For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption:
I. First, then, WHAT IS IT TO SERVE OUR OWN GENERATION? This is a question which ought to interest us all very deeply. Though our citizenship is in heaven, yet, as we live on earth, we should seek to serve our generation while we pass as pilgrims to the better country. What, then, is it for a man to serve his own generation?
1. I note, first, that it is not to be a slave to it. It is not to drop into the habits, customs, and ideas of the generation in which we live. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not only for one generation, it is for all generations. It is the faith which needed to be only "once for all delivered to the saints"; it was given stereotyped as it always is to be. That man serves his generation best who is not caught by every new current of opinion, but stands firmly by the truth of God, which is a solid, immovable rock. But to serve our own generation in the sense of being a slave to it, its vassal, and its varlet — let those who care to do so go into such bondage and slavery if they will. Do you know what such a course involves? If any young man here shall begin to preach the doctrine and the thought of the age, within the next ten years, perhaps within the next ten months, he will have to eat his own words, and begin his work all over again.
2. In the next place, in seeking to answer the question, What is it to serve our own generation? I would say, it is not to fly from it. If he shall shut himself up, like a hermit, in his cave, and leave the world to go to ruin as it may, he will not be like David, for he served his own generation before he fell asleep. If you do not take your stand in this way, it can never truly be said of you that you served your generation. Instead of that, the truth will be that you allowed your generation to make a coward of you, or to muzzle you like a dog.
3. If we ask again, What is it to serve our generation? I answer, it is to perform the common duties of life, as David did. David was the son of a farmer, a sheep-owner, and he took first of all to the keeping of the sheep. Many young men do not like to do the common work of their own father's business. The girl who dreams about the foreign missionary field, but cannot darn her brother's stockings, will not be of service either at home or abroad. But serving our generation means more than this.
4. It is to be ready for the occasion when it comes. In the midst of the routine of daily life, we should, by diligence in duty, prepare for whatever may be our future opportunity, waiting patiently until it comes. Look at David's occasion of becoming famous He never sought it. If you are to serve God, wait till He calls you to His work: He knows where to find you when He wants you; you need not advertise yourself to His omniscience. If you want to serve the Church and serve the age, be wide awake when the occasion comes. Jump into the saddle when the horse is at your door; and God will bless you if you are on the lookout for opportunities of serving him. What is it, again, to serve our generation?
5. It is to maintain true religion. This David did. He had grave faults in his later life, which we will not extenuate; but he never swerved from his allegiance to Jehovah the true God. No word. or action of his ever sanctioned anything like idolatry, or turning aside from the worship of Jehovah, the God of Israel.
6. To serve our own generation is not a single action, done at once, and over forever; it is to continue to serve all our life. Notice well that David served "his own generation"; not only a part of it, but the whole of it. He began to serve God, and he kept on serving God. How many young men have I seen who were going to do wonders! Ah, me! they were as proud of the intention as though they had already done the deed. Some, too, begin well, and they serve their God earnestly for a time, but on a sudden their service stops. One cannot quite tell how it happens, but we never hear of them afterwards. Men, as far as I know them, are wonderfully like horses. You get a horse, and you think, "This is a first-rate animal," and so it is. It goes well for a while, but on a sudden it drops lame, and you have to get another. So it is with church members. I notice that every now and then they get a singular lameness. Yet more is included in this faithful serving of our generation.
7. It is to prepare for those who are to come after us. David served his generation to the very end by providing for the next generation. He was not permitted to build the temple; but he stored up a great mass of gold and silver to enable his son Solomon to carry out his noble design, and build a house for God. This is real service; to begin to serve God in early youth; to keep on till old age shall come; and even then to say, "I cannot expect to serve the Lord much longer, but I will prepare the way as far as I can for those who will come after me."
II. In the second place, let us ask a question even more practical than the first: WHAT PARTS OF OUR GENERATION CAN WE SERVE? It is truly written, "None of us liveth to himself": we either help or hinder those amongst whom we dwell. Let us see to it that we serve our age, and become stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks to those by whom we are surrounded. We shall serve our generation best by being definite in our aim. In trying to reach everybody we may help nobody. I divide the generation in which we live into three parts.
1. First, there is the part that is setting. Some are like the sun going down in the west; they will be gone soon. Serve them. You that are in health and vigour, comfort them, strengthen them, and help them all you can. Be a joy to that dear old man, who has been spared to you even beyond the allotted threescore years and ten, and praise God for the grace that has upheld him through his long pilgrimage.
2. The second portion of our generation which we can serve is the part that is shining. I mean those in middle life, who are like the sun at its zenith. Help them all you can.
3. Specially, however, I want to speak to you about serving your own generation in the part that is rising; the young people who are like the sun in the east, as yet scarcely above the horizon. In them lies our hope for the future of God's cause on earth. In the first place, they are the most reachable. Happily, we can get at the children. Moreover, the children are the most impressible. What can we do with the man who is hardened in sin? The salvation of the children ought to be sought with double diligence, for they will last the longest. Remember, too, that those who are converted when children usually make the best saints. We ought to look after the children, again, for they are specially named by Christ. He said, "Feed My sheep"; but He also said "Feed My lambs." Look after the children of this generation, again, for the dangers around them at the present time are almost innumerable.
III. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO US WHEN OUR SERVICE IS DONE? "David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep." The day's work is done; the worker is weary; he falls on sleep: what can he do better? It was all "by the will of God." To what part of the sentence do you think that clause belongs? Did David serve his generation by the will of God; or did he fall asleep by the will of God? Both. Guided by the will of God, he did his work on earth; and calmly resigned to the will of God he prepared to die. Even when passing away, he served his generation by giving Solomon some last charges concerning the kingdom, saying, "I go the way of all the earth; be thou strong and show thyself a man." Over both his life and his death may be written the words, "By the will of God." David is an example of what will befall those who know Christ, at the end of their service.
1. He did not go to sleep till his work was done. "David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep." Do not want to die till you have done your work.
2. But, next, we are told that when his work was done, he fell on sleep. Did his soul sleep? By no means. It is not his soul that is spoken of here, for we read that he "saw corruption." Souls do not see corruption. Paul is speaking of David's body. "He fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption." His body fell into its last, long sleep, and saw corruption. If you like to take the words in the wider sense, he was asleep as far as the world was concerned; he had done with it. No sorrow came to him, no earthly joy, no mingling with the strife of tongues, no girding on his harness for the war.
3. Does not this word further mean that his dying was like going to sleep? It usually is so with God's people. Some die with a considerable measure of pain; but, as a rule, when believers pass away, they just shut their eyes on earth, and open them in heaven.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: