The Succession of a King

Derek Wells, Speaker

1 Kings 2:1-12 | September 10 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
September 10
The Succession of a King | 1 Kings 2:1-12
Derek Wells, Speaker
View Series: 1 Kings Download Audio Printable Transcript

Lord Jesus, we come to You tonight, gathered as Your people. We need, Lord, not to just soak up another sermon and digest that and move on, but we need You to speak to us. So we come before You and ask, O Lord, that You would speak to us and through us, that You would glorify Yourself, that You would confront us, Lord, You would comfort us, You would conform us by Your Word. I pray that You would order the words of my mouth for Your glory. In Christ’s name. Amen.

We are 1 Kings, chapter 2. We’ll be looking at verses 1 through 12. We are continuing our series this evening on the life of Solomon. We’re at the end of David’s reign and the beginning of Solomon’s reign. The context for all that’s before us this evening, and really to come, is the promise of God to David that’s found in 2 Samuel 7. We read it already, that God would establish an everlasting kingdom through David.

So we’re at the end of his reign, and that’s really the drama. So God is going to establish His kingdom, it’s been done through David, so what’s going to happen after that though? What about his successors?

We begin to see the drama that promise unfolds. Last week Adonijah challenged Solomon’s ascent to the throne, so as Solomon begins his reign, it already begs this question. Not just how will the kingdom be established, but how will it be secured? There’s enemies from without, there’s enemies from within that are going to threaten the throne.

Overhanging all of that is a greater question – will God be faithful to His promise to David, and how will His promise unfold? That’s the ultimate question that’s behind this, and that’s the context for our passage this evening and for our sermon.

So let’s look at 1 Kings, chapter 2. Let’s read verses 1 through 12. Hear the Word of the Lord.

“When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statutes, His commandments, His rules, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish His word that He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before Me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’”

““Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to Me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in a time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace. But deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for with such loyalty they met me when I fled from Absalom your brother. And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.””

“Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.”

Throughout the course of history, there’s been a number of memorable farewell speeches. Some might come into your mind. You might recall a final presidential address or maybe a coach to his team as he’s about to retire, he gives a speech to his team, just a big rah rah, and they go and they will the ball game for him. Or maybe a retiring athlete and he’s on that kind of retirement tour. You see that with athletes, they retire, they announce their retirement, and then they’re on this tour and they give these speeches to their fans.

Well, the president that I grew up under was Ronald Reagan. I’m a child of the 1980s. Reagan was known as the great communicator. I still remember his final address to the nation in early 1989. He was handing over power to George H. W. Bush, as we must call him now. Here’s what he said, I remember this line. He said, “People have called me the great communicator, but I am not a great communicator. I have simply communicated great things.” I thought, wow, what a line.

Farewell speeches. They give us those classic lines, those nuggets of wisdom or counsel, where they’re passing the baton to those successors, to a person or a group of people.

We see some of this in Scripture as well. You might think of farewell speeches in terms of what Moses gave to Joshua as Joshua was chosen to lead Israel into the Promised Land. Or maybe you think about Jesus in John chapter 13 through 17. Something of a farewell speech to the disciples, “By this the world will know that you are My disciples and that you love one another.”

Or maybe your mind drifts to Paul’s farewell speech of the Ephesian elders, at the end of Acts 20. You remember that, that tearful goodbye. Paul shares with them some final words of wisdom and instruction.

Here we have David’s farewell speech to Solomon as he assumes the throne. He’s going to be the king of Israel. It’s not this tearful goodbye, it’s not this sort of father/son sentimental kind of thing. No, it’s all about Solomon’s succession, who he’s going to be as a king. It’s all about his reign, and that’s what comes into focus.

So I want to give you three points, three points for the outline of this sermon this evening.

Number one. The king’s character. The king’s character, that will take most of our time.

Number two. We want to look at the king’s charge.

Then number three. We’ll look at the king’s rest.

I’m sorry. I tried to come up with another “C” but it just didn’t work. So if you’re that Presbyterian and you need a “C,” how about the king’s comfort? You can go with that. But rest captures it a little bit better.

We see that David emphasizes at the beginning of Solomon’s reign. It really establishes the foundation for his kingship, and that’s the king’s character.

Here’s what he says. David is at the end of his days, so he summons Solomon to come and he says, “Solomon, I am about to die. Now be strong and show yourself to be a man.” The thing that probably pops into your mind, it popped into my mind, is just how we are as dads. I feel bad for our sons. If our daughters fall and they skin their knee, as dads we pick them up and we carry them to their mom and we do all that sort of thing, but if our sons fall, what do we say? Ah, brush it off. It’s just a flesh wound. Be a man, come on. Get up, man up. We usually think of something that’s a person with a tough or rugged personality.

When I was growing up, there were these billboards all over the place of the Marlboro Man. Do you all remember the Marlboro Man? If you’re over 40, you’ll remember that. He’s just on that billboard, cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He’s smooth, he’s cool. Some of you younger people are saying, what? Doesn’t seem so smooth and cool, he’s got a cigarette hanging out of his mouth? Well, hey, it’s the 80s, okay? I mean, we gave candy cigarettes to our children. I know this is true because I had the candy cigarettes and I pretended to smoke them and then I ate them.

So all of you people under the age of 40 are going what is the matter with all these older people? Let their kids go off and play and they never called them home, they didn’t have a phone or tracking device on them and they gave their kids candy cigarettes?

I think of the Marlboro Man. Some of years ago my father-in-law decided to build a pond on our family farm. My father-in-law’s one of these rare people that he can just decide to build a pond and he does it. So we were up there and he was building the levy. We were watching him out there. He’s got this bulldozer out there and he’s just kind of doing his thing and then one morning he says, “Hey, why don’t you come ride with me out on the bulldozer on the levy today?” So course I agreed to that and we were at about a 45 degree angle, just cruising along the levy, and I’m thinking, man, is this thing going to tip over? What’s going to happen?

Then he stops and he gets out of the bulldozer and he says, he just points to the empty driver’s seat, and he’s like, “Your turn.” I have never driven a bulldozer before. You want me to take it? He says, “Yeah, take it.” He could see I was hesitating. He goes, “Be a man. Come on.” So he challenged my man card, and what do you do when someone challenges your man card? Well, you got to get on that bulldozer so that’s what I did. We moved some dirt around, I’m not sure we really accomplished anything, but he’s still alive and I’m still alive, so I call that a win.

Well, David has more in mind than just man up, toughen up, Solomon. He’s talking about spiritual strength. He’s saying, “Solomon, it’s time for you to rule, and what you need is spiritual strength.”

I mentioned to Moses to Joshua. It’s very similar to what Moses says to Joshua as he’s about to take the Promised Land. He says, “Be strong and courageous as you enter the land.”

You see, Joshua, what it’s going to take to enter this Promised Land, to conquer, it’s going to take faith, strength, and courage. Similar with Solomon, what it’s going to take for you to secure the kingdom for you to rule, it’s going to take faith, strength, and courage to lead, to rule.

So he says, “Keep charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways, keeping His statutes, His commandments, His rules, His testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses.”

So David takes him back to Moses. He takes him back to Deuteronomy 17. Many of you will recall that, lays out the character of a righteous king. Deuteronomy tells us that the king of Israel is to be different from the other kings of the earth. It says he is not to be like the other kings of the earth. He is not to acquire many wives or accumulate many horses or excessive gold or silver, it’s a little haunting as we think about what happens in Solomon’s life and how the story goes.

As some writers have noted, he’s not to pursue gold, girls, and guns. He’s to avoid that. Rather, he is to hold to the Word of God and he’s to walk in obedience. And Moses in that passage, he yokes together obedience and blessing for the king and for the nation of Israel. So David takes Solomon back to that familiar passage where kingly success and blessing is dependent on his faithfulness to God. Solomon, that’s really what it’s all about.

You might think, well, that seems kind of unremarkable, and maybe that seemed unremarkable to Solomon. He was probably familiar with Deuteronomy 17. You can imagine Solomon going in there, as he’s leaving maybe his brother’s sitting out there. He’s walking by and says, “Hey, dad give you that gold, girls, and guns speech again from Deuteronomy 17?” “Yeah, he keeps talking about it all the time.”

There’s something familiar maybe to Solomon. Something might seem unremarkable, but just consider, just consider how counter-intuitive it actually is. He’s assuming the throne. We might be tempted to think if Solomon is going to secure the kingdom and overcome his enemies, what does he need? He needs charisma. He needs that classic soundbite in the debate.

You know how all of the candidates are working on that right now? How can I get that perfect zinger?

Or maybe he needs to refine his foreign policy agenda, or brush up on his diplomacy. But that’s now what David makes primary. That’s not what God makes primary. No, the primary ingredient for God’s chosen king is personal piety. Think about that. That’s the primary, that’s the beginning, that’s the foundation of his kingship. Solomon, make righteousness your guide and your goal in how you rule. Let that order your plans, your priorities, your judgments.

You can think that might seem very simple, but there’s probably great freedom in that. I mean, who knows what Solomon was thinking. I have to fill my dad’s shoes, the great King David. I’ve got to measure up in some kind of way. The bar’s way up here and I’ve got… No, Solomon, no. You just have to be faithful.

That is what God is seeking in a ruler.

This has implications for us as well as we think about who we are as pastors or elders or husbands or dads. We need to ask ourselves, or just ordinary Christians, what does God value? What do the people who are around us, what do they need most from us? It’s not money, it’s not gifts, it’s not talents. It’s not charisma, but it’s faithfulness. It’s faithfulness to God’s Word.

You all know Robert Murray M’Cheyne, that famous quote: “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”

I was listening to a podcast. Tim Keller was interviewed some years ago and it was on failed ministries. They were asking what is behind so much of this, what happens. He said, “I think the number one thing is when people begin to place more value and priority on gifts than graces in ministry.”

We forget. We put gifts in front of graces but God’s order is exactly the opposite – He puts graces in front of gifts.

That’s what we see at the beginning of Solomon’s kingship. That’s not to minimize the task that is before Solomon, but it’s to solidify what’s going to be the foundation of his reign, what’s going to be the thing that he needs to remember, what does he return to. What will secure the kingdom in the midst of all these threats and difficulties and trials? What will bring the kingdom peace and stability and rest? What will do it?

He says to hold to God’s Word. Hold fast to God’s Word. Remember and trust His promises. That is what is going to take strength and faith. That is what is going to take courage. It takes a great amount of courage to trust in God’s Word, to take Him at His Word and not chase other things. That’s what’s really going to face Solomon.

So that’s what he has to do. It’s so counter-intuitive and we face that same thing in our lives. Do we not? The temptation to chase other things, to chase other things for security, for peace, for rest, but having the strength and faith and courage to hold off on those things, to look to God and His Word and to hold fast and to stay faithful and to stay obedient. Solomon, that’s the pathway for your kingship, and that’s the pathway for our lives as well.

Friends, it takes a great amount of faith and courage and strength to do that.

Well, David also reminds him of the promises of God. He says keep charge of the Lord your God that the Lord may establish His Word He spoke concerning me. Listen to this: That if your sons walk before Me in faithfulness with all their heart and their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.

So he takes us back to 2 Samuel 7, which Bruce read from, and the promise of God to David. I’ll just pick up in verse 14. This is what God says about David’s offspring: “I will be to him a father and he shall be to Me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but My steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.” And here’s what he says to David: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

So God makes this promise to David. He says, “My steadfast love will not depart from him as I took it from Saul, but your throne shall be established forever.” But what David says to Solomon in this passage seems like a conditional promise. He says “if your sons walk before Me in faithfulness you will not lack a man on the throne of Israel.”

So which was it? Was the promise to David, was it conditional or was it unconditional? It’s a good question on the floor of presbytery, can stump someone. If you ever find yourself on the floor of a presbytery and you’re unsure, there’s two answers you can give to kind of give yourself some time. Number one, Jesus, you’re not going to wrong with that. The beginning answer. And then the other is the “well, yes and no.” You can kind of give that answer and buy yourself some time.

So which was it? Was the promise to David conditional or unconditional? This is where you have to put your New Testament glasses on because God’s promise ultimately rests on Christ’s fulfillment, David’s son, David’s heir. He ultimately, Jesus ultimately fulfills the conditions set forth in Deuteronomy 17 and 1 Kings 2, so the promise ultimately rests on Christ who is the king. At the same time, that doesn’t mean Solomon’s actions are irrelevant, because while the Davidic covenant itself rests on Christ’s obedience, the enjoyment of the blessings of the covenant are tied to Solomon’s obedience.

