David’s Last Words

Sermon by Derek Thomas on November 19, 2006

2 Samuel 23:1-7

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The Lord’s Day
Morning
November 19, 2006


II Samuel 23:1-7
“David’s Last Words”

Dr. Derek W. H.
Thomas

Now if you have your Bibles with you, take out your Bible
to the Old Testament to II Samuel 23. Before we read the first seven verses of
this chapter, let’s look again to God in prayer.

Lord our God, we thank You for the Scriptures
that holy men of old wrote as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. We
once again ask that You would help us to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest,
and all for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

This is God’s holy and inerrant word:

“Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse
declares, and the man who was raised on high declares, the anointed of the God
of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel,

‘The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue.

The God of Israel said,

The Rock of Israel spoke to me,

‘He who rules over men righteously,

Who rules in the fear of God,

Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises,

A morning without clouds,

When the tender grass springs out of the earth

Through sunshine after rain.’

‘Truly is not my house so with God?

For He has made an everlasting covenant with me,

Ordered in all things, and secured;

For all my salvation and all my desire,

Will He not indeed make it grow?

‘But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns,

Because they cannot be taken in hand;

But the man who touches them

Must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear,

And they will be completely burned with fire in their place.’’”

Amen. May the Lord add his
blessing to that reading of His holy and inerrant word.

These are David’s last words. If you turn in your
Bibles, just visually, a page back to chapter 22…and more than likely, if you
have a newer translation you’ll see that the text is indented to show you that
this is actually poetry. And what we have in chapters 22 and 23 are what we
might call a couple of songs. One is a song of deliverance in chapter 22; and
this last section in chapter 23 is a psalm of great confidence and great
assurance about what God is going to do in the future. They are his last words.

When I was eight or nine years old, my grandfather
on my mother’s side died of cancer. He’d been ill for many years. He’d fought in
the First World War in France and had been gassed, and had never really been
right since that time. And although I only knew him for about eight years of my
life, hardly a day goes by and I don’t think about him. A couple of days before
he died, he brought into the room where he lay (he was at home; he’d been in
hospital for many, many months, and he was at that point emaciated beyond
recognition and barely able to speak)…and the four children were brought in
one by one to see him. He wished to say something to each one of us, and to give
each one of us a gift. And he brought me into his presence–and I remember it as
though it were yesterday–and he gave me a green Parker fountain pen and said to
me, “I want you to write something when you grow up.” They are words I will
never forget. His love of music is something I have inherited, and that’s a
story I don’t remotely have time to go into this morning–but last words are very
important.

Robert Bruce, King of Scotland in the thirteenth
century, uttered these words just before he died:
“Now God be
with you, my dear children. I have breakfasted with you and shall sup with my
Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hegel, the philosopher whose philosophy influenced among
others Karl Marx, said:
“Only one man ever understood me, and he really
didn’t understand me.”

And he was right! And the one I think I like best is Thomas
Hogg, who was a Scottish Presbyterian minister in the seventeenth century in a
little town called Kiltearn; and before he died, he charged his congregation
that he be buried at the door of the church, and with this epitaph:

“This stone shall bear witness against the parishioners of Kiltearn if they
bring one ungodly minister in here.”

Well, these are David’s last words. They are
words full of prophetic insight. They are words which begin with himself but
they end a thousand years away. They’re words full of assurance. They’re words
full of confidence. They are words about God’s covenant and character–about what
God is going to do.

He begins in the first three verses repeating
himself over and over and over. Three times he tells us…he tells us that these
words are not his words, they are an oracle from the One on high. He tells us
that these words are given to him by the Spirit. He tells us these words are
given to him by the God of Israel.

Ralph Davis, my friend and former colleague at the
seminary, now preaching in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, tells the story of a young
preacher who began a sermon and his text was from Psalm 40:

“Behold, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of Me. I delight to do
Your will, yea, O my God, for Your law is within My heart.”

But all he could remember were the
words, “Behold, I come.” And he announced his text: “Behold, I come…” and
there’s a pregnant pause. He took a deep breath and said it again: “Behold, I
come…” and still nothing. And then on the third occasion, he got hold of the
pulpit with a firm grip, and said, “Behold, I come!” And the pulpit gave way,
and he fell into the lap of a woman in the front row! And he began to apologize
to this woman, and she said, “Oh, no, it’s me that should apologize. You told me
three times you were coming!”

Well, David is telling us three times here that this
is not a word of David’s, but a word of God. It’s a word of the Lord.

I. A word about the future.
The first thing to note is that we’re being given a word here
about the future.
It begins with David’s house. It begins with David as a
king figure, but the word is pointing away from David. It’s about the future of
the Davidic monarchy. It’s about a King who is going to come who is going to
rule justly and in the fear of God; and it’s about a covenant that is
everlasting and ordered in all things, and sure. It’s a word about the future.
It’s a prophecy. It’s a word about what God has been doing and is doing, and
will yet do for His people.

