What Will You Do?

 

Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? Now therefore come, let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then is Adonijah king?’ Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.”

So Bathsheba went to the king in his chamber (now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was attending to the king). Bathsheba bowed and paid homage to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?” She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”

While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? For he has gone down this day and has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest. And behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not invited. Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?” – 1 Kings 1:11-27 ESV

David is old and bed-ridden. His days on this earth are numbered and, once again, one of his own sons is plotting to take his kingdom from him. When David should be enjoying his final days in peace and quiet, he is suddenly confronted with yet another looming disaster. Until he breathes his final breath, David is still the king of Israel and he must deal with the situation facing his kingdom and protect the right of his son, Solomon, to rule in his place. But the only problem is that David knows nothing about what is going on. He is oblivious to the danger facing the kingdom. He is safely ensconsed in his bed within his royal chamber, being cared for by Abishag the Shunammite. He is completely unaware of the actions of Adonijah, Abiathar and Joab. But Nathan the prophet is on top of all that is going on and sends Bathsheba, David’s wife and the mother of Solomon, to inform David of the gravity of the situation.

One of the problems seems to be that David had made no preparations for his succession. It would appear that Adonijah, as the oldest living son (his three older siblings had all died), assumed that he was the legitimate heir to the throne. He was simply taking advantage of David’s old age and speeding up the transition process. But God had clearly told David that Solomon would be his successor.

“But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will secure the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.” – 1 Chronicles 22:9-10 ESV

And yet, it seems that David had done nothing to ensure that the transition of power to Solomon would take place. Once again, his inaction had produced some very negative consequences, and could even result in the death of Solomon, should Adonijah’s coup succeed. So Nathan sent Bathsheba to David, encouraging her to prompt him to take action. And she did just that. She not only informed him of what was going on, but warned him that all the eyes of Israel were on him. He was being watched and the people were waiting to see what he would do. Despite his old age, David was going to have to take action. What he did next was going to secure the future of his kingdom and that of his son, or seal Solomon’s fate.

Nathan saw the gravity of the situation and told Bathsheba, “let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon” (1 Kings 1:12 ESV). He knew there was no time to waste. Something had to be done and David was the one who had to do it. But he would need prompting and support. So Bathsheba’s job was to bring David up to speed and to beg him to do something about the situation. Then Nathan was to come in and corroborate her story and provide much-needed counsel to David. He was also to act as a second witness to anything David decreed in their presence.

Bathsheba was blunt with David. This was not a time for pleasantries and politeness. She knew that her son’s life was in danger. She even reminded David, “If you do not act, my son Solomon and I will be treated as criminals as soon as my lord the king has died” (1 Kings 1:21 NLT). And she was not going to leave David’s side until he took action. So, she boldly challenged him, saying,  “And now, my lord the king, all Israel is waiting for you to announce who will become king after you” (1 Kings 1:20 NLT). There was no time to waste. Inaction was not an option. And just as planned, Nathan followed Bathsheba into the king’s presence, confirming her words and challenging David to do something about this dire situation. The entire nation was waiting on pins and needles, wondering what David would do. A line had been drawn in the sand. Sides had been chosen. Adonijah had put together his team and secured what he thought to be his future. The only one who is conspicuously absent from this whole affair is Solomon himself. He had not been invited to Adonijah’s feast with all their other brothers, for obvious reasons. But he was also not present when Bathsheba and Nathan met with David. His fate was in their hands. His future and that of his kingdom was completely in the hands of his father. He would have to trust that his father would do the right thing. Solomon was at the mercy of David. He does not appear anywhere in the passage. He doesn’t show up, begging David to keep his word and give him the kingdom God had promised him. Perhaps Solomon was not aware of the word that God had spoken to David. But we will see in the next section of this chapter, that Bathsheba knew, and it is doubtful that she kept this news from Solomon. He most likely knew that he was the God-appointed successor to the throne, but he was not demanding his rights or whining about his fate. He had to have known what Adonijah was up to and that all of his brothers were at the feast, enjoying Adonijah’s hospitality and shouting along with all the other guests, “Long live King Adonijah!” (1 Kings 1:25 ESV). But Solomon simply waited in the wings. Like all the rest of the people of Israel, his eyes were on David. What would he do? How would he respond?

So often, we can find ourselves in similar, if not quite as dire, circumstances. We can come to a place where a decision is required, an important, potentially life-altering decision. And others are watching us to see what we will do. Perhaps our family is waiting on us to act, wondering how we will respond. Maybe our co-workers are anxiously watching to see how we will handle a difficult situation in the workplace. There are always others watching us, depending upon us to do the right thing, to make the right decision, and to give them peace and confidence that we can be trusted. Even the world is watching us. The church of Jesus Christ is to be salt and light in the midst of all the decay and darkness surrounding it. As the secular world presses in and the enemy continues his assault on the will and the ways of God, the world is watching to see how the church will respond. Will we do nothing? Will we be marked by inaction and complacency? Are we confident enough in the Word of God that we will confidently take our stand against all the forces lined up against us? What David did next was a matter of life and death. The future of his kingdom and that of his son were at stake. All eyes were on him. What would he do? But what about us? The world is watching and waiting to see what we will do?

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Advertisements

End-Of-Life Regrets.

 

Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.

Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. He conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him. But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not with Adonijah.

Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fattened cattle by the Serpent’s Stone, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother. – 1 Kings 1:1-10 ESV

In the Hebrew Bible, the books of 1 and 2 Kings were one book and were considered by the ancients to be a continuation of the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew text, compiled sometime around 250 B.C., the single book of the Kingdoms, as it was known, was divided into two books and called 3 Kingdoms and 4 Kingdoms. They considered our 1 and 2 Samuel to be 1 and 2 Kingdoms. Hundreds of years later, with Jerome’s Vulgate (Latin) translation of the Hebrews text, the books were changed to 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. But in spite of all the name changes, the common belief remained the same: The books of 1 and 2 Kings were closely clinked to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, continuing the narrative that began with King Saul and ended with King David.

With the opening of 1 Kings, we fast-forward and find David advanced in years. He is in poor health and requires round-the-clock nursing care. Long gone are the days of battle. David would no longer accompany his mighty men as they faced the enemies of Israel. Like every other human being, David was facing the inevitable reality of old age and death. This once-great leader was now weak and coming to the end of his long and very fruitful life.

The author provides us with an interesting piece of information that, at first glance, seems superfluous and unnecessary.

…no matter how many blankets covered him, he could not keep warm. So his advisers told him, “Let us find a young virgin to wait on you and look after you, my lord. She will lie in your arms and keep you warm.” – 1 Kings 1:1-2 NLT

These seems like an odd treatment for David’s condition, but it was actually quite common in those days. To keep an elderly person warm, they would place a healthy person in bed with them. The body heat of the younger person, trapped under the blankets, would provide the warmth the elderly person’s body could no longer produce. So, we should not automatically see this as something odd or as an indication that something sexual was going on. In fact, the text tells us that, while the girl was very beautiful, “the king had no sexual relations with her” (1 King 1:4 NLT). But it is hard not to make the connection between this period of David’s life and the earlier years when his sexual drive had gotten him into trouble. We know well the story of David and Bathsheba. But we should also remember that David had many wives. His love for women would cause him great trouble throughout his lifetime. But now, at the end of his life, David spends his days lying in bed with a young, beautiful woman, receiving no pleasure from her, other than the warmth of her body.

But it is not only David’s physical powers that have diminished. As king, his old age and incapacity are going to weaken his ability to rule. Everyone knows that his days are numbered, and there will be those who see this as an opportunity to seize the throne for themselves. One such individual was Adonijah the son of Haggith. Adonijah, whose name means “Yahweh is Lord”, was David’s fourth son, born to him by Haggith, one of David’s many wives. Adonijah was not in line to be the natural successor to the throne, but that did not stop him from coveting the position and the power that came with it. Taking a page out of the playbook of his older, deceased brother, Absalom, Adonijah “provided himself with chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him” (1 Kings 1:5 NLT). That is exactly what Absalom had done when he was preparing to take the kingship from David years earlier.

Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. – 2 Samuel 15:1 NLT

Adonijah decided the best way to become the next king was to act like one. And like his former older sibling, Adonijah was handsome. He had seen how far Absalom had gotten on his good looks and kingly image, so he saw no reason not to try. And the text provides us an important insight into Adonijah’s upbringing. “Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, ‘Why are you doing that?’” (1 Kings 1:6 NLT). Once again, we see David’s failure to discipline his children coming back to haunt him. David had been a great military ruler, but had neglected to lay down any laws at home. He was a reluctant disciplinarian who let his children get away with murder, both literally and figuratively. Adonijah had seen how David had dealt with Absalom’s murder of Amnon. David had done nothing. David had even allowed Absalom to return home from exile, refusing to discipline him in any way for what he had done. And David’s lack of discipline had led Absalom to rebel against him, forcing David to flee Jerusalem and give up his kingdom. David’s kingdom had been restored to him only when Joab had killed Absalom. So Adonijah, who had been raised in this atmosphere of unrestrained freedom and license, saw no reason not to take what he coveted. He was not used to being told no. He was accustomed to getting what he wanted. And he coveted the crown.

So, Adonijah began to gather together the group who would assist him in his coup. Among them would be Joab, David’s military commander, and Abiathar the priest. These two individuals probably saw this as an opportunity to secure their positions. Joab, who had disobeyed David and killed Absalom, knew he was not on David’s good side and would probably be demoted if Solomon became king. Abiathar had stood by and watched as David had given Zadok, another priest, increasing prominence in his administration. These two men, among others, cast their allegiance with Adonijah.

Adonijah held a banquet, inviting all his brothers, except Solomon, as well as all the royal officials of Judah. For obvious reasons, David’s mighty men were left off the invitation list. This banquet was designed to win over as many of David’s former allies as possible. Like Absalom, Adonijah was playing a carefully crafted public relations game, where he was gaining favor with all those who could help him gain the throne. And all of this should remind us of the warning given to David after his affair with Bathsheba.

The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. – 2 Samuel 12:7-10 NLT

Even in the closing days of David’s life, the prophecy would find itself being fulfilled. Yet another one of David’s sons would attempt to take the throne from him. Adonijah didn’t care that Solomon had been chosen by God to be the next king of Israel. He wanted the throne for himself. And all of David’s other sons, except for Solomon, would join Adonijah in his attempted coup. David, the man after God’s own heart, had raised a palace full of children who seemed to have no heart for God. Only Solomon would give evidence of having been raised in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and this was most likely due to his mother, Bathsheba, not his father. Like most men, who find themselves late in life, facing the prospect of their own death, David would long to leave a legacy of godly children. He would give his kingdom to know that his sons and daughters were godly and that his love for God would be carried on by his progeny. But David had already lost three sons due to sin and rebellion. Now he was facing the prospect of watching yet another son rebel against the expressed will of God and face the consequences. David would be remembered as a great king. But it isn’t hard to imagine that he would have preferred to have been remembered as a great father.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson