By Sam E. Stone
God holds the leaders of a nation to a high standard. He expects them to model the justice he himself shows. David began life as a shepherd boy, but he was called to sit on the throne of Israel. Today’s text describes his role and the spirit that marked his reign. These references to his rule are significant because of the covenantal character of his kingship. The prophet Nathan had delivered God’s promise to him years before (2 Samuel 7:11-16). Nathan told him, “The Lord himself will establish a house for you . . .
and will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
2 Samuel 23:1-4
These are the last words of David. This does not mean these are the very last words spoken before David died. Those are recorded in 1 Kings 2:1-9. There he counseled his son Solomon and affirmed that God is dependable and will do all that he has promised. The last words included here are the final poetic words the Lord inspired him to write (see 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). A. M. Renwick writes, “These are the last words in song, in distinction from Psalm 18 (in the previous chapter) written at an earlier date.” Here David describes the ideal ruler—righteous, God-fearing, and a source of blessing to his people.
David is described in Scripture as “a man after (God’s) own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). His wholehearted enthusiasm and commitment are evident. Despite this, David’s life was stained by his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and his subsequent murder of her husband. It is significant, however, that after this sin, David sincerely repented and turned again to follow God’s plan for his life (see Psalm 51).
He is described by four titles in the text—son of Jesse, the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, and Israel’s singer of songs. David affirmed his divine inspiration (2 Samuel 23:2). His last words are in reality the Lord’s words. David emphasizes the qualities that should mark a godly king. Such a man will rule in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God. Using poetic expressions, he pictures a just ruler as the light at sunrise on a cloudless morning, or the brightness after rain that brings grass on the earth.
2 Samuel 23:5-7
David asked, “Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant?” W. W. Winter observed, “The prophecy in David’s last words is the companion and the complement of the prophecy in 2 Samuel 7. There the promise of an eternal dominion was given to the house of David and found a partial fulfillment in his immediate descendants, but the complete fulfillment could only be in Christ.” Jesus is the ideal ruler. The Lord will keep his promises, even though his followers (like David) have moments of failure in their lives. The Son of David possesses an eternal kingdom (Luke 1:30-33).
At the same time, evil men will be thrown out as if they were thorns. They have no value and can only create pain and problems. The psalmist’s comparison reminds us of what he wrote in Psalm 1. After describing the righteous man (Psalm 1:1-3), he then contrasted that person’s life with that of an evil person. “Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away” (v. 4). The eternal principle is: “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (v. 6). This last psalm of David echoes the same truth affirmed in his first psalm.
Just like any person’s “last words” before death, so these lines penned by Israel’s singer of songs reflect what was on his mind as he neared the end of life. He knew God would keep his Word. The righteous can count on his eternal blessing. On the other hand, those who reject the Lord’s covenant face everlasting punishment (see Matthew 13:36-43).
1 Chronicles 18:14
The final summation of David’s rule comes from a single verse in 1 Chronicles. There David’s reign is characterized by doing what was just and right for all his people. What better tribute could be paid to any earthly leader or official? There is no higher praise than the Lord’s “Well done” (Matthew 25:21).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.