The Last Will and Testament of King David (2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57

Our Scripture reading comprises the historical narrative of David’s life in 2 Samuel 23, and Psalm 57.

Psalm 57 – God is Our Refuge

The occasion of Psalm 57 is identified in its title: “To the chief Musician, Al-taschith [meaning, “do not destroy”], Michtam [a type of poem] of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1-3).

Perhaps penned in the latter years of his reign, Psalm 57 was a record of God’s mercies through the years. David, remembered he had been a fugitive from King Saul who had sought to kill him out of jealousy. Hiding in the wilderness, and finding shelter in caves, David cried to the LORD,  “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee” (57:1).  He recalled his enemies, like savage lions, that had ravaged him with their words (57:4). They had schemed to entrap him, only to perish in their own wicked devices (57:6).

In spite of the sorrows and humiliations he had suffered, David’s foremost desire in those years of exile was that God would be exalted and glorified “above all the earth” (57:5). The closing verses of Psalm 57 are the king’s affirmation of his faith in God. David testified, “My heart is fixed [set; ready], O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (57:7). The king’s heart was full of praise, and thanksgiving. He not only wanted his people to know the mercies of the Lord, he promised, “I will sing unto thee among the nations” (57:9).

2 Samuel 23 – The Last Words and Testament of King David

Our study of David’s life is in its finale, as we turn in the Scriptures to 2 Samuel 23. The first sentence of chapter 23 moves me emotionally when I read, Now these be the last words of David” (23:1a).

We have been privileged to examine the soul of the man whom God declared, “a man after [His] own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). David was far from being a perfect man; however, his tenderness toward the LORD, and his love for God’s Word and Law, are an inspiration to all sincere believers.

Ministering as a pastor, I have been an honored guest at the bedside of many dying saints. I have observed how the proximity of death stirs in a soul a reflection on things that genuinely matter in the light of eternity. The presence of the shadow of death will tend to cut away those things that once held our affections. Accomplishments, honors, and plaques on the wall, have no value when death is near.

For all his achievements, David’s life was not summed up as the giant slayer or victor over the Philistines, but as “the son of Jesse…the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (23:1). Though honored to have served as the king of Israel, David drew his joy from being the man to whom the “Spirit of the Lord spake…[and whose] word was in [his] tongue” (23:2)

As with many of the psalms, 2 Samuel 23:3-4, imparted words of wisdom and adoration. Identifying the LORD as, “The Rock of Israel,” David recalled God’s exhortation, “He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (23:3). Simple, but profound! Imagine how different our world would be if men desired to have ruling over them, those who were “just” (righteous in their rulings according to God’s Law), and ruled “in the fear of God.” Such a leader would “be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth” (23:4a).

Time and space restrain an exhaustive study of the balance of 2 Samuel 23, but it is worth noting that David took time to acknowledge those men who had been his “mighty men” (23:9-39). 2 Samuel 23:13 gives the number of great warriors as “thirty,” and yet, the chapter ends stating that they were “thirty and seven in all” (23:39). How might that be? Was the number thirty, or thirty-seven an error? Also, there are a total of thirty-six men named, and not thirty-seven.

Some might disagree with my assessment of the dilemma in the number of David’s mighty men; however, I believe I have an acceptable explanation: When some of David’s mighty men perished in battle (for instance, Uriah the Hittite, 23:39), he would have chosen other men to take their place. I suggest the thirty-seventh man, and the one not named, was Joab, the brother of Abishai, whom I believe was in a league of his own.

Thirty-seven mighty men, from different backgrounds, but all had dedicated their lives to serve David, the great warrior king. David was content to be remembered as the man with whom God had established “an everlasting covenant” (23:5).

Perfect man? No, but that is the kind of leader God uses (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith