Second Samuel 23 begins with a poem that informs us about the heart of David in a special way: “Now these be the last words of David” (23:1a). In his last words, David highlights a number of important truths that instruct us in various ways about our own lives.
First, he testifies to God’s exalting him to be a man of unique importance in two ways: (a) he was chosen to be God’s anointed one (“the anointed of the God of Jacob” [23:1b]); and (b) he became a special singer among God’s people (“the sweet psalmist of Israel” [23:1c]). In his last words, David thus first highlights his ministry of music among God’s people as a chosen agent of God.
As God’s people, we must esteem highly those whom God chooses to be His special ministers of music to us. Moreover, those of us whom God calls to be such ministers must highlight that calling in our minds throughout our lives.
Second, David makes known that he was an agent of God through whom the Spirit of God spoke verbally to communicate vital truths pertaining to a second key aspect of his being God’s anointed one:
The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God (23:2-3).
In this teaching, David underscores the importance of the just character that he had to have in his role as God’s chosen ruler over His people and of the necessity for him to fear God as he rules.
These words instruct and challenge us that we must emphasize justness in the exercise of any and all authority that God entrusts us with among His people. We will only be such authorities by our fearing God properly.
Third, he speaks strikingly of the immense value of a just ruler who fears God:
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain (23:4).
MacArthur helpfully explains verses 3-4:
These words begin the record of direct speech from God, whose ideal king must exercise His authority with justice, in complete submission to divine sovereignty. Such a king is like the helpful rays of sun at dawn and the life-giving showers which nourish the earth. This ideal king was identified in the OT as the coming Messiah (cf. Is. 9:6, 7).—The MacArthur Study Bible [MSB], 462
Our dark world desperately needs governmental authorities who are just and exercise their authority in the fear of God. In our political perspectives and activities, we must maintain foremost that the righteous character of leaders, and not their economic success, prowess, and policies, is the chief indispensable qualification that they must have in order to be fit to be put in governmental authority over us.
Fourth, David communicates his trust in the special covenant that God had made with him:
Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow (23:5).
From this teaching, we learn that we should put all our hope throughout our days until the end in the covenants that God has made with us. Our only hope of ultimate salvation is the surety of God’s faithfulness to keep His word to us with whom He has entered into a special covenantal relationship.
Fifth and perhaps most strikingly considering that these words are “David’s final literary legacy to Israel” (MSB, 462), he concludes his final testimony with teaching about the fearful fate of wicked men:
But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands: But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place (23:6-7).
He thus had in mind this solemn reality and testified of it to others. Moreover, he did so as a Spirit-inspired special agent of God’s revelation.
David’s ending his last words with a statement about the fiery utter destruction of the wicked should challenge us to keep this reality as an important part of our lifelong consciousness of the world in which we live. What’s more, we need to remind ourselves continually that testifying to this truth is a vital obligation that we have throughout our lifetimes as witnesses for God.