Famous last words. Famous people leave behind famous last words. They may be interesting, like Goethe’s “Mehr licht!” (“More light!”), or inspiring, like John Wesley’s “The best of all is, God is with us.” Harriet Tubman left this life singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Sometimes the last words are remembered only because the speaker was so famous, like Elvis’s, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.”
The writer of Second Samuel passes on to us the last words of King David. Not as short and pithy as some, but good to remember. David speaks about the need for a ruler to be dependable and fair, to rule with justice. A ruler like that is like the sun rising on a cloudless morning.
When I visualize the end of my earthly life, I picture the sun going down, the end of a long day’s journey into night. Not David. For him, the freshness of a new day comes to mind and springs to his lips, the sun “gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” David, a deeply flawed person, is all too aware of his faults and failures. But he goes to his death not counting on his own accomplishments but recognizing the ideal for which he had striven. And, to his credit, David never shied away from a challenge, even that of his own death. Death is, after all, as the German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, the greatest feast on the way to freedom.
Speaking of Bonhoeffer, King David might have approved the last words he reportedly spoke as he prepared to face a rope at the Flossenburg concentration camp: “This is . . . the beginning of life.”
God, now I see through a glass darkly, but then I will see face-to-face. Give me the strength to stand up for justice while I live and to face my own death like the sun rising on a cloudless morning. Amen.
Second Samuel records the final words of David. David takes comfort in the covenant that God has made with his family, which must be continued by kings who will honor God and rule justly. The psalmist sings of this same covenant with David’s family and the same necessity to follow God’s decrees in order to rule well. Revelation opens with a vision of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, the King to rule over all kings for all time. Many expected Jesus to set up a political kingdom. Yet in John, Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not an earthly one. This week let us thank God that the kingdom is based not on the exercise of power but on Jesus’ example of serving others.
• Read 2 Samuel 23:1-7. Upon your deathbed, what would you like your last words to be?
• Read Psalm 132. What is your vision of Paradise? Who will be seated around your table?
• Read Revelation 1:4b-8. How do you bear faithful witness to “the Alpha and the Omega”?
• Read John 18:33-37. To whom do you pledge allegiance? To whom do you give lip service?
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