David's Last Words
INTRODUCTION: The history of King David of Israel as described in 1and2Samuel, 1Kings, and 1Chronicles presents much to study and consider. And because the Psalms are such profitable passages of scripture, my first inclination was to use Psalm 18 (which is taken from 2Samuel 22) as my MPN subject this time, but through further study of the parallel passages for the psalm, and contiguous scripture in 2Samuel, I decided on a lesser known passage just following the psalm in 2Samuel 23, with support from a passage in 1Chronicles. My desire to progress on schedule for the goal of reading through the Bible by the end of the calendar year, has also placed some pressure on me to return to my scheduled bible reading.
By comparing passages of scripture, which are closely related, but not completely parallel in different bible books, we can gain perspective, which is not immediately clear while reading the separate accounts. David provided a hurried coronation for Solomon while on his sick bed (only in 1Kings 1:33-47), in order to supersede Adonijah's independent act to take the throne. When a messenger reports Solomon's coronation to Adonijah, the messenger states that David was making approval from his bed. But in 1Chronicles 29 from an account not in 2Samuel or 1Kings, we learn that David stands before the assembled people and makes a dedication for the temple which is to be built, and for his son as king. The text further clarifies this in verse 23 by indicating that this is the second time Solomon was made king. Now, I want to consider David's brief dedication at Solomon's second coronation, then examine some verses declared by scripture to be the last words of David. In 1Chronicles 29, verses 1 through 9, David dedicated the materials and riches he had accumulated, including some additions from his own personal wealth, and the people dedicated personal valuables for the building of the temple. That brings us to the "wherefore" of 1Chronicles 29:10.
1Chronicles 29:10-19 (in version-composite paraphrase)
Wherefore, David praised the LORD before the entire congregation: and David said, all praise to you, LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. That the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty O LORD, is yours: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours; the kingdom is yours, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of you, and you reign over all; and in your hand is power and might; and in your hand is the power to make great, and to give strength unto all.
So now our God, we therefore thank you and praise your glorious name. But who am I, and what are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of you, and what we have given you was already yours. And we are strangers before you, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none that can continue his own life. O Lord our God, all this store, which we have made ready for the building of a house for your holy name, comes from your hand and is yours. And I am aware, my God, that you are the searcher of hearts, taking pleasure in righteousness.
As for me, with an upright heart I have freely given all these things; and I have seen with joy your people who are here to make their offerings freely to you. O Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the deepest thoughts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you; and give to Solomon my son a true heart, to keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your ordinances, and to do all these things, and to put up this great house for which I have made ready.
COMMENTS: This is such a tremendous way for the LORD to allow David to come to the close of his life, by seeing a son peacefully assume the throne of God's chosen people as God had promised. David's firstborn son, Amnon had been killed by his half brother Absalom for the rape of Absalom's sister, and later, Absalom tried to take the throne of his father by force. David suffered very deep grief at the death of Absalom during the revolt. Then he grew older and physically weaker after that time, needing a young maiden to keep himself warm. When Adonijah decided to take the throne on his own initiative with support from Joab, who had killed Absalom during the earlier revolt, David was on his sick bed. We find from Bathsheba and Nathan that David had apparently promised Bathsheba that Solomon would succeed to the throne. David and Bathsheba had lost their first son to death after their adultery was exposed, but Solomon was the first of four other sons born to David and Bathsheba. David had experienced victories over his enemies and prosperity for his nation during his forty-year reign, but much sorrow had come from his own family. His thoughts are focused on the LORD however, as he has the strength and vigor to stand before his people with great praise to the attributes of the true and living god. David spoke from a heart, which seemed to overflow with love for the LORD.
Solomon's name means "peace", and Nathan the prophet had also given him the name Jedidiah, which means "beloved of Jehovah". It is very likely that David felt a sense of peace with God when his sin was exposed and forgiven by the LORD, and the birth of Solomon was certainly good cause to symbolize that peace by naming the child Solomon. David had been told by God that a king of peace would be the one to build the temple, and it was very fitting that a son would build, after God had given the father so much victory to establish peace for Israel on every side.
So now, as David knows his life is drawing to a close, he prays first for God to make the hearts of the people right so they would keep in their uppermost thoughts the descriptive and accurate praise offered to the LORD God on this day, and how the king and the people freely offered materials for the building of the temple. David then prayed for Solomon, asking that the LORD give him a true heart to keep God's commandments, testimonies, and ordinances; and to build the temple. These three words to be kept by Solomon, are closely related and very similar, but after some study, it seems to me that they can have some significant difference. Commandments could refer to the most basic declared law, which are foundational to all other instructions for us. Testimonies could then refer to the many statements and affirmations of truth about God's creation, revealed to us in the word of God to dispel untruth. Ordinances then draw from the first two, to present the many precepts, rules, and guidelines to keep us on the daily path of righteousness.
2Samuel 23:1-7 (in version-composite paraphrase)
Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,
The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me, He that rules over men must be righteous, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear sunlight after rain. For is not my house established with God? For an everlasting covenant He has made with me, ordered in all things, and sure; for all my salvation, and all my desire, will he not make it to grow? But the ungodly, they are as thorns thrust away, all of them, for they cannot be taken with the hand; But the man that touches them must be armed with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in their place.
COMMENTS: The major phrases of this passage are not replicated in the Psalms, but are unique to this book. David, the chosen son of Jesse, knew the LORD had worked in his life for his own benefit, and by David's life for the benefit of others. This then brought David to praise the LORD with his own tongue. The position of ruling over men required that David be acutely aware that the LORD is the Rock of Israel, and that one placed in power by that Rock must rule in righteousness and the fear of God. This brings God's blessings comparable to the enrichment by clear sunlight in a cloudless sky, on nourished grass after a rain.
David accepted by faith that his house was firmly established by God through an everlasting covenant that God had made with him. This, David saw as set in order, despite times when disorder seemed to prevail in all things. And it was sure as the rock foundation; for all his salvation, and all his desire. As another scripture says, delight yourself also in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart -- he will make blessing to increase.
But the ungodly, they are as thorns thrust away, all of them, for they cannot be taken with the bare hand. The man that touches them must be armed with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in their place. This is a stark picture of the final and lasting conclusion to those who reject the salvation of the LORD. His righteous judgment will come with unquenchable fire, and purity will be established for eternity.
--- Reflections in prayer ---
Thank you LORD for the centuries of scripturally recorded history, which give testimony to your design for mankind, and to your unfailing love. LORD, I can certainly see many blessings from you, by review of my life, and also periods of discipline resulting from my disobedience. I agree with David that all creation is yours, and anything I want to offer to you has come from your good hand. Thank you LORD, that you discipline me as one you love, and do not simply handle me as thorns to be burned.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, that as my life moves through my remaining years, I will marvel at your blessings, and press on to the mark, by striving to reject sin in my life. The Righteous One who was to come through David's line has paid the full penalty for all my sin, and it is my desire to finish the course in the manner you have ordained for me. Whatever that manner may be, may you receive the maximum glory from my brief life before you, and may others see your hand on me as with David. As John the Baptist said, I must decrease, and the LORD Jesus must increase. All glory belongs to you, the triune God who is our creator, redeemer, and sustainer. Hallelujah! Amen.
Published 1 June 2004, first issued 2 June 2001