by Ian McKee, N. Ireland
Only the older people in Israel could remember the time prior to David. Since his slaying of Goliath, his name was on everyone’s lips. A subsequent society wedding, failed assassination attempts and the fugitive years all added to his mystique and popular persona. Then there was David’s forty-year reign.
However, there was more to David than military and political longevity. He was variously a shepherd, champion, warrior, musician, inspired singer-songwriter, protector and administrator: he was all of these and more. Ruthless with foes, generous to friends, indulgent to family; David was a man of many parts. Yet God’s assessment is “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will” Acts 13.22.
Our consideration is of the end of David’s life. In terms of contemporary life expectancy David was an old man with declining health. The weight of years, his strenuous life and the responsibilities of leadership had all taken their toll. The self-inflicted crises of the latter half of his reign also had impact: adultery with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah and the subsequent death of the unnamed infant son cast a long shadow. David continued to experience retribution in family and national life for years to come. The violation of his daughter Tamar by her half-brother Amnon was followed by Absalom’s calculated revenge assassination of Amnon. David’s subsequent handling of this was neither righteous nor adroit. A failed rebellion followed, resulting in Absalom’s death and that of twenty thousand men. Sheba’s abortive insurrection sought to exploit inter-tribal rivalries. Then there were three years of famine. Finally, David’s headstrong insistence in numbering the people resulted in the death of seventy thousand men.
As with any long tenure, recognition grows that change is inevitable; things will not remain the same for ever. Those closest to David, and others, would recognise that his era was ending. Men with personal political aspirations were anticipating the time beyond David: Absalom and Sheba had already rebelled; Joab and Adonijah were biding their time.
However, even though there had been scandals, rebellions and serious misjudgments, David’s rule was greatly superior to that of Saul and earlier anarchy. Indeed, his selfless service on behalf of his nation over many years has not been surpassed in three millennia since, and will not be until the coming of Israel’s final King, Who has as one of His titles “Son of David”.
The foregoing sets the scene for the contextual consideration of the last words of David. These words evidence his great concern for succession planning for the building of the Temple and the continuation of Godly rule. David was conscious of his own mortality, the need to prepare for the day he would not see, and the need to facilitate an orderly succession.
It is appreciated that unexpected events may necessitate unplanned transfer of responsibility, in which case we must rely on the superintending mercy and goodness of God. However, it is very often the case that insufficient attention is given to succession and continuance. Paul demonstrated his awareness of the importance of this when he instructed Timothy: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” 2Tim.2.2.
Let us then consider the last words of David and the lessons they have for us.
There are five principal Old Testament passages which record the last words of David. These are not ‘deathbed words’, but important statements made at the end of his life and reign. These are not concerned with personal retrospect and legacy but with future testimony. The passages, in the order in which they appear in the Bible, are:
- 2Samuel 23.1-7
- 1Kings 1.28-35
- 1Kings 2.1-9
- 1Chronicles 28.1-21
- 1Chronicles 29.1-5,10-22.
A date of 1018 B.C. is suggested for the events recorded in 2Sam.23.1-7, with 1015 B.C. suggested for the other passages. But which of the Kings and Chronicles passages come first in chronology? While Kings comes before Chronicles in the Old Testament, that does not necessarily indicate the time sequence.
The 1Kings passages describe an invalid King David, whereas those in 1Chronicles depict an inspiring king. Those in 1Kings describe a hastily-arranged coronation of Solomon, with 1Chronicles detailing a well-organised national occasion. Cursory consideration, based on David’s general decline in health and vitality, might suggest that the ‘last day’ events in 1Kings come after those in 1Chronicles. However, that presents difficulties: why follow a very public transfer of power from David to Solomon in 1Chronicles chapters 28 and 29 with a hastily-arranged and somewhat exclusive coronation in 1Kings chapters 1 and 2? Also, why did the rebellion of Adonijah and associates in the 1Kings passages incur relatively limited retribution by David and Solomon, if it was blatant rebellion against the public declaration in 1Chronicles?
Taking all into consideration we suggest that the events in 1Kings chapters 1 and 2 do indeed come before those in 1Chronicles chapters 28 and 29. This postulates a context in which David has suffered a physical and emotional collapse, the possible reasons for which will be considered later, yet recovers vitality in response to the Adonijah rebellion. His valedictory address to the subsequent national assembly therefore represents his withdrawal from public service. This demonstrates how to effect orderly transfer of power in the face of the inevitability of death.
We shall therefore consider the passages in 2Samuel chapter 23, then 1Kings chapters 1 and 2 and, finally, 1Chronicles chapters 28 and 29.
Although it states, “Now these be the last words of David”, they are not words uttered immediately prior to his death. Indeed, there is no allusion whatever to David’s death in this passage. Rather it is a Psalm of praise. While seventy-three Psalms are attributed to David in the book of that title, with some twenty of these relating to experiences in David’s later life, his final inspired Psalm is found here!
This composition is worthy of detailed consideration. Any references to himself are entirely factual. The major theme relates to God and His purpose, and about another King and His superior kingdom. This brief inspired song contains themes about Christ’s Millennial kingdom that are expanded and elaborated upon by the ‘writing’ prophets over the next six hundred years.
The Psalmist’s Retrospect
First he speaks of himself: “David the son of Jesse said, And the man who was raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, said …” 2Sam.23.1. This is not self-promotion, but acknowledgement of God’s sovereign choice. Said Asaph, “He chose David also His servant, And took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young He brought him to feed Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; And guided them by the skilfulness of his hands” Ps.78.70-72. Remember Israel’s greatest king came from humble origins: “I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed” 1Sam.18.23. Indeed “son of Jesse” was a derisive term used by Saul and Nabal. But when a servant of God is devoted to their particular calling and ministry, God can elevate them. Hannah sang, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, And lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, To set them among princes, And to make them inherit the throne of glory” 1Sam.2.8.
David was first anointed by Samuel the prophet: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” 1 Sam.16.13. This anointing gave assurance that the man of God’s choice would be upheld and garrisoned about by God’s power until his life’s work was complete. David as “anointed of the God of Jacob” acknowledges personal unworthiness and dependence upon God. “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God” Ps.146.5.
David’s description of himself as “the sweet [melodious] psalmist of Israel” contains no self-aggrandisement. There are no references to personal exploits or battles here. However, the use of the word “said” in this context indicates that Divine utterance has been conveyed by a human instrument. David’s lasting legacy is the word from God, which he recorded faithfully and for which he composed complementary melodies.
David is wholly convinced of the reality of Divine inspiration: “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, And His word was in my tongue” 2Sam.23.2. He recognises the supreme honour of being used by God to the blessing of His people. That honour carries with it commensurate responsibilities, not least to demonstrate a consistency between life and lip. Note David’s appropriate use of a range of Divine titles, which should challenge all who lead in public prayer and worship, to seek to avoid using a single title repeatedly. “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me” parallels the “thus saith the Lord” usually employed by the Old Testament prophets. Hence David is giving an early detailed prophecy of the coming Messiah and His kingdom. He is careful to ensure accurate transmission of the words from God: “and His word was in my tongue”. How wonderful that his last inspired Psalm should be of the Lord Jesus Christ!
“God of Jacob” and the “Spirit of the Lord” are now followed by another title: “The God of Israel said”, indicating that this revelation relates to Divine purpose and the superior glory of a coming kingdom. Immediately follows another Divine title: “the Rock of Israel spake to me” 2Sam.23.3. This emphasises that the content of this prophecy is as immutable, sure and stable as the God Who promises. How good when a servant of God remains convinced in his latter years, even after all the buffetings of life, that God’s Word is reliable, unchanging and permanent. David is sure that all that God has promised will come to pass. We too have every encouragement to be similarly confirmed in personal faith and gospel confidence: “according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested His word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour” Titus 1.1-3.
Principles of Rule
Then follow vital principles of Divine rule: “He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” 2Sam.23.3. Personal integrity and righteousness are essential prerequisites for rule. Indeed, it is expected by those ruled, but above and beyond the rule by mere men, these phrases describe the character of Messiah’s reign. Ruling in the fear of God means carefulness to obey God’s Word, sensitivity to avoid displeasing Him, with a constant dependence upon Him. This will be perfectly true of Messiah: there will be a perfect relationship between earth and heaven and a perfect relationship between Sovereign and subject: “happy is that people, whose God is the Lord” Ps.144.15. May we in whatever sphere of rule or administration we occupy, whether in relation to employment, parenting, assembly life, etc., remember that we too must ensure that we act in the fear of God and with righteousness. That may not guarantee the outcomes we desire, but it should reduce the potential for just criticism now and loss of reward at the soon-coming judgment seat of Christ.
Then follows a beautiful poetic description of this Ruler: “And He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, Even a morning without clouds; As the tender grass springing out of the earth By clear shining after rain” 2Sam.23.4. It is the dawning of a new day; a day with no sunset or night to follow: “But unto you that fear My name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings” Mal.4.2. The years of tribulation are followed by the breaking dawn of the Millennial age. Gloom is suffused and dispelled with the pure light of righteousness, which grows to and maintains meridian strength. He comes forth, Whose right it is to reign; “let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might” Judg.5.31. His being “as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth” indicates poetically that increasing light and warmth will restore health, vitality and wellbeing to the beleaguered remnant of Israel; it will be truly “a morning without clouds”.
