Morning Message: John Cline
1 Kings 2, 3
Reader: Richard Wallman
So, this bitterly cold weather we are experiencing is because of the Dzivenu’s nanny, Linet, who came here from Kenya last summer and asked God for a really cold winter so that she could experience it. Request granted, Linet! But, God does not grant every prayer request. We read in our sermon series through the Letter of James that, “You do not have, because you do not ask. And, when you ask and do not receive, it is because you have asked wrongly, wanting to get something only to spend it on your passions, on world desires, frivolously.” (James 4:2,3). Some requests God will not grant because they are selfish but other requests He won’t grant because they contradict another’s prayer requests, as in the case of wars, or sporting events when both sides pray for a win, or when two guys both pray for the same girl to marry them, or when four women pray for that one job to be given to them alone. The premise of the movie “Bruce Almighty” is that God grants a man named Bruce the ability to answer prayers. Bruce doesn’t handle that power well, though, as he is amazed when he opens a “prayer request” website and there are over 1 million requests right away, and when he grants all those requests, immediately there are 2 million prayer requests. When Bruce grants everyone in his city their prayer request to win the lottery and 1100 people claim the winning lottery ticket, there are riots in the streets after the lottery company announces it doesn’t have the funds to pay out the winning amount it had promised. So, you can see that God granting all prayer requests sometimes does not make sense.
But we will read today that there are times when God does grant a specific request, that being with King Solomon. That topic I will get to in the second part of today’s sermon, but first we need to finish off where we ended last week. King David was on his deathbed when his fourth son, Adonijah, sensed an opportunity to declare himself David’s successor as king. In on Adonijah’s backstabbing of David’s plan were his military commander, Joab, as well as the High Priest at that time, Abiathar, and all the other sons of David, except for Solomon. Cheering on David’s downfall, no doubt, would have been Shimei, the last living relative of King Saul. He had mocked and derided David when an earlier insurrection happened, but David responded by sparing his life and giving him grace all because his relative, Saul, had once been anointed by God to be Israel’s king. David had a plan to spare Solomon all the grief that those four backstabbers had inflicted on him. Once again, those four were:
Adonijah – David’s son who claimed the kingship
Joab – David’s military commander who betrayed him
Abiathar – the High Priest who anointed Adonijah king
Shimei – Saul’s relative who mocked and belittled David
Now, David did have people who remained faithful to him at the time of Adonijah’s insurrection, people such as Nathan the famous prophet, as well as Benaiah who was a high-ranking military officer, and Zadok who was a priest. Those men were with David when he trumped Adonijah’s bid to become king, which David did by announcing that his successor would be Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, his seventh, final, and favourite wife). We read last week that David had sinned against the Lord’s command to have one wife only. His sin of being a polygamist brought about horrible family dynamics, such as the competitions amongst his children to establish their own positions of power. Now, Adonijah’s bid for power may have been ended by David but it was Solomon who spared his life, that after Solomon recognized that it would be improper to murder a man who had run into the Tabernacle, the place believed to be God’s resting place on earth, particularly while the man was clinging to the horns of the alter in a desperate big to survive.
After that event, David advised Solomon to be wise in his dealings with David’s backstabbing enemies for David knew that if Solomon did not deal with them, they would cause lasting grief to him and to his rule. David started with Joab, his military commander:
“Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—what he did to the two commanders of Israel’s armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood he stained the belt around his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.” (1 Kings 1:5,6)
Last week, we heard David advise Solomon to “act like a man”, inwardly, outwardly, and spiritually. Further in that speech, he also advised Solomon to use the wisdom he naturally had with Joab,
“But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.” (1 Kings 2:7)
Barzillai of Gilead had been a wealthy and influential man whose generosity and service to David was blessed by God. Barzillai had earlier helped David when Absalom, another of David’s sons, in fact, his favourite son, who was the first of David’s sons to try and usurp his throne. When Absalom declared himself the new king, David fled from Jerusalem. Where he ended up, Mahanaim, Barzillai lived. He came to David’s defense, sheltering and feeding him. Once that threat was overcome, David returned to Jerusalem and promised to honour and bless Barzillai and his sons. Going back to Absalom, Joab, despite David warning him to not harm Absalom in any way, killed him at the first opportunity to do so. David never forgave Joab for that heartache. Nor did David forget or forgive that Joab had furthermore murdered his two rivals, Abner and Amasa, when David was considering appointing one of them to the position of military commander. That is why David wanted Solomon to exact vengeance on Joab but to honour for Barzillai’s family. Barzillai’s sons are not mentioned again so we can assume that Solomon did as his father wished. David continued on:
“And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord: ‘I will not put you to death by the sword.’ But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.” Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. So, Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established. (1 Kings 2:8-12)
Let’s now hear Richard read for us how David’s pleas for vengeance and justice played out regarding Adonijah, Abiathar, Joab, and Shimei, those four men who had caused David such grief.
