David’s Last Words
R Woodhouse Beales, Ipswich
(II Samuel 23, 1-5, which please read)
“Though my house be not so with God, yet hath He made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.”
SOME seventeen years before these words were written David had closed one portion of his beautiful Book of Psalms and laid it aside. His time of rejection was over, his kingdom safely established and in his own possession, almost all enemies put down, the countries around subservient to him, and himself at ease, prosperous.
Ah, fateful dangerous moment, when he walked upon the top of his house, while his armies were far away in the hill country fighting. He was not there reading over his wonderful Psalms, recalling the Lord’s loving kindness which had made him great, neither was he in prayer, nor worshipping and extolling the God of his salvation. Oh no, this for the moment was all forgotten, but little did he know, as he paced that day in leisured ease upon the roof of his palace (Psa. 51), that the next Psalm to flow from, his pen, nay rather from his broken, contrite heart, would be a mighty cry of penitential grief and remorse, wrung from his wounded spirit.
His eye, which might have been raised to heaven in thankfulness and adoring worship, chanced to alight instead upon the beautiful Bathsheba, and lo! the deed was done. Satan was doubtless at his side, the flesh strong within him, and forgetting all about his mighty God, his strong tower, he fell.
“Oh the bitter shame and sorrow,
that a time could ever be,
When I let the Saviour's pity,
plead in vain and proudly answered,
All of self and none of Thee.”
Sin must have a father, and alas it must also have brothers to support it, and soon the sin of adultery leads on to the graver sin of murder, and even then such is its subtilty and blinding effect, David could continue for nearly a year apparently oblivious of the gravity of his sin in the sight of God, until Nathan the prophet came with his parable, to convince the sinner of his sin. Yes, indeed, it is the sheep, not always the lamb, that strays, and not only so, it cannot find its way back again, nor in many cases does it even desire so to do!
But is not this, beloved, the tale a thousand times told of many dear saints who have trodden the pilgrim pathway faithfully for many a year, and who would repudiate the very thought of bringing such deep dishonour upon their Lord, when for a moment they have walked upon their roof top without the blessed sense of the presence of their Lord? The lust of the flesh, of the eyes, and the pride of life—all that is in the world and also in the human heart—marks down another victim. Yes, we must lift upon our David, in the words of another, his own lament.
“David, child of God, Israel's sweet Psalmist, in whose breathings the souls of saints in every age have poured out their aspirations after the living God! David, fallen, and fallen so low that we do not marvel if his name be found side by side with Thamar’s. David, man after God’s own heart! Oh how many hast thou made to blaspheme! How many hast thou made to mourn for thee! Was that thy witness to what God’s heart approved? Was that thy soul’s panting after Him? What, murder a man in the midst of faithful service to thee, that thou mightest hide thine own adultery? Is this the man, who when flying from the face of his enemy and when Providence had put that enemy within his power, cut off but the skirt of his robe, and his heart smote him for it? Ah, sadder than thy heart could be for Saul, we take up thine own lament over thee, ‘How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!’”
And now, looking back over those years, and that in the light of God's sure warning of the inevitable result of his indulged sin, he could see in his own family the reflection of his own folly. For while sin can be forgiven, yet its terrible results remain as a witness for others. There were three missing from his family, two sons, one a fornicator, the other a murderer, and a daughter defiled thereby; nay! four—for the child born of his sin was smitten and died, thus fulfilling his prophetic vow. God had accepted his own judgment and had taken him at his word, 2 Sam. 12. 6. What ravages sin had wrought. What a bitter harvest from that careless, sowing 1 Well might he say, “Though my house be not so with God.”
Can we not also, beloved, hear the many warnings from the Word, warnings which we are so fond of passing on to the unbeliever? “Be sure your sin will find you out.” David’s had found him out. “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” David was now reaping a bitter and abundant harvest. “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die” is another word not to unbeliever but to Christian. David, like Jacob, lived to see his own sins reproduced, yea multiplied in the characters of his own sons, and, like Jacob, could now see clearly that he was responsible.
Before we turn from this sorrowful picture may we ask ourselves whether, as we look at the condition of the church to-day, its sins (for many sin like David, who never have been able to sing like David), its fleshly lusts, its pride, self-complacency, independence of God, rebellion against His word, do we stand aside as those who have no responsibility, or do we see therein the result of our own unfaithfulness to the Word in days gone by, our own negligence to cultivate true holiness, our own failure to be men of God? Do we not have to say, “Though my house be not so with God”? Is it not the House in which we are responsible, and do we see our own unwatchfulness, our very own sins, reproduced before our eyes? Surely the time has come to hide our faces in shame. “To us belongeth confusion of face ... as at this day.”
Yes, we might well call, not for new methods, machinery, manners (and soon perhaps a new message), but rather for a new humiliation, a new sense of sin and of the holiness of God, a new contrition, a new laying hold of God Whose mercies fail not. Many to-day are calling for “new carts,” “new armour” of elaborate and modern design, ignoring the basic fact that God is calling for new men (men of God), spiritual men, men who can lay hold, humbly but tenaciously upon God, and to whom He will listen. Modern methods are no substitute for an ungrieved Holy Spirit, nor can they be an addition thereto.
For David, blessed be God, does not stop here. His last words contain something more than this. He can look, not only around and within but upward and forward, and throw himself upon the immutable character and promises of the eternal God. There is in this portion a dual truth; to some 'tis true, merely material for a theological discussion, but to David a real and painful yet salutary experience, namely, man’s responsibility, but God's sovereignty. For had He not said concerning David's son and heir (2 Sam, 7), “My mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee, and thy house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee, thy throne shall be established for ever,” and this, the unchanging word of Jehovah, that which rested upon His faithfulness was what now comforted him, “yet hath He made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.”
In point of fact David's eye was spanning the ages, he was looking right on to the One Who should reign in righteousness, Who should bring in the morning without clouds, and be the clear shining after rain, and David, and we, can triumph in His triumphs, can rest our souls, though we bear the marks of failure and sin, upon the exceeding great and precious promises of His word. We too, can look ahead with joy unspeakable and full of glory to the moment when great David’s greater Son shall take up the reins of government, and the Crucified shall sit upon the throne of His father David (his heir and his Lord), when He shall put down all rule, authority and power, for He must reign until all enemies be put beneath His feet. Hallelujah!
It is only the grip of this reality, the power of it in the soul, the blessedness of the attraction of a coming Christ, first as the glorious bridegroom, and then as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, kept fresh within us by the Holy Spirit and nourished through faith and prayer day by day, that can keep us and support us, faithful to Him, enjoying His own peace and joy, resting upon the sure promises of the living eternal God.