I Kings 1,2
This fall when I was cleaning the nest out of my wren house, there was a mouse in it who had found a nice winter home. With his house gone, and me confronting him, he had to change his plans and disappear. Robert Burns has a poem, “To a Mouse,” which tells of a similar experience. In that poem, after reflecting on the mouse’s experience of losing its winter home he writes, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft astray. And leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy.”
How true that is. When we were preparing to move out of our house in Manitou, we had a piano in the basement. We had sold it and the new owner was going to come and pick it up. It was very heavy and since it was a delicate instrument, we wanted to handle it carefully, so I had borrowed equipment to get it up the stairs. I built a ramp with 2x4’s and plywood and rigged up a belt around the piano and a winch which was attached to the rafters in the garage. I had planned and schemed to make sure it was a smooth and efficient operation. The day came when we wanted to move it and we got a few guys to handle the winch and guide it up the stairs. Things were going well until we got the piano about once its length up the stairs. Suddenly, we realized that it was not going to fit under the low spot in the ceiling. I had measured the height of the piano, but I had forgotten to take account of the height of the ramp. All my planning was for nothing. We had to take the piano down, dismantle the ramp and the winch system and quickly find some strong people to help us carry it up manually.
I am always amazed when my plans work, because it doesn’t always happen. No matter how well we plan and how diligent we might be, our plans will not always work out. The passage we will look at this morning will help us understand that in contrast to our plans, God’s plans happen.
Today we are beginning a series of messages on I Kings. Although I & II Kings were originally written as one book and we should probably go through both books at once, we will only do I Kings now and perhaps II Kings at a later time. Besides teaching us about the history of God’s people, there are also many excellent lessons which will help us in our walk with Christ and our understanding of who God is.
I. God Has A Plan
There are many things in the Old Testament that are hard to understand. One of the most important principles to help us interpret the Old Testament is to understand that it is about God’s plan and how His plan happens.
The Bible tells us that God’s plan reaches back to the time before creation, but it really begins with us at creation and more particularly at the fall. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God enacted a plan which would bring people back to himself and create a people who are his people and who follow Him. What happened from that point has always had something to do with God bringing about his plan.
The first part of God’s plan was to create a people who were his people and who would be the context in which His plan would come to be. From the beginning, God’s plan was to bring Messiah to be the redeemer of the world. But to start with, His redeemer needed a nation into which to come to earth. So God chose Abraham out of all the people of the earth to be the one to found the nation that would bring the world Messiah. Abraham had Isaac and Isaac bore Jacob and Jacob, whose other name was Israel, had twelve sons who became the twelve tribes of Israel. God led them into Egypt where they became a nation and where they became desperate enough to call out to God and ask for His deliverance. Moses brought the people out of Egypt and in the wilderness, God met them at Mount Sinai and made a covenant with them. They were to be his people and he would be their God.
After 40 years in the desert, they finally entered the promised land and under Joshua, conquered enough of the land to begin living there. Over the years, they became established in the promised land. They were the people of God, but at the same time, they were waiting for God to bring his redeemer.
During this time, they asked for a king and God gave them Saul as the first king. Following Saul God gave them David. To David, the promise of a coming one was narrowed yet further. Not only would he be, out of all the nations of the world, an Israelite, he would be a descendent in the line of David. Through the succession of kings, Israel continued to be the people of God. They were not always faithful, but always his people and waiting more and more intensely for the fulfillment of the great plan of God when his representative who would be from Israel and would be a descendent of David would come to earth.
It is in this time that I Kings takes place. It begins, as we shall see in a moment, with the last days of king David and tells the story of God’s plan and God’s people until, at the end of II Kings, Judah is taken captivity into Babylon. So the story is truly the story of the Kings of Israel. We will examine the beginning of this story, as far as it goes in I Kings.
In chapter 1,2 of I Kings, we begin with the statement that “King David was old.” The last line of the chapters we are looking at today says, “The kingdom was now firmly established in Solomon’s hands.” The story of the first two chapters of I Kings is about God’s plan to put onto the throne the one who would succeed David as King. It is a story about God’s plan and as we will see, God’s plan happens.
There is too much to read here, but let me briefly tell you the story.
David was old and in his old age, he was beginning to fail physically and also to lose the will and the power to rule. To deal with his physical ailments, his servants prescribed a young virgin to be his nurse. The text tells us that he did not have relations with her, but that she cared for him. Part of the reason for mentioning this is to indicate that David was not the powerful king he had once been.
His inability created a political crisis. His oldest son, Adonijah must have realized what was happening and created a publicity event meant to put himself into the place of being king. It was complete with limousines and a banquet and security personnel. He invited Joab, David’s general; Abiathar, the priest; and others to this event. But what is significant is to note who he did not invite. He did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the chief of guards or Solomon, his own brother.
When Nathan realized what was going on, he spoke to Bathsheba, who was Solomon’s mother. Together, they carefully and somewhat fearfully approached David to remind him of the promise he had made that Solomon would be king. David rose to the occasion and made arrangements for Solomon to be crowned co-regent with himself and so prepare him for becoming king when he would die. So this is what happened. Solomon was presented to the people as the new king. He was anointed with oil to indicate God’s blessing on his position.
When Adonijah found out about this, he realized that his plot had failed and was afraid of what would happen to him. He approached Solomon and received the promise that if he would behave himself, nothing would happen to him.
As we move into chapter 2, David gives a charge to Solomon and challenges him to be a king who walks in the ways of God. We read this earlier. Then we read that David died and Solomon sat on the throne.
As he came to the throne, there were several potential problems that presented themselves to him. A study of history reveals that when a transition took place, there were often problems until the new kings reign was established. Here also, there were people who could have caused Solomon a lot of grief. David had spoken about some unfinished business from his reign, relating to these powerful people. In the rest of the chapter, we are told how Solomon dealt with these.
First of all, we read about Adonijah. The story goes that he went to Bathsheba to ask her to ask Solomon if he could have Abishag, the nurse of David, as a wife. It seems like an innocent enough request, but when Bathsheba speaks to Solomon about it, we realize that it was not. Asking for Abishag, was like asking for the throne, because a kings harem often accompanied the right to rule. Solomon realizes that this is not a right request, but an expressed desire to take over the throne, which had been denied to him. Solomon orders him put to death.
Next we have a story about Abiathar who was the priest who had joined Adonijah in trying to take over the throne. Since he had been good to David, Solomon does not have Abiathar killed for trying to give the throne to Adonijah, but rather, he removed him from the priesthood.
The next story is about Joab who had been David’s general, but who had done some things which had left blood guilt on the house of David. He had killed two men in a time of peace. David had instructed Solomon about him. When Joab saw that Adonijah was killed and Abiathar stripped of the priesthood, he feared for his life and ran to the altar to seek divine protection. Solomon, however, recognized that he did not deserve divine protection, but was under divine condemnation and so Joab was also killed.
The last story is also one which comes out of the life of David. When Absalom had rebelled against David and David had to flee, Shimei, who was a relative of Saul, had cursed David. At the time, David had done nothing, but the curse hung in the air as an unresolved issue. Furthermore, Shimei posed a threat to the stability of Solomon’s rule as king because he was of the family of Saul, the first king. Solomon called for Shimei and made a deal with him. If he would stay in Jerusalem, where he could keep an eye on him, he would live, but if he ever left Jerusalem, he would die. About three years later, he did leave Jerusalem, and as a result forfeited his own life.
The conclusion of all these stories is then given in 2:46, “The kingdom was now firmly established in Solomon’s hands.” In other words, God’s plan happened.
II. Challenge To God’s Plan
That God’s plan happened, however, is not to be taken for granted. As we have heard this story, we have noticed that there are many things that could have prevented it from happening.
A. David Is Failing
It could have fallen apart because David was old and beginning to lack power. The energy to rule was just not there any more. David had failed on several counts to take appropriate action. In 1:6, we are told that “His father had never interfered with him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?”” David had failed to give appropriate leadership to his sons. He had failed in not clearly and decisively appointing a successor. He spent his time trying to stay warm instead of leading with vigour. It sounds as if he was tired and worn out and not really able to give appropriate leadership any more.
All of these failures, were a danger to the throne. Any one of them could have prevented God’s plan from coming into place. What would have happened if a military crisis would have happened in David’s old age? What would have happened if David would not have risen to the occasion when encouraged by Bathsheba and Nathan to do so?
B. Adonijah Wants The Throne
Adonijah was the 4th, but eldest surviving son of David. He obviously had a lot going for him. He was smart enough to know how to posture for kingship. He obviously had some powerful people on board. The text also tells us that he was handsome. Good looks was as much a benefit to being king then as it is now.
