Who’s On The Throne?

Tom Groelsema, Speaker

1 Kings 1:1-27 | August 27 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
August 27
Who’s On The Throne? | 1 Kings 1:1-27
Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Please turn with me in your Bibles tonight to 1 Kings chapter 1, 1 Kings chapter 1 we’ll be studying together verses 1 through 27 as we begin tonight a new series. We started a new one this morning as you know in the book of Revelation and we’re starting an evening series tonight that will carry us through about to Thanksgiving on the life and reign of King Solomon. It’s going to take us through chapter 11 of 1 Kings. So we begin tonight in chapter 1, verses 1 through 27.

Let’s pray before we read God’s Word together. Father, as we just sang, we do pray that You would help us tonight to behold our God, that we would behold the Lord Jesus Christ in all of His glory, His majesty, and His splendor, that we would see and recognize and adore Him as the King of Kings and as the Lord of Lords, and we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Let’s read now together from God’s holy Word.

“Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.”

“Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. 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. He conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him. But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not with Adonijah.”

“Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fattened cattle by the Serpent’s Stone, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother.”

“Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? Now therefore come, let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then is Adonijah king?’ Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.””

“So Bathsheba went to the king in his chamber (now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was attending to the king). Bathsheba bowed and paid homage to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?” She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.””

“While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? For he has gone down this day and has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest. And behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not invited. Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?””

Thus far our reading of God’s Word.

Well, dear people of God, one of the events of 2023 so far that has drawn perhaps the most worldwide attention was the coronation of King Charles III on May 6. It was an estimated 400 million people who watched in on that event and the coronation, as you know, was filled with all kinds of pomp and pageantry, bands, horses, royal robes, a packed Westminster Abbey. Charles was prayed over, anointed, given the royal scepter as a symbol of his rule, given a royal orb as a symbol of his worldwide kingdom, a crown was placed on his head, and then the throne. The throne that he sat upon with the stone of destiny underneath it, 700 years old, the throne built in 1309, used by every monarch before him with the exception of just a few.

The question before Charles ever took the throne was really this: Who is going to be our next royal? Who is going to be king? Who is going to follow Queen Elizabeth? There was some uncertainty about that because of Charles’ sordid life, his lukewarm affection for the British people. Would Charles be king? Would William be king? And of course soon after the death of the queen it was very obvious to all of us and to the British Empire that it was going to be Charles. So when the queen died, this announcement was made: The queen is dead, long live the king. It was a statement that even though the queen had died, the kingdom had not died, that the kingdom would endure even though the queen was dead.

Friends, I think we all want to know that someone is on the throne. You might not care much about the Brits, but if there is a throne, I think all of us want to know that the throne is occupied because of what an empty throne symbolizes. An empty throne or a throne that is filled by the wrong person spells trouble for any people. It means distress, uncertainty, chaos, vulnerability, disorder. If we’re talking about spiritual things, it means sin.

So here we are tonight starting the life, or maybe more accurately starting the reign of Solomon, and in our text tonight maybe you noticed this already, in our text tonight we actually don’t get much into his reign at all. Our text tonight is a transitional text. We find ourselves tonight between the reign of David and the reign of Solomon. Here’s the issue in the text: Who’s got the throne? Who’s going to be king? Who is going to reign?

And there are two simple points to our outline tonight. First of all, we’re going to notice four characters that are part of this text, and then one question. So four characters and one question.

The first character that you see in our text is David and we read about him in the first four verses of this passage. So we’re at the end of his reign, David is around 70 years old. He has been reigning for 40 years. On the one hand those days were days of great glory. The kingdom prospered under David’s reign. It expanded, enemies were subdued, there was great peace and prosperity. Maybe never a time in Israel’s life during like these glory days of David’s reign.

But they were also days of turmoil, especially in the latter years of his reign. I did some tracking. I read through the chapters of David’s reign, so I’d go chapter by chapter, I would put an arrow next to each of the chapters, so when things were really good in David’s reign I put an arrow up. When things were not so good in David’s reign, I put an arrow down. If you take the opportunity to do that sometime, you’ll notice that especially after his fall with Bathsheba, almost everything in David’s reign and in his kingdom is down, it’s declining, it’s disordered, trouble in his kingdom, death, incest, betrayal, war, plague. Everything is on a steep downward decline under David.

