is indifferent concerning his own soul; it is oddest and strangest of all that there should be such people.

22. I have met Protestants, flaming Protestants, I might add, raving Protestants, who nevertheless know no more about Protestantism than about the Theogony {b} of Hesiod; and were they questioned as to what it is that was protested against by the Reformers, they would guess wide of the mark. Yet they are very concerned that our glorious constitution in Church and State should be “thoroughly Protestant” — though I cannot for the life of me see what difference it would make to them. If they have no faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, what does it matter to them how a man is justified? There are others, who are “Dissenters to the backbone,” but yet sinners to their marrow. To ungodly men I say solemnly, “What does it matter what you are in these matters?” The side which has the honour of your patronage is a loser by it in all probability. If you are leading bad lives, I am very sorry that you are Dissenters, for you injure a good cause. What fools you must be to be so earnest about religions in which you have no concern!

23. Many, again, are very orthodox, even to being strait-laced, and yet are unbelievers. If the preacher does not come up to their weight and measure, they denounce him at once, and have no word bad enough for him. But now, my friend, though I cannot say that I am altogether sorry that you think about doctrines and churches, let me ask you, is it wise that you be judges in a matter in which you have no share? You are vociferous for setting the church in order, but you are destroying your own soul! If these things belonged to you, I could understand your zeal about them; but since you have nothing to do with them, (and you do not if you have no faith,) why do you look after other people, and let your own salvation go by default? It may be a very important thing to someone how the Duke of Devonshire may lay out his estate at Chatsworth; but I am sure it is not important to me, for I am in no degree a part proprietor with his Grace. So it may be very important to some people how such and such a doctrine is taught; but why should you be so zealous about it, when you are in no degree a part proprietor in it unless you have believed in Jesus Christ?

24. What startles me with some of you is, that you will cheerfully contribute for the support of a gospel in which you have never believed. There are those of you here to whom I am thankful for help in Christ’s service; you put your hand into your pocket, and are generous to the Lord’s cause; how is it that you do this, and yet refuse to give Jesus your heart? I know you do not think you are purchasing his favour by your money; you know better than that, but what do you do it for? Are you like those builders who helped Noah to build the ark, and then were drowned? Do you help to build a life-boat, and yourself being shipwrecked, do you refuse the assistance of the life-boat? You are strangely inconsistent. You keep God’s Sabbaths, and yet you will not enter into his rest. You sing Christ’s praises, and yet you will not trust him. You bow your heads in prayer, and yet you do not pray. You are anxious, too, sometimes, and yet what would end all your anxiety, namely, submission to the gospel of Christ, you will not yield. Why is this? Why is this strange behaviour? Will you bless others, and curse yourselves?

25. I speak to all of you who as yet have not believed in Jesus, and ask, — with what are you destroying your souls? Every unbeliever is an eternal suicide, he is destroying his soul’s hopes. What is your motive? Perhaps some of you are indulging a pleasurable sin, which you cannot give up. I implore you, cast it from you; though it is dear as the right eye, pluck it out; or useful as the right arm, cut it off, and cast it from you. Permit no temporary pleasures to lead you into eternal destruction. Escape for your life. Sweet sin will bring bitter death; may God give you grace to cast it away!

26. Or is it some deadly error with which you are destroying your soul? Do you have a notion that it is a little thing to die unsaved? Do you imagine that, eventually, it will be all over, and you can bear the temporary punishment? Do not dream so! The infallible Word of God does not speak like this, though men would buoy up your spirits, and make your forehead brazen against the Most High. It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. May God grant that you may not run that risk, and meet that fate!

27. Or perhaps some self-righteous trust holds you back from Christ. You can destroy yourself with that as well as with sin. To trust in ourselves is deadly; only to trust in Jesus is safe. I will explain that to you, and I am finished. Inasmuch as we had sinned against God, God must punish us; it is necessary that sin should be punished, or there could be no moral government. Now, in order to handle that case, to have mercy on men in conformity with justice, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, and became a man, and as a man, he took on himself the sins of all his people, and was punished for them; and whoever trusts Jesus is one of those for whom Jesus bore the smart, for whom he paid the debt. If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, if you entrust your soul with the Christ of Nazareth, your sins, which are many, are all forgiven you; go in peace, — your soul is saved. But if you put away from you the Christ, who says, “Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth,” you may be very wise, and you may arrange your business very cleverly; but, for all that, you are no wiser than the great fool of my text, who set his house in order, and hung himself. May God teach both hearers and readers to be wise before it is too late! Amen.

{a} Nestor: The name of a Homeric hero famous for his age and wisdom, applied allusively to, or used as a designation of, an old man. OED. {b} Theogony: The generation of the gods; esp. an account or theory, or the belief or study, of the genealogy or birth of the deities of pagan mythology. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {2Sa 15:12-37}

12. And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.

Absalom had, by craft, insinuated himself into the hearts of the children of Israel, and led a rebellion against his father David, so that he might obtain the crown for himself.

13, 14. And there came a messenger to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.” And David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee; for otherwise we shall not escape from Absalom; make haste to depart, lest he overtakes us suddenly, and bring evil on us, and strike the city with the edge of the sword.”

It must have been a severe peril which compelled so brave a man as David to say to his servants, “Arise, and let us flee.”

