2 Samuel 23:1-5
Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high…
The history does not inform us at what period of David's chequered life "the God of Israel — the Rock of Israel," spake thus to him. We may not be presumptuous, however, in fixing on what in our judgment would appear to have been the most likely time. Voices of highest inspiration, visions of loftiest things, come, as a rule, to men in early life. By an irresistible sense of the fitness of the figure, we speak of the youth as the "Morning of life," when all within and without is at its brightest and its best, and heaven and earth smile with the promise of the coming day. It would seem but natural, then, that we should place this vision of the ideal man — the ideal ruler — at least in some period of David's earlier life. There are two or three purposes which ideals and visions serve, and though they are the mere commonplaces of all serious thinking, I may be permitted briefly to state them.
I. IDEALS AND VISIONS ARE OUR ONLY POSSIBLE MEANS OF ENLARGEMENT AND ENRICHMENT. For the chances of true greatness everywhere never lie so much in what a man is as in what he sees, in perhaps rare moments, he may become. This is clear and obvious enough to all our minds; but in days when men are asking whether ideals do not stand in our way, it will bear enforcement. An ideal is the soul, the only soul, and the only soul in every conceivable direction of sustained effort and assured progress. Our Saviour knew this full well when He pitched the tune of our Christian lives in the highest key of all, and bade us "be perfect, as our Father who is in heaven is perfect." And the high ground which He took, all experience approves. A vision of our personal possibilities may be extravagant — it may even be misleading; but find a man who has ceased to see such visions, who has ceased to be allured by them, who has ceased to follow them, and you find a man who is growing from small to less, from mediocrity to insignificance.
II. WE SHOULD FEEL THINGS AS WELL AS KNOW THEM, There is no chance of continuous and successful effort, apart from a strict fidelity to what, in our best moments, "the God of Israel — the Rock of Israel," has said to us, or has set before us. Moral precepts will help us on a long way, but they cannot kindle an abiding endeavour. Abstract injunctions and commands will help us on a long way, but I doubt if they ever yet carried a single struggling soul within sight of a very high goal.
III. GOD SENDS US OUR IDEALS — our religious ideals — to break the binding arid blinding spell of religious custom. What stagnation, what paralysis sometimes comes over us! Then, happy is the man whom the memories of former days, of former visions, of former vows, disturb at such a time; who accepts, as from God, the reproachful looks of former ideals; who goes back in thought to the times of his youthful consecration, and who determines that henceforth Christ and not custom shall be his King. And when memory travels back to life as it shaped itself to our young imagination, and then reflect on the way and manner in which it has all turned out, it requires something like ah effort to talk about ideals. And yet consider —
1. Most of the deepest things m life we can only, learn from conscious, perhaps repeated failure. In a fine lecture on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the late Principal Shairp tins the following: "Through the wounds made in his own spirit, through the brokenness of a heart humbled and made contrite by the experience of his own sin, he entered into the faith which gave rest, the peace which settles where the intellect is meek." Now wounds and failures, and even sin, remembered ideals that seem sometimes only to reproach us, sometimes almost to mock us, these things have a good account to give of themselves, if they accomplish for us anything like that
2. Patiently, too, do we come to look upon our brother's failures. Sons of consolation indeed do we become when we learn to look through the open windows of our own. The Voice of voices to this generation exclaims, "Oh! my brother, my brother, why cannot I fold thee to my breast?" That brother cannot be folded to this breast in any very effective way till I have come to know much more what is inside than I could know when "the God of Israel — the Rock of Israel," first spake to me.
3. Lastly, there are many great sights in this world. There are many great and noble things done under the sun. Heroes and heroines are only scarce to those who, often enough for good reason, cannot see them.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said,