Now Adonijah, the son of Haggith, went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother. Bathsheba asked him, “Do you come peacefully?” He answered, “Yes, peacefully.” Then he added, “I have something to say to you.” “You may say it,” she replied. “As you know,” he said, “the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But things changed, and the kingdom has gone to my brother; for it has come to him from the Lord. Now I have one request to make of you. Do not refuse me.” “You may make it,” she said. So, he continued, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” “Very well,” Bathsheba replied, “I will speak to the king for you.” When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand. “I have one small request to make of you,” she said. “Do not refuse me.” The king replied, “Make it, my mother; I will not refuse you.” So, she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given in marriage to your brother Adonijah.” (1 Kings 2:13-21)
You have every right to ask, “Bathsheba! What were you thinking? Do you have no wisdom or strength?” You may recall that Abishag had been the last woman in David’s life, his chamber maid in his old age. Although she was young and beautiful, David never made any sexual advances on her. Though she was not one of David’s wives or concubines, in that chauvinistic/patriarchal culture, the fact that Abishag had served David meant she “belonged” to David, at least in the thinking of the people. Adonijah taking Abishag as his wife would have been his statement to all Israel that what was David’s was now rightfully his. Adonijah was making a play for David’s throne.
King Solomon answered his mother, “Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? You might as well request the kingdom for him—after all, he is my older brother—yes, for him and for Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah!” Then King Solomon swore by the Lord: “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if Adonijah does not pay with his life for this request! And now, as surely as the Lord lives—he who has established me securely on the throne of my father David and has founded a dynasty for me as he promised—Adonijah shall be put to death today!” So, King Solomon gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he struck down Adonijah and he died. (1 Kings 2:22-25)
So, Adonijah had gotten away with his first attempt at insurrection when Solomon spared his life, but not this second one. Going on next to Abiathar the opportunist High Priest who had gambled on who would emerge as king in anointing Adonijah to be the next king…
To Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go back to your fields in Anathoth. You deserve to die, but I will not put you to death now, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign Lord before my father David and shared all my father’s hardships.” So, Solomon removed Abiathar from the priesthood of the Lord, fulfilling the word the Lord had spoken at Shiloh about the house of Eli. (1 Kings 2:26,27)
Two opponents taken out (Adonijah and Abiathar), one killed and the other stripped of his title and role as High Priest. Two to go (Joab and Shimei). David had told Solomon, “Now when dealing with Joab, deal with him according to your wisdom”? We will hear him say much the same thing about Shimei. This was because Joab was powerful & influential and Shimei was a lying weasel who could not do good things. Solomon couldn’t afford to make a mistake with either of them.
When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar. (1 Kings 1:28)
The tactic of grabbing onto the horns of the altar as a desperation move for protection had worked for Adonijah. Would it work for Joab?
