Dying With RegretsErwin W. Lutzer | September 21, 1997
Selected highlights from this sermon
While David’s death loomed before him, his country and his family were in turmoil—most of his own making by either sins in his life or his inability to take action when it was needed. But on his deathbed, he clung to God and His promises.
Our lives may be in utter chaos, but while there is still time, we need to change our legacy into one that honors God.
So, what epitaph would you like to have on your tombstone? Jacob said, “Few and evil have been the days of my life.” Maybe that’s the way his life could be characterized, though that’s rather negative. Saul was very accurate. I think he wrote his own epitaph when he said, “I have played the fool.” That was a good way to summarize his life. Abraham was called a friend of God.
What about David? Before I answer that question, and I will at the end of this message, I want us first of all to attend his dying days. What we’d like to do is to go into David’s room and watch a king die. If you have your Bibles, it says in 1 Kings, chapter 2, verse 10, “Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.”
We’ll see in a moment that there was no eulogy that we know of that was pronounced because David died under some clouds. If we were there in the room we would soon see that even though the king seemed to be in tranquility, everything around him was not. Things were in disarray. And what I’d like us to do in these moments, as we have come to really the concluding message on the life of David, is for us to look at three clouds that seemed to hover around him as the time came for him to die. All was not well.
First of all, you have the first cloud and that is of disloyalty. Now for that we have to go back to 2 Samuel, chapters 19 to 22. And once again I simply have to assume that you have been reading the text because I do not have time to read these chapters nor to summarize everything in them, but to remind you.
We left David last time off the Jordan River. Absalom was dead, his favorite son. And then, of course, he came back I should say, and he entered into the palace and was crying, “Oh, Absalom, my son, my son, would God that I had died for thee, Absalom, my son.”
And so David is going to be restored now that the civil war is over but it’s not as neat as we’d like it to be. For example, he decides to demote Joab, the commander of his military forces. And he puts Amasa in his stead. Amasa had actually sided with Absalom. And David does this as a show of good faith to unify the kingdom, to unify the Absalom forces. Joab doesn’t like it and so he murders Amasa.
There’s another man called Sheba, a worthless man who says, “I am the inheritor of Absalom’s fortunes, and Absalom’s following,” and he blows the trumpet and says, “Crown me king.” Well, Joab was now the military man again, having murdered Amasa. He runs after Sheba, and Sheba goes into a city, and Joab wants to destroy the whole city. And a very wise woman says, “Don’t do that.” And Joab says, “I won’t do it if you give me the head of Sheba.” She says, “It’s a deal,” so they handed the head of Sheba to Joab over the wall.
Gruesome stories. But here’s the point that I don’t want you to miss. David has been king for 40 years, 33 in Jerusalem, seven in Hebron, and he surrounded himself by a bunch of people who were not very loyal to him. And the kingdom was crumbling. People were clamoring for power, and they were wondering who was going to take over after David was dead, and it was not nice. He spent all of his life unifying the kingdom, and now it’s beginning to crumble. In fact, did you know that one of his advisors by the name of Ahithophel, that we referred to last time, turns out to be a type of Judas, because David said regarding Ahithophel, “My own familiar friend with whom I ate bread has lifted up his heel against me,” and Jesus quotes that as referring to Judas. So here’s David who’s got these people around him, and sometimes good leaders do not always surround themselves with good advisors. Can you imagine how much it hurt?
How much does disloyalty hurt you? Especially those who profess to be your friend, but when the going got difficult, they broke and they left. Well, that’s what David is putting up with here as he is dying.
The first cloud that hovered over his bed was disloyalty. His kingdom was coming unraveled.
There’s a second cloud, and that is the cloud of judgment. For this, I do want you to turn to 2 Samuel, chapter 24. This is where David numbered the people. It says in 2 Samuel 24, verse 1, “Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’” A very difficult passage to interpret. God is angry at the nation, and He wants to have some good reason to judge them, so He incites David to number the people, to really fall in the sin of pride, if you will.
Now, some people who don’t like the Bible say, “This is an example of a clear biblical contradiction. The Bible simply does not add up.” Now, you know, we’re going to begin a series of messages on the Bible, but what they would say is, “Here’s an unresolved and unresolvable contradiction.” Why? Because in 1 Chronicles, chapter 22, verse 1...you know that 1 and 2 Chronicles essentially cover the same history as 1 and 2 Samuel and Kings...and so in the parallel account in 1 Chronicles, chapter 21, verse 1, it says, “Satan stood up and incited David to number the people.” Well, who did it? God or the devil?
Now I know that there is a contradiction in the text but it is not a theological contradiction at all. Therefore, it is not really a contradiction. Why? Because the devil is God’s devil, as we learned in a series of messages on Satan. The devil really is God’s devil, and therefore, God willed that this happened, and he used Satan to incite David. That happens all the time in Scripture. Where did Job’s trials come from? God or the devil? It depends on how you look at it. God is the ultimate cause in the sense that He allows Satan to do it. But Satan is the immediate cause. Satan does the dirty work. God does not sin, but God allows it, and because God allows it, sometimes the action or the initiation of the action is attributed to God.
But here’s the point. David numbers the people in rebellion. God allowed Satan to tempt David, and so he does this, and apparently because it was a very prideful thing to do because he wanted to show off how strong he was. Even Joab had some qualms about it, and lo and behold, David does it, and look at what it
says in verse 10. “Now David’s heart troubled him after he numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord God, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have acted very foolishly.’”
David committed here, he says, “a great sin.” And God says, “David, one of three things are going to happen to you and you can kind of choose. The first is to have seven years of famine, to have three months of military defeats, or to have three days of a plague.” How do you like that for a choice?
David said, “God, I’m not going to make this decision.” “You make the call.” He said, “I’d rather fall into the hands of God than the hands of men.” By the way, have you ever felt that way? Have you noticed that God is sometimes kinder than some people? Wouldn’t you rather fall into the hands of God on occasion rather than the hands of man?
David said, “God, you make the decision,” and God says, “Okay, I will,” and God sends pestilence and 70,000 people die. Seventy thousand! And they had families and friends and uncles and cousins, and word got out, I’m sure, that it was because of the sin of David that this happened. David sees the avenging angel come there to Jerusalem, and he offers up a sacrifice. He buys the threshing floor, and he offers a sacrifice. And do you know what that area is today? That’s the Temple Mount where the temple stands because that is known as Mount Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac, or was willing to offer Isaac to God, and that is also called in the Scripture the place of Araunah, the Jebusite, from whom David purchased the threshing floor, and it is there that the Scripture says Solomon built his temple.
So the plague is stayed. But this must have been a sword through David’s heart. A sword through his heart. Because of him, his great sin...By the way, great sin of immorality, yes, but also now a great sin of pride. And God hates both. That’s a second cloud that surrounded David just before he died. But there was a third, and it was the most difficult I am sure for the king do deal with, and that is the family breakup.
If the first cloud was a political cloud, and the second was a national cloud, the third was a very personal cloud. And for that now we look at 1 Kings, chapter 1. I hope I said that more accurately when we began the message. First Kings, chapter 1, where David now is dying. He’s dying. And you’ll notice that David had another son whose name was Adonijah, verse 5. He was the son of another one of David’s wives. David had many many wives. He had at least 14 or 15 children, and he [Adonijah] can’t wait for his father to die. His dad is dying too slowly. So he says to himself, “I am going to proclaim myself king,” something like Napoleon who evidently in Notre Dame in Paris...the pope was going to put a crown on his head. He snatched it from the pope and he crowned himself. He just wanted people to know that he was not beholding to the papacy.
And here you have Adonijah who says, “Yoo hoo, I’m here. I’m going to be the king. So he gets some followers, and they have a big party and he goes and he anoints himself as king. And David doesn’t like it. Bathsheba and David have a talk about it and they decide that the kingship should be passed on to Solomon, about whom the Bible says, “The Lord love Solomon.” And so they make arrangements for Solomon to be proclaimed king.
Adonijah goes into the temple and stays there, and Solomon said, “If you behave yourself, I won’t kill you.” Now remember, this is his half brother. But after David died, Adonijah began to stir up some rebellion, and Solomon had him killed.
