3. The WARNINGS and COMFORTS of the Covenant of Grace: We learn what this all means for us
As we seek to wrap up our time, what are some things we can take away from this lesson? What are some final points of application that we can draw out from our lesson on God's covenant with David?
A) There are WARNINGS: David says in 2 Samuel 23:5: “[God] has made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered in all things, and secured; for all my salvation and all my desire, will He not indeed make it grow?” We've already spoken about this verse. But David goes on to say this in verses 6-7: “But the worthless, every one of them, will be thrust away like thorns, because they cannot be taken in hand; but the man who touches them must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they will be completely burned with fire in their place.” What's he talking about? He's reminding us that the covenant God made with him doesn't automatically just extend to everybody. Those who have trusted in Christ will live under God's favor and blessing all the days of their life. But there are others who will be “thrust away like thorns,” and “completely burned with fire in their place.” Who is David talking about? Well, the phrase that's translated as “the worthless” is literally “sons of Belial” in the original Hebrew. And in the Old Testament, this phrase, “sons of Belial” wasn't just a term for the unbelieving in general. Every other time the phrase “sons of Belial” or “children of Belial” is used in the Old Testament, it's talking about Hebrews who outwardly belonged to the covenant community, but they never truly knew the Lord. So, David's words are a warning for us. Jesus picks up the same language in John 15:1, where He says: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away”; and then again in verse 6: “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” Jesus is likewise talking about those belong to the church outwardly in the New Testament—but they never truly knew Him. There's a similar warning in Matthew 8:11-12. Jesus tells us: “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In other words, there are sons of the kingdom that never really become sons of the King. Jesus is saying: Don't let that happen to you. Don't rest until you're sure you have really trusted in Christ. As Psalm 2:8 bids us, “Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!”
B) There are COMFORTS: There is also a final word of comfort for us here in this passage. We've spent a lot of time in this lesson meditating on the eternal security we have in Christ. But here in this text, we're reminded that in Christ, we don't just have eternal security in this life; we have an eternal home waiting for us in glory. David is writing these last words as he lay on his death-bed. And here at the close of his life, he says in verses 3-4: “He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain.” For most, the death-bed is the setting of the sun.1 At best, death is the end of earthly treasures and kingdoms; and at worst it's the beginning of eternal miseries. For most, the death-bed is where the sun sets and darkness begins. But David isn't speaking about the setting of the sun as he prepares to die on his bed; he's speaking about its rising. He had a place prepared for him in glory, where he had already shipped all his treasures. And he had his Lord waiting for him there, whom he had known and loved and followed all the days of his life. So, David lay in his own palace; but he wasn't leaving home—no, he was finally going home. David knew that the grace God lavishes upon us in Jesus in this life is just the beginning. And he was about to experience the words he himself had penned in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
1 As Edmund Clowney observes: “Beer commercials on American television have pictured a group of friends sitting on the porch of a lodge after a day of fishing. The sun is setting, and they are sharing a couple of six-packs. 'It doesn't get any better than this,' says one of them. The commercial raises a disturbing question, even for a fisherman who might regard an evening beer as life's crowning pleasure. Life might not get any better, but it will certainly get worse. Life itself moves toward a sunset, if it doesn't crash sooner. What meaning does life have that is not canceled by death? Many a six-pack has been emptied in an effort to postpone that question, but the question will not go away.” (Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery, pp176-77).