2 Samuel 23:1-7
There are all kinds of documents that tell about a person’s life. Resumes, obituaries, autobiographies and biographies, for example. Usually they are quite flattering, skimming the best from a person’s experiences. Failures, broken promises, unrealized dreams. Major faults are not brought to the surface for the public to see. So, our real lives, that are a blend of good and evil, strength and weakness, hope and despair remain unseen.
But there is another important document that makes up a part of our lives. A will. That which we bequeath to our families and to our world to inherit. Sometimes there isn’t much money involved, but we all leave a legacy whether we know it or not even if its just by the lives we live.
Our Hebrew narrative today, 2 Samuel is often referred to as “the last words of David.” Who recorded them doesn’t really matter. But they do sum up what King David brought to the world, and they point the way forward for the people of Israel. They show what great leadership can achieve. His legacy suggests that dynasty) will continue and offers the assurance that God will dwell with his people.
These are “famous last words.” In them there are at least three themes: David’s words were good words because the Spirit of the Lord spoke through him (2 Samuel 23:2); a glimpse of perfect leadership (2 Samuel 23:3-4); and an everlasting relationship/covenant (2 Samuel 23:5).
They are “good words.” Language specialists claim that the five sweetest phrases in the English language are: “I love you.” “Dinner is served.” “All is forgiven.” “Sleep ’til noon.” “Keep the change.” And there are those who choose to add: “You’ve lost weight!” especially after Thanksgiving. Words are good if they add dignity and confidence to people.
King David’s words did that. Half the Psalms are attributed to David, testifying that he was this “sweet singer of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1). If this shepherd-warrior-king-poet-musician left us nothing other than the confidence in God’s protection – where the Lord is compared to a shepherd – it would be enough. How many people have been comforted and given new hope by these words:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort time.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
David left a legacy of good words that encouraged and brought hope and life to people.
He also left a legacy of …leadership.
In a poetic and beautiful way, the writer of “David’s legacy” gives us a glimpse of what perfect leadership could achieve.
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth upon a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout
from the earth. – 2 Samuel 23:3b-4
Picture sun and rain – not the blistering heat of noon in tropical countries, nor the torrential and violent rains, but the gentle, nourishing effects of warmth and water. Sun and rain together work the miracle of natural growth. They are gifts of God for everyone. This is the leadership of which David’s legacy speaks. This is the sort of leadership the world needs. We ought not aspire to leadership, but if it comes, we need to accept it – “being ourselves” as we accept that leadership.
One of my favorite theologians, the late cartoonist Charles Schulz, gave us a glimpse of such leadership. In one “Peanuts” comic strip Lucy comes up to Charlie Brown and says, “Charlie Brown, would you like to have been Abraham Lincoln?”
“Well, now, I don’t think so,” he replies slowly; “I’m having a hard enough time being just plain old Charlie Brown.”
Charlie Brown got it. God does not expect us to be persons the ones who we are. But God does expect us to make full use of any given abilities and to live lives of faithfulness wherever we are in our little corner of the earth.
Even though David slipped and fell a few times short of perfect leadership as he did with Bathsheba, he gave us a glimpse of “what could be.” And God was able to use his leadership to move his kingdom along. We can’t be David, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa or any favorite hero. But we can be Mike, Mary, John or Jane. After all, we, too, are a part of God’s plan for his world.
”Yea, does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.” – 2 Samuel 23:5
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have trouble with relationships. These words fall on us like water in a desert. They are refreshing and life-giving.
God’s everlasting covenant with us, demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, is a foundation for all our covenants/relationships.
My Mom struggled with Alzheimer’s disease for her last seven years. She also was a devout Roman Catholic. All through her life she had her prayer books and rosary beads and said her prayers twice during the day. Her prayers continued through the progression of the disease. There came a turning point when she could no longer read, so she just held the prayer book and any agitation appeared to be comforted. As she approached death, the books and beads were simply placed in her lap in bed. It is clear to me she had a simple and clear covenant with God, and that God became her “automatic pilot” when the disease ruled. The covenant was kept.
What covenant will be in effect as our day to “meet our Maker” approaches? Know that underneath this covenant, is David’s covenant, and all the rest of them that we have made. Know that we are held in “the everlasting arms” of our living God.
King David left for posterity his good words, his leadership, and perhaps most of all, his “covenant” with God and the human family. Each of us can do the same – by God’s grace – in our little corner of the world.
God, in your mind the past and the future meet in this day. Help us to accept with grace what we have received, and to share all that – and more – with those to come.
May God bless us all this day.