The Most Merciful King

Nathan George, Speaker

1 Kings 1:28-53 | September 3 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
September 3
The Most Merciful King | 1 Kings 1:28-53
Nathan George, Speaker

As you know, we are in 1 Kings. Tom started us off last week, a new series on the life of Solomon. Let’s read together, picking up at verse 28.

1 Kings, chapter 1, starting at verse 28.

“Then King David answered, “Call Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king. And the king swore, saying, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.” Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!””

“King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, say so. As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.””

“So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and brought him to Gihon. There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.”

“Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “What does this uproar in the city mean?” While he was still speaking, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came. And Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and bring good news.” Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king, and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites. And they had him ride on the king’s mule. And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon, and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you have heard. Solomon sits on the royal throne. Moreover, the king’s servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ And the king bowed himself on the bed. And the king also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has granted someone to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it.’””

“Then all the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose, and each went his own way. And Adonijah feared Solomon. So he arose and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. Then it was told Solomon, “Behold, Adonijah fears King Solomon, for behold, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” And Solomon said, “If he will show himself a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the earth, but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and paid homage to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.””

There are perhaps several ways to approach a narrative such as this, a story. We could spend time retelling the story, that’s always fun. With could draw out practical lessons on perhaps leadership. We could ask how this story maps onto our own hearts and our own lives. We could also use this passage as a springboard, perhaps other passages were coming to mind as we read. Each of those approaches would teach us and frankly I’m going to dip into all of them.

One of the pitfalls I find personally with narratives is that we can skip right to the spiritual lessons and make the passage all about us. Of course, there’s a lot for us to learn. We’ll spend the bulk of our time there. But first the immediate purpose is very clear and very straightforward. When the book was written and recounted, the people of Israel would likely have understood this story to be a story that tells us how Solomon was established as king.

Also they would be reminded of the promise that David would have a seed on the throne. It fits into that bigger story. Also, as I read, perhaps you noticed that the passage, though it has some excitement and some trumpet blowings and all this sort of thing, it’s actually fairly mundane. There’s nothing particularly amazing going on here. It serves, I think, as a clear example of how God ordains history through everyday events without bolts of lightning or miraculous interventions. Adonijah is not struck with leprosy like Elijah’s servant, he’s not struck dead and eaten by worms like Herod. Where’s the good movie stuff? If Nathan the prophet was given a word from the Lord, with don’t know of it. We read about that earlier in the chapter.

But instead we see just several different characters, either responding or taking responsibility. God often chooses to work through ordinary means, ordinary relationships, ordinary structures of leadership. I think this passage has a lot to say for us.

So with that, would you join me in prayer once again and then we’ll dive in.

Father, we do ask that You would open Your Word to us, that You would help us see how this story fits in the bigger story, but also be able to apply the lessons we might learn to our lives in very practical and tangible ways. This I pray in the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Well, the markers of the storyline are as follows. Pretty straightforward. David remembers his promise and then he follows through. Then Zadok, Nathan, and company are faithful and joyful in carrying out their calling, their roles. Then three, Adonijah realizes he’s messed up and pleads for mercy. Then finally Solomon lays out some stipulations and extends mercy. It’s the story of the coronation and that’s how it goes down.

Those four markers will provide our outline but I’m going to do this question form, so number one: Are you true to Your Word?

Number two: Are you faithful and joyful in your role, your calling?

Number three: Do you put yourself forward? We may have some things to learn from Adonijah. And will you plead mercy if you realize that you have. That’s number three.

Number four: Do you extend mercy with clarity? As Solomon did.

So we’ll examine our hearts in the light of the examples we see, and then we’re going to close with how this story fits into the bigger story.

So let’s just jump right in. First, are you true to your word? We learn in the preceding verses that David had to be reminded of his promise. The prophet Nathan had acted shrewdly, wisely, and now we learn that his advice was quite effective, and what he’s cooked up seems to have worked. So very quickly we could draw a couple lessons from this observation. One, David had to be reminded, and two, he did ultimately follow through.

