Last Words

2 Samuel 23
R. Erisman
2 Sam. 23 opens with these words: "Now these be the last words of David... the sweet psalmist of Israel." There follows a confession of an honest man reflecting on his entire life, in which he acknowledges that all too often he had fallen short of God's perfect standard. Yet David recognizes that God's mercy more than makes up for his shortcomings. He can contemplate with confidence his ultimate salvation because of God's everlasting covenant.
It is in this chapter that the Spirit of God chose to record a touching incident in David's life when honor was bestowed upon his faithful warriors. David is seen taking refuge from the Philistine armies in the cave of Adullam. In verse 15 we read: "And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!”
From verses 13-17 of this chapter we understand that David had an inner circle of three mighty men who had distinguished themselves by their heroic deeds of defending their country. Nor are we left in doubt as to their accomplishments.
In verse 8 we read of Adino the chief, who, against incredible odds, single-handedly slew eight hundred men at one time.
In verses 9 and 10 we read of Eliezer, who, in the thick of battle with the Philistines, showed great purpose of heart in that, though his compatriots had retreated, his hand, weary of battle, still clave to the sword. The Lord rewarded his zealousness with a great victory that day.
Finally, in verses 11 and 12 we read of the heroics of Shammah, who also stood firm in the face of a retreating Israelite army, and overcame a whole troop of Philistines. He seemed to have a double motive, for the place he defended was a field of lentils—a much needed source of food for a beleaguered army. Again the Lord rewarded this man's faithfulness by granting a great victory.
No doubt these three men heard the longing of David's heart as he thought of Bethlehem's well, whose waters had refreshed him in his boyhood days. Perhaps Shammah glanced at Adino, and Adino caught Eleazar's eye, and with raised eyebrows the same thought seemed to race through each mind:
“Let's Do It!”
So the three mighty men set out on their perilous journey. The result of this mission by three mighty men, acting in the fear of the Lord, was never in doubt. The water of refreshment was soon in the hands of their loved David.
There may have been some doubt in the minds of these men when they contemplated David's reception of their love gift. What would he say? What would he do? And no doubt those smiling faces turned to consternation as David poured the water on the ground. Was their mission a failure? Had they misunderstood David? Did he not appreciate the dangers and jeopardy by which they obtained their prize? The answers were not long in coming. David says in verse 17: "Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it.” The look of consternation soon turned to joy as these mighty men heard David's words. They realized that David was saying, "This gift is too valuable for me; it belongs to the Lord." Perhaps the men had a preview, as it were, of the words uttered by our Lord, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Matt. 25:4040And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40).
David as a Type of the Lord
David is often referred to as a type of the Lord Jesus, because many of the events in his life have a counterpart in the life of the Lord Jesus.
* He was misunderstood by his own brethren who thought he was seeking self-aggrandizement.
* He was a shepherd of "sheep" and hazarded his life for the sake of the flock.
* He was a mighty victor over a formidable foe.
* He was an anointed king living in rejection.
Now we might wonder if there was anything in the life of the Lord Jesus that would correspond to what has just been written about David in the presence of his mighty men. Of course, everyone has or will have last words. The Lord Jesus uttered His last words as He hung on the cross of Calvary. Chronologically they seem to be in the following sequence:
“I Thirst”
We want to consider in some detail the fifth entry as it is in John 19:2828After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. (John 19:28). It will be noted that the details of the Lord's death are very accurately foretold in the Old Testament, most notably in the book of the Psalms. As the Lord was hanging on the cross, He knew only too well the pain of having His hands and feet pierced (Psa. 22:1616For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)). No doubt His head was hanging down and He vividly saw His disjointed bones (Psa. 22:14, 1714I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. (Psalm 22:14)
17I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. (Psalm 22:17)
). Perhaps He had seen the soldiers dividing His garments and casting lots for His vesture (Psa. 22:1818They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. (Psalm 22:18)). He felt the scornful laugh and the mocking of His agony by those shooting out the lip and shaking the head (Psa. 22:77All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, (Psalm 22:7)). He could see the soldier standing by with spear in hand. He knew His side was soon to be pierced (Zech. 12:1010And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)). As He reviewed all these prophetic scriptures, He knew the moment had arrived in which He could proclaim, "It is finished." But wait, one scripture was not yet fulfilled. It was Psa. 69:2121They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Psalm 69:21), "In My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." And so He proclaims those poignant words, "I thirst.”
