The King Can Do No Wrong
“And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.” — 2 Samuel iii. 36.
DAVID was a great king and a good king; but his character was compromised by the conduct of Joab, who had been one of his chief friends and supporters. Abner came to David in Hebron, and proposed terms of peace, which David accepted; but Joab could not bear that Abner should be his rival, and therefore he most treacherously murdered him. This abominable act was greatly to the detriment of David’s character; he could not prevent the crime, certainly he had not instigated it, and yet it was only natural that all the people should suppose that David had a hand in it because Joab was not merely one of his subjects, but his prime minister.
Dear friends, in a similar way, the character of our great Lord and King amongst the sons of men is very much in the hands of his people, especially in the hands of those who are more prominent than others, and whom he uses in his service more than others. We may go and do, on our own account, things that shall bring dishonour to the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and King. He will have no part nor lot in them, nothing that he has taught will suggest them, and nothing that he desires will urge us thus to act. We may, however, of our own free will, even those of us whom the Lord uses most, bring grievous dishonour on his holy name. Jesus has often to lift up his pierced hands, and when we ask him, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” he has to answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” It is evident to each one of you that all the vile insults of infidels could never dishonour Christ as the inconsistencies of his own disciples do. No slur comparatively ever attaches to the glorious name of the Well-beloved from his avowed enemies, let them slander him as they may; but a blot does fall upon his sacred name through the inconsistencies and follies of those who call themselves his disciples, but who are not truly his followers, or being so, are yet not careful to walk consistently with their profession.
We may well pity David that he should come under the opprobrium of the conduct of such an one as Joab, for in his heart he was entirely clear of the murder of Abner; yet rumour was quite sure to attribute to him complicity in the crime. Joab said to himself, “Abner has deceived the king; he cannot, after all he has done, be true in his professions of friendship, so I will go out and slay him;” and it is not at all an uncommon thing for us to dishonour Christ under the notion that we are showing our zeal for the King. We may be doing evil in the hope that good may come out of it; we may be indulging an unchristian, intolerant spirit in our zeal against intolerance; we may grow bitter in our love for love and in our hate of hatred. Such poor judges are we of what is right that we may even deceive ourselves into the belief that we are honouring our Lord and Master when we are, all the while, bringing disgrace upon his name. Perhaps Joab acted from this spirit, and possibly some of us at this very moment are making the same mistake.
It is a grand proof of the stability of David’s character that he did not suffer in the estimation of his friends because of what Joab had done. He ordered a public funeral for Abner; he attended it himself wrapped in sackcloth, and he compelled Joab to attend it. He himself fasted as a sign of the deepest mourning, and when the people came and begged him to eat, he would not touch food till the sun went down, but he sacredly observed the time of fasting for the death of Abner, for whom he sang a dolorous song of real sorrow: “And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth? Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou.” “And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people. For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.”
Now, it is to the honour of our Lord Jesus Christ that his cause and his character survive all the follies and all the sins of his professed people. There was an eminent minister who once said that Christianity must be true since it survived pulpits; and another one added that he felt more sure of its being true because it survived ministers, for, taking them all round, they were more likely to destroy than to build up the cause of Christ. These things were said only in semi-earnest; but there is a great deal of serious truth about them. The cause of Christ must be true because the Master has survived his disciples; his wisdom has not been eclipsed by our folly, his power has not been lessened by our weakness, the glory of his holiness has not been beclouded by the unholiness of his people. The sun has risen despite the many clouds; the morning has come notwithstanding the mists of the night. Blessed King, thou conquerest with the poorest soldiery that ever fought a battle, and thou gettest to thyself the greater rather than the less renown because thy victories are won by such poor followers! In Christ’s conquests, it is never the soldiers’ battle, it is always the Captain’s battles, and the Captain’s victories. On his head are the many crowns of all who follow him, for there is not one of them who has earned a crown. Their crowns are all deserved by him; and when they are given to them by him, they naturally and of right give them back to him, crying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
“Not unto us, to thee alone,
Bless’d Lamb, be glory given!”
So, you see, our text has already led us into this profitable meditation upon our Lord. Good David, with his character in jeopardy through the wrong-doing of his prime minister, nevertheless passed through the trial, and his fame survived it; and the character of our Lord Jesus Christ is such that, while daily put in jeopardy by us, yet it will still survive, and his kingdom will continue to increase, and his glory will never wane.
This brings me now to dwell upon the second part of the verse: “Whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.” Wherever this is the case with any king, we may say of it, first, this is the outflow of love; secondly, this is the consequence of knowledge; thirdly, this is the secret of rest; and fourthly, this is the fountain of obedience.
I. First, then, wherever it is the case that whatsoever the king doeth pleases all the people, THIS IS THE OUTFLOW OF LOVE; and as it is the case with our King, that whatsoever he does pleases all his people, we can truly say that this is the outflow of our love to him. Let us dwell upon that matter for a few minutes.
Dear friends, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts, whatsoever he does will please us. We shall sum up all his past history in this one sentence, “He hath done all things well;” and we shall fortell his future history just as briefly, for “He will do all things well.”
Whatsoever our King does pleases us because we love him, and true love, in the first place, banishes suspicion. When we do not love our rulers, we are afraid of the power that is over us, we think perhaps it may be exercised without tenderness, and we begin to tremble lest, in some awful moment, the great foot should crush us, or the powerful hand should smite us. But when we truly love, we are not the victims of any such impression. No dark suspicions come across the soul that is once enamoured of the Lord Jesus Christ. “No,” saith the heart, “he will not hurt me, he will not destroy me, he will not forget me.” We cannot admit one ill thought concerning him when, with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, we have come to love him. Love at once banishes all suspicions.
It also inspires implicit confidence. When we love Jesus Christ, our blessed King, we feel that he must do that which is kind, that which is tender, that which is right, and we do not want to ask him any questions, we leave the whole matter with him to do as he pleases. We are willing' to let his will be like the apocalyptic book, sealed with seven seals if necessary, and we unhesitatingly say, “Let his will be done.” He who loves Christ much does not keep on asking for tokens, and signs, and evidences, and manifestations. That is an odd story, which is told of two Welshmen, but it has a great deal of truth in it. They were going out to preach, and they parted at the cross-roads, one to go this way, and one to go that. One of them said to his friend, “Brother Jones, may you get the light of his countenance in your preaching to-day!” “I hope so, brother,” he answered, “but there is one thing, if I do not get the light of his countenance, I will speak well of him behind his back.” Ay, just so! When we see his face, we realize what a blessed Christ he is; but if we do not see his face, we are not going to find fault with him. We believe in the truth of Kent’s hymn, —
“What cheering words are these!
Their sweetness who can tell?
In time, and to eternal days,
’Tis with the righteous well.
“Well when they see his face,
Or sink amidst the flood;
Well in affliction’s thorny maze,
Or on the mount with God.
“’Tis well when they can sing
As sinners bought with blood,
And when they touch the mournful string,
And mourn an absent God.
“’Tis well when on the mount
They feast on dying love,
And ’tis as well, in God’s account,
When they the furnace prove.”
If Jesus smiles, he is my Lord; but if he frowns, he is my Lord just the same. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” That was a splendid utterance of Job when he reached that point, and that is where true love always comes; it makes no enquiries or bargains, but it saith, “My Lord is such a glorious King that I trust him in the dark, I make no covenant or stipulation as to what he will do or will not do, I implicitly put myself in his hands, and say, ‘Not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” This is the sweet effect of love; it banishes suspicion, and inspires confidence, and thus it comes true that whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all the people.
Love also suggests unquestioning reverence. When you come to love your Lord as he ought to be loved, with a worshipping, adoring, reverential affection, it is almost like treason even to begin to enquire the reason for anything that he does. “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.” Is he not a King? Is he not my Sovereign, and am I not only his subject, but his beloved one, and shall I begin to ask questions of him as if I were a stranger and he were a tyrant, as if I were under a foreign rule? Nay, I am his Hephzibah, of whom he saith, “My delight is in her,” and he is no more to me Baali, my Lord, my Master, but Ishi, my Man, my Husband. He has given himself that name to show the closeness of his relationship to me; and I must not, I cannot, I would not desire to raise any question about anything that ho does. Nay, Lord, if it were possible, I would enlarge thy liberty to do with me and mine whatsoever it pleaseth thee. Take no notice of my whims and wishes, I beseech thee; if thou wert to notice them, they might be to my ruin. Let thy will be my will, and thy wish my wish; I most reverentially yield all to thee. Thus, when we come to love our Lord so that we give him his right place, and wo take our right place, then whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all of us who are his people.
Moreover, there is another beautiful feature about love, it creates sympathetic feeling. When we truly love Christ our King, we are sure to be pleased with whatever he does. When our nature gets to be like his nature, — oh, what a blessed consummation that is!— when our wishes and his wishes travel the same road, though not with equal footsteps; when that which he aims at is that which we aim at after our poor fashion; when wo can say that it is more delight to us that he should be delighted than that we should be delighted ourselves, and that it is a greater honour to us to see him honoured than it would be to be honoured ourselves; when we sink ourselves in him, even as two divided streams at last dissolve into one,— as I have seen a tiny silver brook come down to Father Thames, and pour its whole self into him, so as to be no longer anything but part of the great river,— so, when our soul yields itself up in perfect love to Christ, to think his thoughts, and live and move in him so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who liveth in us; oh, then it is that whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all his people! Our heart has yielded up itself to him, and is perfectly content with that which he doeth, for it hath no other will than that which lives in the Prince. When the believer comes to be what he should be in the fulness of his love, his will is lost in the will of Christ, his very life is hidden away with Christ in God, and then he realizes how true it is that whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all his people.
Thus I have shown you that, in the first place, the pleasure of the people in all that the King doeth is the outflow of love.
II. That leads me, secondly, to notice that the love that manifests itself thus is not at all a foolish love, for IT IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF KNOWLEDGE. Human love is blind; but the love which is wrought in us by the Spirit of God is as full of eyes as are the great wheels of divine providence. There is the best of reasons why everything that Jesus does should please all his people, because everything he does is right, and we shall feel this in proportion as we combine knowledge with love, or our love is based on knowledge.
First, I suppose that we know the character of Christ. Do you know it, beloved? The God-man, your Brother, and yet the Son of God, — do you know his infinite tenderness, his boundless compassion, his unquenchable ardour of affection, his unfailing wisdom? If you have a true idea of what the Son of God is, who is now enthroned at the right hand of the Father, invested with supreme power over all things, and ever working for the good of his people, if you do really know him, then, whatever he does will please you. One who is so wise, so kind, ought to be supreme. He that is so good ought to be an Autocrat, and to issue decrees of his own. Do we not all feel that it should be so? If it were otherwise, then we might quarrel with him; but such a blessed Saviour as our Well-beloved is, why, we will not even in thought differ from him, but we will feel that, whatever he does, because of his great love, must please us.
Then, next, if we know Christ at all, we know something of his designs, and we know that he designs the glory of the Father through the salvation of those the Father gave him. He has laid himself out to bring many sons to glory. When we know that Christ’s love has such sweet designs, and that he has purchased our eternal salvation, how can we after that quarrel with him? Now, we not only know something of his character, but we also know something of his divine intent, and we therefore know that we may assuredly say, “All that thou wiliest, and all that thou doest, O our glorious King, aim only at this one thing, the perfecting of thine own loved ones, and bringing them home to thy glory! Do even as thou pleasest; for we will never raise a question with thee about anything that thou doest.”
Furthermore, if we have truly become acquainted with Christ, we know something of his modes of operation. We have learned that it is his habit often to disguise himself; his way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known except to those who are familiar with him. We also understand that the bitterness is given to promote our sweetness, and that oftentimes Christ’s frown is but a covered smile. It is the way with him to lead his people into the wilderness when he means ultimately to bring them into the rest of Canaan. Knowing all this, let us have no altercation with our Spouse, our constant Friend. If all this is true, and it is, then let him have his way. If this is his way of giving us superior blessedness, we will without question yield to him, for whatsoever the King does pleases all his people.
Moreover, if it were not so, we know something of our Lord's rights, and therefore we can never venture to interfere with his actions. Oh, what rights my Lord has over me! As I stand here, I confess that I am not my own, but that I am bought with a price; and you confess it, too, do you not, beloved? Have you any rights apart from your Lord, you who are Christ’s purchased ones? What if you are jewels? You are only jewels in his casket. What if you have a will? It is a dangerous possession to have a will except you yield it up to your Divine Controller. Paul said, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” as if he had been bought in the name of Christ, and branded in the name of Jesus, with a hot iron, to be Christ’s slave for ever. Shall you and I have any will in opposition to our Lord’s will? If it be his will that we should be poor, and despised, or that we should lie sick in bed, shall we raise any question with him? Let him have his will with us whatever it is. Some of you may remember the story Dr. Hamilton once told of a poor woman who said the Lord had taught her to yield herself absolutely to him. She fell ill, and she was bed-ridden, but she never murmured, for she said, “If the Lord wishes me to lie here and cough, I will lie here and cough. What he has done for me is so wonderful, and so good, that I cannot question his will, but I will yield myself up to him altogether.” “Whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.” Yet this referred only to David; shall it not be so when David’s Lord is the King, and we, redeemed with his precious blood, are the people who have to deal with him?
So, in the second place, this pleasure in the King’s actions is the consequence of knowledge as well as the outflow of love.
III. Thirdly, beloved friends, THIS IS THE SECRET OF REST: “Whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.”
If any of you are greatly distressed and troubled, I believe my text indicates to you where only you can find rest. If whatever the King does pleases you, you may let down the anchor, for you have come into port, you will be perfectly happy now. To know that the King has done it, and to see his divine hand in anything, is more than half the battle which ends in sweet content. If the Lord hath done it, questions are out of the question; and truly the Lord has done it. There may be a secondary agent, there probably is; the devil himself may be that secondary agent, yet the Lord hath done it. It was God who afflicted Job, yet it was Satan who did all the mischief to God’s servant with an evil intent; but the patriarch could see God’s hand in it all. So, whatever has happened to you, see the hand of God in it. A dog, if it be struck with a stick, bites the stick. Well, that may be all that we can expect from a dog; but you who are no dog must look to the hand that holds the stick, and not to the instrument with which you are smitten, and then you dare not bite the blessed hand that only intends your good in striking you. See God’s hand, then, in all that happens to you, and that will help you on the way to a very blessed state of contentment.
When you have seen God’s hand, then say, “I would not have it otherwise than it is.” I know several persons who are always in trouble and unhappy because there is a dispute between them and God. I remember one to whom I solemnly spoke, years ago, and not long after he passed away. I went to see his dying child, the only one he had left, and he said to me, “Do not talk to my daughter about death, do not mention it to her.” “Well, then,” I said, “if I may not mention death, I will not go upstairs.” The father said to me, “God could not take that child away.” He had lost several before, and he said that, if his daughter died, he should call God a tyrant, and I know not what. As last I stood before him, and I said, “You are making for yourself a rod that is much heavier than God himself lays upon you. I fear that you will yourself die if you act in this way.” As lie could not be brought to reason, and kicked and rebelled against God’s dealings with him, I was not surprised to learn that, soon after his child died, he himself also died. It does not do to quarrel with God; let the potsherds of the earth strive with other potsherds if they will, but woe to him who contendeth with his Maker! Instead of that, bow before him, not simply because you must, but because you delight to acknowledge him as your Lord. Are you setting yourself up as the judge of God? Do you dare to summon him to your bar? Are you wiser, better, mightier than he? Oh, lay aside this rebellion, I beseech you! Sob if you will, but let it not be the sullen sob of one who will not yield, but that of a dear child who sobs himself asleep upon his mother’s breast. Great God, thou hast done right in all that thou hast done; if we cannot prove thy wisdom, we know by faith that it is right, and we kiss thy hand, and acknowledge that it is so with us that whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all the people.
Well, now, if we can get as far as that, — and God grant that we may! — we are on the road to peace. Let us come, then, to this point, and absolutely leave all things with him as to the future. “Whatsoever the king did pleased all the people,” and if we are willing that our King should go on doing as he pleaseth, let us leave it so. I wish that our whole nature would consent to God’s will, not one faculty only, but our whole being. Let all that God does, please all of us. Yield your understanding, your will, your affections, your desires, your memory, yield yourself up fully unto the Christ who loves you; then shall you have perfect rest, but not till then. It may be, dear friends, that some of us will die soon; let us have no questions about that matter, but yield ourselves to whatsoever the King pleaseth. Peradventure, some of us may live to an extreme old age, when sight and hearing will fail, and it will be undesirable to survive. Let us raise no question whatsoever about that. If it be so, let it be so. I have heard of one good woman, a child of God, who was asked whether she did not wish to depart, for she was such a sufferer. Said she, “The Lord’s will be done! I have no wish about it.” “Well,” said one, “but if the Lord would say to you that you might choose, what would you choose?” “Oh!” she answered, “I have been so little accustomed to think about choosing that I should turn round, and say to him, ‘Choose thou, Lord Jesus, for me.’” Why, dear friends, if we had to choose our own lot, and got into trouble, we should have the responsibility of it; is it not far better for us to say to the Lord, “Thou shalt choose our inheritance for us”?
“I dare not choose my lot,
I would not if I might;
But choose thou for me, O my God,
So shall I walk aright.”
If we take our own way, and get into difficulties, then we may say, “How foolish we were to make this choice!” But if, instead, we yield ourselves up to the supreme Director, to be led wheresoever he pleases, and follow him as the sheep follow the shepherd, it is wonderful what a sweet contentment our spirit will feel. The Lord bring us all to enjoy that rest and peace!
IV. Lastly, THIS WILL BE A LESSON IN OBEDIENCE.
Whatever service the King requires of you will please you. He may put you in a pulpit, or he may put you in a kitchen; he may put you in a place of honour, or he may put you in a place of dishonour. It is yours not to reason why, it is yours to do the work appointed. It has been well said that, if there were two angels in heaven, and the great King had said to them, “I have two errands to be done upon the earth; one of you must go and announce the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary, the other must go and stand and sweep a street-crossing,” the angels would not have any choice between the two services, it would be enough for them to do their Lord’s will. May we come to that point, that we may not be picking and choosing, but may be pleased with whatsoever the King gives us to do, and whatsoever our hand findeth to do, may wo do it with our might!
But suppose that, on a sudden, there should be no service to be rendered, and that you should have to suffer instead, that there should be no battle for you, soldier, no shout of war, no noise of music, and no rushing against the foe, but instead of that you should be sent into the trenches, and have to lie there in the cold and wet, or be ordered into hospital, and have to lie there, to go upstairs, and never to come down again . If we have come to this point, whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all the people, how readily shall we lie still and suffer, instead of going forth to serve! If God be glorified, does it really matter where we are? What becomes of us is of small consequence compared with bringing glory to his great name.
Oftentimes, we are permitted to work hard, and yet to meet with great discouragement. The congregation gets smaller or grows careless, the district seems as if it refused to be blessed, we meet with many impediments in our service. Well, if they are not impediments of our own making, if they come in the order of providence, let it be so, and still say that whatsoever the King doeth pleaseth all the people. It was a pretty remark I read, the other day, of a Christian man who said, “I used to have many disappointments, until I changed one letter of the word, and chopped it into two, so that instead of ‘disappointments,’ I read it, ‘his appointments.’” That was a wonderful change, for “disappointments” break your heart, but “his appointments” you accept right cheerily. What if I am to have no success? I will pray for it, and labour for it, and be ready to die for it; but if I do not get it, I will still go on. What said the poor negro about obeying God’s command? “Massa, if the good Lord bids me jump through a brick wall, it is for me to jump at the wall and it rests with the Lord whether I jump through it or not.” He can make the walls vanish if it pleases him; and if he desires it, I could believe even in the impossible. Love laughs at impossibilities, and faith cries, “It shall be done.” Therefore, let us pray the Lord to bring us into this happy state, that whatsoever he doeth may always please us.
Peradventure, some may find Christ to-night if they will get into the spirit of the text. If they will be pleased with God’s way of salvation, and come and receive Jesus now just as he is, and just as they are, they will go out of this house saved. This is, after all, only faith in one of its forms, this being content with Christ, this yielding up of the will to him. The Lord bless every one of you, dear friends, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.