I know that this particular promise that David made, it looks like he swore before the Lord, we didn’t see that but here we have that. That would be fulfilled at the end of his life, so you maybe could argue that it wasn’t delayed, but he didn’t seem to be thinking about it as his body was getting weaker and weaker, and he needed to be reminded. I wonder, do we have to be reminded, cajoled into fulfilling our word?

It appears that David needed some provocation. He remembered that he made a vow before the Lord.

Documentary 23:21 says if you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay in fulfilling it for the Lord your God will surely require it of you and you will be guilty of sin, but if you refrain from vowing you will not be guilty of sin.

Interesting here that delaying is considered sin. In Proverbs we have like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

This is why Amazon took over the world. You order something, and poof, it’s there, on your doorstep. Everyone loves quick follow through.

Now I’m not sure that you were ever this way, I don’t remember ever being this way, but here and there we ask our children to do something like take out the trash, mow the lawn, feed the dogs, clean up the room, and they are so compliant, so joy… Sure, yeah. Then somehow from “yeah” to sitting on the couch a few minutes longer, that request has vanished. It’s no longer in history. It’s like a blip taken out of history and the trash is still there and the dogs are still hungry, and something happens. I don’t know what happens, but we have to then remind them to maybe follow through on their word.

Are we slow to fulfill our word? Sorry, kids, to throw you under the bus.

A similar principle is found in keeping our accounts short. Matthew 5. So if you’re offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go first to be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift.

Have you ever had this experience where you’re coming to worship and on the way you think, oh, man, I never got back to so-and-so. I said I would call. I never finished… Oh, shoot, I didn’t return the chainsaw yet. I’ve been trying to do that for weeks. Crud. I really do have to have that conversation with my son or my daughter and ask them for forgiveness.

Maybe that prompting on the way to worship is a spiritual prompting. Perhaps that is the Spirit at work. Or perhaps we could ask it this way. Dale Ralph Davis asks this. He says, “What animates us? David was not very proactive, at least it appears in this text, until he was pressed.” Do with follow through on our marriage vows, our contracts, the many small promises that we make because we’re guilted into it? Or do we do so because we are in Christ and we vowed before the Lord and we love our Lord?

1 John 2 says and by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says I know Him but does not keep His commandments is a liar.

These are stark words. We’re all called to keep our word. Hopefully you love to follow the Lord and love to keep your word. But if you need to be reminded, just hop on it, as David did.

Second. Are you faithful and joyful in your role?

Now, obviously here Nathan and Zadok and Benaiah and the Cherethites and the Pelethites were faithful and obedient. They seemed to carry out the king’s commands with gusto. Benaiah responds by saying amen and pronounces a blessing on Solomon. They are to anoint and blow trumpets and shout “long live King Solomon.” They obey quickly, decisively, exuberantly, and this sort of obedience just draws the people in and they start bringing their own pipes. It’s always a little scary when people bring their own tambourines and bagpipes into worship, but this is what happens and they jump in and they’re all in the fray, and the earth was split by their noise. I love that.

Now they could have obeyed and just said okay, we can get that done. Put a muffler on the trumpet, it’s always a little loud anyway, Joseph. Yeah, I guess this is my role, I’m called to serve, so I’d better do it.

It’s worth asking ourselves if the king’s call, if the king’s commands, are a joy or a burden. Yes, obeying is better than not obeying, even if you’re not particularly joyful that day. Maybe obeying without much joy at first, however, is a way to find greater fulfillment and greater joy. But we should never forget that damning pronouncement the Lord makes of Jerusalem when He said because this people draw near with their mouth and honor Me with their lips while their hearts are far from Me, then this is quite the curse, the wisdom of their wise men shall perish.