The first part of the verse considers the changed conditions in the heavens, light after darkness, etc. The second part, “as the tender grass springing out of the earth By clear shining after rain”, speaks about earth’s response. Godly rule replacing anarchy will bring nourishment, refreshment and revival: “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: As showers that water the earth” Ps.72.6. Rule will then be in the nail-pierced hands of One Who cannot fail. What an encouragement to David near the end of his reign to look forward prophetically and perceive that earth’s greatest days still lay ahead.
Prophecy is always intended to effect a present, practical outcome in light of what is revealed, and so it is here. David’s inspired insight causes introspection and assessment: “Although my house be not so with God; Yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things, and sure: For this is all my salvation, and all my desire, Although He make it not to grow” 2Sam.23.5. Consideration of the superior principles of Messiah’s future reign causes David to feel very acutely his personal failure and that of his family members during his own reign. Yet, to David, God made a reassuring covenant: “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” 2Sam.7.16. This promise is perpetuated in Solomon and his successors to be fulfilled finally in the Lord Jesus Christ.
David’s disappointment in not being permitted to build the Temple (2 Samuel chapter 7 and 1 Chronicles chapter 17) is offset by this covenant of legal certainty, signed and sealed by Divine sovereignty, even “the sure mercies of David” Isa.55.3; Acts 13.34. Like David, we may have spiritual exercises, with a pure motive and a real burden. Similarly, we may incur the disappointment of realising that it is not God’s will for us, or that His timing is different to what we anticipated. However, He is ever gracious in His compensations and may allow the fulfilment of our spiritual aspirations and exercises by following generations: “For this is all my salvation, and all my desire”.
“Although He make it not to grow” should be better understood as ‘shall He make it not to grow?’ David has a sure expectation that God’s covenant will achieve full fruition, even though that time was not yet.
If David is given surety about the future kingdom, he is also given clarity in relation to the character of the wicked and their end: “But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, Because they cannot be taken with hands: But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; And they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place” 2Sam.23.6,7. Righteous rulers cannot turn a blind eye to the wicked and their practices. Such people are like thorn bushes, preventing intended cultivation by choking growth as well as posing dangers in handling. Like thorns, the wicked must be dealt with appropriately using long-handled instruments. Righteous rulers must not come close to the rebellious; there is no prospect of amelioration or accommodation. Rebellious persons who arise to challenge righteous rule in the Millennial reign will be put down effectively: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” Ps.2.9. The end result is certain: good will triumph over evil. Judgment then will be summarily executed “in the same place”, that is at the place where they grew up or where they reside.
All this was revealed to David in his inspired Psalm. It would be a comfort to him in his final years of service, giving him assurance about future years he would not live to see and providing instruction to Solomon his successor. Above all, it speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glory of His coming kingdom.
The events of 1Kings chapters 1 and 2 precede those of 1Chronicles chapters 28 and 29; that is, David’s lethargy and malaise come before a final period of vitality. This view is supported by consideration of the events recorded in 2Samuel chapter 24 and 1Chronicles chapter 21. Those chapters recount David’s greatest mistake in his governance of the people. Provoked by Satan, David conducts a census of Israel’s strength. This numbering of the people took nine months and twenty days to complete. It was only after its completion that David’s heart smote him with reproach, and God’s anger resulted in the death of seventy thousand men during three days of pestilence.
David’s personal pride had displaced dependence upon God. While he rose to spiritual heights in buying the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite and sacrificing to the Lord at the place where the plague was stayed, yet there were seventy thousand funerals and many widows and orphans resulting from his arrogant disregard. Surely it was the enormity of the consequences of his sin on others that caused a physical and emotional collapse that prematurely aged him. “Now king David was old and stricken in years” 1Kgs.1.1.
It is against this context of David’s public failure and personal weakness that Adonijah, likely David’s oldest living son, makes his bid for the throne. He aimed to succeed where Absalom had failed.
Weakness in leadership, in the absence of prudent succession planning, inevitably invites risks to stability from naked opportunism by those with a contrary agenda. While Adonijah secured the defection of Joab and Abiathar the priest from David, true hearts remained faithful: “But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men which belonged to David, were not with Adonijah” 1Kgs.1.8. Passage of time and periods of testing always reveal true character and loyalties.
Adonijah did not call Solomon his brother to the muster at En-rogel, which suggests he knew that Solomon was God’s choice of successor to David. Adonijah was, therefore, a calculating schemer intending to usurp Solomon and seize power in a palace coup.
Nathan the prophet is first to detect the danger of rebellion. He involves the help of Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, to bring the issues before the invalid David. The approach to inform David is carefully prepared and choreographed. This shows the gravity of the situation, the need to secure David’s immediate engagement, and to gain clarity of direction. So Bathsheba approaches the king, followed by Nathan, and the facts are placed before him.
In the face of the threat to the stability of the kingdom and the welfare of his people, David’s spirit returns. His interest and decisiveness revive: “And the king sware, and said, ‘As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress, Even as I sware unto thee by the Lord God of Israel, saying, ‘Assuredly Solomon thy [Bathsheba’s] son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead;’ even so will I certainly do this day’” 1Kgs.1.29,30.
David is true to his word and reiterates his former oaths. He restates his confidence in and gratitude to God: “that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress”. How precious it is when men remain true to their principles and their word right to the end of their lives. When such men can look back and recall the goodness of God in the midst of all of life’s difficulties, they can count on Him again. Not only does David acknowledge the living Lord of personal acquaintance, but that He is the Lord God of Israel, the One of sovereign purpose. He reaffirms that Solomon was the chosen successor, one who was earlier called Jedidiah (‘beloved of the Lord’) 2Sam.12.24,25. Solomon, the man of peace, was the Divine choice to build the Temple at Jerusalem. Recognising the need to act urgently at this time of crisis, all of David’s energy is channelled towards anointing Solomon and thwarting insurrection.
David is now roused from pampered existence to purposeful energy. Morbid retrospect is replaced by meaningful response to the crisis. It is so easy to become lethargic and despondent, but there is always more we can do for God! Our lives need not be bound by the sum of our years, but may influence succeeding generations; something David now realises.
The Command and the Coronation
The reiteration of David’s oath is followed by a peremptory command: “And king David said, ‘Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.’ And they came before the king” 1Kgs.1.32. No one can do everything; even a king has to invest others with royal authority. It is good that he had a priest, a prophet and a palace guard commander to whom he could entrust vital tasks. “The king also said unto them, ‘Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon; And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, ‘God save king Solomon.’ Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead: and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah’” 1Kgs.1.33-35.
This crisis jolted David from torpidity into real world responsibilities. True, he knows his era is ending, but he is neither grudging nor vacillating about this transfer of power. Solomon riding on the king’s mule, the anointing, the trumpet fanfare, the acclamation, the throne-sitting and the transfer of allegiance are all visible public declarations of this new reality, and it took place within hearing distance of Adonijah’s rebel barbeque!
David was roused in time to recognise the implications of his mortality for the monarchy, Temple construction, and the welfare of God’s people. Leadership today should similarly be exercised about the continuance of the testimony and the transmission of truth to succeeding generations. Are younger men who have the evident confidence of those presently in leadership being encouraged forward? Are the legal and administrative aspects of the assembly in order? While some may take an airy ‘we can trust in the Lord’ attitude, it is still true that “faith without works is dead” Jms.2.20. It should be the objective of assembly elders to ensure that there is an orderly transfer of spiritual and administrative responsibility in a timely way. It was vital that Nathan was alert to danger and moved David to act decisively. Had action not been taken there may have been a haphazard transfer with the real risk of internecine strife. However, power moved seamlessly from David to Solomon “to be ruler over Israel and over Judah”, thus maintaining in peace the unity of the nation.
Recognition of Passing
This passage constitutes a personal charge to Solomon, the tenth of David’s nineteen sons, possibly given in private. David said, “Solomon my son is young and tender” 1Chr.22.5, which suggests that Solomon was in his late teens when he reigned at first in association with his father. No one is ever fully prepared for the assumption of onerous responsibility. So, this advice from David to Solomon would be as welcome as that given earlier by Moses to Joshua or, later, by Paul to Timothy. Wisdom gained from experience must be communicated to help those of the next generation in their service.
It is interesting that David commences with words reminiscent of Moses and Joshua: “I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man” 1Kgs.2.2; compare Deut.31.7; Josh.23.14.
David stresses the need for confidence in and reliance upon God for true strength in leadership. Obedience to God’s Word and courage in the path of service according to His will are essential. Therefore, he enjoins Solomon to “… keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself” 1Kgs.2.3. David’s desire is that Solomon will be able, at the end of his reign, to look back with only gratitude and satisfaction. Fidelity to all the Word of God is the route to true prosperity. Every king was expected to write out his own copy of the law and covenant, and how appropriate to Solomon were the associated instructions, Deut.17.14-20.