What response did this utterance bring forth? Was great David's greater Son to have some of His adherents leap into action so that they might ease the pain of His suffering? No, it was not to be. The Lord Jesus did indeed have a select group of men around Him in the time of His ministry. We read in Luke 10:1, 171After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. (Luke 10:1)
17And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. (Luke 10:17)
that a company of seventy had a special ministry for Him. And then there was His inner circle of twelve, His chosen disciples who were selected only after an entire night was spent in prayer (Luke 6:1212And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)).
Among David's many mighty men, three occupied a special relation and nearness to their leader. The Lord Jesus also had three men who seemed to hold a special place of nearness to Him. They are Peter, James and John. These three accompanied Jesus on several special occasions:
2. It was Peter, James and John who accompanied the Lord at the raising up of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:3737And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. (Mark 5:37)).
3. It was Peter, James and John who accompanied the Lord at the time of His transfiguration (Matt. 17:11And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1)).
4. It was Peter, James and John whom the Lord took to be near Him as He agonized in Gethsemane (Mark 14:3333And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; (Mark 14:33)).
Three Mighty Men
Peter was obviously a very forceful individual. He often became the spokesman for the entire group. He was brash, he was bold, he was enthusiastic and ready to swing into action at a moment's notice. Peter is a Greek word meaning "stone." This is later emphasized by the Lord, because He surnamed him Cephas, an Aramaic word for stone. So Peter is publicly recognized as having those durable qualities for building solid discipleship.
James and John were brothers and very zealous, a trait perhaps inherited from their mother. On one occasion they rebelled at the ill treatment afforded the Lord, and desired to call down fire from heaven in retribution. Perhaps their fiery temperament was displayed in other ways, for the Lord called them Boanerges, or "The sons of thunder.”
Where were these three "mighty men" when their Master needed someone to show Him kindness and consideration? Alas, we read in Matt. 26:5656But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled. (Matthew 26:56), "Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled." Peter, we know, had betrayed his Lord and perhaps was still weeping bitter tears of remorse in some secluded spot. John, after fleeing, apparently returned to the scene and stood with the women afar off (Luke 23:4949And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things. (Luke 23:49)), but later he was by the cross (John 19:2727Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:27)) at the crucial moment when the Lord said, "I thirst." James, like Peter, is not mentioned as being present.
A Sponge of Vinegar
Now the well of Bethlehem was probably too far removed (some 15 miles) for anyone to bring of its refreshment to the One who was presently in such dire need. Perhaps someone, however, with heartfelt compassion would rise to the occasion and defy the authorities to respond to that plaintive request, "I thirst." Again it was not to be. Oh, there was a response; it came from Satan's emissaries, and soon a sponge of vinegar is pressed to our Savior's lips.
What a contrast is seen in the heart of man and in the heart of the Lord Jesus. The One who had said, "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (John 4:1414But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14)), is now given bitter vinegar to drink in His thirst. So it must be; the One who was called the Man of Sorrows must be acquainted with grief to the very end. Thus we begin to understand that He whom God will highly exalt, and bear the name above every name, and to whom every knee shall bow, must first become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross with all of its shameful indecencies.
More Last Words
There are others in the Bible whose last words are recorded for our learning. Some seem to be reflections of wasted lives and missed opportunities as conveyed in Jacob's parting words, "Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been." Gen. 47:99And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage. (Genesis 47:9).
Others have great towering words of positive thoughts reflecting on a mission fulfilled The Apostle Paul was such an example. Hear now his words as he surveyed his path of service, accompanied as it was with much physical suffering and pain, and decide whether it was worth it all. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day." 2 Tim. 4:7,87I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7‑8). "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." 2 Tim. 1:1212For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12).
These are not the words of one contemplating a leap in the dark, as some have erroneously thought when the final journey is about to begin as the last breath is being drawn. No, he says with full assurance, "I know." He has heard the skeptics and rejected their vain philosophy. And now when his course has been run, he is fully persuaded as to the truth of God as revealed in Christ Jesus. May it be so with everyone that has read these lines.
Individual Service
Connect your service with nothing but God, not with any particular persons. You may be comforted by fellowship, and your heart refreshed, but you must work by your own individual faith and energy, without leaning on anyone whatever, for if you do, you cannot be a faithful servant. Service must ever be measured by faith, and one's own communion with God. In every age the blessing has been by individual agency, and the moment it has ceased to be this it has declined into the world. The tendency of association is to make us lean upon one another.