His Closing Days
1 Kings 1
The public life of David had been a stormy one throughout, nor was he permitted to end his career in tranquilityósuch is generally the lot of those in high station, who are ignorantly envied by so many. Even in his declining days, when the infirmities of old age were upon David, serious trouble broke our in his kingdom, so that both the public peace was jeopardized and his own family circle again threatened by the assassin. Another of his own sons now set himself not only against the will of his father, but also against the declared purpose of God; in which he was abetted by those who had long held positions of honor under the king. No doubt we should look deeper and see here a setting forth of the conflict which obtains in a higher realm: the enmity of the Serpent against the womanís Seed and his opposition to the will of God concerning His kingdom. But it is with that which refers more immediately to David we shall concern ourselves.
The record of what we have referred to above is found in 1 Kings 1. That chapter opens by presenting to us the once virile and active king now going the way of all the earth: his natural spirits dried up, no longer able to attend to public affairs. The events chronicled therein occurred very near the close of Davidís eventful career. Though not yet quite seventy he is described as "old and well stricken in years." Though blest with a vigorous constitution, the king was thoroughly worn out: among the contributing causes, we may mention the strenuous life he had lived and the heavy domestic griefs which had fallen upon him. That he was still dearly beloved by his followers is evident from their kindly if ill-advised efforts for his comfort (vv. 1-3). Davidís falling in with their plan shows him taking the line of least resistance, apparently out of deference to the wishes of his attendants. It was a device which has been resorted to in various climes and ages, yet surely it was one which did not become a child of God.
Old age as well as youth has its own particular snares, for if the danger of the latter is to disdain the advice of seniors and be too self-willed, the infirmities of the former place them more in the power of their juniors and they are apt to yield to arrangements which their consciences condemn. It is not easy to deny the wishes of those who are tending us, and it seems ungrateful to refuse well-meant efforts to make our closing days more comfortable. But while on the one hand the aged need to guard against irritability and a domineering spirit, yet on the other they must not be a willing party to that which they know is wrong. Legitimate means of restoring health and for prolonging our days should be employed, but unlawful measures and anything having the appearance of evil or which may become an occasion of temptation to us, should be steadfastly refused, no matter by whom it be proposed.
The Lordís displeasure against Davidís weakness in consenting to the carnal counsel of his friends, is plainly marked in the immediate sequel. Serious trouble now arose from yet another of his sons. It is true that this was the fruit of his earlier laxity in ruling his children, for he was much too easy-going with them: yet the time when this impious insubordination occurred leaves us in no doubt that it is to be regarded as a divine chastening of David for being a party to such a questionable procedure as that to which we have briefly alluded above. "Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him" (1 Kings 1:5). Nothing is more conspicuous throughout the whole history of David than that, whenever a believer sows to the flesh, he will most certainly of the flesh reap corruption; and another solemn example of this is here before us.
David was now stricken in years, and the time for one to succeed him to the throne had well-nigh arrived. Yet it was for Jehovah alone to say who that one should be. But Adonijah, the oldest living son, determined to be that successor. Nor is this to be wondered at, for "His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?" (v. 6). David had permitted him to have his own way. He never crossed his will, never inquired the motive of his actions, nor at any time rebuked him for his folly. In allowing his son to be guided by his own unbridled will, David sadly failed to exercise his parental authority and to fulfill his parental responsibility; and bitterly did he now pay for his folly, as many since have also been made to do.
That which immediately follows verse 6 is recorded for our learning, and a most solemn warning does it point for our own day, when so many fond parents are allowing their children to grow up with little or no restraint placed upon them. They are only preparing a rod for their own backs. God Himself has forbidden parents to refrain from chastening their children when they need it: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die" (Prov. 23:13). And again, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Prov. 13:24). And yet again, "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying" (Prov. 19:18). Because of his parental neglect David himself was in large measure responsible for the lawlessness of his son. Lax and indulgent parents must expect willful and wayward children, and if they despise the infirmities of their sires and are impatient to get possession of their estates, that will be all which they deserve at their hands.
Davidís unruly son now determined to exalt himself, even though he certainly knew that Solomon had been appointed by God to succeed David in the kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12-16; 1 Kings 2:15-18). "Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him" (v. 5). In this magnifying of his state, he followed the evil example of his rebellious brother Absalom (2 Sam. 15:1)óa solemn warning this for older brothers to set their younger ones a good example. Adonijah dared to usurp the throne of Israel: he made a feast, gathered the people about him, and incited them to proclaim him as king (vv. 7-9, 25). In this too he was again following the example of Absalom (2 Sam. 15:10), confident that where his brother had failed, he would now succeed. But like Absalom before him, Adonijah reckoned without God: "The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever" (Ps. 33:10, 11).
Nevertheless, for a time it looked as though the daring revolt of Adonijah would be successful, for both Joab the commander of the army and Abiathar the priest, threw in their lot with him (v. 7). Thus does God often allow the wicked to prosper for awhile, yet their triumphing is but short. Joab, as we have seen in other connections, was a thoroughly unprincipled and ungodly man, and no doubt the impious Adonijah was more congenial to his disposition than Solomon would be. Moreover if this son of Haggith obtained the kingdom, then his own position would be secure, and he would not be displaced by a successor to Amasa (2 Sam. 19:13). So too Abiathar the high priest seems to have been less regarded by David than Zadok was, and probably he feared that Solomon would set his family aside for the line of Eleazar to which Zadok belonged (1 Kings 1:25).
Characters like Joab and Abiathar are ever actuated by selfish motives, though individuals like Adonijah often flatter themselves that the service of such is rendered out of love or esteem for their persons, when in reality very different considerations move them. Disinterested loyalty is a rare thing, and where found it cannot be valued too highly. Those in eminent positions, whether in church or state, are surrounded by mercenary sycophants, who are ever eager to turn to their own advantage everything which transpires. It matters nothing to Joab and Abiathar that their royal master was a pious and faithful one, who had steadily sought the good of the kingdom, or that Adonijah was a grasping and lawless semi-heathen; they were ready to forsake the one and espouse the other. So it is still: that is why those in high places are afraid to trust the ones nearest to them in office.
"There are many devices in a manís heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand" (Prov. 19:21). No planning on manís part can thwart the purpose of the Most High. Saul had proved that; so too had Absalom; so now shall Adonijah. Yet the Lord is pleased to use human instruments in bringing His counsel to pass. He always has His man ready to intervene at the critical moment. In this instance it was Nathan the prophet: "Wherefore Nathan spake unto Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, saying, Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not?" (v. 11). Nathan had been faithful in rebuking David for his sin in former days (2 Sam. 11:7-12), he was faithful now in recalling to him the promise he had made concerning Solomon. He interviewed Bathsheba and persuaded her to go unto David and remind him of his oath (vv. 11-13), and arranged that while she was speaking to the king, he also would come into his presence and confirm her testimony (v. 14).
It is blessed, both from the divine and human side, to see how readily and how graciously Bathsheba responded to Nathanís suggestion. From the divine side, we may behold how that when God works He works at both ends of the line: if the prophet gave counsel under divine prompting, the queen was willing in the day of Godís power, as David also yielded theretoóeach acted under divine impulse, yet each acted quite Freely. From the human side, we may note that Bathsheba made no demur to Nathanís counsel but readily acquiesced. Though David was her husband she "bowed and did obeisance to the king" and addressed him as "my lord" (vv. 16, 17), thereby evidencing that she was a true daughter of Abraham. First she reminded him of his solemn oath that Solomon should reign after him (v. 17). Then she acquainted him with the revolt of Adonijah (v. 18). Next she assured the king that the Nation awaited an authoritative word from him about the accession; and ended by warning him that if he failed in his duty she and Solomon would be in grave danger of their lives
"And, lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet came in" (v. 22). It was something more than a politic move on Nathanís part to appear before the king at the psychological moment and second what Bathsheba had just said. It was an act of obedience to the Word of God, for the divine law required that matters of solemn moment must be confirmed by one or more witnesses. "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established" (Deut. 19:15). The same principle was insisted upon by Christ on more than one occasion, and therefore it is binding on us today. Much needless trouble had been avoided in the church (Matthew 18:16), many a false accusation had been exposed (John 8:13, 17), many a breach had been healed (2 Cor. 13:1), and many an innocent servant of God had been cleared (1 Tim. 5:19) if only this principle had been duly heeded.
According to his promise to Bathsheba Nathan entered the kingís presence and bore out what she had just told him. The prophet showed how urgent the situation was. First, he declared that the supporters of the revolter were so confident of success that they were even now saying "God save king Adonijah" (v. 25). Second, he pointed out the ominous fact that neither himself nor Zadok the priest, Benaiah or Solomon had been invited to the feast (v. 26), which made evident his lawless designs: neither the will of God nor the desire of his father were going to be consulted. Third, he endeavored to get the aged David to take definite action before it was too late. He asks the king point blank if this thing was being done with his approval (v. 27), to make him realize the better what blatant insolence Adonijah and his party were guilty of in thus acting without authority from the crown. Thus did he make clear to David his public duty.
It was now that the real character of David asserted itself. Weak he was in the ruling of his own household, but ever firm and fearless where the interests of Godís kingdom were concerned. Nothing could induce him to resist the revealed will of the Lord for Israel. First, he now acknowledged again the faithfulness of God unto himself: "And the king sware, and said, As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress" (v. 29). The Lord is the Deliverer of all who put their trust in Him, and repeatedly had He delivered David out of the hands of his enemies. Second, Godís faithfulness to David now inspired him to be faithful to his covenant promise concerning Solomon: "Even as I sware unto thee by the Lord God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day" (v. 30). Most blessed is this: whatever danger his own person might be threatened with, he hesitated not.
In what immediately follows we are informed of the decisive measures taken by David to overthrow the plot of Adonijah. "Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came before the king. The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon: and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet and say, God save king Solomon. Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead: and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah" (vv. 32-35). Orders were given for the proclaiming of Solomon: he was to be set upon the royal mule, formally anointed, and duly proclaimed king. This important transaction was entrusted to men of God who had proved themselves in His service. Solomon would thus have the necessary authority for conducting state affairs until Davidís decease, after which there would be no uncertainty in the public mind as to his rightful successor.
"And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the Lord God of my lord the king say so too. As the Lord hath been with my lord the king, even so be He with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David" (vv. 36, 37). The measures proposed by the king met with the hearty approval of his advisers. Speaking in the name of the others, Benaiah expressed their complete satisfaction in the royal nomination: his "Amen" shows the original meaning and emphasis of this termóit was faithís affirmation, assured that God would make good His promise. Benaiahís language was that of fervent piety, for he realized that the plans of his master, no matter how wise and good, could not be carried to a successful conclusion without the blessing of divine providenceóalas that this is so largely lost sight of today. He added the earnest prayer that God would bless Solomonís reign even more than He had his fatherís.
The orders which David had given were promptly executed. Solomon was brought in state to the place appointed and was duly anointed. This gave great joy and satisfaction to the people. "And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them" (v. 40): thereby they evidenced their cheerful acceptance of him as Davidís successor. In like manner, all who belong to the true Israel of God gladly own the Lordship of His Son. The sequel was indeed striking. No sooner was Solomon acclaimed by the loyal subjects of David, than news thereof was borne to Adonijah and his fellow conspirators (vv. 41, 42). Instead of ending in joy, the feast of the rebel terminated in consternation: "And all the guests that were with Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way. And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar" (vv. 49, 50). Thus did the Lord graciously show Himself strong on Davidís behalf to the end of his course.
In closing we would call attention to a most blessed typical picture, in which both David and Solomon are needed to give it completenessócompare the joint-types supplied by Joseph and Benjamin, Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha. First, David had been successful as "a man of war" (1 Chron. 28:3), for by him the Lord so overcame the enemies of Israel as to "put them under the soles of his feet" (1 Kings 5:3): in like manner the Lord Jesus by His death and resurrection was victorious over all His foes (Col. 2:14,15). Second, Solomon had been chosen and ordained to the throne before he was born (1 Chron. 22:9): so too Christ was the Elect of God "from all eternity" (Isa. 42:1). Third, Solomon rode on a mule, not as a warrior, but in lowly guise: so did Christ (Matthew 21:1-9). Fourth, he was anointed with the sacred oilótype of the Spirit: so Christ received the Spirit in His fulness at His ascension (Acts 2:23; Rev. 3:1). Finally, rest and quietness was granted unto Israel throughout Solomonís reign (1 Chron. 22:19): so Christ is now reigning as "the Prince of peace" over His people.