If we do not joyfully come to the Lord and engage with our whole hearts before God, do you see what the curse says? Has the church ever been dry without good preaching? We’re so blessed here, week by week, with great preaching. We’ve often noted how blessed we are, how blessed America has been with good preaching, but if with come maybe even our attendance could be a form of lip service. If we come without a whole heart, will we lose all that? Does the Lord strip away the wise men, the statesmen, the honorable pastors from the people who simply honor with their lips.

Is worship a get to, or a have to? How do we feel when giving tithes? Do you sense that it’s more blessed to give than to receive? Or do you find yourself questioning if you should give after a tight month? How do you parent from day to day? Yes, I know that everyone agrees that children are a blessing, and yet from day to day I think that most of the evidence points toward everyone believing that our real role is to complain about being bothered by inconvenience, lack of obedience, lack of sleep, noise, etc.

I have found myself having a really bad habit about complaining about the loudness of shutting doors in my house. Children are a blessing, even when I’m woken up from a nap, another opportunity for sanctification.

How do you carry out your work? Do you view work as a burden that keeps you from doing what you were meant to do? How many times have I heard that from artists in Nashville. If they would just see my genius I wouldn’t have to do this work. Or do you see work as a pre-fall gift from God.

Yes, I know, work is harder after the fall. Work is harder with the curse. And yet, aren’t we taught whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Let’s keep exploring. Husbands, as your role is to love your wife as Christ loved the Church, do you find it’s actually a joy and an honor to lay down what you’re doing, your goals, your hobbies, your time, your life? I find that asking myself questions like that often reveals little dark corners of selfishness lurking within my heart.

If you’re not faithful, are you truly a servant of the king? If you’re not joyful, has selfishness or self-righteousness begun to creep in? If so, you might find that it is more natural to look out for number one. For me.

Which brings us to the next section. Third. Do you put yourself forward? And then with that, when you recognize that or when someone finally points it out or when God this you with the proverbial frying pan over the head, do you then plead for mercy? Adonijah had put himself forward. We read that in the text. But then he realized he was defeated and then pled for mercy at the horns of the altar.

Tom mentioned last week that the three big temptations that are recurring in this book are money, sex, and power, and we learn in the first section of this chapter that Adonijah certainly imbibes the power portion of that equation. Of course, nations fight for supremacy because individual’s hearts fight for supremacy, priority, etc. Why do the nations rage and the people’s plot in vain? Because our hearts want to be on top, and the Lord laughs.

The natural tendency in the heart is to put ourselves forward to get what we want and we rarely consider others more highly than ourselves.

Do you remember the Peanuts skit? It’s the Christmas show, it’s one of our standards every year, and Charlie Brown is disgusted with all the commercialization of Christmas and his younger sister Sally is going to write a letter to Santa, and she says this. He’s supposed to write it down because she’s learning to write still, so here’s Charlie Brown with the tablet and Sally says, “Dear Santa Claus, How have you been? Did you have a nice summer? How is your wife? I have been extra good this year, so I have a long list of presents that I want.” Charlie Brown: “Oh, brother.” Sally: “Please note the size and color of each item and send as many as possible. If it seems too complicated, make it easier on yourself, just send money. How about 10’s and 20’s? Charlie Brown: “10’s and 20’s? Oh, even my baby sister! Sally: “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.”

Speaking of fair shares, have you ever tried to implement the I’ll cut/you choose rule? Do you know that rule? If you have brownies, you’d have one of your children and the other one chooses which piece they get first. It’s amazing. The skill of cutting with accuracy goes up like, it’s just incredible.

Do your conversations become competitions? Do you always come out on top in the old stories that you tell? Are you the hero in your own head? Is everyone else always wrong and you’re always right? Perhaps they just haven’t realized your genius yet.

This can build to such a fever pitch in our hearts that we can develop a critical heart and begin to follow that heart rather than the heart of our king. If we’re honest, Adonijah is not that foreign to us. He has ambitions driven by envy or pride. But it only lasts so long. Psalm 46 says the nations range, the kingdoms totter, He utters His voice, the earth melts. And when it all melted down, Adonijah realized he was not king and he pled for mercy.

