The Last Words of David

The Last Words of David

As we read through scripture, we discover that the Holy Spirit has been careful to preserve the ‘last words’ of many men of God before they left the scene. For example Moses, 1 Jacob, 2 The Lord Jesus, 3 and the Apostle Paul, 4 were careful to leave ‘last words’ which imparted words of wisdom, warning, assurance and advice concerning the future, for the benefit of following generations. In our present study we wish to consider the ‘last words’ of David the Shepherd King of Israel .

The Last Words of David:

In this chapter, David was reminiscing over his life of conflict and conquest, days of rejection and flight, days of suffering and sorrow, and as he does so, he remembers that in all of his trials, there were those who stood by him, no matter how harsh the conditions or how fierce the opposition. Men who fought on his side, and did so valiantly. In this chapter he rehearses what these men did, and gives them his commendation for doing so.

In a sense, this chapter is a foreshadowing of the Judgment Seat of Christ. There is no condemnation in this chapter only commendation. So it will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The question of sin, and recrimination will never be raised, because the sin of the believer has been dealt with at the Cross, and will never be mentioned again. However whilst dealing with sin is not the subject at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the matter under review will be our service, and we will received reward or loss according to our faithfulness to the Lord Jesus.

Surprises in this Chapter:

There are two surprises as we read through this list of David’s mighty men – there is one name that is missing, which we would have thought would be there, and another name is there that we never thought would have been – we refer to the names of Joab, and Uriah the Hittite.

Joab

Joab was the commander-in-chief of David’s army, and had fought many a battle on David’s behalf, bringing deliverance to the nation of Israel from their enemies. Why then is this mighty man missing? The reason is, that for all his excellencies, he was a man who was harsh and bitter, and who many a time took matters into his own hands, in defiance of David’s orders. A man whose selfish ambition for power led him to eliminate any form of competition that arose for his position in the nation. When Absalom usurped the throne, David was forced into hiding, and when the armies of Israel went out to look for him, we read ‘And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom….” 5 We remember how that Absalom was riding on a mule, and as he passed under a tree his long hair became entangled in the branches, and he was left suspended in mid- air. When Joab was told about this, he took three darts, thrust him through, and killed him, in defiance of David’s instruction.6 We read ‘ …the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!’ 7

When David grieved for Absalom his son, Joab chastised him for doing so, and told him to get up and start acting King again. Joab also slew Abner and Amasa, who were being considered by David to take over his job as commander of the armies of Israel. So when it came to the end of his life, David refuses to give such a man any place in his roll of honour even if he had some great success in battle.

We take warning from this omission, to learn that being active in service and out-front in leadership does not guarantee a place of honour at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Submission to the Lordship of Christ, and our motives in service will be the criteria used to assess our place in heaven. Joab would correspond to those whose works will be burned up – who will suffer loss – at the Judgment Seat.

Uriah the Hittite

The other surprise is the very last name on the list of David’s mighty men – Uriah the Hittite. If ever there was a man who was loyal to David, it was Uriah. When Uriah was on the battle field fighting the Lord’s battles, David had an affair with his wife Bathsheba. We remember how that David tried to cover his tracks by inviting Uriah to come back from the battlefield and spend time with his wife, but although Uriah came back from the battle, he refused to be with his wife as long as the Lord’s armies were in the field. David then instructed Joab to put him into the front of the battle where he fighting was the fiercest, and to withdraw from him so that he would be killed – and he was. This was murder by proxy. Afterwards, when confronted by Nathan the prophet, David repented with bitter tears for his sin, and when he comes to making up his honours list, he recognizes the singular devotion and loyalty of Uriah and adds him to the list of mighty men. In the final analysis, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, there will be those who have served loyally and sacrificially, perhaps without much appreciation, but the Lord’s true assessment will be given and such will be added to the honours list of glory.

Varying Degrees of Glory:

When David compiles his honours list, he shows that not all belong to the same category, and that there are those who belong to a higher degree of excellence than others. For example as he closed his list we are told that there were 37 men who belonged to this list of honour. But within that 37, David talks about ‘The first three.’ 8 Then he speaks about ‘the thirty’ and ‘three of the thirty.’ 9 So it will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ. There will of necessity be those who have been closer to the Lord, and who have served Him in a greater way than others, and naturally, they will receive a greater reward. Then there will be others who have served, but not the same degree, and they also will be rewarded accordingly. We see this reflected in the disciples of the Lord Jesus. There was certainly ‘The first Three’ in that group – Peter, James and John – who were nearer to the Lord than the other nine, and they shared moments in the life of the Lord Jesus that the others did not enjoy. In a sense we should all strive to be in ‘the first three.’ Bro. Boyd Nicholson used to say, ‘The Lord has no favourites, but He does have intimates.’

