A Wise Man Knows and Remembers the Character of His Enemies

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 1-4

Our scripture reading today brings us to the end of an era in Israel and the beginning of a new book in our “Read-Thru the Bible In A Year” plan.  The opening verse of 1 Kings sets the stage for a transition of leadership in Israel and the waning days of David: “Now king David was old and stricken in years” (1 Kings 1:1).

The mighty king whose youthful exploits were celebrated in song is old, frail, and lying on his deathbed.  David’s body was cold and he succumbed to the counsel of his attendants to accept a young woman to his bed to provide him warmth and comfort (although the scriptures make a point of noting he did not violate her purity and “knew her not” – 1 Kings 1:1-4).

Remembering the prophet Nathan’s warning that the consequences of David’s adultery with Bathsheba was the sword never departing from his house (2 Samuel 12:7-10), we find Adonijah, David’s son, usurping the king and aspiring to the throne before David died (1 Kings 1:5-10).  A weakness seen throughout David’s life has been his unwillingness to confront the sins of his household and such is the case once again with Adonijah when we read, “his father had not displeased him [Adonijah] at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so?” (1 Kings 1:6).  David’s failure to address his son’s usurpation gave others cause to follow Adonijah, setting the stage for a civil war not only in the king’s household, but also in the land.

On a personal note, I have learned by experience that rebels have an ability to sense the spirit of rebellion in others who, though not sharing the rebel’s impudence, nevertheless have a weakness in character that is easily led astray.   It is no surprise there were some in David’s inner circle who, knowing the king is old and frail, were ready to seize the opportunity to be confederate with Adonijah and commandeer the throne of Israel. Among the traitors that followed Adonijah was Joab (1 Kings 1:7), one of David’s “mighty men” who had disparaged the king’s will in the past and slain two of his generals (2 Samuel 3:27; 20:10).

Rebels also have a sense of those who are loyal to leadership and avoid their company.  Adonijah called several to join him and anoint him as his father’s successor to the throne; however, “Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not” (1 Kings 1:10).  Adonijah knew his actions were contrary to the will of the LORD announced by the prophet Nathan and he therefore did not invite the Nathan, the priest Benaiah or his brother Solomon to his feast and coronation.

Knowing Adonijah was setting in motion a plan to seize the throne from his father, Nathan wisely counseled Bathsheba to intercede with the king for her son Solomon and have him declared king (1 Kings 1:11-31).  David heeded the counsel of his wife and the prophet Nathan and directed that Solomon be anointed king and declared his successor (1:32-40).  When news reached Adonijah that Solomon was king, he and all who had followed him in the rebellion feared for their lives and fled (1:41-53).

We find evidence of another truth in 1 Kings 2: A man’s character tends to be constant. In other words, the strengths and weaknesses of a man’s character are predictable and shadow his life.  Consider the counsel David gives Solomon regarding his adversaries (2:1-9).

Accepting the certainty of his death, David prepared Solomon to reign in his stead, challenging his son to be “strong” and conduct himself according to God’s law, assuring him the LORD’s blessing will rest upon his lineage (2:1-4).

David cautioned Solomon, reminding him of the flaws and failures of certain men in positions of power and influence that had proved untrustworthy and wronged him as king (2:5-9).   Joab’s disloyalty concerned David who urged Solomon to “let not his hoar head (white hairs) go down to the grave in peace” (2:5-6).   There was also Shimei, the man who had cursed David when he fled from his son Absalom.  Shimei had begged for his life and was spared after Absalom’s rebellion, but David urged his son to execute Shimei and not risk him becoming a threat to the throne (2:8-9).

After David dies (2:10-11), Solomon moved to secure his kingdom and the first threat Solomon faced was his own brother Adonijah (2:12-25).  Adonijah, playing on the pity Bathsheba might have for his state, petitioned Solomon’s mother to intercede for him (2:13-18). Solomon discerned Adonijah’s plot and had the failed usurper put to death (2:19-25).

Following his father’s advise, Solomon dealt with each of his enemies.  Abiathar, the priest who had supported Adonijah’s illegitimate claim to the throne was warned his traitorous actions were worthy of death, but he would be spared (2:26-27).  Hearing Solomon was pursuing threats to his reign, Joab fled to the altar hoping to find grace, but was slain (2:28-35).  Solomon also remembered the curses of Shimei against his father and warned him the day he departed Jerusalem he would be slain. (2:36-38). Three years past and Shimei made the foolish decision to leave Jerusalem in haste and was slain (2:39-46).

My commentary on the balance of today’s devotional reading, 1 Kings 3-4, and the great spiritual lessons and truths found in those chapters will continue in another year, Lord willing.

I encourage you to reflect on the character of rebels, the threat they represent to you, your family and church.  Remember, apart from repentance and humility, the strengths and weaknesses of a man’s character tend to be consistent.   In other words, a liar is a liar; a thief is a thief; a traitor is a traitor; and an honest, faithful man is predictably just that…honest, faithful and trustworthy!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith