One of the things I love to do is teach on the lives of the people that we read about in the scriptures. From the very beginning of learning how to teach, I loved examining the lives of the people that God saw fit to have recorded for us in his word. I believe God’s story of redemption concludes with the book of Samuel because David is pictured as the one who has come to rescue Israel by making intercession for the people at a cost to himself (2 Samuel 24). Now God is going to continue to tell his redemption story but not like what we have been seeing as we have moved through God’s theological narrative from Exodus to Samuel. The book of Samuel is the end of David’s story. Even though we will read about David in 1 Kings, David is not the focus of this new account.
The picture of 1 & 2 Kings is the rise and fall of God’s kingdom as seen through the rise and fall of his kings. By the way, like Samuel, Kings was originally one book that was separated into two when the Greek translation (the Septuagint) was done. The book of Kings is not the continuation of the story that was presented in the book of Samuel. Both the books of Kings and Chronicles were written after Israel’s exile. The book of Chronicles and the book of Kings have two different purposes. The book of Chronicles shows Israel how to restore worship and return as God’s people. The book of Kings, however, will show why Israel is exile. The book of Kings is going to ask and answer a different question. How can there be hope when there is so much human failure? What is God going to do when his kings fail to carrying out their role of returning the hearts of the people back to God? God is going to reveal to us people that show the rise and fall of his kingdom and what he is going to do about it to save his people and establish his kingdom. Therefore, 1 Kings 1 sets forward an important theme for the book: walk worthy of the grace you have received. The person we are going to see this truth declared through is Solomon.
A Powerless King (1:1-4)
Our book opens with a shocking picture of David. The book of Samuel has presented David as a vibrant, energetic king with his fighting men whose kingdom has been firmly established. But the book of Kings has a different perspective of David. David is pictured as frail and weak. David’s condition is so bad that he cannot keep himself warm, even when blankets covering him. What a decline that this book wants you see regarding David! An interesting solution is presented in verses 2-4. The servants of David decide to search for a young virgin to attend to the king and be his caregiver. She will lay by him to keep him warm. So they find a beautiful young woman named Abishag who took care of the king but they did not have sexual relations.
This is quite a picture of David that the author of the book wants us to take in. Now we should think about this for a moment so that we can grasp the intended meaning. If the concern is simply for David to have body heat, why not volunteer one of David’s many wives to fill the role? If the concern is simply for David to have body heat, why does the woman have to be a beautiful, young woman? No, they bring in a young, beautiful woman but they did not have relations. This is not a statement about moral restraint but about inability. David is weak and powerless. David’s problems began with a beautiful woman in his bed, Bathsheba. Now David’s ending is going to be the same, with a beautiful woman in his bed. David represents weakness and frailty, the implied effect of his sin. His sin has destroyed him and there is no power left in him to even keep himself warm.
Filling the Power Void (1:5-10)
With David presented as weak and powerless, Adonijah puts himself forward as the next king. He is the next in line with the death of the older sons (cf. 2 Samuel 3). So Adonijah exalts himself and goes about rallying people for his kingship. In fact, the description in verse 5 is the same description for what Absalom did in 2 Samuel 5:12. The parallel description tells us that Adonijah is attempting to steal the throne. But before going forward with this problem, please notice verse 6. God wants to make an important point to us here.
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. (1 Kings 1:6 ESV)
First, notice the further connections the author makes between Adonijah and Absalom. Both were very handsome men and Adonijah was born after Absalom. Second, David never did anything to displease his son. He never wanted to make him unhappy or discipline him. David is painted like he is Eli from 1 Samuel 2 who did not restrain his sons which led to disaster (1 Samuel 2:34; 4:11,18). David has failed in raising his son and this is an important warning for us as parents. The goal of parenting is not keep your kids from getting upset. Our culture tells us to do this: just keep them happy. Let them have what they want and do what they want. But God is using David as an example to teach us that this is the worst thing we could do. Your goal as a parent is not to keep your kids happy and be their friend. Your goal as a parent is to raise your children to love God and not be self-indulgent, selfish people. So Adonijah garners support from Joab and Abiathar as the new king. But Zadok and Nathan did not join in this declaration. Adonijah invites everyone who will support his kingship to a feast to proclaim his place as king.
The Rise of Solomon and Fall of Adonijah (1:11-53)
Nathan takes this information to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother (1:11). Nathan tells her that they must urgently do something to save their own lives. Nathan expects Adonijah to act like other kings, wiping out all rivals to the throne. So he tells Bathsheba to go ask David why Adonijah has become king when David swore that Solomon would be king (1:13)? Then Nathan will come in at the same time and make the same point. Bathesheba does this, noting that all Israel wants to know who will sit on the throne after David. Nathan comes in and confirms that Adonijah has declared himself to be king.
So David makes an oath that Solomon will be king after him and sit on his throne in his place (1:30). He has Zadok the priest anointed Solomon as king over Israel, blowing a trumpet and shouting, “Long live King Solomon!” All the people then follow after Solomon with such fanfare and rejoicing that the ground was shaking (1:40).
Adonijah had his party not far from Jerusalem so he and his guests hear the noise as they were finishing the feast. The news is told to Adonijah that David made Solomon the king and there is no disputing it (1:44-48). Nothing ruins a party than being told that the reason for your party is completely false. Adonijah’s guests all get up trembling and go their separate ways. Adonijah fears for his life and goes to the altar to grab the horns of it. This was symbolic of begging for mercy from Exodus 21:12-14.
The key to our text is found in verses 51-52. Adonijah desires mercy. Solomon responds, “If he will show himself a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to earth. But if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” Solomon’s message is very simple: show your repentance. Adonijah needs to live differently because of the grace that Solomon is extending to him. Ultimately, Adonijah needs to submit to the kingship of Solomon.
The New Testament tells us the same message that Solomon proclaimed to Adonijah. Listen to what the apostle Paul told the Ephesian Christians.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV)
Notice that we are given the same command. We are to walk worthy of the calling to which we have been called. We are to show our repentance. We are to live a different life because of the grace that has been extended to us by the Son of David, Jesus. We can sometimes get a little stuck on this idea. No one is saying that we are worthy of the grace that we have been given. We can never be worthy of what has been done for, sacrificed for us, or given to us. But that is not what the apostle Paul is saying. We are called to live our life in a way that is compatible with the grace that has been extended to us. This is what it means to walk worthy of our calling. Be different because the new life you have been given. This is why the apostle Paul continues with pictures of what this new life will look like.
Walk with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. To use the words of Solomon, if wickedness is found in us, then we will die. If we will walk worthy of the grace given to us, then not one of our hairs will fall to the earth. The question is what will we do with our new lease on life. We are like Adonijah, usurping the kingship of Jesus by putting ourselves on the throne and exalting ourselves. But we can run to the horns of the altar for mercy.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14–16 ESV)
What will we do with the mercy given to us? What will we do now that the king has extended grace to us? Ultimately, we must submit to the kingship of the Son of David, Jesus.