When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.
“I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’
“Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.
“But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.
“And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”
Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.
David and Solomon were two of the most renowned kings in Israel’s History. Yet in these verses in chapter two, we see a father and son having an intimate conversation on David’s death bed. David the king who was faithful, yet also warlike, kind, obedient to God and served God’s people speaks to his son Solomon. A father stressing the need to his son to make God the centre of his life, to act with wisdom and be loyal to God’s people.
I wonder what Solomon was thinking as David drew his last breath?
We shall never know. I know my experience, however, when I sat with my mother as she was nearing the end of her life. Words that I had said in haste years earlier came back to rest in my mind, and tender words spoken in joy and love rested in my heart.
My mother, like David also wanted to share with me some final words of advice before she could speak no longer; words of encouragement, affirmation and love. Like Solomon, I felt this was a privilege, but some people do not have that opportunity to utter words to their loved ones in the final moments before death. Those who die in road traffic accidents, terrorist attacks, conflicts, knife crime, strokes, brain haemorrhage and sudden death to name a few.
David knew his son’s faults yet focussed on his traits of wisdom and loyalty, and it wasn’t till he lay dying that he realised he needed to encourage him in his role as King, Protector and Sage.
Let us not wait till we are progressing through the veil of earth to the realm of Heaven, but let us always find the opportunity to encourage and affirm those we love, for we never know when our own mortality ceases.
Lord, may I daily utter words of encouragement may I daily affirm your people then when the time of final resting is near may I return to the source of Love Amen.
The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is Minister at Fleet URC and Beacon Hill URC, Hindhead, Wessex Synod.