Then we come to 1 Kings chapter 1 and David is old and he is weak and he is frail. His reign is nearly over. The young man who had killed lions and bears, who slew Goliath, all of that is gone. There is nothing that we read here about David that we would expect to find in a king. He couldn’t get warm, so his servants come and they bring him more clothes, and he still can’t get warm. So they brought him a beauty, Abishag. You can’t escape the inappropriate sexual allusions in this text. It’s not just any young lady that is brought to David, it’s a beauty queen. The servants bring her to David so that she can lie in his arms, but our text in verse 4 reminds us that the king knew her not. It’s a statement both about boundaries that David did not cross, but I think it’s also a statement at how weak David was. David had lost both his vitality and his virility. This is how weak the king was and not only is the king weak, but if the king is weak, then the throne is weak. Who is going to sit on David’s throne?

We come to our second character and that’s Adonijah, one of David’s sons. He has an answer, doesn’t he, for who is going to reign. He was the fourth son of David, he followed Amnon, Kileab, Absalom. Amnon had been murdered by Absalom after Amnon’s violation with his sister Tamar, so Amnon cannot be king, the firstborn. Kileab probably died. The Bible is silent about him. We don’t read anything about him after his birth. So Kileab is not able to be king. Absalom had been killed by Joab in battle after Absalom’s betrayal of David. So the next in line is Adonijah.

Adonijah was everything that David wasn’t. He had ambition and energy. So you read in verse 5 he said “I will be king. I’ll take the throne.” He had power. The passage tells us that he had gathered to himself chariots, horses, 50 men to run before him. He had image. The Bible tells us that he was a handsome man. He had support. Joab, the head of David’s army, Abiathar who had been one of David’s priests, they are no longer following David, they don’t want to follow Solomon, they come in behind Adonijah and say, “We will follow you.”

But people of God, you understand the trouble with Adonijah was simply this. The Bible puts it in two words. The Bible says in verse 5, “He exalted himself.” He exalted himself. He was proud. He was not going to wait to be appointed, he wasn’t trusting God, if it was God’s plan to put him on the throne. He made himself king.

We understand, I think, that ambition is good. It’s good to be an ambitious person. But we ought to be aware of those who are overly eager, or proudly ambitious, for positions of leadership. Lust for power, lust for position, does not make for a good leader. It reflected something in Adonijah, it reflected the fact that he would not be a good king, either.

It’s interesting the descriptions of Adonijah in our text remind us of his brother Absalom. You don’t catch that when you’re just reading the text, but so many of the things that are said about Adonijah here are the very same things that were said before of Absalom his brother. So the Bible describes both of them as handsome. The Bible didn’t need to do that, but it wants to remind us that they were both good-looking men and when we come across that in Adonijah, it ought to kick our memory back to say, “Hey, wasn’t that same thing said about Absalom?” Indeed, it was.

Even more than that. Like Adonijah, Absalom earlier had gathered to himself a bunch of supporters. In fact, the exact same kind of support that Adonijah had. He had gathered to himself a chariot, and horses, and 50 men. Then Adonijah sacrificed at En-rogel, the very place where two of David’s men stayed to spy on Absalom in his rebellion.

You see what the Bible’s doing? The Bible is saying as you read about Adonijah, keep in mind that these same things, many of these same things, were said about Absalom. What kind of king is Adonijah going to be? If he’s like his brother at all, he is not fit to be on the throne.

The Bible interestingly tells us that some of this came simply because his father never said no to him. Right. It was never asked by David of Absalom, “Why have you done thus and so?” He just let him go to follow his own will.

