My last four posts have attempted to answer three questions: (1) “Should we preach Christ in every sermon?“; (2) “Why should we preach Christ in every sermon?“; and (3) “How should we preach Christ in every sermon?”. I used preaching in Proverbs and Lev. 18:5 to illustrate (3). Today, I would like to continue illustrating (3) by using an OT historical narrative: 2 Sam. 16:5-14.
The narratives of Scripture present a challenge to the preacher to be true to the text, the redemptive-historical context, and the analogy of faith. However, because we know the covenantal, law-gospel, justification-sanctification theology of all the Scriptures, we can justly preach Christ in all the Scriptures. Each sermon must have enough of the gospel to save the sinner and to edify the saint through the preaching of Jesus Christ Himself. 2 Samuel 16:1-4 says:
Now when David had passed a little beyond the summit, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them were two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred clusters of raisins, a hundred summer fruits, and a jug of wine. The king said to Ziba, “Why do you have these?” And Ziba said, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride, and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine, for whoever is faint in the wilderness to drink.” Then the king said, “And where is your master’s son?” And Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.’” So the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” And Ziba said, “I prostrate myself; let me find favor in your sight, O my lord, the king!”
1. Grammatically – There is very little of significance in the grammar of the passage. It is a straightfoward report of the historical events. Ziba’s response of prostration and request for favor (grace), along with his affirmation of David as king, seems to show his genuine devotion to David. However, as we shall see, not all is as it appears.
2. Historically – David is fleeing his son Absalom’s treacherous takeover of Jerusalem and the kingship, even after David had been promised another born son to be an eternal King (2 Sam. 7:12-16). Psalm 3 records David’s weary though trustful frame of mind when he fled from Absalom. As David descended the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba met him with gifts. Ziba was the steward of Saul’s possessions before Saul’s death. Since then, he had accumulated personal wealth from managing Saul’s possessions. However, after Jonathan’s death, David gave Saul’s possessions to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son, making Ziba the steward. So, Ziba conceived a covetous plan to repossess all of Saul’s possessions for himself. Feigning allegiance to David, perhaps hoping for his return to power, Ziba falsely reported that Mephibosheth stayed in Jerusalem to take over the kingship from Absalom which genealogically belonged to Jonathan his father. So, believing Ziba’s false report, David pronounced that “all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” To which Ziba feigned loyalty to David. It was only after the defeat of Absalom that David discovered Ziba’s lie about Mephibosheth. Ziba had left loyal Mephibosheth in Jerusalem when he deceived David. So, David divided the property between them (2 Sam. 19), though humble Mephibosheth was content with nothing but David’s friendship.
3. Theologically – After studying the narrative of events, I would consider what the Law and the Gospel have to say about our text. The Law reveals the sin of Ziba in his deceitfulness to gain all of Saul’s property. “Thou shalt not bear false witness…Thou shalt not steal…Thou shalt not covet” condemns Ziba’s treachery. The sinful nature of man and the condemnation of the Law for sin is seen in the deceit of Ziba. He manipulated David to get his way against God’s revealed will, falsely accusing Mephibosheth of trying to overthrow David. This is the strategy of Satan in the garden with Adam and Eve, falsely accusing God to manipulate them for his ends. Now man copies Satan’s wiles. We all stand condemned by the Law.
Further, we see in David the faithfulness of God’s covenant promises to the believer in spite of his remaining sin. God’s Law required that every fact be confirmed on the basis of two or more witnesses. There was no reason to doubt Mephibosheth’s previous loyalty. But David believed the gossip of Ziba on one witness and made an unjust ruling. Yet God overruled David’s fallibility and prospered his battle with Absalom to be restored to his kingship according to God’s sovereign will. So God use fallible David to fulfill His promise to bring forth the Son of David to be a perfect King who rules with justice (Isa. 9:6-7). The Gospel is preached in this text by showing God’s faithfulness and sovereignty to His covenant promises and by comparing David as a fallible type to our infallible antitype, the Lord Jesus Christ. So Paul could say to Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the descendent of David, according to my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).
In this historical narrative, we see God’s predestined faithfulness to judge Adam’s descendants for sin yet fulfilling His eternal promise to bring forth a last Adam to bear the sins of many and to re-establish His righteous rule among men. The theology of the Law and the Gospel makes Christ the center of God’s revelation in every text, even historical narratives.
