“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”
~ Acts 13:36
The verse before us is part of the message that Paul preached in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. He makes an almost incidental statement saying that David, “after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers.” Paul was demonstrating the fact that David’s prophecy in the Psalms was not of himself since he had died and seen corruption. His intention was to prove that Jesus was the Christ, as is seen in the very next verse.
He further preached Christ to them showing how that he fulfilled that prophecy by His resurrection. Verse 36 seems as merely supplementary evidence to support Paul’s argument, so we may pass by quickly. While it certainly serves that purpose, this verse is worthy of our attention for greater instruction. Charles Spurgeon preached a great sermon from this text where he expounded the idea that David “had served his own generation.” Many felt that Spurgeon preached his own funeral sermon in that message. I shall endeavor to bring some thoughts to light after this same manner.
We need only appeal “To the law and to the testimony” to learn that David was a great man. But what made him great? Our text furnishes some clues. This verse further confirms what Jesus taught His disciples that true greatness is only found in service. “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all” (Mark 10:44). Our text declares that David “served his own generation” and that “by the will of God.” Potential greatness is no greatness at all. Your gifts and abilities matter little if they are “kept laid up in a napkin.” David did not hide his light. He placed it on the lamp stand and gave light to all that were in the house. No one asked him, “Why stand ye here all the day idle?” He “served his own generation” and then “fell on sleep.”
A call to greatness is a call to service. One does not achieve greatness by pursuing it, but rather by serving “his own generation.” Few are willing to answer the door when that opportunity knocks. They would rather come into greatness “some other way.” Service leads to greatness and humility leads to service for “before honour is humility.” Many are far too proud to be of much service.
We notice that David served “his own generation.” In that sense he was like the woman that anointed the Lord for His burial. Christ said, “She hath wrought a good work on me . . . She hath done what she could.” David was not permitted to choose his time. He could only choose to rise above the mediocrity and instead of being a man of the times, be the man for the times.
You will notice in the book of Daniel that of all the Hebrews in captivity only a few “certain” ones refused to defile themselves with the King’s portion. Like those faithful Hebrews and like Esther, we must ponder whether we “art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” We have been placed in a generation of the Lord’s choosing. That generation beckons a servant. We cannot call on David, Solomon, Elijah, Daniel, The Baptist, Peter or Paul. “Who will go for us?” Pray the Lord that some Isaiah today will say, “Here am I; send me.”
We further observe that David’s time was fixed to his own generation and then he “fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers.” David was a great man but he could not go beyond that appointed time. There is “a time to be born, and a time to die.” The very greatest of men must finish their course and depart this life. History has supplied us with many great men. We look back and believe that “there were giants in the earth in those days,” great men “of whom the world was not worthy.” They are a great “cloud of witnesses” to whom we are greatly indebted.
The past saints served their own generations. They have all now finished their course and departed to great rejoicing in heaven. But, what about our time? What about our generation? We might almost feel as the Psalmist who cried, “Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men” (Psalm 12:1). But let us not sit down under Elijah’s Juniper tree just yet. Let us all be in double earnest and seek a double portion of our brethren’s spirit that we might serve our own generation. Let us trust in the Lord with all assuredness, knowing that God always has a man. He has not left “himself without witness.” Whatever time we have, may it all be for the glory of God. Amen.