THE EVERLASTING COVENANT
1 Samuel 23:1-5
There is a hush in the city of Jerusalem, a quiet stir in the king’s palace. The people are anxious and fearful. The king is on his bed. His brow is wet with a cold sweat. His pulse is weak. His palms are clammy. David the king, the great and good monarch of Israel, is dying. He has reigned as King for forty years. He has led Israel in battle after battle, from conquest to conquest. He has ruled the land in righteousness and justice in the fear of God.
For forty years David had led the chosen nation both in civil righteousness and in spiritual devotion. He was both God’s king and God’s prophet; but now he was dying. What would become of the kingdom of Israel when Israel’s king was gone? David had led them in the way of truth and righteousness. He had spoken to them, in the name of God, that which was the very Word of God. Would the nation ever hear from God again? David’s family and friends were gathered around his bed, anxious to hear his last words. The people were gathered in the palace halls and in the streets of the city, anxious for any word from their beloved King. “Now these be the last words of David.” These are the last words of David, the son of Jesse, the man after God’s own heart. What will he say?
First, he describes himself (v. 1). “David, the son of Jesse.” Jesse named his son well. David means “loving.” But when he spoke of himself, David had no reference to the meaning of his name. He thought only of his humble background. This man whom God made to be the King of Israel was nothing but a poor, plain, ordinary shepherd boy. “The man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob” (1 Sam. 16:1-12). God chose David to be king in the stead of Saul. God chose David instead of his brothers; and David never got over the wonder of God’s electing love (Ps. 65:4; 2 Sam. 6:21). “The sweet psalmist of Israel.” This man was not only God’s King and God’s prophet, he was an inspired hymn writer. His blessed, sweet psalms were the hymnbook of the Old Testament church. They are always the most worn pages in an old saint’s Bible, because they express in words the deepest, most constant struggles of our souls.
Second, in verses 2 and 3, David describes his God, the Lord our God, in the trinity, or tri-unity of his sacred persons (1 John 5:7): “The Spirit of the Lord” - The Holy Spirit, “The God of Israel” - God the Father, and “The Rock of Israel” - God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Third, David describes his Psalms and prophecies (v. 2). "The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." His compositions were not merely his, but God’s. They did not originate with him, but with God. He wrote only that which God the Holy Spirit dictated to him and directed his pen to write (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21). Without question, every word he wrote in the Sacred Volume was his, an exact expression of his thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Yet, every word he wrote was the Revelation of God to men, the very Word of God, as completely the Word of God as if no man had part in it.
Fourth, David describes his rule (vv. 3-4). "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain." These verses, are a declaration by David of his faithfulness as God’s servant. He is saying, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” What a way to leave this world!
Fifth, in verses 3 and 4, David also describes his great Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Prophetically, these words refer to and describe the Son of God, our Savior, great David’s greater Son.
Then, in verse 5, the sweet singer of Israel declares his dying hope and comfort. Here, the man after God’s own heart gives us the pillow of consolation upon which he laid his dying head. "Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow." As he laid on his dying bed, this saved sinner found comfort and hope in God’s everlasting covenant of grace. So, too, may all who trust the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator and Surety of the covenant.
As the man of God lay upon his death bed, looking within himself and looking around upon his family and friends, he remembers many, many things that caused him sorrow and pain. He sighed, “Although my house be not so with God.” He makes this concession, and it must be made by us all. So long as we live in this world, in this body of flesh, things are never altogether right with God’s saint. Nothing here is really as we wish it to be.
The words “my house” may be properly applied to four things. Perhaps David was saying “my kingdom,” my nation is not so with God. A king’s house is his kingdom. Certainly the nation of Israel was not as David desired it to be. Though David ruled in the fear of God, his people did not walk in the fear of God. Because she forgot God, the kingdom of Israel was a tottering kingdom and ready to fall. Godly men lament a godless nation.
By the words “my house,” David may have been referring, at least in a typical way, to the church of God. David’s house (the nation of Israel) was typical of the church. The Church of God in this world is ever a house in need of repair.
The words “my house” certainly refer to David’s physical family. His heart was heavy because many in his household were without grace, life, and faith. Few in his family knew and worshipped his God. His wife, Michael, despised his God. His son, Amnon raped his own sister (2 Sam. 13:19-29). Absolam murdered Amnon, publicly shamed his father, tried to kill him, sought to overthrow the kingdom of God, and died a rebel’s death in his revolt against God (2 Sam. 18:33). Only Abigail, Bathsheba, and Solomon appear to have known God.
Without question, when David says, “Although my house be not so with God,” he is talking about himself, his own life in this sinful estate, in this body of flesh. Though God did not remember his sins, David could not forget them. Even on his death bed, this saint of God speaks as one whose heart breaks with repentance. David knew and acknowledged his sin. Repentance is a lifelong business. David continued repenting until he left this world. I am sure, he had some specific things on his heart, as he was about to leave this world, which caused him enormous grief: his vengeance against Nabal (1 Sam. 25), his behavior before Achish (1 Sam. 21:13), the matter of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11 and 12), his mourning over Absalom (2 Sam. 19:1-8), and the numbering of Israel, for which 70,000 died (2 Sam. 24:1-14).
David found no comfort in himself. His “good works” gave him no reason for joy, but only grief and sorrow. His comfort was found in his God, his Savior, and the covenant of grace made and executed on his behalf. Let all who are wise learn the obvious lessons taught us by this lamentation and sigh from the heart of that man who was the man after God’s own heart. They are crystal clear.
1. Grace does not run in bloodlines, only corruption (John 1:12-13; Rom. 8:11-16).
2. The afflictions of God’s people, both personal and domestic, are the fruits of God’s covenant grace, not indications of his wrath or displeasure (Ps. 89:30-34). They are not for our destruction, but for our good (2 Cor. 4:17-5:1).
3. The sins of a faithful man’s family are not an indication of evil in him or a bar to his usefulness.
4. The sins of a believer do not destroy his hope, haunt him with fear in the hour of death, or rob him of his everlasting inheritance in Christ (Ps. 32:1-5; Rom. 4:8).
“Yet, he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” David knew something about covenant mercy, covenant promises and obligations, and covenant blessings. He had made a covenant with Jonathan. When the time came, he performed his oath to Jonathan upon Mephibosheth. When David looked on Mephibosheth, when he did something for Mephibosheth, he saw Jonathan. Here he says, that is what God has done for me. When God does something for us, he does it for Christ. When God looks on us, he sees Christ. When God hears us, he hears Christ. When God accepts us, he accepts Christ. This passage is talking about God’s everlasting covenant of grace and salvation, that covenant made on behalf of chosen sinners before the world began.
This is not the covenant of works that God made with Adam, which he broke and we broke in him (Rom. 5:12-18). This is not the covenant of circumcision which God made with Abraham, for that was for the Jews only and was forever abolished by God’s own word (Gal. 5:2, 4). This is not that legal, Sinai covenant that God made with Israel through his servant Moses. That legal covenant has been abolished by him (Heb. 8:6-7). The law of God was not abolished; but the covenant of the law was, the curse of the law was, the constraint of the law was, and the condemnation of the law was. It is written, “Ye are not under law, but under grace.” “We are dead to the law.” “Christ is the end of the law!”
The covenant of which David spoke, the covenant that comforted his heart and soul in the hour of death, is the covenant of grace, and peace, and life (Isa. 54:10; Mal. 2:5). This is a covenant of pure, free grace (Ps. 89:19-35; Jer. 31:31-34; 32:38-40). It is a covenant made with God’s elect in our covenant Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Heb. 7:22; Ps. 89:19). It is an everlasting covenant, without beginning and without end (Pro. 8:23-31). It is a well ordered covenant. Whatever the covenant required, it also provided (Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Tim. 1:9). It is a sure covenant. It’s mercies are “the sure mercies of David” (Isa. 55). That is to say, they are sure to all who are heirs of the covenant. Covenant mercies are sure to all God’s elect, all the redeemed, all the called, all who believe the gospel. And this is an immutable covenant (Ps. 89:30-37).
