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Last Words

May 22 2022

Book: 2 Samuel

Scripture: 2 Samuel 23:1-7

A Scottish pastor named Thomas Hog died in 1692, but before he died, he asked his congregation to bury him at the entrance of the church. The inscription on his tombstone says this:

This stone shall bear witness

Against the parishioners of Kiltearn

If they bring an ungodly minister

In here.

In other words, over his dead body would they bring a bad pastor to his church! And that sounds very Scottish. It also sounds a bit like the last words of David, recorded in 2 Samuel 23. David’s last words are a prophecy about the future of God’s kingdom.

1 Now these are the last words of David:

The oracle of David, the son of Jesse,

    the oracle of the man who was raised on high,

the anointed of the God of Jacob,

    the sweet psalmist of Israel:

2 “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;

    his word is on my tongue.

3 The God of Israel has spoken;

    the Rock of Israel has said to me:

When one rules justly over men,

    ruling in the fear of God,

4 he dawns on them like the morning light,

    like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,

    like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

5 “For does not my house stand so with God?

    For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,

    ordered in all things and secure.

For will he not cause to prosper

    all my help and my desire?

6 But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,

    for they cannot be taken with the hand;

7 but the man who touches them

    arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,

    and they are utterly consumed with fire.”

I’m breaking my pattern for Samuel and doing a three-point sermon today. Point one:

God’s kingdom will come.

In verse 3, David says “the God of Israel has spoken.” In verse 5, “he has made with me an everlasting covenant”. And the specific promise David proclaims as his last word is that God will bless Israel with a king who “rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God.”

And then David tells us in verse 4 that this king will rule, or govern, his people like the sun.

I also want to make a connection that runs throughout this prophecy back to the creation story in Genesis. For reference, listen to Genesis 1:16:

16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.

When David says this coming king will rule “like the sun” he is making a connection with creation. And it is no coincidence that John writes at the end of bible in Revelation 22:5 –

5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

That’s the prophecy. That’s the promise. God’s kingdom will come, and the king will rule like the sun. The hard part is that this prophecy is still mostly future tense, even for us. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom when He came to earth the first time, but the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy will only happen when Jesus returns.

And that is a lot of waiting in a world that feels very dark and very chaotic at times.

But remember the story of David. How many years was it after being anointed before he became king? How many more years before he secured the entire kingdom? David never really lived in peace. Still, this same man believed God would keep his promises.

And the promise was not only that a better king would come. David tells us what the kingdom will be like.

God’s kingdom will come like the spring.

He writes in verse 4:

4 he dawns on them like the morning light,

    like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,

    like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

He’s describing a spring morning – blue skies, bright sunshine, freshly fallen rain that causes the grass to sprout.

But David is also connecting his prophecy again back to creation. Light coming from darkness, plants springing up from the earth. This is also Genesis 1.

And yet, it may be difficult for us to feel the weight of what David is saying. We have central heat and air. We have modern conveniences that dull the changing of the seasons for us. We can find fruits and vegetables in the supermarket year-round.

But for most of human history, spring was celebrated because winter was difficult. No one wants the spring more than people who have been living in a long, cold winter.

If you are familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, remember how the animals rejoiced when the long winter ended!

David is telling us about a king that will rule his people like a spring morning. He will bring an end to the winter.

And again, we have a connection to Revelation 22. John sees the river of life flowing through the New Jerusalem, and:

on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

What kind of tree produces twelve kinds of fruit year-round? No tree. Everything in our world is currently bound up in the cycle of seasons. But apparently, in the new kingdom, it will always be spring and never winter.

It is difficult for us to imagine a world like that. It is difficult to have hope when we can’t see the thing we are hoping for. But this is the Christian hope. This is what the Apostle Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 4:

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Our affliction doesn’t feel momentary but compared to eternity it is momentary! Compared to eternity, your entire lifespan is less than one grain of sand held up against every beach on the planet.

We hosted Presbytery on Tuesday and Dr. Tom Gibbs, the President of Covenant Seminary, preached from Daniel 9. He shared an illustration I had never heard before about the growing cycle of the Chinese bamboo tree.

He said the tree starts like every other plant – a tiny seed, placed under the soil. Like every other plant, it needs water and sunlight. But it takes a lot longer to germinate than most seeds. In fact, it’s not until the fifth year when the seedling breaks the surface of the ground, but then it grows rapidly 80-90 feet tall in only six weeks!

Did all of that happen in six weeks? NO! For five years, the plant was growing under the surface – the root system was being prepared to support the rapid growth of the tree above ground. And someone was tending that plant. Someone had to water it and protect it, trusting that it would bear fruit one day.

That’s how the kingdom of God will come, according to Jesus. God is building something, mostly unseen for now, but it will have miraculous results. Many of his parables teach the exact same lesson. God is at work even if you can’t see the impact yet. And that leads us to our final point:

God’s kingdom will come like the spring, whether we like it or not.

David ends with a warning.

6 But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,

    for they cannot be taken with the hand;

7 but the man who touches them

    arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,

    and they are utterly consumed with fire.”

Once more we find a connection to Genesis, but this time it is not creation. It is the fall of Adam into sin and the curse of God because of his sin:

cursed is the ground because of you;

    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

    and you shall eat the plants of the field.

When the spring comes, the gardener is busy tending the garden. And what needs to go? The weeds. The thorns. The gardener pulls them up by force and often they are burned.

You can find more examples of this in the parables of Jesus. Consider Matthew 13:

40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all lawbreakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And again, we find a parallel in the book of Revelation chapter 20:

14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The message is clear, but difficult. God’s kingdom will come. It will come like the spring. And it will come whether we like it or not.

Some people are grass. Some people are weeds.

And I know how that sounds. Outsiders cringe when they hear teaching about heaven and hell. Surely, if there’s a God, He intends to save everyone, right? How can a loving God send people to hell? How can some people be referred to as grass and others as weeds or thorns?

But it is very important to see the difference in the Bible between these two groups. The world assumes that the grass people in this scenario are the self-righteous religious people, and the weed people are unforgiveable sinners. But that is not an accurate portrayal.

Please remember what David said about the thorns. What did he say? He said:

they cannot be taken with the hand;

7 but the man who touches them

    arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear

In other words, the gardener uses a tool because grabbing thorns with your bare hands will hurt. And yet, right there is the hidden mystery of the Gospel, the good news.

What do Christians believe Jesus did for us? He bore the sins of His people and the curse of our thorns. He literally wore a crown of thorns on his head in case it wasn’t obvious enough. They literally pierced his hands with nails and his side with the shaft of a spear!

Jesus was the only One who could take sinners with the hand. Christians don’t believe that we can earn our own salvation. The difference between the grass and the thorns has nothing to do with our own efforts. It has only to do with the grace of God. He has to pull us out of the fire. We don’t deserve spring. We deserve the endless winter.

Earlier this week, I went fishing one morning before work. Walking along the bank, I came across a young goose sitting alone in the grass. I assumed he would run as I got closer, but he didn’t. Finally, I stood over him and he hissed at me, but he didn’t move. I assumed he was injured, so I reach down, picked him up, and took him home.

Do you think the goose was happy about this? Not at all! This goose saw me as a threat, not a savior. My intentions were to help, but the goose saw me as a giant enemy. He tried to wiggle free when I picked him up. He defecated all over my clothes. He did not want the salvation I was determined to provide.

Once I got him home, we realized that he had string tied around both of his legs. I carefully cut away the string and later that day we found his family and reunited them.

And that is a much more accurate way to think about the Gospel. I’ve never met someone who ran to Jesus with open arms. We talk that way. We even sing songs like that. And eventually, we do come to appreciate salvation. We do find our rest in Jesus. He leads us to repentance and faith. Eventually, we even worship Him. But not at first. At first, it feels like death.

How did Jesus describe evangelism to His disciples? What did he call them? Fishers of men. Have you ever met a fish that wanted to be caught? I’ve met a lot fish and none of the wanted to be caught! And that’s how Jesus describes lost people… fish that don’t want to be caught. But they need to be caught.

King Jesus has promised salvation for His people. He reaches through the thorns to free us from the snares of sin and death. He holds us close to calm our fears until we realize that we are safe. He reunites us with our Father. And then the sun rises and the winter fades and one day it will be spring forever.