CHAPTER NINETY-SIX

His Closing Days

(Continued)

1 Chronicles 22


The sand in Davidís hour-glass was running low; the time appointed for his departure from this world had almost arrived; yet it is beautiful to behold him using his remaining strength in the service of God, rather than rusting out amid the shadows. The sun of his life had often been temporarily overcast, but it set in golden splendor, illustrating that word, "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof" (Eccl. 7:8). The revolt of Adonijah was the last dark cloud to pass across his horizon, and it was quickly dissolved, to give place to blue skies of peace and joy. The final scenes are painted in roseate colors and the exit of our patriarch from this world was one which well fitted the man after Godís own heart. Blessed is it to see him using his fast-failing energies in setting in order the affairs of the kingdom and to mark how the glory of the Lord and the good of his people was that which now wholly absorbed him.

The Holy Spirit has dwelt at quite some length upon the closing acts of Davidís reign, supplementing the briefer account given in 1 Kings by furnishing much fuller details in 1 Chronicles. It is to these supplementary accounts we now turn. In them we, first, behold him completing the extensive preparations he had made for the building of the temple. Second, his giving solemn charge unto Solomon concerning the erection of the Lordís house, concerning his own personal conduct, and concerning the removal of his enemies. Third, his charge to the princes to stand by and assist his son. Fourth, his ordering of the priesthood in their courses. Fifth, his charge to the officers of the Nation. Sixth, his entrusting to Solomon the pattern or plan of the temple which he had received from God. Seventh, his final charge to the whole congregation. Most carefully did David prepare for the end of his reign and for the welfare of his successor.

"And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the Lord must be exceeding magnifical of fame and of glory, throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death" (1 Chron. 22:5). The dearest desire of his heart had been to erect a permanent house for the worship of God, and a tremendous amount of materials had he already acquired and consecrated to that end. But his wish was not granted: another was to have that peculiar honor; yet he did not, like so many peevish persons when their wills are crossed, mope and fret, and then lose all interest in the Lordís service; but readily acquiesced in Godís will and continued his preparation. Yea, so far from advancing age and increasing infirmities deterring him, they quickened him to increased diligence and effort.

The extent and value of the materials which David had gathered for the temple may be seen by: "Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance; timber also and stone have I prepared" (1 Chron. 22:14). These were all ready to hand for his successor, who made good use of the same. What encouragement is there here for us: much good may appear after our death, which we were not permitted to witness during our life. Often we grieve because we see so little fruit for our labor, yet if we are diligent in preparing materials, others after us may build therewith. Then let us sow beside all waters, and confidently leave the outcome with God. Those who are mature and experienced should consider the younger ones who are to follow, and furnish all the help they can to make the work of God as easy as possible for them.

We turn next to the charges which David gave to his son. The first concerned his building of the temple, for this lay most of all upon his heart. "Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the Lord God of Israel. And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house unto the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build a house unto My name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in My sight" (1 Chron. 22:6-8). Here we see how jealous God was of His typesóas was also evidenced by His displeasure against Moses for striking the rock (the second occasion) instead of speaking to it; and by His smiting Gehazi with leprosy for seeking a reward from the healed Naaman. The erection of the temple was a figure of Christ building His Church, and this He does not by destroying menís lives, but by saving them.

Continuing the "word" which David had received from the Lord, he adds, "Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon (Peaceable), and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name; and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever. Now, my son, the Lord be with thee, and prosper thou, and build the house of the Lord thy God, as He hath said of thee" (1 Chron. 22:9-11). In what follows David enjoined his son (v. 13) to keep Godís commands and to take heed to his duty in everything. He must not think that by building the temple he would secure a dispensation to indulge the lusts of the flesh. Nay, let him know that though king of Israel, he was himself a subject of the God of Israel, and would be prospered by Him in proportion as he made the divine law his rule (cf. Josh. 1:8).

A little later he addressed him thus: "And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek Him, He will be found of thee but if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off forever, Take heed now; for the Lord hath chosen thee to build a house for the sanctuary: be strong and do it" (1 Chron. 28:9, 10). How concerned David was that his son should be pious. Faithfully did he set before him the inevitable alternative: blessing if he served the Lord, woe if he turned away from Him. Here was a case where divine foreordination had made irrevocably certain the end, and yet where human responsibility was insisted upon. The perpetuity of Godís kingdom to Davidís posterity was absolutely assured in Christ, yet the entail of the temporal kingdom was made contingent on the conduct of Davidís descendants: if they were self-willed and remained disobedient, the entail would be cut off.

The same note of contingency is struck again unmistakably in "If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said He) a man on the throne of Israel" (1 Kings 2:4). Alas, we know from the sequel what happened: God punished the idolatry of Solomon by the defection of the ten tribes from his son, till ultimately the family of David was deprived of all royal authority. It has been thus all through the piece: man has utterly failed in whatever trust God has committed to him: sentence of death was written upon the prophetic, the priestly, and the kingly office in Israel. Was then the divine purpose thwarted? No indeed; that could not be: the counsels of God are made good in the Second Man and not in the first. It is in and by and through Christ the divine decrees are secured. And as it is in the Second Man and not in the first, so it is in a heavenly realm and not in the earthly that the Old Testament promises find their fulfillment. Christ according to the flesh, was made of the seed of David, and in Him the kingdom of God is spiritually realized.

"And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord" (1 Chron. 28:20). It is noteworthy that that to which David principally exhorted his son was firmness and boldness. Courage is one of the graces most needed by the servants of God, for the devil as a roaring lion will ever seek to strike terror into their hearts. This was the charge given to Joshua when called to succeed Moses: "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the Law" (Josh. 1:7). To His servant the prophet the Lord said, "Fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house" (Ezek. 3:9): the frowns of those who hate the Truth are no more to be regarded than the flattery of those who would quench the Spirit by puffing us up with a sense of our own importance. "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28) said Christ to the apostlesógifts are of no avail if we lack courage to use them.

The charge which David gave to Solomon concerning his old enemies is recorded in 1 Kings 2. "Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to theótwo captains of the host of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that were on his feet. Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace and, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei . . . which cursed me with a grievous curse . . . now therefore hold him not guiltless . . ." etc. (vv. 5-9). These orders are not to be regarded as issuing from a spirit of private revenge, but rather with a regard for the glory of God and the good of Israel. Joab had long deserved to die for his cold-blooded murders, and the part he had recently played in aiding the revolt of Adonijah. While such men as he and Shimei lived they would be a continual menace to Solomon and the peacefulness of his reign.

The charge David made to the princes is found in 1 Chronicles 22: "David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying, Is not the Lord your God with you? and hath He not given you rest on every side? for He hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the Lord, and before His people. Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God. arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary" (vv. 17-19). Once more we see how deeply concerned David was that the honour of Jehovah should be promoted by the erection of a suitable dwelling-place for His holy ark, and therefore did he command the princes to give whatever aid they could to his son in this undertaking. Monarchs can only forward the work of God in their dominions as they are supported by those nearest to them in high office. David urged upon them their obligations by insisting that gratitude to God for His abundant mercies called for generosity and effort on their part. He bids them be zealous by fixing their eyes on Godís glory and making His favor their happiness. When the Lord truly possesses the heart neither sacrifice nor service will be begrudged.

From 1 Chronicles 23 and the chanters which follow we learn of the considerable trouble David went to in fixing the arrangements for the temple services and putting in order the offices of it, in which he prepared For the house of God as truly as when he laid up silver and gold for it. It is noticeable that the tribe of Levi had multiplied almost fourfold (23:3, and cf. Num. 4:46-48), which was a much greater increase than in any other tribe. It was for the honor of Jehovah that so great a number of servants should attend His houseóan adumbration of the countless millions of angels which wait upon the heavenly throne. A detailed account is supplied of the distribution of the priests and Levites into their respective classes and of their duties, such particularization showing us that God is a God of order, especially in matters pertaining to His worship. The distribution of the officers was made by lot (24:5, etc.) to show that all was governed by the divine will (Prov. 16:33). The priesthood was divided into twenty-four courses (24:18), a figure perhaps of the "twenty-four elders" of Revelation 4:4.

"Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof . . . And the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of the Lord, . . . All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern" (1 Chron. 28:11, 12, 19). David had received full instructions from God concerning the design of the temple and how everything was to be ordered in it: nothing was left to chance or the caprice of man, nor even to the wisdom of Solomon; all was divinely prescribed. Moses had received a similar pattern for the building of the tabernacle (Ex. 25:9) both of them being a figure of Christ and heavenly things. But the worship of God in this Christian era is in marked contrast from that which obtained under the Mosaic economy: in keeping with the much greater liberty which obtains under the New Covenant, precise rules and detailed regulations for the external worship of God in every circumstance are nowhere to be found in either the Acts or the Epistles.

The charge which David gave to the congregation was the longest of any. First, he warned them that Solomon was of tender yearsóless than twentyóand therefore very young to assume such heavy responsibilities (1 Chron. 29:1). Second, he reminded them how he had himself "prepared with all his might for the house of his God" (v. 2), having "set his affection" thereon, and urged his hearers to emulate his example by giving of their substance unto the Lord (v. 5). Both the leaders (vv. 5-8) and the people (v. 9) responded "willingly" and liberally, so that David "rejoiced with great joy." Then he magnified the Lord in these notable terms, "Thine. O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all. Both riches and honour come of Thee, and Thou reignest over all; and in Thine hand is power and might" (vv. 11, 12).

The deep humility of the man was again evidenced when David added, "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee. For we are strangers before Thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build Thee an house for Thine holy name cometh of Thine hand, and is all Thine own" (vv. 14-16). Beautiful is it to hear the king in his last words giving honor to whom honor is due. "And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the Lord your God. And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord, and the king. And they sacrificed sacrifices unto the Lord . . . And they did eat and drink before the Lord on that day with great gladness (vv. 20-22). What a grand finale was this to the reign of David: the king surrounded by his subjects engaged in joyfully worshiping the King of kings!

"Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die" (1 Kings 2:1): not that extreme old age necessitated his demise, but because his appointed time had arrived. The length of our sojourn on this earth is not determined by the care we take of our health (though human responsibility requires that we abstain from all intemperance and recklessness), nor upon the skill of our physicians (though all lawful means should be employed), but upon the sovereign decree of God. "Man that is born of a woman is of few days . . . His days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass" (Job 14:1, 5). No, when the divinely-ordained limit is reached, all the doctors in the world cannot prolong our life a single moment. Thus we are told of Jacob, "The time drew nigh that Israel must die" (Gen. 47:29)ó"must" because God had decreed it. So it was with David: he had fulfilled Godís purpose concerning him, his course was finished, and he could now enter into his eternal rest.

"And he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the way of all the earth" (1 Kings 2:1). He realized that his end was near, yet he was not diffident to own it nor afraid to speak of dying. He calmly referred to his decease as a "way": it was not only an exit from this world, but an entrance into another and better one. He speaks of his death as "the way of all the earth": from the earth its dwellers are taken, and to it they return (Gen. 3:19). Even the heirs of heaven (except those alive at Christís return: 1 Cor. 15:51) must pass through the valley of the shadow of death, yet they need fear no evil. In like manner Paul spoke of his "departure" (2 Tim. 4:6), using a nautical term which refers to a ship being loosed from its moorings: so at death the soul is released from the cables which bound it to the shores of time, and it glides forth into eternity.

David made all the preparations for his departure with unruffled composure because he knew that death did not end all. He knew that as soon as he drew his last breath. the angels of God (Luke 16:22) would convey him into the abode of the redeemed. He knew the moment his soul was absent from the body, he would be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:19). He knew that in the grave his flesh should rest "in hope" (Ps. 16:9), and that in the morning of the resurrection he should come forth fully conformed to the image of his Saviour (Ps. 17:15). And he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead" (1 Chron. 29:28). His epitaph was inscribed by the Holy Spirit: "For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep . . . (Acts 13:36). May we too be enabled to serve our generation as faithfully as David did his.