David says concerning God’s covenant, “This is all my salvation.” There is much more implied in those words than can be dealt with in this brief study; but I want to simply state some things that, when understood, will thrill your soul and fill your heart with wonder and praise to God for his amazing grace.
Christ our Surety, with whom the covenant was made for us, is “all our salvation.” “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (1 Cor. 1:30). There is a definite sense in which our salvation was complete when the covenant was made in eternity. The Scriptures state this plainly (Rom. 8:29-30; 2 Tim. 1:9). All God’s elect were from eternity blessed with all the blessings of grace and salvation in Christ the Lamb, our Surety, slain from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-6). All our salvation springs from, is determined by, and depends upon this glorious covenant (Jer. 32:38-40). This covenant, the covenant of grace, being fulfilled by Christ, is the believer’s title to heaven (Rev. 13:8).
Not long before he died, John Gill wrote a letter to his nephew, stating exactly what David did in 2 Samuel 23:5 on his death bed. Gill wrote, “I depend wholly and alone upon the free, sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love of God, the firm and everlasting covenant of grace, and my interest in the persons of the sacred Trinity, for my whole salvation; and not upon any righteousness of my own; nor anything in me, or done by me under the influences of the Holy Spirit; not upon any services of mine, which I have been assisted to perform for the good of the church do I depend, but upon my interest in the persons of the Trinity; the free grace of God, and the blessings of grace streaming to me through the blood and righteousness of Christ, as the ground of my hope. These are no new things to me, but what I have been long acquainted with; what I can live and die by. I apprehend that I shall not be long here, but this you may tell to any of my friends.” Then, just before he died, Gill said, to one of his friends standing by his bed, “I have nothing to make me uneasy,” and quoted one verse of a hymn, written by Isaac Watts, in honor of that Redeemer whom he loved, trusted, and served…
“He raised me from the depths of sin, - The gates of gaping hell,
And fixed my standing more secure Than ‘twas before I fell.”
He said, concerning this covenant, “This is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” Look at his last words first. -- “Although he make it not to grow,” means, “although I do not yet see the covenant fulfilled and manifest in me, I am fully confident that God will fulfill his word of grace.”
“This covenant,” David says, “is all my desire.” Matthew Henry wrote, “Let me have an interest in this covenant and the promises of it, and I have enough. I desire no more.” John Gill said, “It is the desire of every (believer), who knows anything of the covenant of grace and the scheme of salvation by it, to be saved this way, by and through the covenant of grace, and not of works.” All who believe on the Son of God are heirs to this everlasting covenant of grace of which David spoke with joy on his dying bed. Read Ephesians 1:3-14 one more time, and rejoice and give thanks to God for that covenant grace which is ours in Christ, by which we are saved.
All who are heirs of this covenant are elected by God’s sovereign grace, loved of God with an everlasting love, adopted as his sons, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, forgiven of all sin, accepted in the Beloved, justified from all things, sanctified, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, sealed by his Spirit, and forever one with Christ himself! The gospel of God’s everlasting, covenant grace proclaims a Savior in whom is everything you need forever.
“My God, the cov’nant of Thy love, Abides forever sure;
And in its matchless grace I feel, My happiness secure.
What, though my house be not with Thee As nature could desire!
To nobler joys than nature gives Thy servants all aspire.
Since Thou, the everlasting God, My Father art become;
Jesus my Guardian and my Friend, And heaven my final home,
I welcome all Thy sov’reign will, For all that will is love;
And when I know not what Thou dost, I’ll wait the light above.
Thy covenant the last accent claims Of this poor, faltering tongue
And that shall the first notes employ, Of my celestial song.”