As the time drew near for David to die, he charged his son Solomon,
1 Kings 2:1-111 Kings 2:1-11
. Holy Scripture gives us many a touching and pathetic description of the death of the father of a family, showing how it at once sanctions and sanctifies natural affection. The farewells of David remind us of those of Jacob. Death sometimes seems to fill the men of God of the old covenant with the spirit of prophecy, as if the summit of the earthly life was illuminated with a purer radiance falling upon it from a higher sphere. Death is indeed to all the messenger of God to reveal to us great truths; it is a great prophet.
I. Death shows to us WHERE ENDS THE WAY OF ALL THE EARTH (1 Kings 2:2). Pascal says, "However brilliant the tragedy may have been, the end is always death. From every grave which is dug comes a voice crying, Memento mori."
II. DEATH TEACHES US TO LOOK AT OUR PAST EXISTENCE AS A WHOLE, as from a height we look down on the plain below. It brings out the great object of life, the essential truth too often drowned in the busy hum of the world. David thinks no more at this hour of the glory or of the pleasures of life. Its one great end stands out more clearly before him to walk in the ways of the Lord, to keep His statutes and His commandments. This is wisdom and prudence.
III. DEATH REMINDS THE SERVANTS OF GOD THAT THEIR WORK DOES NOT PERISH WITH THEM; that none of them, not even the greatest, is an indispensable instrument of the work; that they are only links in the chain. Thus the torch which is to enlighten the world is passed from hand to hand.
IV. THE INHERITANCE OF A HOLY WORK TO BE CARRIED ON is the best of those blessings which, according to God's promise, are to rest upon His people to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:6). A great responsibility rests upon a Christian family, and their education ought to be conducted with a view to it. This succession in piety, in living and acting faith, is more important and more real than the succession by means of official ordination.
V. Every servant of God, in his death, may say with Jesus Christ, "IT IS EXPEDIENT FOR YOU THAT I GO AWAY;" "YE SHALL DO GREATER THINGS THAN THESE." It is well to know, when our work is done, that it will be carried on by another. With Solomon, the Jewish theocracy received a new development, such as it had never known in the time of David. It is well for us to die, even for the sake of the work of God, which we are called to accomplish up to a certain point, but no further.
VI. How much BETTER STILL IS IT FOR US TO DIE, when we look at it in the light of eternity. "David slept with his fathers (ver. 10), but only like them to be carried home to God, to rest in Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22). For ourselves, we may say with St. Paul, "To depart, and be with Christ is far better" (Philippians 1:18). - E. DE P.
Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die.
We have here the dying charge of an old and experienced king to a young one.
I. THAT ALL MEN ARE EQUAL IN THE SIGHT OF GOD; because —
1. Kings even are not exempt from human mortality.
2. Nor from human frailty (ver. 2).
3. Nor from human responsibility (ver. 3).
II. THAT OBEDIENCE TO THE WILL OF GOD INEVITABLY ISSUES IN PROSPERITY, in the best sense of the word.
The setting of David's sun was a gradual process, as. is shown by the words, "Now. the days of David. drew nigh that he should die" (ver. 1). A very pathetic utterance is found in the second verse, namely, "I go the way of all the earth." From his earliest days he had Been a favourite and a hero, and has it come to this, that at the last he must simply take his place in the great world-crowd, and go down to the common grave? God is no respecter of persons. Let us learn that all earthly distinctions are temporary, and that many exaltations only show their corresponding abasements the more conspicuously. Although the king is about to take his journey into far country from which there is no return, he yet takes an interest in the future of Israel and the immediate responsibilities of his own house. His words to Solomon are the words of a soldier and a patriot: "Be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man." There is no sign of death in this high moral energy. We can hardly imagine the voice of the speaker to have fallen into a whisper: it seems rather to resound with the force and clearness of a trumpet tone. A noble motto this — "Show thyself a man." Is it possible for a man to do otherwise? All human history returns an answer which cannot be mistaken. The man is not in the gender but in the character. By a "man" David means king, hero, prince; a soul thoroughly self-controlled, fearless, above all bribery and corruption, and vitally identified with the enduring interests of the people. It must be observed that the charge delivered to Solomon by his father was intensely religious in its spirit. Not only was Solomon introduced to a throne, but the book of the law was placed in his hands, and he was simply to peruse it, under. stand it, and apply it. Nothing was to be invented by the king himself. He begins his monarchical life with the whole law clearly written out before him. This is the advantage with which we begin our life, namely, that we have nothing to write, invent, suggest, or test by way of perilous experiment; we have simply to consult the holy oracles, to make them the man of our counsel, and to do nothing whatever which is not confirmed by their spirit. Where, then, is originality? We must find the originality in our personal faithfulness. It will be originality enough for God if He can find us acting consistently with the knowledge we already possess, and embodying it in new and sacrificial incarnations. Now we come to official words. From this point so terrible is the charge which David delivers to Solomon that we must impress ourselves with the fact that the charge is official rather than personal. We must imagine David seated upon the throne of judgment and delivering sentences as the messenger of God; this will save his speech from the charge of vindictiveness and cruelty. It should be noticed also, in connection with these judgments and sentences, that in every case a reason was assigned. That is a vital point. Looking at Joab's conduct to David, to the two captains of the hosts of Israel, and to Abner, and to Amass, and unto Absalom, we cannot but feel that the proportion between the guilt and the doom is measured by righteousness. That David was not carried away by indiscriminate retaliation is proved by the change of tone which he adopts when he comes to speak of the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite: "Let them be of those that eat at thy table"; in this ease also a reason is assigned for the judgment: "for so they came to me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother." Instances of this kind show how clear was the mental vision of the king even in the near approach of death. Nothing was forgotten. Judgment was meted out with discernment. David does not forget that when Shimei came down to meet him at Jordan, he sware unto the Lord, saying that Shimei should not be put to death with the sword. In Israel all pardon ceased with the death of the king, and it was for his successor to say whether this pardon should be renewed, or whether judgment should take effect. David seems to refer to this law when, concerning Joab, he said to Solomon: " Do therefore according to thy wisdom" (ver. 6). These words would seem, to open a door of possible escape. But Joab proved himself unworthy of any protection, and brought his death upon his head with his own hand. So in the case of Shimei, David said to Solomon, "Thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him," so the judgment was not to be an act of violence or mere triumph of might over weakness; it was to be marked by that terrible calmness which adds to judgment its most awful elements of impressiveness. David was now giving judgment according to the age in which he lived: it was not a highly civilised age: the law had only reached a certain point of development: David, therefore, must not be held responsible for the law under which we ourselves live. David's Lord said
— "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." "So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David" (ver. 10). He died as it were in the act of pronouncing judgment, and himself went to be judged by the Eternal King. How near is that bar to every one of us; the final word is not spoken by man; he can but give judgment according to his light, or to his immediate understanding of the circumstances which appeal to him; there is one Judge who will rectify all our decisions and readjust everything which we have thrown into disorder.
Why should we be pensive and wistful when we think how near our end is? Is the sentry sad as the hour for relieving guard comes nigh? Is the wanderer in far-off lands sad as he turns his face homeward? And why should not we rejoice at the thought that we, strangers and foreigners here, shalt soon depart to the true metropolis, the mother country of our souls? I do not. know why a man should be either regretful or afraid as he watches the hungry sea eating away his "bank and shoal of time" upon which he stands, even though the tide has all but reached his feet, if he knows that God's strong arm will be stretched forth to him at the moment when the sand dissolves from under him, and will draw him out of many waters and place him on high, above the floods in that stable land where there is "no more sea."
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