We are used to the fact that succession to the throne is given to the oldest, nearest relative. Adonijah was that relative and so when he tried to take the throne, he had a supposed right to it. However, the way he tried to take the reign was clearly an indication that he did it with the knowledge that it was not David’s will. Those present, Joab and Abiathar, supported him, but were not now strong supporters of David. Those absent, Benaiah, Nathan and Solomon were not invited. He held the occasion away from Jerusalem because he knew it was not David’s plan. All these things tell us that he knew that he did not really deserve this, but had he succeeded, God’s plan would not have been carried out.
C. Conditional Promise
Another aspect that is only a promise here, but will become important later on is the challenge that David gave to Solomon. He said, “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 man on the throne of Israel.” As we continue in our study, we will find that many of the kings did not obey God. They walked in disobedience. Although there was a threat to God’s plan in the story we are looking at today, the threat becomes even more severe in the future. What will happen to God’s plan when the kings don’t obey God?
D. Solomon’s Opponents
The final threat to God’s plan is in the form of the opposition that could have come from the men who had joined Adonijah and had opposed David - Adonijah, Abiathar, Joab and Shimei. Had they gained power, and they did have power, they could have prevented God’s plan from happening.
III. God’s Plan Happens
In spite of all those things that could have prevented God’s plan and even through those things that could have prevented God’s plan, it happened.
A. Solomon Declared King
The repeated theme, in these chapters is “Solomon became king.” In 1:39, 40, we read…. In 1:48 we have David’s words…. Then in 2:12 the writer comments…and finally in 2:46, we have already noted that Solomon’s reign was firmly established.
“God’s transcendent will has operated behind unworthy human motives and plots.”
B. Solomon’s Reign Established.
Although it is hard to understand all the bloodshed, these stories happened. Through them, Solomon’s reign is established. In 2:24; 2:33; 2:45 after each of the challengers to Solomon were dealt with, there is a comment that Solomon is king. In other words, God’s plan happens.
The principle we learn from this story is that God’s plan happens. In spite of things that would prevent it, it happens. That principle is applicable to us. A lesson we must learn and live by.
A. God’s Plan Today
God’s plan is still in effect. We are today in a different place in this plan. Jesus, the one anticipated in the Old Testament has come. Redemption is available, purchased and known. The plan of God, to create a people for himself, which began in the Old Testament, continues. Jesus stated it succinctly in Matthew 16:18 when he said, “I will build my church.” This plan includes the necessity of calling of people from every tribe and tongue and nation to follow Christ and the necessity of creating of a new people of God who follow his will. In other words, God’s plan for today is to build the church of Christ by making disciples.
Just as God’s plan in the Old Testament was opposed, so today, there is much opposition to it. Satan is doing all he can to shut down the church. There are many times we wonder if our church locally will continue, with health to grow and be effective. When we see how seldom churches are respected in the world today, we wonder if God’s promise has failed. Public opinion, moral failure of leaders, conflict in the church, all threaten to undermine God’s plan. Will it happen?
B. God Fulfills His Plan.
The example of the story from I Kings, 1,2 tells us that God’s plan happens. The same encouragement is ours today. God’s plan will happen, the promise is sure!
We have seen the future! In Revelation the temple of God, which is the church stands. We read in Revelation 21:2 “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” This comes after the announcement in Revelation 18 that Babylon, the world city which opposes God and his plan will be utterly destroyed.
What an encouragement to us to know that God’s plan stands.
C. Our Participation In It
But what is our part in it?
We make a lot of plans - plans to build a house, go on a vacation, get a job, get an education. As we make these plans, are we conscious of God’s plan? Our plans may fail. In fact, ultimately, everything we plan that is not part of God’s plan will be destroyed. Only that which is part of God’s plan will last into eternity.
The question which we must ask ourselves is, “How much time do we take to discern God’s plan and go along with it?” We can (like Adonijah and Joab) be a hindrance in God’s plan or we can (like David, Nathan, Bathsheba and Solomon) work with God to accomplish His plan. May God find us faithful as we work with Him to do His work.
If we knew beyond a doubt that a particular investment would yield 20% a year, would we not put all of our available money into that fund? If we knew that a new variety of canola could be planted for five years in a row and would yield 70 bushels an acre each year, guaranteed, would we not invest in such a crop? If we knew that 4 years of study in a course we enjoyed would guarantee us a job in which we could earn >$100,000 a year, would we not spend the time in school? Most often, we make plans and investments on much less guarantee.
God has given us a greater promise. His plan will happen, his church will be built! Are we investing ourselves, our lives, our finances, our time in God’s plan? May He find us faithful.