“Be A Man!”


1 Kings 1 & 2

My nephew Boyd is a leukemia survivor who has become a fixture on the marathon running circuit. Currently, he is on a 500-plus days-in-a-row streak of running long distances, including 101 half-marathons and several marathons. In addition to his victory over cancer – which he always gives Jesus the credit for – Boyd was in a car accident last April in which his car was totaled but from which he walked away. This week, as he lined up to run yet another half-marathon, he was cold, his shins were sore, and he felt like walking away from the race before it even began, when the speaker on the podium who was trying to encourage the runners recognized Boyd and shouted down to him, “Man up, Boyd! Everyone be like Boyd, this cancer survivor! Get ready to run. Go for it! Man up!” Boyd says it was just the inspiration he needed to get going.

The phrase, “Man up!” or “Be a man!” has taken on a life of its own, encouraging the one addressed to show courage, to stand in the midst of difficulty, to be an overcomer. Sometimes, it is used in strange ways, though, as the time comedian Russell Peters revealed. He was bartering at a shop over the price of a bag he was interested in buying. It was priced at being $35. Peters offered $30 but the shop owner wouldn’t lower his price below $34.50, a potential saving of $.50. Russell Peters argued with the shop owner and eventually gave up and started to walk away but the shop owner shouted at him, “Be a man! Buy this bag!” Peters could scarcely believe that he was being told to prove he was a man – “Be a man! – when the issue was 50 cents.

Today, we are going to read that King David, while on his deathbed, told Solomon, who would be his successor as king of Israel son, “Act like a man!”, to, “Man up!” or, “Be a man!” Before we get to that part that, I need to set the stage. Centuries before, when Moses had lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery and into freedom in the Promised Land, Moses he advised them thus:

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)

So, the kings of Israel were to be Israelites/Jewish, they were not to get rich off their people, they were not to be polygamous (having more than one wife), and they were to read God’s law/Scripture all the days of their lives, and thus teach their people to revere God’s law and to serve God faithfully. If the kings did those things, Moses said, they and their descendants would “reign a long time” over Israel. How did David do with that? Based on those verses alone, not so well. Consider the fact that he was a polygamist, marrying seven women and having numerous concubines, as well, in direct violation of God’s command. How that turned out for David and his successor son Solomon we will read today. Now, while he had been waiting to become king in place of King Saul, David had taken up residence in the southern city of Hebron. There, he married six women who bore him six sons. We read:

These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron: The firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; the second, Daniel the son of Abigail of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah. These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months. (1 Chronicles 3:1-4)
Six wives. Six sons. That would spell trouble. Going on,
David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, and these were the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba daughter of Ammiel. (1 Chronicles 3:5)
Those sons were born to David and Bathsheba once they had married. The child that Bathsheba had as a result of David impregnating her while she was still married to Uriah the Hittite died in childbirth. That boy died on his seventh day, and the custom was that a child was named on the eighth day at the time of circumcision. In any case, those ten named boys weren’t the whole of David’s family.
There were also Ibhar, Elishua, Eliphelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet—nine in all. (1 Chronicles 3:6-8)
Nineteen sons with his seven wives, but that wasn’t all!
All these were the sons of David, besides his sons by his concubines. And Tamar was their sister. (1 Chronicles 3:6-9)
Nineteen sons with seven wives, at least one daughter, Tamar, and various other sons with women with concubines. Needless to say, David had not kept God’s laws! The oldest son, Amnon, raped Tamar, the sister of the third son, Absalom. He then requested Tamar’s hand in marriage. Outraged, Absalom killed him. In response, David’s chief military officer, Joab, murdered Absalom, despite King David have told to not harm Absalom. Sons one and three – murdered. Son number two, Daniel, seems to have died while a young boy for nothing more is written about him. Son number four, Adonijah, while David was elderly and on his deathbed, saw his chance to take over the throne.
Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So, he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (1 Kings 1:5)

The sticky point in Adonijah’s plan was that, even though he was now the oldest living son, David didn’t care about his sons birth order. David loved Bathsheba the most of any of his wives and promised to Bathsheba that her favourite son, Solomon, would be the one David would proclaim to be his successor as king. Trouble was brewing!

Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei and Rei and David’s special guard did not join Adonijah. Adonijah then sacrificed sheep, cattle and fattened calves at the Stone of Zoheleth near En Rogel. 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 special guard or his brother Solomon. Then Nathan asked Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah, the son of Haggith, has become king, and our lord David knows nothing about it? Now then, let me advise you how you can save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in to King David and say to him, ‘My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: “Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ While you are still there talking to the king, I will come in and add my word to what you have said.” So, Bathsheba went to see the aged king in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him. Bathsheba bowed down, prostrating herself before the king. “What is it you want?” the king asked. She said to him, “My lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the Lord your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my lord the king, do not know about it. He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. My lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise, as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.” (1 Kings 1:7-21)

Nathan the prophet then entered the king’s room and confirmed to David that what Bathsheba had told him was actually happening.

The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.” (1 Kings 1:29-30)

A showdown was set. As Adonijah and his guests celebrated at a banquet his self-proclamation as the new king, we read,

So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon mount King David’s mule, and they escorted him to Gihon. Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” And all the people went up after him, playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound. Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they were finishing their feast. On hearing the sound of the trumpet, Joab asked, “What’s the meaning of all the noise in the city?” Even as he was speaking, Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in. A worthy man like you must be bringing good news.” “Not at all!” Jonathan answered. “Our lord King David has made Solomon king. (1 Kings 1:38 – 43)

So, the news for Adonijah and his guests was not good. They were told that David had proclaimed that Solomon would be his successor and that all the people in Jerusalem were celebrating that news.

At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. (1 Kings 1:49,50)

Why did Adonijah run to the tabernacle to grab hold of the horns that had been attached to the altar? The altar was described in Exodus 29 as being the “most holy” spot in the tabernacle, and the place in which it was believed God resided when He came to earth. So, when Adonijah realized his life was in danger, he feared for his life and ran into the tabernacle to take hold of the horns of the altar. He believed that no one would kill a person in God’s presence. From this secure location, Adonijah, fearing Solomon would kill him, begged for his life.

Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be worthy, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.” (1 Kings 1:49-53)

So, Adonijah’s gambit paid off and his life was spared, at least for the time being. We will conclude his story next week. But, now, we will turn the main point of this sermon, David’s words of advice to his son Solomon. Hyelim Kim will read for us.

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ (1 Kings 2:1-4)

If you knew you were dying and had one last chance to offer advice to your son, what would you say? Or, perhaps, a better way of asking this would be what “should” you say in such a case? What did David say to Solomon while lying on his deathbed? David didn’t advise him about the business of being a king or the ruler of a powerful military. He didn’t talk about family members or people to cozy up to or avoid. No, he advised him, “Act like a man!” David, having gotten wiser as he grew older, and recognizing, I believe, the many ways he had blown it in his life, said, to Solomon, “Be a man!” “Act like a man!” “Man up!” David explained what that would involve: strength and resolve. “Be strong inwardly, Solomon (don’t give in to temptation)”! “Be strong outwardly, Solomon (don’t be fearful”!) “Be strong spiritually, Solomon (read God’s Word and be obedient to it)”! “Solomon, if you act like a man in that matter, things will go really well for you and your descendants.” If David himself had simply followed Moses’ advice, he would never have gotten himself into the messes he did in his family and nation. If David had simply done what Moses advised, for example, in that one command to be married to only one wife, how different things would have been! That one sexual weakness which led to having sexual relations with so many women, and the marrying of seven of them, cost David greatly! “Be a man!”, he advised his son.

What I want to close with is that our society needs men who will be strong inwardly, outwardly, and spiritually. There needs to be a priority on manhood in our society. And I am not talking about testosterone-filled, chauvinistic, macho-men but about being men who are not ashamed to be men, strong inwardly, outwardly, and spiritually. Being a king was not for a weakling, a sinner, a cheat. In fact, what David advised for Solomon is indeed, advice for men of all times and in all nations. Be strong, live for God and in service to others. That we need!

In closing, I want to state that our society needs such men! With its continual deriding of fathers and husbands as clueless buffoons in tv shows or on advertisements, and in its embracing of men who can’t win in sports with other men so they move to women’s sports where they can win and thus cheat their way to trophies and deprive female athletes of the chance to win, our society has become fundamentally weak. I could give so many examples here of male weakness in our society but you know most of them. Our families and our society need real men, men who are strong, men who are godly. We need a man who is gentle and caring, who values his wife, his children and grandchildren, men who are honest and fair with their friends and in their business dealings, men who care about the well-being of their nation and who will fight for it, men who will act like the men God created them to be. We need such men. Now, let’s pray…

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