The Three of the Thirty:

Time would forbid that we deal with all the mighty men mentioned – that must wait until another time. But we would like to look at this group called ‘the three of the thirty’ who did a great service for David. David was at this time in hiding from Saul who was trying to kill him. He had retreated to the Cave of Adullam, and a host of his followers had joined him there, to share in his suffering and hardship, because they believed, whatever the situation, David was still God’s anointed King. One day David was reminiscing about the past and he said, ‘Oh that one would give me a drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, that is by the gate.’ 10 It wasn’t a command, only a yearning of his heart, yet without any delay, and without commandment, these men risked their lives to minister to the heart of David.

What would be the lesson for us from this valiant deed of these three mighty men? First, our Lord is presently in exile ‘By the many still rejected and by the few enthroned,’ and we have the unique privilege of ministering to him in his rejection – to meet the desires of his heart. The question is – are we prompted to do so by commandment, or a sense of obligation, or do we respond to the Lord’s desires and longings because of our affection for him, that would go beyond the call of duty? What these men did arose from their love for David, and their desire to please him..

By way of application, there are many who can respond well to a command or a direct request when it comes to serving the Lord. Many show themselves to be capable, and do excellent service when asked to do so, all of which is good. But the highest form of service is that which springs from our affections, rather than response to a command or request. This voluntary response to the Lord’s desires is best seen when we gather to Break Bread. When we gather to worship the Lord is looking for a response from our affections rather than a response rising from a sense of duty. The Lord has made us a ‘kingdom of priests.’ And as such he has expectations for our voluntary giving. Giving voluntarily has a higher value than responding from a sense of duty or obligation.

The Hindrances:

The garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem, and we are told these men ‘broke through’ to get that water for David. So it is when we volunteer our worship. It means getting through the barriers that we put up in our minds. In early Christian life, to rise up voluntarily on Lord’s day to express affection for the Lord Jesus, at the Breaking of Bread is done with fear and trembling, and even in maturity there is always tension involved. But if we are focussed on the Lord and His love for us, and our love for Him, like these men who responded to David’s longing, we will ‘break-through’ the obstacles to tell the Lord just how much we appreciate him and love him. Notice that from a human point of view, what these men brought was worthless – a few gallons of water – but its value lay in the price these men paid to get it, and the motive that inspired them – their love for him. So also, we must not assess the worth of our worship before offering it, and comparing it with what others may have offered. It is the Lord who puts value on our worship and not men. Words spoken from the heart are of more value that words of eloquence spoken from the head. So be encouraged to ‘break through’ and worship the Lord.

We should also note to whom these men offered this water. When they arrived they did not ask everyone to gather round and share the water. No! It was offered to David. Just a word of caution here. The brief reading of some verse of scripture can be of value to fan the flame of worship, but the time of true worship isn’t intended to be the place where we minister God’s word to each other. Peter reminds us that as a ‘Holy Priesthood we offer UP spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 11 We must keep the direction in mind when we come to worship and to offer our affectionate appreciations to our heavenly David, the Lord Jesus Christ. To quote brother Boyd Nicholson who said ‘We do not gather (at the Breaking of Bread) to minister to the House of God, but to minister to the Heart of God.’

David’s Appreciation:

When David received this gift of water from the ‘… well of Bethlehem, down by the gate,’ realizing what it had cost these men to get it, he would not drink it. David saw this simple seemingly worthless offering in a different light. He saw it as representing the very blood of these men who had risked their lives to get it, and he poured it out before the Lord as a ‘drink offering’. David received this great gift of appreciation, when all of the world otherwise was against him, and that added to his appreciation of it.

In closing, our Lord is still in exile – despised and rejected of men – and he longs for the affection and appreciation of his own to be displayed. We would make a direct appeal to our brethren to follow the example of these ‘mighty men’ and to be active in voluntary expressions of worship that the Lord so desires. Keep in mind, that when David made up this list of ‘mighty’ men it was when his exile was over, and he was now seated on the Throne. Concerning the Lord Jesus, although now despised and rejected, ‘the crowning day is coming by and by,’ and when he sits on his throne, those who have given their allegiance and their sacrificial service to Him in the days of his rejection – like these ‘ Three of the Thirty’ worshippers – will receive the highest accolades.

Endnotes

  1. Deuteronomy
  2. Gen. 49:1 – 33
  3. John13–17
  4. 1&2Tim.
  5. 2 Sam. 18:5
  6. 2 Sam. 9-14
  7. 2 Sam. 19:4
  8. 2Sam.23:9&23
  9. 2 Sam. 23:23
  10. 2 Sam. 23:15
  11. 1 Peter 2:5
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William Burnett

William Burnett was born and raised in Scotland, and spent his entire professional life in the Oil refining industry. He was seconded to Canada by his employer in 1972, and accepted early retirement in 1994. He has been a "tentmaker," - working in business, whilst ministering among the assemblies - since his late teen years. Early retirement has enabled him to undertake a much wider sphere of itinerant ministry throughout North America, and abroad. He also sits on the board of Counsel Magazine, and contributes regularly to various publication, including Uplook, Precious Seed and the Choice Gleanings Calendar. He and his wife Beth reside in Oakville, Ontario, where they are in happy fellowship in Hopedale Assembly. They have three married sons, and eight grandchildren.