15. And the king’s servants said to the king, “Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king shall appoint.”

What a loyal spirit they displayed in the time of trial! Oh, that such loyalty could always be found in all the servants of King Jesus! But, alas! many of his servants pick and choose concerning which of his commands they will obey. Some of them will not understand the plain letter of Scripture; and others of them know their duty, yet they do not do it. There is reason to question whether we are the servants of Christ if we do not have the spirit of obedience to him. Brethren, let us search and look, in the book of the King’s ordinances, and see whether we are walking in all of them blamelessly. If we can say that we are, it is good; but I am afraid that there are some of his commandments which we would rather not understand; or if we do understand them, we are not in a hurry to obey them. How easy it is to make excuses for not doing what we have no wish to do! Blessed are those Christians who can say, “Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my Lord the King shall appoint.”

16-18. And the king went out, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, who were concubines, to keep the house. And the king went out, and all the people after him, and stayed in a place that was far off. And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men who came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.

The king’s body-guard of personal friends, who had seen long service with him in the contest with Saul, these kept close to his person.

19, 20. Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why do you also go with us? Return to your place, and stay with the king: for you are a stranger, and also an exile. Whereas you came only yesterday, should I today make you go up and down with us? Since I go wherever I may, return, and take back your brethren: mercy and truth be with you.”

This was the display of a generous spirit on the part of David, and in this he was like the Son of David, who thought more of the safety of his disciples than he did of any way of escape for himself. Let the same mind be in us which was also in David, and in Christ Jesus, great David’s greater Son; and let us look, not only on our own things, but also on the things of others.

21. And Ittai answered the king, and said, “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in whatever place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will your servant be.”

He was a new-comer, but he was a fine recruit; and when our young converts, who have recently joined the church, have this spirit of loyalty in them, they will make mighty men of valour in the Lord’s army. Whether Christ’s cause is held in honour or in contempt, we will cast in our lot with him, whether he is reigning on the earth or his name is cast out as evil, we will share his fortunes. To whom should we go but to him, and where could we find a better Master than this gracious King under whose banner we have enlisted?

22-26. And David said to Ittai, “Go and pass over.” And Ittai the Gittite passed over and all his men, and all the little ones who were with him. And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, towards the way of the wilderness. And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had finished passing out of the city. And the king said to Zadok, “Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation; but if he says, ‘I have no delight in you’; behold, here I am, let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

David would run no risks with this sacred treasure, and though it would have been a great comfort to him to have had the ark of the covenant with him, yet he cared too much for it to think of his own comfort alone. How careful ought we to be of the truth of God, and of the things of God, of which this ark was only a type! Lord, let us run whatever risks we may, but we would not expose your truth, or your good cause to any risk.

“Let him do to me whatever seems good to him.” What a grand spirit there was in David even in his exile! There was a sweet spirit of song in him before his great fall, but that fall broke his voice, and he sang more hoarsely ever afterwards; yet what depth, what volume, what melody and harmony are here; “deep calls to deep.” What submission and subjection to the divine will; and, as well, what a holy confidence! Let the Lord do as he wills, David feels himself to be less than nothing, and submits himself absolutely to the divine purpose. It is not easy to get to that state, but we must be brought to it; if we are the Lord’s servants, we must lie passive in his hands, and know no will but his. Yet deep waters will have to be passed through before we reach this blessed experience.

27-30. The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Are not you a seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. See, I will stay in the plain of the wilderness, until there comes word from you to inform me.” Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they remained there. And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people who were with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.

David probably wept partly because of his troubles, but also because of his sin, which the thought of his troubles doubtless brought to his mind, and especially that sin which he has so deeply deplored in the seven penitential Psalms, and most of all in the fifty-first Psalm. He wore no royal robe on this pilgrimage of sorrow, and “he went barefoot” up the slopes of Olivet.

31. And one told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “Oh LORD, please, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”

Ahithophel was David’s best friend, companion, and counsellor, yet he had failed him in his time of need. David could use the weapon of All-Prayer when he could use no other, and this is like the flaming sword at Eden’s gate which turned every way. It will slay our foes if they come from hell, it will drive away Satanic suggestions; it will overcome our adversaries if they come from earth; it will sanctify our afflictions even if they come from heaven. To know how to pray is to know how to conquer. David checkmated Ahithophel when he said, “Oh Lord, please, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”

32. And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn, and earth on his head:

Here was an immediate answer to David’s prayer, for the very man, who could only deal effectively with Ahithophel, comes to the king.

33-37. To whom David said, “If you pass on with me, then you shall be a burden to me: but if you return to the city, and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, oh king; as I have been your father’s servant so far, so I will now also be your servant’: then you may defeat the counsel of Ahithophel for me. And have you not there with you Zadok and Abiathar the priests? Therefore it shall be, that whatever thing you shall hear out of the king’s house, you shall tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz Zadok’s son, and Jonathan Abiathar’s son; and by them you shall send to me everything that you can hear.” So Hushai David’s friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.

You know the rest of the history, how Absalom took the advice of Hushai, and Ahithophel was defeated. God does not always answer prayer quite so rapidly as he did in this case, yet, when his people are in severe straits, they often have prompt replies to their petitions, to encourage their faith, and to keep their hope alive in the time of trial.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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