4. Preaching Christ in this OT historical narrative:
The Fallen Condition of Man. Ziba shows us the fallen nature of man, seeking his own will instead of God’s by any sinful means. We stand condemned by the same Law. Have you ever lied, gossiped, or deceived to get your way? (apply to spouse, child, employee, parent, friend, enemy; see Proverbs on God’s attitude on lying). God’s Law condemns such sins of false witness, coveting, gossiping, slandering, or manipulation of others. And He will judge you at the last day. Ziba’s sin was discovered by David later and brought to justice. How much more will our risen Lord expose and judge the secrets of men when we stand before Him. How will you stand before Him without a Savior and Redeemer?
The Sovereignty of God Over Man’s Sinful Deceits. Ziba was not judged immediately and got away with it at the time. Why do the wicked Ziba’s prosper and the righteous Mephibosheth’s suffer? God will bring all to justice at the last day and punish for sins (Psa. 37, 73). How patient God is to let such men like you and me live, calling us to repentance (2 Pet. 3) and faith in the only Savior of the world. If any here have not repented of your sins against God and His Law, God has been patient with you. But He will not be patient forever. You must repent of your deceits and lying now, fleeing to the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David, if you would see life.
The Faithfulness of God to His Promises of Grace. Why does God let people like faithless Ziba and imperfect David live? It is because He is full of mercy and has declared the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be the way of redemption for Adam’s sinful children (Gen. 3:15). Therefore, He kept His promise to David, planned before the foundation of the world, and restored him to kingship so that He would bring to fulfillment the perfect Son of David and Son of God born in Bethlehem. And He will keep His promises of redemption, adoption, and glory to repentant sinners like you and me who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even more amazingly, if God could use an imperfect man like David to bring in His eternal kingdom, if He could cause all things to work together for good in David’s fallible life, then so can He use redeemed sinners such as ourselves to spread His Gospel from shore to shore. And so fallible Christians should be encouraged to persevere in serving the Lord. We have promises, in spite of our remaining sins, that God will not leave us or forsake us but actually use us for His glory as we overcome our own sins in the blessing of His forgiving grace.
There is no way you can make up for such sins as Ziba’s or David’s. Jesus had to die for such things as a greater King than David. Blood atonement had to be made by the perfect King for a just forgiveness for His subjects. Resolutions never to lie or sin again cannot make up for the past. You have to be humbled before God and by faith alone trust in Christ’s substitutionary death to atone for your sins. You have to be covered with His righteous robes to stand before a righteous God, received as a gift by faith in Him, not of works lest any man should boast. Then, out of love for Him and His grace received, speak the truth each one with your neighbor… like both Ziba and David should have.
5. Principles for Preaching Christ in OT narratives.
- Every post-lapsarian OT historical narrative is populated by fallen sons of Adam and/or redeemed sons of God in Christ.
- Wherever the Law reveals sin in the text, it must be shown and preached to all as condemning.
- Wherever God’s sovereignty is revealed over man’s sin, the Gospel of Christ must be preached by way of God’s covenant faithfulness to bring Christ into the world under Grace.
- Each text may be applied both to the unconverted and converted by way of exposing the Law and the Gospel behind each text.
- These principles are neither allegory nor eisegesis; they are part of “the analogy of faith” which centers all of Scripture in the revelation of Jesus Christ to man. This how we should preach Christ in every sermon, OT or NT.
Preaching Christ from an OT narrative flows from the analogy of faith, not just grammatical-historical facts and examples. The Law covenant in Adam reveals the sin and judgment of all men in our text while the Grace covenant in Christ reveals the need of the Savior, the righteousness of Christ in fulfilling the Law, and God’s faithful provision in Christ for sinners. Application of the Law and the Gospel to the hearers means that the preacher must reveal their sins, God’s judgment, their need of Christ, and the abundant provision of Christ, while also showing believers the encouragement of Christ’s work on their behalf. If there is obedience to God’s law in the text, the preacher must show that the gospel of grace has produced such obedience through the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we would be teaching obedience to God’s Law without the redemptive motive and power of grace to perform it. The analogy of faith requires that we preach the Law leading to the Gospel and that we preach the Gospel leading to faith-based obedience: “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).