Restatement of Promise
David then refers to the unconditional promise made to him in 2Sam.7.4-17, which will ultimately be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. While disobedience by any of David’s intermediate successors will incur Divine chastisement, it will not result in the rescinding of the covenant. “That the Lord may continue His word which He spake concerning me, saying, ‘If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said He) a man on the throne of Israel’” 1Kgs.2.4. Similarly today, maintenance of distinctive testimony is dependent on adherence to the Word of God and faithful transmission from generation to succeeding generation. “The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; ‘Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. If thy children will keep My covenant And My testimony that I shall teach them, Their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore’” Ps.132.11,12.
Retrospect and Persons
The ending of David’s reign caused him to reflect on things he had not attended to in his lifetime. It is good to have all our affairs in order so that our passing will not leave difficulties for the next generation. David was conscious that his earlier weakness allowed the murders of Abner and Amasa by his nephew Joab to go unpunished, 2Sam.3.22-32; 20.4-12. Grace can never be at the expense of righteousness. Joab had “shed the blood of war in peace” 1Kgs.2.5, with such ferocity that his clothes and footwear were saturated in innocent blood. No punishment had followed, so the law of God was ignored and David’s administration came into disrepute. Hence he says, “Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his [Joab’s] hoar head go down to the grave in peace” 1Kgs.2.6. Righteous retribution is still required, even after a considerable time lapse. Regrettably David left unfinished and unsavoury business to his successor. It is reprehensible to burden others with tasks to which we should have attended. Avoidance of present responsibility always incurs downstream consequences.
As well as remembering the cruel actions of men who posed danger, David also remembers men of uncommon kindness. Barzillai took no personal reward for his actions in days of David’s adversity, 2Sam.17.27-29, but passed his honours to Chimham, 2Sam.19.31-40. However, the honour of eating bread at the king’s table is now extended to all the sons of Barzillai.
David is balanced in his retrospect: Barzillai as well as Joab; the positives as well as the negatives. It is always good to recall with appreciation those who have helped us in our Christian pathway. Better to consider the Barzillais in our experience than the adversaries we encounter in testimony. There are as many women as men who have had a positive and preservative influence upon us at certain stages in life. Think kindly upon such, keep their memory alive in your soul and, if you can, like David, repay your debt to them by kind and prayerful regard to their descendants.
Finally, David makes reference to another man, Shimei. A relative of Saul, he had cursed David “with a grievous curse” 2Sam.16.5-13, in violation of Ex.22.28. Although Shimei was outwardly repentant, David remained suspicious of his genuineness. In passing over responsibility to his successor David did not adopt a ‘rose-tinted’ attitude and stressed to Solomon the potential for danger. Shimei’s conduct must be observed, for David did not expect continued compliance.
These last words are delivered at a special convention of all civil and military officials. It is a ‘set piece’ valedictory speech. This is not an address in praise of self, or one indicating satisfaction with the status quo. Rather this national assembly is given future direction.
Exhortation to Israel
“Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, ‘Hear me, my brethren, and my people …’” 1Chr.28.2. This is David’s greatest speech, one to energise a nation to purposeful work. Sometimes older believers are discouraged by inability to do what they were once able to do for the Lord; not so David. Surrounded by those who served with and for him, he gives ‘marching orders’ to the nation in relation to Divine rule and testimony. Although speaking as a king to his subjects, he calls them “my brethren”, and “my people”. How good when leaders so regard the people of God.
Foremost in David’s mind was the construction of the Temple. “… As for me, I had in mine heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building” 1Chr.28.2. David had this exercise for almost thirty years: “I will not give sleep to mine eyes, Or slumber to mine eyelids, Until I find out a place for the Lord, A habitation for the Mighty God of Jacob” Ps.132.4,5. When the ark of the covenant was with the Tabernacle in the wilderness, it was ever being moved as the journey progressed. Also, it was found in various locations after entering the land. But David desires a building to provide a “house of rest” for the ark, his desire being that the presence and authority of God would reside in the midst of the nation. However, as “the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain [the Lord]” 1Kgs.8.27, David recognised that the mercy seat over the ark would approximate His “footstool”. The Lord’s presence among His people is vital for their preservation and power, but there must be corresponding worship and holy living, otherwise the Lord’s displeasure and chastisement will be incurred.
David acknowledges that his earlier life debarred him from implementing his exercise: “But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build a house for My name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood” 1Chr.28.3. It is good when believers can share their experiences with God to benefit others. David never forgot the day Nathan brought God’s message debarring him from building, 2Sam.7.5; 1Chr.17.4. However, David determined that, if he could not build the house, he would do all in his power to prepare for its construction. It is a rare virtue to sustain crushing disappointment in respect of a special exercise, yet support that same exercise in the hands of others! There are times when the work of God needs warriors and pioneers, and there are times when the need is for builders and consolidators. One cannot do the work of the other!
David recalls with gratitude the specific, sovereign ways of God toward him: “Howbeit the Lord God of Israel chose me before all the house of my father to be king over Israel for ever …” 1Chr.28.4. As David was nearing the end of his life, the phrase “for ever” indicates his dynasty. He acknowledges that of the sons of Jacob it was Judah, not the first, who was chosen to be the royal tribe. Then from all the families in Judah, that of his father Jesse, with its rustic obscurity, was chosen to supply a king. Out of the eight sons of Jesse, David, the youngest, was chosen by God: “… He liked me to make me king over all Israel” 1Chr.28.4.
Yet we acknowledge human responsibility as well. Had Boaz not remained in Bethlehem when others sold out and moved on, had Ruth not made her momentous decision on the road from Moab, there would never have been a David, Ruth 4.17-22. Lives and legacy result from our choices, and these can have long-term implications for following generations!
From the Davidic family the Lord “hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel” 1Chr.28.5. Again, it was not the firstborn, nor the youngest, but this time the middle son. How often does God set aside that which speaks of natural strength and privilege! Solomon was chosen as sovereign before he was born: “Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days” 1Chr.22.9. Yet he was the offspring of a union that should never have been! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” Rom.11.33.
God declared a purpose for Solomon’s life: “Solomon thy son, he shall build My house and My courts: for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his father” 1Chr.28.6. How, or when, this was originally communicated to David is not detailed, but David’s son is also called God’s son, investing Solomon’s responsibility and service with dignity. Sonship and service are ever closely related, but behaviour and character must correspond to that dignity.
Hence we have the reiteration of the Davidic covenant, “I will establish his kingdom for ever”, with a conditional qualification to Solomon personally, “if he be constant to do My commandments and My judgments, as at this day” 1Chr.28.7. Obedience to God’s Word is a constant imperative. However, it is not enough to obey what we already know; there has also to be further application to ascertain the meaning of God’s Word. Hence Solomon is commanded to “… keep and seek for all the commandments of the Lord [his] … God” 1Chr.28.8. If there is a dual responsibility to “keep and seek”, there is a dual promise: “that ye may possess this good land, and leave it for an inheritance for your children after you for ever” 1Chr.28.8. There was also a dual witness to the charge: “… in the sight of all Israel … and in the audience of our God” 1Chr.28.8.
Solomon’s service is to have a double aspect. He is to “know … the God of [his] father, and serve Him …” 1Chr.28.9. Knowledge comes before service. Service must be according to the knowledge of God’s Word and will. Solomon’s service must also have a dual aspect, it must be “with a perfect heart and with a willing mind” 1Chr.28.9. There must be a loyal or devoted heart, plus an undivided and zealous mind. This is important “for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts” 1Chr.28.9. God knows what motivates us, what our aspirations are. Solomon is told that two diametrically opposite outcomes are possible, depending on his response to David’s admonitions: “if thou seek Him, He will be found of thee; but if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever” 1Chr.28.9.
Encouragement to Solomon
David again reminds Solomon of the conjunction of Divine sovereignty and human responsibility: “Take heed now; for the Lord hath chosen thee to build a house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it” 1Chr.28.10.
Following these important directions, David then gives Solomon specific details in relation to the “pattern” of the Temple complex. This indicates that there was a detailed plan, which David transmitted accurately to Solomon. This was not according to David’s imagination but “… the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit …” 1Chr.28.12. It is not the purpose of this chapter to go into the detail of this important structure. However, from 1Chr.28.11-18, we see the pattern provided detail about the physical structures, the position of the mercy seat, the courses of the priests and Levites, the service, vessels, utensils, use of gold and silver, etc. Just as the Tabernacle in the wilderness was not according to Moses’ imagination, this Temple had nothing of David’s thoughts: everything was according to the Divine pattern.
We have seen that the pattern was communicated “by the Spirit”; now we also learn that the pattern was committed to writing: “‘All this’, said David, ‘The Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern’” 1Chr.28.19. Here we have another linked pair: the Spirit and the writing. We also must obey Scripture and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God will never lead contrary to the Word of God. This principle is vital in a day of relativism, emotional subjectivity, reliance upon human wisdom and supposed experience. The Word of God is the only sure and safe guide for the believer in dependence upon the Holy Spirit. A teachable attitude is essential in seeking to determine the Divine will for our lives and service. Disobedience to God’s general will expressed in Scripture will invalidate any expectation of determining His specific will on matters requiring particular direction.
