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David’s last words (2 Sam 23:1-5)

Today we reach the end of David’s long and eventful life, which we’ve been following in our Sunday sermons (and our midweek Bible studies) over the last couple of months.

We’ve seen David’s progress from being a shepherd boy to a sovereign king. We’ve witnessed him as a warrior and worshipper. We’ve seen that he was a gifted poet as well as an anointed ruler. And, if you were here last week, you’ll have learnt that David’s life included sins as well as great successes.

The opening verse of today’s passage offers its own succinct summary David’s life story. Verse 1 records that David was the humble “son of Jesse” who was “anointed” by God, “exalted” to the throne of Israel and hailed as the “hero” of the Israelite nation.

Our passage then proceeds to tell us David’s famous last words. Final words which did not actually have their origin David, but were given to him by God. These inspired last words of David are a prophecy about a coming king – they promise a future descendant of David who will reign in righteousness forever.

Like any person’s last words, they deserve to be listened to with care and respect. So, let’s look more closely at King David’s final words in our reading from 2 Samuel 23 today…

Inspired words (v.2-3a)

If you have today’s passage in front of you, you will see that David wants us to be absolutely confident that the words we’re about to read come from God. Verse 1 calls them an “inspired utterance”, in verse 2 David says “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me, his word was on my tongue” – and in verse 3 David says that “The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me”.

In short, David wants us to know that we’re about to read words that come from God – David was merely the conduit through which they came. David may have been the one who literally put pen to paper, but it was the Holy Spirit who determined what he wrote.

To give them their technical title, the words that follow in verses 3 and 4 are an ‘oracle’. An oracle is a prophetic pronouncement – a God-given message for his people, delivered via a human prophet. So as well as being a great king and a gifted poet, we can add one more qualification to David’s impressive CV – he was also a prophet! A prophet’s words are, by definition, authoritative and true. We can be confident in them, they are completely trustworthy, and have the divine seal of approval.

The Old Testament Scriptures, of course, are saturated with prophecy, so we can trust them. And the whole Bible is God-breathed, so we can accord it the highest authority over our lives. What inspired Scripture says, God says, so we should let our religious beliefs and our ethical behaviour be guided by it.

Before we look at the actual words God gave to David, its worth taking a moment to look at the word David uses to describe God. Because in verse 3 his calls God his “Rock”.

Last month my own father underwent some serious surgery. Immediately before the operation my mum described dad as her ‘rock’. By which she meant, I think, that he is her soul-mate, her lifetime companion, her indispensable source of emotional support and practical help. No doubt many would also describe their spouse in a similar way.

But the big question facing us is ‘is God your Rock’? Do we trust him with our lives (and even with our death)? Do we lean on the Lord in prayer when we go through tough times? Do we seek his guidance when facing a difficult decision? I hope so! As we look back over the life of David and as we read some of David’s psalms, we see a man who constantly sought emotional support from the Lord – someone whose heart was set on trusting and obeying God, someone whose conscience was captive to the word of God. So let’s pray that we will become people who are similarly whole-hearted in our devotion to the Lord Jesus, people for whom he is truly our ‘rock’.

The coming King (v.3b-5)

So, what does David’s ‘rock’ want to say through him? Well, David’s prophetic oracle appears in verses 3b to 4. Let me read those inspired words for us again: “When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.”

These words foretell of a future king. A king with some remarkable characteristics.

• Firstly he will be a king for all people, his reign will be open to people from every nation. His kingdom will be universal in scope. Foreigners as well as Israelites will proclaim him as their king.

• Secondly, this coming king will be righteous. This future ruler will not be ruthless, greedy, violent or authoritarian – but upright in all his deeds, a model of moral conduct, ethical in the conduct of his reign. Like the most principled politicians, this forthcoming king will come to serve not be served, he will always put the interests of his subjects before himself.

• Thirdly, this future sovereign will fear the Lord. He will know and love God like a father, and pleasing him be his chief concern. ‘Not my will, but yours,’ he will pray.

• Fourthly, this future king will bring blessing. His rule will bring light and life to all his subjects – like the first rays of dawn or like the brightness of the Sun after a storm.

• Fifthly and finally (in verse 5 in fact) , David tells us that this coming king will be one of his own descendants. This future monarch will be born from his own royal “house” he says. In short, this coming messiah will be the completion and culmination of the great promise, the great “everlasting covenant” that God made with David back in 2 Samuel chapter 7.

As David describes the attributes of this wondrous future king, no wonder the word “salvation” appears on his lips (v.5).


Of course, as Christians, as we read these famous last words of David, we know the coming king of whom he was speaking. As we read these words, its like Christmas has come early!

Because these inspired last words of David foretell the coming of Jesus Christ. Not quite as clearly, perhaps, as some of the other OT prophecies we normally read during Advent (like Isaiah chapter 7 or Micah chapter 5), but a prophecy of Christ nonetheless. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem a new and greater David really had come to rule.

For those of us who follow him, we know Jesus is our everlasting king – the long-promised descendant of David. He is the righteous, God-fearing ruler David was allowed to foresee and foretell from his death-bed. Jesus is the Heaven-sent sovereign who could describe himself, without exaggeration, as the ‘Light of the World’. To submit to his rule is experience God’s blessing, grace and guidance. To have him as our Rock is to build our lives on the most secure foundation possible.

David was a great king, but his words today point us to someone even greater. So let us delight in King Jesus, and make his name known!

Phil Weston