King Solomon was told that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord & was beside the altar. Then Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada, “Go, strike him down!” So, Benaiah entered the tent of the Lord & said to Joab, “The king says, ‘Come out!’” But he answered, “No, I will die here.” Benaiah reported to the king, “This is how Joab answered me.” Then the king commanded Benaiah, “Do as he says. Strike him down and bury him & so clear me & my whole family of the guilt of the innocent blood that Joab shed. The Lord will repay him for the blood he shed, because, without my father David knowing it, he attacked two men & killed them with the sword. Both of them—Abner son of Ner, commander of Israel’s army, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of Judah’s army—were better men & more upright than he. May the guilt of their blood rest on the head of Joab & his descendants forever. But on David & his descendants, his house & his throne, may there be the Lord’s peace forever.” So Benaiah son of Jehoiada went up & struck down Joab & killed him, & he was buried at his home out in the country. The king put Benaiah son of Jehoiada over the army in Joab’s position and replaced Abiathar with Zadok the priest. (1 Kings 2:29-35)
You would think, having observed all these goings-on, that Shimei, the last living relative of King Saul’s, and one to whom David had extended great mercy and grace, would be very cautious in the things he might do. But he couldn’t help himself from doing wrong & so, he did wrong.
Then the king sent for Shimei and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, but do not go anywhere else. The day you leave and cross the Kidron Valley, you can be sure you will die; your blood will be on your own head.” Shimei answered the king, “What you say is good. Your servant will do as my lord the king has said.” And Shimei stayed in Jerusalem for a long time. But three years later, two of Shimei’s slaves ran off to Achish son of Maakah, king of Gath, and Shimei was told, “Your slaves are in Gath.” At this, he saddled his donkey and went to Achish at Gath in search of his slaves. So Shimei went away and brought the slaves back from Gath. When Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and had returned, the king summoned Shimei and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the Lord and warn you, ‘On the day you leave to go anywhere else, you can be sure you will die’? At that time, you said to me, ‘What you say is good. I will obey.’ Why then did you not keep your oath to the Lord and obey the command I gave you?” The king also said to Shimei, “You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the Lord will repay you for your wrongdoing. But King Solomon will be blessed, and David’s throne will remain secure before the Lord forever.” Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck Shimei down and he died. The kingdom was now established in Solomon’s hands. (1 Kings 2:36-46)
Such drama! One of the reasons why the Bible is so trustworthy and can be believed is that it tells about these events, never making a person look better than they really are (so different from the holy books of Islam and Hinduism where their founders and leaders did not wrong, in their accounts of them). Moving now to the second, and much shorter half of this sermon, we need to recall that David had advised Solomon to be wise in his dealings with both Joab and Shimei. But, after the drama of those events, Solomon must have realized that his own wisdom would not be enough. He needed God’s wisdom.
The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So, give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So, God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court. (2 Kings 3:4-15)
Let’s now read the situation God now arranged which would show to everyone that He had given Solomon great wisdom…
Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us. During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So, she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I, your servant, was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so, they argued before the king. The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive, and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So, they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.” When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice. (1 Kings 3:16-28)
In our Canadian law courts, a “split the baby” decision is an improbable one which is designed so that everyone wins. Here, we just saw wisdom asked for by Solomon. He had pleased God by not asking for a long life, riches, or military victories. Because Solomon had not been selfish in his prayer requests, but asked what was according to God’s will, his request was granted to him. A modern example of this occurred with German Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke who held huge evangelistic crusades in various countries of Africa. He wrote, “Many years ago, we had no money for crusades. I walked along the road wondering what to do and the Lord spoke in my ears. ‘What would you do if I gave you $1 million.’ I immediately replied, “Lord, with $1 million, I could bombard the whole world with the gospel.’ Suddenly, tears began flowing down my eyes. I said, ‘Lord, no, don’t give me
$1 million. Give me 1 million souls. 1 million souls more in heaven and 1 million souls less in hell; this shall be the purpose of my life.’ Then the Holy Spirit spoke in my ears – I heard it like thunder. He said, ‘You will plunder hell to populate heaven for Calvary’s sake.’” The Lord gave Reinhard Bonnke 1 million souls, and $1 million several times over. When we pray prayers that are pleasing to the Lord, He will bless us. Let’s pray fervently for our family, friends, work colleagues, business contacts, schoolmates, church family. We will see what God will do.