Who’s got the throne? Well, Adonijah would take it. But he understood, he understood deep down inside that he was never meant to be king. So when he is making a sacrifice and he’s having sort of this installation or an inauguration or coronation party, and he’s inviting all these people to come, there’s one person who’s conspicuously missing. He has all of his brothers there, but he did not invite Solomon, because he knew, he understood, that he was not to be king and Solomon was.

Well, we have our third and fourth characters, and we’re going to put them together, this is Nathan and Bathsheba. Read about them in verses 11 and following through the end our text tonight. There’s three exchanges that are found in these verses. Nathan goes to Bathsheba and speaks to her, verses 11 to 14; Bathsheba goes to David, verses 15 to 21; and then Nathan goes to David in verses 22 to 27. All of these exchanges were part of a plan to inform King David that Adonijah had made himself king and to remind David that he had appointed Solomon to follow him.

So Nathan and Bathsheba hatched the plan, Bathsheba executes the plan, and Nathan followed up and reinforced the plan.

What’s important to notice is that the plan was based upon a promise. David’s promise to Bathsheba that Solomon would be king. You see, that promise referred to in verse 13, you see it referred to again in verse 17. When we come back to the story and life of Solomon next week we’re going to see it again in verse 30. We don’t have any record in the Scriptures of the exchange that occurred between David and Bathsheba, so David is promising her that Solomon is going to reign. We don’t have any record of that. It must have been some kind of private promise, private assurance, but Nathan somehow was aware of it when he spoke with Bathsheba about it. He doesn’t bring it up when he speaks to David himself, probably in order to protect the private nature of it.

But people of God, here’s what is important about that promise, the promise of David to Bathsheba that Solomon would reign. What is key about that promise is that that promise, that promise of David, was ultimately based upon God’s promise. So this was not just a promise that David made on his own accord, but this was a promise that David made because God had promised it. God had said Solomon is going to reign, David, this is the son who’s going to come after you and there will be a son forever.

You find that promise in a couple of different places in the Bible. 2 Samuel 7, but you also find it in 1 Chronicles 22, verses 10 and 11. Hear the promise that comes from God: Behold, a son shall be born to you. So God’s speaking to David. A son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies, for his name shall be Solomon and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be My son, I will be his Father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.

So the Lord comes to David and says, “You are going to have a son who’s going to reign. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom.” Most immediately Solomon is going to sit upon the throne.

So as Nathan and Bathsheba come to David, and they say, “David, don’t you know that Adonijah is trying to be king? What about Solomon? Remember the promise, David, that God had appointed Solomon to be the next king.”

I think it’s interesting, friends, that when you read the life of Solomon, as I mentioned where we pick up in his life is really his reign, that the Bible records basically nothing about his childhood from his birth to his coronation. The Bible is basically silent about Solomon’s life. You kind of wonder, don’t you, what happened in his youth, and all we know is what the Bible records about the latter part of David’s reign that Solomon observed. We can draw some conclusions. We probably can draw the conclusion that his life was filled with some folly in those younger years because, of course, it’s Solomon who in the book of Proverbs says folly is bound up in the heart of a child. He understood that himself.

But there’s basically nothing at least from the direct biblical record of stories of his life, of what happened in those younger years, the Bible just jumps to his coronation. Why would the Bible do that? I think here’s the answer. Because this promise that God had made to David that Solomon would be king is the promise that governed his entire life. It’s what’s important to know about him. The Bible is saying some of that other stuff doesn’t really matter. This is what is key about Solomon, that God’s promise stood behind him, that he would be the new king, and he would be God’s king.

So when Bathsheba went to David, that’s what she reminded him of. Remember, David? Remember that promise? And on the basis of that promise, Nathan followed her up and went to David and asked, “Did you know that Adonijah has made himself king, David? Did you appoint him to follow you?”

So four characters.

Secondly, one question. The question’s very simple. We’ve referred to it a number of times already in this message. The question is simply this in this text: Who will sit on the throne?

Do you notice that kind of awkwardness when we got to the end of our text tonight? That our text ends with a question. We don’t have an answer. We’re going to get an answer, we’re going to get an answer next week. But we don’t have an answer. We just have the question tonight. The question, “David, haven’t you told your servants who should sit on the throne after you? David, why Adonijah? You said that it would be Solomon. God has said that it was to be Solomon.”

So the question at the end of the text tonight to David, “David, who is going to reign? David, who do you appoint? Who is on the throne?”

Friends, that was a crucial question for the first readers of this book. God’s people Israel, when did they read this? You have to remember that they read 1 Kings when they were in exile in Babylon. So we had the run of the kings. 1 Kings, 2 Kings, you get to the end and then God’s people are reading this history about those who reigned in Israel. Jerusalem is ruined, the temple has been destroyed, they’re looking back at their history, at the history of the kings, and they’re trying to makes sense of the destruction that has fallen upon Israel. What happened? What went wrong?

1 Kings gives us answer. The answer is the covenant. The answer is how did the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah reign in relationship to the covenant that God had made with His people. Obedience leading to blessing in Israel’s history, disobedience leading to curses. We heard it this morning from Kevin, all of this kind of wrapped into covenant life. The question is posed to those Israelites as they’re sitting in exile, your obedience or your disobedience to the covenant, who’s been sitting on the throne of your life, Israel? Who’s been sitting on the throne of your hearts?

But then it also is a reminder to them, to Israel. Israel, you also need to understand your history in terms of God’s covenant with you. Even in the midst of your life and your obedience and your disobedience, God’s mercy, God’s promises, are there to give you a son whose gracious kingdom will last forever. I mean, that’s a promise when you’re sitting in Babylon, isn’t it? That’s right, God promised. God promised a king, God promised a kingdom. Here we are, sitting in Babylon, but the promise is there. God’s grace in spite of their sin.

So the pointed question for us tonight I think is simply this: Who’s on the throne of our hearts?

Just as that question was posed to Israel as they sat in Babylon looking back at their history, who’s on the throne of our hearts?

Five times in our text tonight that simple, those simple words are strung together, “on the throne, on the throne, on the throne, on the throne, on the throne.” Adonijah was asking, “Who’s on the throne?” David and Bathsheba were asking, “Who’s on the throne?” Solomon had to be wondering, “Who’s on the throne?” It’s the very question that we need to ask tonight, “Who’s reigning on the throne of our hearts or lives? Who or what are our functional, not our confessed, but who are the operational gods in our life that sit on the throne of our hearts?”

Solomon’s life as we’re going to see, there’s so much that was good about his life and his reign, but in a similar way that David, you get near the end of Solomon’s reign and everything just kind of goes downhill. In fact, it almost like drops off a cliff. Down, down, down. His kingdom is in decline. Why? Because Solomon himself was gripped by other gods. He had other things than God sitting on the throne of his heart, particularly as we’ll see the gods of money, sex, and power. He had many different wives, had lots of money, had lots of power and influence, and he didn’t manage those things well at all.

Friends, when we think about our own life and times, nothing’s really changed, hasn’t it? Because that same unholy trinity, those are the things that often master us, money, sex, and power. It’s not the only things that master us, but those are the things that often master us. Gods and idols, of course, are not little statues. They’re often good things that have turned into ultimate things. Gods and idols or anything in addition to or besides God that we think that we cannot live without. We have to have them. Often we’ll break rules, we will harm others, we’ll even harm ourselves to get them. That’s the powerful grip that they end up having on our lives.

Gods can be friends, they’re influence, they’re approval, that might end up holding greater weight than what God says about our life. What do my friends think about me? They drive us around and lead us to places that we ought not to go because they’re sitting on the throne of our heart.

It could be pleasure, as we live for the next high. The need to be liked, or achievement, my successes, what I’ve accomplished, and the need for people to recognize that. Could be physical beauty, it may be comfort. Maybe it’s self-expression, the freedom that I have to express myself any way that I want and you get in the way of that and it’s not going to go well for you because this is the god that I serve that I have to serve.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before that Calvin, John Calvin, said our hearts are idol factories. Coming from Michigan, I think about factories. General Motors, Ford plants, pumping out cars, pumping out trucks, and what to our hearts do? They pump out idols. Full of idols. Something other than God is always trying to climb onto the throne of our hearts.

Just a week or so ago I read an article by Keller. He had written it some time ago, I think probably two years ago or so. The article was called “Growing My Faith in the Face of Death.” He was reflecting upon his cancer diagnosis and how that diagnosis and his faith have intersected. It was about the journey to apply himself to what he had ministered to so many other people in his ministry as they faced suffering and death. He says in the article religious faith doesn’t always automatically provide solace in times of crisis, so in the article he says, “I had to wrestle with this, I had to learn to apply my head and my heart in terms of my faith and apply my head and my heart.” How did he do that? He said, “I immersed myself in the Psalms to know God better, I took those truths and spoke them, preached them, to my heart,” and then he said, “I thought upon and was sustained by Christ’s love, death, and resurrection.” Then he goes on and he says, “Here was the result for my living.” Quoting him, he says: “One of the most difficult results to explain of doing those three things is what happened to my joys and fears. Since my diagnosis Kathy and I have come to see that the more we tried to make a heaven out of this world, the more we grounded our comfort and security in it, the less we were able to enjoy it. Kathy and I should have known better. We did know better. When we turn good things into ultimate things, when we make them our greatest consolations and loves, they will necessarily disappoint us bitterly. Thou has made us for thyself, Augustine said, in his most famous sentence. And our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

Keller’s saying I had to wrestle with this, that there were gods in my life that I was serving that had to be taken off the throne, and God through that suffering that He went through did that for him.

Friends, that is deep heart work. How do you identify what potentially occupies the throne of your heart? I don’t have all the answers to that, but maybe here are some of them. What do you daydream about? In other words, when you’re not focused or concentrated upon something, you just have time to think, where does your mind go? That you think about often, it consumes your thoughts? What do you spend your money on? What is your priority there? What snags your free time? You have time just to do whatever you want. What is it that draws you into it?

A fourth one. Over what do you have unbalanced sinful emotional reactions? In other words, something happens to you and you have an emotional reaction that is all out of proportion to the thing that occurred. You go into a rage when maybe you should have just been disappointment or something like that.

Those are some of the questions to ask to see what’s reigning in my life. On the throne, like Adonijah, it sometimes is just us. Right? We exalt ourselves.

One our young boys has really good theology. He gave me a picture of the bulletin this morning. If you look at tonight’s bulletin, it says “Who’s on the throne?”, my name’s right under it. Well, he scratched that off. He crossed off my name and he wrote “God.”

That’s right. God is on the throne. Only God can give our souls rest. He made a promise, He spoke His Word, His Word cannot fail. David would have a forever son to sit on the throne and that promise began with Solomon, and as you know is fulfilled in Jesus.

At His birth. Where is He? Who is to be born king of the Jews? The king for we have come to worship Him. At the end of His life, the placard that stood above His head, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

Friends, of course we know He’s more than that. Not just the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That is the name that is to be written on His thigh when He comes back. Didn’t exalt Himself like Adonijah, but humbled Himself, all the way to the bitter and shameful death on the cross. Therefore, God highly exalted Him and gave him the name that is above every name. He reigns. He is the sovereign Lord of all the earth and the only one who has the right to the throne of our hearts.

The one thing more than any other that will keep Jesus on the throne is to go back to His death and His suffering and His resurrection for you and for me, to go back to the Gospel over and over and over again. Then you say, Jesus, there’s only one who can reign, and it’s You.

Behold our God, seated on the throne, come, let us adore Him, behold our king, nothing can compare. Come, let us adore Him.

Who’s on the throne? It’s Jesus. Serve Him.

Let’s pray together. Jesus, we thank You that You reign and You reign because You are our sacrificial King, the King who laid down His life so that we might have life. We pray that we would find our rest to be in You and when we’re finding our rest in other things, expose them, Lord, show us the futility of serving other gods. Jesus, You are the One who is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We love You. We pray these things in Your name. Amen.