So once you realize that you’ve been grasping for the throne as Tom mentioned last week, how do you respond? When it all begins to melt down, when someone finally points out the folly of your ways, what do you do then? Well, Adonijah ran to the sanctuary. He grabbed hold of the place where sacrifices are offered on behalf of others. He cries mercy. It’s as if he’s saying, “let a sacrificial animal be killed for my rebellion.”

Now on the face of it, this all seems like a really, really good thing. He’s responding so well. But it’s not all sunshine and roses, or is it roses and sun? I don’t know. So before we hang out there and say, “Wow, good job, Adonijah,” we’re going to have to dip into chapter three. We don’t have to turn there, but here’s the spoiler alert. Later Adonijah tries to marry Abishag as his wife. That was the beautiful girl that they brought David here in the first chapter. Maybe there was lust involved, but it’s probable that it’s another power grab. If you married the king’s wives or his concubines, it would essentially be a claim to the throne. The story of Adonijah is one of self-preservation and a show of repentance and a foxhole conversion that doesn’t stick. He continues to be a usurper in his heart.

I think when we hear Paul say, “Do we sin so that grace may abound? By no means,” we say yes, I agree, sure, that’s terrible. But it may be that one way we take advantage of grace, or mercy, is to live day by day with an attitude of entitlement or complacency.

I wonder if sometimes we’re simply dogs returning to our vomit. Is the phrase “Christian liberty” code for pushing the envelope and allowing our hearts to do the things that they want to do? Isn’t there supposed to be a battle within our hearts against these things? Paul answers this way: But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, for the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh. These two are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Of course, it was not only Adonijah that struggles with this. It turns out the temptation to entitlement and envy and pride is a common temptation. Think about Hosea. We won’t turn there right now, but in the middle of Hosea, Hosea chapter 6, we have this beautiful, or at least appearingly, a beautiful statement of confidence in the Lord. We have this, it’s great: Come, let us return to the Lord for He has torn us that He may heal us. He has struck us down and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive on us. On the third day He will raise us up that we may live before Him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going out is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.

But God sees the heart, and it’s not so beautiful. In the context of Hosea 5 and 6, all this is said just to get God to bless them and to get Him off their backs, so God responds and says, “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.”

When we plead for mercy, is it a half-hearted, lip service sort of plea, like we know we sort of messed up? But here’s what God desires. Hosea 6:6 – For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings, and there the knowledge is an intimate knowledge of God.

All right. Let’s move on. Fourth – Do you extend mercy with expectations? In other words, do we wisely balance expectations and mercy? It’s fascinating how Solomon responds here. In verse 52 we find that Solomon lays out expectations very clearly, certain boundaries must not be crossed, clarity was needed and clarity is almost always very helpful.

Likewise, Jesus makes it clear that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Romans makes it clear that Christ justifies. 1 John makes it clear that ongoing sin must not accompany the Christian life, the expectations and the consequences are made clear over and over throughout the Scriptures. While this chapter is not particularly about leadership per se, the implications for leaders of all kinds can be quite helpful. So we can ask ourselves are we clear and willing to apply consequences?

And then, are we merciful? This is really quite a bit more difficult than you would want. Think about parenting for a moment again. Are with clear with expectations and consequences? Well, not usually. Generally, parents are unclear, reactive, we change the consequences willy-nilly or we excuse them altogether, but note Solomon did not do this. He didn’t plead with Adonijah to be nicer and to do better. He also didn’t say, “Hey, no worries, no problem, no big deal.” He made expectations abundantly clear and then extended mercy, creating a situation where trust could have been built.

Later, of course, we already mentioned that those instructions were not heated. But being unclear with expectations and consequences is a great way to exasperate our children, our employees, helpers, volunteers, and so forth.