At the risk of repetition let me review for those of you who have been a part of this series. Isn’t this ever a mess? First of all, you have incest in David’s family. Amnon involved with his sister Tamar. Then you have murder. Absalom murders Amnon. Then Absalom gets killed by Joab. And now Adonijah. That makes four, by the way!
The prophet had said to David that the sword shall never depart from your house, and David had said regarding the man who stole the sheep, “He shall pay fourfold.” If you include the son that died from Bathsheba, that’s four sons dead. The sword never departing from David’s house. And so here David is dying now and the man can’t even really die without difficulty because what he has around him are all of these family problems. What a mess. What a mess.
Where are David’s wives? Well, Bathsheba is with him, but the others aren’t even listed. They are probably laughing behind his back. They are thinking to themselves, “Here’s the great king, and he had all of us as wives, his family is in disarray, the kingdom doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, people are mad at him because of the judgment of God with 70,000 people dead.” So that’s the context in which we now go into the king’s chamber to watch him die.
What can we say about these clouds that hovered over David? Well, I think David would say, “You know what? There’s some sunshine too because if you get behind the clouds, the sun is still shining.” I believe that David died well because, first of all, he died believing in his God. He died believing in his God.
Now, if you take your Bible and turn to 2 Samuel (that means you just go back a few pages), notice in chapter 23 we have the last words of David. Now, he said many things on his deathbed. He even gave some judgments on his deathbed, but I’d prefer to look at 2 Samuel, chapter 23.
Now these are the last words of David.
David the son of Jesse declares,
And the man who was raised on high declares,
The anointed of the God of Jacob,
And the sweet psalmist of Israel.
I guess David is talking about himself here, and I’m sure it’s done in humility, and what he’s saying is right, but it’s very interesting. He says:
The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me,
He who rules over men righteously,
Who rules in the fear of God,
Is as the light of the morning when the sun arises,
A morning without clouds,
When the tender grass springs out of the earth,
Through sunshine after rain.
Imagine that. Well, David certainly did not always rule righteously, but he’s looking at the way in which God views him. In the preceding verses where he talks about his trust in God, he says: “God, so am I in thy sight.” God had declared David righteous, and now when the time came for David to die, God was not beholding evil in David because David had been forgiven for all of his great sins. And so David dies now, and he is trusting in God. He says, “Like the sunshine after the rain the clouds dissipate. I can die in peace.”
Centuries later, there’s a baby born in Bethlehem. And that baby grows up, becomes a man, begins to interact with Pharisees who totally misunderstood His mission and who He was. They didn’t understand it. And that man who we call the Lord Jesus Christ says that He is not only the son of David, but also David’s Lord. Think that through. Christ is interacting with the Pharisees, and this is what the Bible says in the book of Matthew, “Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’” Wow. That was an easy question. They said, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make thy enemies a footstool beneath thy feet.’” Jesus says, “If David then calls him Lord, how is he his son?” They should have been able to figure that out. The answer is that he’s the son of David because of David’s genealogy, but he is also the Son of God, Lord. Therefore, He is both David’s son and David’s Lord, but the text says, “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on ask him another question.” They never understood it.
But do you notice how centuries later, David’s God keeps the promises, and David’s commitment and the covenant that God made is being fulfilled. David’s going to be out of the picture but God is there. We die, but God remains.
So, David died believing in his God, believing that there was sunshine even after the rain. The book of Revelation says in chapter 22, verse 16: “Jesus said, ‘I am the root and the offspring of David.’”
Second, I believe that David died in peace because he was satisfied with his God. And that’s really the secret of David’s life. Bad decisions, sins, pride, immorality. All of that marked him in weakness in relationship to his family. In fact, if you have your Bible open to 1 Kings you’ll notice it says here in verse 6 of chapter 1 regarding Adonijah, “And his father had never crossed him at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?’ And he also was very handsome, and he was born after Absalom,” it says. But notice it says there in verse 6, “His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?’” This kid got away with everything. David!. David. David.
But David had this thing going on with God. He really did. Listen.
Oh God, thou art my God. I shall seek thee earnestly.
My soul thirsts for Thee. My flesh yearns for thee,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have beheld Thee in the sanctuary
To see thy power and thy glory
Because thy loving kindness is better than life.
My lips will praise thee.
So I will bless thee as long as I live.
I will lift up my hands in thy name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praise with joyful lips.
Why all that depth of knowledge about God? It almost seems as if everything that David knew about God, David experienced. And this didn’t just happen. This didn’t just happen, you know. What happened is that David went through terrible, terrible times. And just as you know that you cannot take a flower and get from it its scent if you want to make perfume, it must be crushed. It is crushed flowers that smell most beautifully. In the very same way, God crushed David so that we could have the psalms. God worked in David’s life through all of the ups and downs, through all of his sins and failures, and as a result of that, David could now die in peace.
There’s no great eulogy at his funeral that we know of. It’s interesting that Saul dies and David goes on in almost a full chapter talking about how wonderful Saul was, rotten king that he was. Jonathan dies and David gives a very long eulogy as well. But David dies and there’s not much to be said because everything seems to have kind of petered out. And so he dies and he goes to be with his fathers, the Bible said. David lived a life that did not end simply by having a meaningless trip in a limousine. He still died with his God.
Today we now tiptoe into David’s room because he’s ready to die, and we can talk to him because today at least David can speak. We say to him, “David, tell us. What’s life all about?” And he says to us,
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
We say, “David, you’re being a little unrealistic here. That’s really nice poetry but what do you do when King Saul hounds you for ten years throwing spears at you, chasing you like a partridge in the desert? What do you do then, David?’
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
We say, “Oh David, David, David, get realistic. Don’t live in denial, David. What do you do when you commit adultery, and then you commit murder to cover your sin? What do you do then, David?”
He restoreth my soul;
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
David, let’s get real? What do you say when Absalom, your favorite son dies? What do you say when Bathsheba...that son dies. And what do you say when Absalom violates your wives and your concubines in the sight of Israel, and humiliates you, David? What do you say then? And by the way what do you do when Amnon is killed by his brother?”
And David goes on to simply say,
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.
David, the kingdom is coming apart. People can’t wait for you to die because they want to get their fingers in your pie, so to speak. David, don’t you understand how bad things really are? Your wives are laughing behind your back. Your family is in disarray.
And David says,
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
My cup runneth over.
You say, “David, one more time. Just look. You’re going to be gone. People might forget about you. The mistakes are going to be...David, there are going to be preachers 3,000 years from now who are going to be standing up preaching on your sins. There are people who will know nothing about you except that you were an adulterer. That’s it, David.”
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.
Well, David, I think you should write that down. I really do. I think you should write it so that multitudes in Chicago and in Atlanta and in New York and around the world will get some hope. That people will know that, at the end of the day, David, when everything was said and done, when all of the reports were in, and the obituaries were written, and the analyses were made, at the end of the day, David, your life began just as it opened. The curtains slammed shut, and all that there was left was you and your God. That’s all. That’s all that was there.
And so I say to you today, and to me. Do we understand that God is the center of David’s life, and should be the center of ours as well? Do we understand that when all these things are said and done, and by the way when everything is said and done, usually much more is said than done, if you’ve ever noticed...Do we understand that at the end of all that, behind the clouds, there is sunshine? You don’t have to die with your kingdom intact as long as you believe that God’s kingdom is intact. And God just keeps going on and going on and blessing, and directing, and using despite human failure.
And so, as I mentioned a moment ago, it’s all over.
What shall we call David’s epitaph? What could we say about it? I think that there is nothing better than taking the words of God directly from Psalm 89 when He says, “David, my servant!” Those three words. “David, my servant.”
Now, I have to ask you. Can a shepherd boy from Bethlehem possibly expect any more than that?
Let us pray.
Our Father, we thank You for a life that has been lived. Thank You for David’s mistakes, not that we glory in his sins, but we rejoice in the lessons that we learn from him. Thank You for the psalms that he wrote. Thank You, Father, for the battles that he won. Thank You that today Jerusalem is known as the City of David. Thank You that Jesus was not embarrassed to call David His father. Thank You that He could say that Christ is the root and the offspring of David. Thank You, Father, that for all of our sins and failures, if we love You supremely and believe in You and keep pursuing You, that at the end of the day we die like David, with our God. Grant that we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.