David isn’t saying ‘Have confidence in me.’ David
was a sinner. He was a great king. He had some wonderful, wonderful battles and
exploits, and wisdom beyond his years; but he was also a terrible sinner. No,
he’s not saying ‘Trust in me’; he’s saying trust in God, and trust in God’s
word. He’s saying the future is certain. He’s saying God knows the future, He’s
ordered the future, He’s structured the future. He’s given it shape and
dimension.

Contrast that with a view current in our time called
open theism, which says that God doesn’t know everything. He knows some
things, but He doesn’t know everything. In order to secure the true sense of the
liberty of our wills and the liberty of our decision-making, the future is open.
There are certain things about the future that God has not decreed. How could
you ever be certain about the future if that were so? How could God in David’s
time be ever sure that Jesus would actually come, if the future was open? No,
David is saying there is a hand at work here; there is a decree at work here;
there is a sovereignty at work here, and in which David finds great comfort and
great assurance.

What is it that enables you and me to go on in the
face of trials and tribulations? It’s not that we know what the future is. I
don’t know what the future is. I don’t know what lies before me tomorrow or next
week, or next year; but it’s not important that I know what’s going to happen
tomorrow or next week or next year. What’s important is that God knows, that He
is sure because He has decreed it, because He has ordered it that all things
work together for the good of those that love Him; so that you and I can say
this morning, having begun a good work, He will complete it unto the day of
Jesus Christ, and nothing and no one can stand in the way of that; so that we
can take confidence from Jesus’ words in the upper room:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My
Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go
to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come
again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”

David is saying ‘God has given to me a word. He’s given to
me an oracle, and it’s an oracle about the future.’

II. A word about Messiah.
If the first thing is certainty about the future, because it’s in
the hands of God, the second thing is that this is a word about Messiah.

Take a look at verses 4 and 5. [Actually, you need to begin back in the latter
part of verse 3.] David talks about One who rules justly over men, ruling in the
fear of God…but then David becomes the poet that he is: ‘He dawns on them like
the morning light…like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning…like
rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.’ If you’re not a poet, of
course, you’re scratching your head! But if you can put your poet’s hat on for a
moment, it’s an idyllic picture. It’s a pastoral scene of how beauty comes after
a storm; of how when the rain falls the grass (at least, in Mississippi!) seems
to turn green within about five minutes–a bright green, an effervescent
green–and David is using that picture language to say that out of the chaos of
the time in which he lives, God is going to produce a ruler upon whose shoulders
will be the government, who walks righteously and in the fear of the Lord.

And then David
mentions a covenant: an everlasting covenant; a covenant that is ordered and
secured.
On his deathbed, David is thinking about God’s covenant. He’s
thinking about God’s promise. God had entered into many covenants in the history
of the Bible: a covenant with Abraham, saying to Abraham that his progeny will
be like the stars of the night sky and the sand upon the seashore, and promising
him a seed (when he wasn’t even married, when he had no children) and that seed
eventually being a reference to the coming of Jesus Christ, Himself; and a
covenant with Moses, and Moses would be the one who would say that God would
raise up a prophet just like Moses; and God teaching the people of God in that
period (in that Mosaic period) by laws and regulations…how they need that
Mediator!

We were thinking about
that on Wednesday night. All of those food laws, all of those ceremonial laws
teaching them the difference between clean and unclean, teaching them that they
need a Mediator, they need Someone to stand between them. All of the ritual
sacrifices in Israel, showing again and again that without the shedding of blood
there can be no remission of sins. And now God has made a covenant with David.

You remember back in
chapter seven of II Samuel, God makes a covenant with David just as He had made
a covenant with Abraham, just as He had made a covenant with Moses, just as He
had made a covenant with Noah before that. He makes a covenant with David. It’s
a key passage in the Old Testament Scriptures. It’s one of those really, really
important chapters in the Old Testament, II Samuel 7. It’s God coming again to
His king, His Davidic king, and saying he isn’t the Mediator; he isn’t the
Savior, but he is pointing to a Mediator and a Savior and a King. Jesus will be
the true sacrifice for sins. Jesus will be the One who will truly and perfectly
obey the Law of God. Jesus will be the One who will rule in godliness over His
people.

He’s thinking about this
covenant, and it’s an everlasting covenant. How long is everlasting? It’s a
silly question, isn’t it? Everlasting is forever. And David, as he is no doubt
conscious of the passing of time, as he is no doubt conscious of that psalm of
Moses that we read together this morning, that “our years are threescore years
and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet they’re full
of weariness and toil.” As he’s conscious that he is passing, he’s also
conscious that there is something that can never pass, there is something that
can never fail, there is something that can never be broken, there is something
that is enduring, there is something that is inviolable, and that is God’s
covenant. It’s His promise. It’s His word. It’s His bond. It’s His oath. God
cannot deny Himself. God cannot go back on His word. God cannot undo what He has
promised to His people. There’s no “Plan B.”

And this covenant is
ordered and secured.
It’s not a haphazard thing. It’s not a will-o-the-wisp
thing. These covenants with Abraham and with Moses and with David, and the new
covenant that Jeremiah speaks of in Jeremiah 31, and the covenant that Jesus
speaks of in the upper room when He took the Passover and He gave them the cup
and He said, “This cup is My covenant in My blood, which is shed for many for
the remission of sins.”

It’s saying to us that
God is weaving a story that has a beginning; and it weaves its way through the
pages of the Bible, each covenant building successively on the previous
covenant. It’s not as though God is changing His mind when He comes to Abraham,
and changing His mind when He comes to Moses, and changing His mind when He
comes to David, and then changing His mind when Jesus comes. No. It’s all part
and parcel of the same story. It’s always been His story, from the Garden of
Eden when God said to Eve that her seed would bruise (or crush) the very head of
Satan. It’s a word of great confidence. It’s a word of great assurance. It’s a
gospel word, because that covenant that is ordered in all things and secured
finds its fulfillment in the death of Jesus Christ, because it’s His blood that
ratifies that covenant of grace of which David is meditating on his deathbed.

God has made with us a
covenant. He’s made with us a promise.

Well, we’re coming up to
Thanksgiving. I won’t be here; I’ll be in the motherland, but I’ll be thinking
of you on your wonderful day of Thanksgiving. But here’s one thing to be
thankful for: God’s covenant of grace — that beautiful thread that you can pick
up in Genesis 3 and weave its way through the pages of the Old Testament,
through the patriarchs and through Moses and the exodus, and on through King
David and Solomon, and on through the prophets, and on to Bethlehem, and on to
Calvary, and on and on and on into eternity, because it’s an everlasting
covenant that can never be broken: that those who put their trust in Jesus
Christ can never be cast away; that the blood of Jesus will always cleanse from
all sin; that having begun a good work, He will complete it unto the day of
Jesus Christ; that nothing and no one — not the beast of the sea, or the beast
of the earth, or the false prophet, or the whore of Babylon, or Satan himself —
that great red dragon–nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in
Jesus Christ our Lord.

III.
A word of warning.
It’s a word of certainty, and it’s a word about Messiah, but it’s
also a word of warning, because there’s a dark side to the covenant of God.

And in the closing verses you notice he talks about worthless men who are like
thorns that can only be handled, as it were, with the shaft of a spear or with
an iron, and they are utterly consumed with fire.

There is a heaven to be
gained, my friend, but there’s a hell to be shunned. And no one spoke of hell
more clearly and more often than Jesus did. It’s not Paul who speaks about hell
so much; it is Jesus who speaks about hell. And this morning David’s word to us
is make your calling and election sure by trusting in Jesus Christ, this great
King upon whose shoulders is the government; by sheltering beneath the blood of
the Lamb, by leaning upon the everlasting arms, by trusting His every word of
promise.

On one occasion, Colonel
Robert Ingersoll, a very famous agnostic lecturer of the nineteenth century, was
giving an address on hell; and he declared that he would prove conclusively that
hell was just a wild dream of some scheming theologians who invented it to
terrify credulous people. And as he was launching into the subject, a
half-drunken man from the audience exclaimed, “Make it strong, Bob! There’s a
lot of us poor fellows depending on you. If you are wrong, we’re all lost, so be
sure to prove it clear and plain.”

Well, no amount of
reasoning can nullify the truthfulness of the word of God, and David’s last
words to us here are that there’s a heaven to be gained and a hell to be
shunned. Oh, my friend, if you’re not a Christian this morning, if you’re not a
believer this morning, you’re simply going with the flow…you’re just a social
Christian…run to Jesus Christ. Confess your sin to Him, your need of Him. Ask
Him to be your Lord and Savior, and Prophet and Priest and King, and enter into
the joy — yes, the joy that David is singing of here — of sheltering beneath the
refuge of a covenant that is ordered in all things and sure and everlasting, and
cannot be broken. May God so help us each one so to do.

Let’s sing together now
hymn No. 677, Praise the Savior, Ye Who Know Him. Let’s stand.

[Congregation sings}

Now may the grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with
each one of you now and forevermore. Amen.

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This transcribed message has been lightly edited and formatted for the Web site. No attempt has been made, however, to alter the basic extemporaneous delivery style, or to produce a grammatically accurate, publication-ready manuscript conforming to an established style template.

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