David ends this part of his address to Solomon with “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed …” 1Chr.28.20. This is the second “do it” in the chapter, compare 1Chr.28.10. We remember the words of Mary, the mother of our Lord, to His disciples, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it” Jn.2.5. There are echoes here of the Lord’s encouraging words to Joshua, Josh.1.2-9. Whenever leadership transfers, the successor needs strengthening for the demanding task ahead.
Consciousness of the Lord’s presence, and the experience of His enablement, are essential in the discharge of spiritual responsibilities. Hence Solomon is encouraged with the promise “… the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” 1Chr.28.20. How encouraging for Solomon to know at the outset that his work programme would be successfully finished and that God would be with him at each stage of his seven-year task.
It is also important to have the fellowship of co-workers. We need healthy social support and interaction, even in the pursuit of spiritual endeavours and objectives. The work of God is greater than any one person, even those entrusted with a specific task or outstanding spiritual gift. How encouraging for Solomon to hear, “And, behold, the courses of the priests and the Levites, even they shall be with thee for all the service of the house of God: and there shall be with thee for all manner of workmanship every willing skilful man, for any manner of service: also the princes and all the people will be wholly at thy commandment” 1Chr.28.21.
The first five verses of this section give specific direction to those assembled concerning both the new king and Temple construction. While Solomon is God’s sole choice as king, he “is yet young and tender …” 1Chr.29.1. Solomon later wrote, “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child …” Eccl.10.16. Although young and inexperienced, Solomon accepted the responsibility of rule and later received a special endowment of enabling wisdom. David states, “the work is great”, and gives the reason: “for the palace [temple] is not for man, but for the Lord God” 1Chr.29.1. Even with the preparation of materials by David, this building will take seven years to complete. This house “must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries” 1Chr.22.5. If only the best will do for God in relation to this material house, no lesser standard should apply for rule and labour in the local assembly now!
The King’s Preparation and Example to Contribution
David’s assertion “… I have prepared with all my might …” 1Chr.29.2, or “abundantly” 1Chr.22.5, is not boastful, but to encourage others. We all have benefited from the labours, prayers, preaching and writings of previous generations. Their example and legacy should motivate us to similarly serve our generation and supply our successors. But can we truly say that our spiritual contributions or endeavours have been made with all our might?
The value and variety of the provision made for the house indicates the reality of David’s motivation when he set his “affection to the house of [his] God” 1Chr.29.3. There is nothing of self-praise, but a deep-seated and long-held heart exercise sustained through both difficult and good times: “Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, And the place where Thine honour dwelleth” Ps.26.8. He said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, That will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple” Ps.27.4.
Israel’s finances were in healthy surplus, 1Chr.22.14, but David is not reliant on public monies alone. He makes a large contribution “of mine own proper good” 1Chr.29.3, that is, from his private wealth. This demonstrates to the nation that his abiding exercise was sustained to the end. It is a quality contribution: the gold is “of Ophir”, and the silver is “refined”, the very best that can be provided, 1Chr.29.4.
The King’s Proclamation and Exhortation to Consecration
David has the moral right to give his timeless call to the nation, which has had resonance with God’s people ever since: “And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?” 1Chr.29.5. The challenge is personal: “who?” It is a challenge to determine who is “willing”. It is a call to consecration, which means ‘a filling of the hands’: an appeal for whole-hearted dedication. The reference to “service” involves competence and skill; “this day” underscores immediacy; and “unto the Lord” proper motivation.
The passing of centuries and generations since David’s clarion call to dedication has not diminished its challenge. A similar challenge is delivered in this dispensation: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Rom.12.1,2.
The subject of consecration is of contemporary relevance. Personal spiritual progress and the furtherance of the testimony require such dedication, which comes at a cost. Every age has been marked by disincentives to consecration. Such is certainly true today. The increasing demands of academic study, career progression, family responsibilities, etc. can often be detrimental to commitment to the assembly and personal spiritual progress. Time and hard work are necessary to acquire a greater understanding of the Scriptures; these run contrary to a contemporary instant-information, secular mindset. Maintenance of the varied aspects of assembly testimony require sustained application of sound gospel preaching to the unsaved and sound teaching to the believer, all in the power of the Holy Spirit. There are no shortcuts in consecration: it is costly, time-consuming and all-absorbing, but of great spiritual and eternal value.
- The heights by great men reached and kept,
- Were not attained by sudden flight,
- But they, while their companions slept,
- Were toiling upwards in the night.
- (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Believers in every generation have had to make costly choices, if serious that their hands be filled with consecration. However, this present generation is different from those before, with hands seemingly constantly engaged with hand-held devices! The benefits of modern communications technology are recognised, but there is a downside. Time-wasting on trivia, pervasive curiosity engendered by social media, inappropriate messaging, the potential portal to pornography, etc. are all real dangers for young (and older!) believers today. How many have regretted that the content of an e-mail, text message, images and interactions on social media have later been disclosed to their detriment? Young Christians should take particular care as such may later constrain their potential for service and leadership. Christian parents and assembly overseers need to emphasise to children and young believers the need to ensure that what is in their hand does not detract from potential usefulness. The key theme in David’s last words remains very relevant.
