Last Words of David

By Sherry Black

A Reading from 2 Samuel 23:1-7, 13-17

1 Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse,
the oracle of the man whom God exalted,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:

2 The spirit of the Lord speaks through me,
his word is upon my tongue.
3 The God of Israel has spoken,
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
ruling in the fear of God,
4 is like the light of morning,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.

5 Is not my house like this with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper
all my help and my desire?
6 But the godless are all like thorns that are thrown away;
for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
7 to touch them one uses an iron bar
or the shaft of a spear.
And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.

13 Toward the beginning of harvest three of the thirty chiefs went down to join David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. 15 David said longingly, “O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” 16 Then the three warriors broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it; he poured it out to the Lord, 17 for he said, “The Lord forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. The three warriors did these things.


King David, at about 70 years of age, was nearing the end of his life when he spoke “these last words of David.” Technically, he did have some further speech, but this was his last psalm, his last oracle. Despite his disastrous family life and other losses, David tried to put God first in his life. And for this he is remembered and even exalted by God, anointed, and favored.

David recognizes that despite all his defects, God used his mouth in word and in song (we believe he authored about half of the Psalms). David also proclaims that those who rule in the fear of God are like morning light, but he also had to recognize that he had not always been the most just leader.

Even so, God continued his promised covenant through the house and lineage of David, ultimately leading to the birth of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

God had promised Israel that they would have a king, and after the disastrous reign of King Saul, God raised up David, son of Jesse, as his anointed king, to bring about his purposes. The king exists only by the faithfulness of God to God’s promise. The king’s authority comes from God. The king is to rule justly, concerned for the welfare of the people. As leaders, we might have some influence on our successors, but we cannot control the kind of leaders who come before or after us. Good kings and bad followed David’s reign, but God’s covenant endured. Despite his sins and imperfection, we remember David for being a man, a king, penitent, after God’s own heart, and, despite all, a model, if not for pristine leadership, then for taking responsibility for his own flawed leadership and being accountable before God. And ultimately, whatever our success or failure, God’s promises are accomplished in Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1).

The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.

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