A PERSONAL EPITAPH
Holy Creator, I thank you for my life. I remember that this is your gift to me and that the lives of those whom I love and who love me are also part of your storehouse of gifts.
Read 2 SAMUEL 23:1-7
David’s Last Words
23 These are the last words of David:
“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
the hero of Israel’s songs:
2 “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
3 The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.’
5 “If my house were not right with God,
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire.
6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
which are not gathered with the hand.
7 Whoever touches thorns
uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
they are burned up where they lie.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘For me to live is Christ, to die is gain … There is no peace, no joy, no thrill, like walking in his will, for me to live is Christ.’1
This is most likely a prepared final statement, rather than David’s actual ‘last words’ (v 1): a message that he wants everyone, particularly his own descendants, to hear. Our ‘last wills and testaments’ tend to concentrate on how our material possessions should be distributed, but maybe we should recapture the tradition of making a statement of what we want our heirs to know! Notably, David writes as ‘son of Jesse’ (v 1), as the ‘man’ not as the king. He is aware that he is ‘the hero of Israel’s songs’ (v 1) but he wants them to remember his Spirit-inspired words, rather than any actions. Parallelism, saying the same thing twice in different ways, was a common method of emphasis; and in verse 2 we have more parallelism, to make doubly sure that his readers understood the importance of God’s words. God, David’s Rock in his youth and still in his old age, has spoken.
The message itself is short and simple: any ruler who ‘rules in the fear of God’ (v 3) brings tremendous blessing, like ‘light of morning’ or ‘brightness after rain’ (v 4). In verse 5 it may look as if David returns to the brash confidence of his youth – God has blessed me, so my house must be righteous, – but at this stage of his life he knows he doesn’t deserve God’s blessing.2 The point is that it is by God’s grace that he has been made right with God. The covenant has been given3 and David’s descendants have no excuse for failure. However, he knows only too well that any individual descendants could exclude themselves by not ruling ‘over people in righteousness’ (v 3); any such will ‘be cast aside like thorns’ (v 6) and their reign will bring as much blessing as a thorn bush to a farmer.
May we live so that people will be blessed as by ‘brightness after rain’ and to leave a legacy of the knowledge of God as the Rock.
Lord Jesus, you don’t just see me; you know me. You don’t just know me; you care for me, provide all that I need, and are with me through all of my life’s ups and downs. May your goodness to me be reflected for those you give me to love and serve.
1 Keith White, ‘For me to Live is Christ’ 2 Ps 103:10 3 2 Sam 7
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