The King’s Prayer and Exclamations in Conclusion
Those gathered in national assembly responded positively to David’s appeal, as detailed in 1Chr.29.6-9. Then follows David’s final blessing of the people, his closing prayer and thanksgiving Psalm: “Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation: and David said, ‘Blessed be Thou, Lord God of Israel our father, for ever and ever’” 1Chr.29.10.
It is not here a priest blessing the people, but their aged king. This praise and thanksgiving flow from the nation’s glad and generous response to David’s appeal for support to Solomon and building the Temple. He acknowledges the greatness and eternality of God and then surveys aspects and attributes of God: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all” 1Chr.29.11.
In this section we have a number of words used repeatedly, the most numerous being the word “all”. David closes his reign with an effusion of gratitude, acknowledging God’s greatness. David says:
- “all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine” – v.11
- “O Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all” – v.11
- “in Thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all” – v.12
- “for all things come of Thee” – v.14
- “all this store … cometh of Thine hand, and is all Thine own” – v.16
- “I have willingly offered all these things” – v.17.
We should also note with interest the variety of the names of Deity used by David in his final thanksgiving:
- “Lord God of Israel” – v.10
- “O Lord” (twice) – v.11
- “our God” – v.13
- “O Lord our God” – v.16
- “my God” – v.17
- “O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers” – v.18.
David had acquired such a knowledge of God in the experiences of his life that he was not restricted in his prayers and praise to a repetitious recital from a limited palette of Divine titles! Surely it would pay handsome dividends when reading through the Bible to underscore and reflect upon the extensive variety of the names of Deity used. It should help to enhance our expressions in prayer and worship.
David is careful to embrace the whole congregation: “Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name” 1Chr.29.13. He recognises that God’s power, glory, victory, majesty, authority, possessions, riches, honour, might and sovereignty are absolute. He recognises that their service is but to return to God what He in grace had bestowed upon them. A firmer grasp upon His Person and attributes should compel to greater service and reduce any potential to self-centredness. Hence David says, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee” 1Chr.29.14.
The willing nature of the king’s and people’s offering towards the Temple is emphasised:
- “offer so willingly after this sort” – v.14
- “I have willingly offered all these things” – v.17
- “to offer willingly unto Thee” – v.17.
There is nothing grudging or stinted in their response to God’s beneficence. Surely we also have benefited from God’s love and
- Were the whole realm of nature mine,
- That were an offering far too small;
- Love so amazing, so Divine,
- Demands my heart, my life, my all.
- (Isaac Watts)
Personal unworthiness, and the transitory nature of all service, is also summarised by David: “For we are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding” 1Chr.29.15.
- Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,
- Only what’s done for Christ will last,
- And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
- If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.
- (C.T. Studd)
David is also aware that true service is greater than mere duty. It must affect the whole person. Hence he makes repeated reference to the “heart”:
- The proven heart – “Thou triest the heart” – v.17
- The principled heart – “in the uprightness of mine heart” – v.17
- The purposed heart – “keep this for ever in the … thoughts of the heart” – v.18
- The prepared heart – “prepare their heart unto Thee” – v.18
- The perfect heart – “give unto Solomon … a perfect heart” – v.19.
David is still concerned with ‘heart issues’ at the end of his life. Remember he wrote earlier, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my reins and my heart” Ps.26.2. David also wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting” Ps.139.23,24. Such petitions should not be made lightly. He learned by experience how frail and fickle human nature is. But his desires and aspirations were all answered, and now, at the end of his life, it is evident he knew himself and, more importantly, his God in an outstanding way!
What a way to end his service: speaking with conviction to his people using words that are recorded by Divine inspiration, passing on a legacy to his son, and blessing to the nation. His final recorded words were to the entire congregation: “Now bless the Lord your God” 1Chr.29.20. The response must have thrilled the abdicating king David: “And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and the king” 1Chr.29.20.
“And he [David] died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” 1Chr.29.28.
The lives of great men generally become the subject of biographies, but no great (mortal) man other than David the King had so many great men to write his biography: the “book of Samuel the seer”: the early years; “the book of Nathan the prophet” and “the book of Gad the seer”: the full harvest, 1Chr.29.29.
- Lives of great men all remind us,
- We can make our lives sublime,
- And, departing, leave behind us,
- Footprints on the sands of time.
- (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)