He says do this that you may prosper in all you do, wherever you may go. So we might say there is a temporal and ultimate dimension that we see played out here. So while God’s promise is rooted in grace, it does not make works inconsequential. It does not lend itself to let us sin so that grace may abound. No, Solomon’s actions, Solomon’s character is still hugely consequential for Israel, just as David’s character was hugely consequential for Israel. The king’s character would still be decisive in whether there is peace or instability, whether there is discontinuity or continuity between the enjoyment of what God has promised and what Israel experiences.

That leads us to the next point, and that’s the king’s character, then the king’s charge, in verses 5 through 9. This is a struggle for us, I think, when we read this, David’s final instructions, his final instructions are an order of execution.

So what do we make of this charge to Solomon to ensure the execution of Joab and Shimei? He says you know what Joab did to me, you know what Shimei did to me, by the way. Now how do we understand this? Was David just biding his time? Was he just waiting? Is this… You really get kind of disappointed. You think, David, really? You’re going to end your days with a heart of bitterness?

I remember reading about this episode of Shimei just cursing him, throwing stones at him and thinking, oh, man, what restraint, what mercy David has. Then I came to this passage and I thought, no, it kind of ruins the story, just pulling on our heartstrings.

So what is this? Is this personal vengeance that David’s too cowardly to carry out himself? Or was this the necessary elimination of an internal threat in order to secure the kingdom? There’s some disagreement about it.

Let’s look at what these two men did. You have Joab. He killed Abner, 2 Samuel 3, to avenge the killing of his brother. He killed Amasa in a time of peace for blood that had been shed in war. Both killings were calculated and cold-blooded. It’s kind of like a movie. Literally, you see Joab. He goes and he pulls them aside and he’s got the knife right here, he just wants to talk to him and just [sound effect], there you go. Calculating, cold-blooded. They were about personal vengeance and they happened during a time of peace, so there was blood guilt on Joab.

That’s what it means when it says he stained the belt around his waist and sandals on his feet. Then you have Shimei. When David was fleeing Absalom, Shimei comes out, he meets him on the road, and he just starts cussing at David and throws stones at him and flings dust on him. Shimei blames David for Saul’s death, for Jonathan’s death. Instead of striking him down, David takes it as God’s rebuke.

But here he says to Solomon in the final chapter, you must deal with these two men. Do not let them go to the grave in peace, but he says do it according to your own wisdom. In other words, Solomon, I’m not going to tell you how you are to do this. It’s interesting how this unfolds and Joel will pick up on that next week, but David says they must not be allowed to live without the consequences of their actions. They must not be allowed to go down into the grave in peace.

So what do we do with David’s order here? Well, here’s my humble take. Whatever mixed motives David might have had, I think the over-arching motivation here surrounds the establishment of the kingdom of God.

Joab had no regard for the commands of God during a time of peace, but he engaged in personal vengeance. So you think about this. This is a high crime. This is like a general who just takes matters into his own hands. Peace has been achieved and then he has this axe to grind, this personal vengeance, and he takes matters into his own hands. What happens when a general does that? Well, he undermines the kingdom itself.

So this is grand scale insubordination, not only to the king but to God Himself that required a reckoning.

Shimei profaned David, and in doing that he despised the Lord’s anointed and the office that God had established. These mens’ actions, they displayed a total disregard for God’s law, and moreover they represented an ongoing threat to the throne in Israel. So as uncomfortable as this makes us, as uncomfortable as this makes us, there had to be a purging, a purging must happen.

So what we see here is a conflict that must occur if the kingdom is going to be firmly established in Israel. So we can make the argument that David is acting as a shepherd king to purge sin and rebellion for the sake of Israel. There’s a clearing away of those who do evil and who is charged with doing this work of the clearing away? Who is charged with it? The king is charged. He, Solomon, is now to take on the task of executing righteousness and justice in the kingdom.

You have this twofold dimension for Solomon’s kingship. He is a king who is to be faithful to God’s Word. He is a king who is to execute justice and righteousness, to overthrow sin and rebellion. You can see the task before him, and certainly the bells go off and you begin to think we can make the connection to Christ Himself.

What this offers us, we get a glimpse here of Christ, for Christ is the better David, Christ is the better Solomon, who is not only faithful but who executes righteousness and justice, overthrowing sin and rebellion and the establishment of His rule and reign and conquering all of His and our enemies, ultimately sin and death. It is Christ who fulfills the charge of the king ultimately for the sake of His people.

We can make that connection, but also we can think of ourselves personally. We are called to live, we’re called to live under the blessing of the kingship of Christ. Here’s the thing – the establishment of the kingdom of God, rule and reign of God in our hearts, will not come without conflict and pain and difficulty and purging, because when Christ comes to rule and reign in your heart, you know what He’s going to do? He’s going to show you all those various little internal things that subvert and oppose God’s will in your life.

There is a great purging that must happen for us as well as we seek to live in the blessing of His rule and reign. How do we do that? We do that through faith and repentance. We turn to Him, we trust in His Word, we turn from our sins, we run to Him.

There’s still more of the story for Solomon and for Israel. It gets even more complicated. But insofar as Solomon is faithful, there are some years of stability, of peace and rest.

What gives peace and rest? It’s faith in God’s Word, it’s obedience to God’s Word, and we see that lastly in the legacy of King David himself.

In conclusion, the king’s rest. Verse 10: “Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David. And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.”

The text says that David slept with his fathers and he was buried in the city of David. It seems like a passing detail, quite incidental to the story, but in these details there is a story within these details, a story of sin and grace and repentance and restoration. Do you see that? It says he was buried in the city of David. In the ancient world, the place of burial was significant, especially when it came to the burial of a king. Did they receive a proper burial? Were they buried with honor? Was it royal? Were they buried within the city or were they disgraced and buried outside of the city? And of course we know the answer for David.

So there’s a legacy here of King David, note that, a noble legacy, a royal legacy, but also a legacy of redemption.

Here’s the question before us in closing. How is it, think about this, how is it that a man who had the sins that David had could die with honor? How is that possible? How is it that his life at the end was marked by thankfulness and gratitude? How is that his reign was not defined by his unfaithfulness but by his faithfulness? There is only one way that that can happen, and that is David served a faithful and gracious and forgiving God.

So it’s God’s character that ultimately comes into focus here and shapes David’s character and his final destination, actually. For all of David’s sins, he repented and he repented because he knew God was gracious and forgiving. So David rose from his sins and failures to walk once more, to walk in God’s ways, and we see that picture in the story of his life and the story of his reign.

What does that do for you and for me this evening, Christ Covenant? That means that there is great hope for you and for me. David’s sins did not tell the whole story of his life, so there is hope for you. Do you know that you do not have to be marked, your life does not have to marked by your worst moments? It does not have to be defined by your sins. That does not have to be the whole story. No matter your past, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many shameful things are in your past, it does not matter. That does not have to be the defining legacy of your life.

That’s what David’s life shows us.

Good summary for David’s life is found in Acts 13:36. We’ll snip it, the beginning portion, for what marked his life. Here’s what it says: “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers.” That’d be a great tombstone. For blank, insert your name, after he had served the purpose of God for his own generation, was laid with his fathers and he slept.

Would that that would be our legacy, that we would live lives of faith and repentance, trusting in God’s Word, holding fast to His Word. No matter what we’ve been or what we’ve done, coming to Him in repentance and faith and finding that same foundation that was laid before Solomon for his kingship, that can be the same foundation for you and for your life, and that foundation leads you on a road to redemption, and it’s redemption in Christ that can mark your life and my life.

May the Lord give us the strength and courage and faith to see that road and to take it.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we are grateful for Your Word. We’re grateful for Your promises, for Your commands. We’re grateful that You never leave us nor forsake us. We’re grateful that You draw us to Yourself. When our hearts to astray, O Lord, You draw us back to You. So I pray that for the people in this room that they would either be strengthened by Your Word, by Your promises, by Your commands, and they would be drawn back if they are astray. Lord, we thank You that You are our king and that You have fulfilled all righteousness for us, and may the truth of that, the truth of the Gospel, lead us back to You, lead us to follow You as our king. We pray that in Christ’s name. Amen.