Now if that’s one ditch, there’s another ditch, so we need to ask ourselves, are we merciful? We read that amazing story in John chapter 8, the woman caught in adultery and the church leaders bring her before Jesus and ask about stoning her. There are several things that stick out to me in that passage, one of which is where’s the man? They brought the woman, but where’s the man? That seems strange. Why are they so ready to accuse and blame? But Jesus in dramatic form, drawing with the finger in the dust, ignores them and when pressed, He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” The level of mercy that Christ extends is really quite astounding here.

Of course, we don’t have to wait for rebellion or adultery to extend mercy, but what about the myriad of ways that we may wrong one another? So let’s make it personal once again. How do you treat your spouse in your heart? Maybe some of you are good enough not to let it out of your mouth, but how do you treat each other in your heart? Do you feel like ganging up with the voices in your head and accusing the other of being in the wrong? It’s very easy to do with political leaders, church leaders. How does your heart treat your children? Or even if you don’t have children, relationship with friends or parents or siblings, are we overly critical, strict, punishing every infraction? Do they know us as rule makers or mercy makers? Have we clamped down so hard that any opportunity to build trust is essentially dead? Do we create so many boundaries and safeguards that there is literally no opportunity to grow through forgiveness and restoration?

Adonijah did fail, we already noted that, but Solomon did create that opportunity to build trust through a mild consequence at first. Maybe it was house arrest, maybe it was banned from political life, I’m not sure. But keep in mind, you can’t stop your friend from hurting you. You can’t immediately stop every instance of manipulation. Adonijah got away with it right under Solomon’s nose. Likewise you can’t shoot every screen in your home with a Colt .42, or is it .45? .45. I’m not a gun guy. Colt. You can’t shoot every screen in your home and expect that you’ll stop your child from sinning.

But you very well might drive them away with over the top strictures, harsh consequences, unclear expectations. On the other hand, you can provide clarity and you can extend mercy.

The name of Solomon is pretty much synonymous with the word wisdom. Here it is in seedling form. He balances these expectations, reasonable consequences, and mercy. And isn’t this the picture of our heavenly king? The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and balancing it He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.

Of course then we learn throughout the Scriptures how God, through the unfolding covenant, works through expectations, consequences, and mercy.

So in conclusion, it then comes as no surprise that this story maps onto the biblical meta-narrative, that big story really well. The king makes promises, then usurpers abound, and of course that includes us. The king follows through on his promises an then the king offers mercy to the world. Of course, the twist is that the king takes on the consequences himself.

Once again, this story is about the continuing kingdom. It’s not asking you to be like any of these characters, but I think with a little reflection you can probably pick out some of your own tendencies, do you think? Are you like David, who needs to be reminded of your promises, your first love? Or are you like Zadok and Nathan, who are just ready to throw yourself into the king’s work? Are you like Adonijah, selfish and looking out for number one? Are you like a merciful king, balancing expectations, consequences, and mercy?

My guess is that you’re a mixture of all these things, you’re a big jumbled mess of it all. Which means that the question for us is this – will we grab hold of the horns of the altar and cast ourselves on the mercy of our most merciful king? Will we plead the blood of Christ, sacrificed on our behalf? Will we look to the sacrificial lamb who was killed for our rebellion? And will we do this without crossing our fingers behind our backs, like Adonijah? Hoping we can still get our way.

Who has remembered His Word? Who has followed through on His Word? Who has humbled Himself as a servant? Who has extended mercy? Jesus.

We are called to live by the Spirit and to keep in step with the Spirit, to be like our Lord. Called to keep our word, to faithfully and joyfully fulfill our callings, to consider others more highly than ourselves, to be clear and merciful in all our dealings.

Finally, if you fail, if you trip up, take hold of the horns of the altar of mercy. Reach to Jesus, trust Him, hold onto Him. Amen?

Let’s pray. Father, we thank You for these great stories of how You worked through individuals You called to serve, average people, normal people, called to walk faithfully before you. We also ask that You would work in our lives such that with would look to Jesus for mercy and then love to follow Him all the days of our lives. Be with us now as we part this Sabbath evening. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.