“Now these are the last words of David” (2 Samuel 23:1a).
People want their last words to be memorable. Those who are nearing the end of their lives hope to leave their friends and family with some last bit of wisdom. Perhaps they hope these words will adequately depict their lives in a few simple sentences. But though often last words do nothing of the sort, King David made sure that the last poem he penned accurately reflected who he was.
The introduction to the oracle portrays David as a humble man. He doesn’t call attention to his kingship or his might in battle; instead, he calls himself “the son of Jesse, […] the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1). He does also name himself “the man who was raised on high” and “the anointed one of God” (v.1), but the intriguing thing about these titles is that the glory in both cases goes to God. David was king only because God had chosen him, and the wonder of that never left him. This humility is partially what made him such an excellent king.
David next relates the secret of his success as a ruler. It wasn’t because of his bold personality or his skill in battle; rather, it was all because he strove constantly to honor God and walk in His precepts. He writes that God’s blessings fall “‘[w]hen one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God’” (v. 2b). Such a ruler becomes like the sun that nourishes, like the rain that refreshes. David knew this firsthand, because his own house was like this. He saw how God had caused him to prosper despite all the turmoil that had nearly wrecked his family, and he attributed this to God’s “everlasting covenant” with him (v.5). David walked in humble obedience to God because he never ceased to be amazed that God had chosen his family to be His anointed rulers. Wicked men who chased after their own desires would not experience these blessings, but would instead be destroyed. God’s blessings are reserved for those who walk in the fear of Him.
These were the words that David chose to conclude his lifetime of writing psalms. He had seen God deliver him from multiple enemies, sparing his life on numerous occasions. But the thing he chose to focus on in this last psalm was God’s never-ending covenant with him and his family. At the end of his life, he continued to be overwhelmed with the goodness of God. He saw his house prosper and knew it was only because of God. He could have chosen to focus on his own accomplishments, but he chose instead to glorify his Lord with his final words. Even near death, he demonstrated absolute devotion to God.