The first word in the NIV’s version of 1 Kings 1 is the word ‘when’: ‘When David was old and well advanced in years….’ However the word translated ‘when’ should really be translated ‘and’: ‘And King David was old and well advanced in years….’ And the point of the word ‘and’ is to tell us that what we’re about to read follows on from the previous books. So, 1 Kings follows 1 and 2 Samuel. The story we were reading in 1 and 2 Samuel didn’t end at the end of 2 Samuel, but it continues into 1 Kings and then into 2 Kings. And it’s the story of the kings of Israel. At the beginning of 1 Samuel, there were no kings in Israel. At least there were no human kings, because God was the King over his people and he ruled them through the prophets who proclaimed the word of the Lord. However, it was always God’s intention to provide his people with a human king who would rule over God’s people on God’s behalf. And in 1 Samuel 8 the people asked for a king. The problem was, instead of asking for God’s king to rule over them, they asked for a king like the nations had. They wanted the same kind of king which all the other nations had; and that kind of king was very different from the kind of king which God had in mind for his people.
Samuel warned them that a king like the nations had will only take and take and take from them. But they would not listen. And so, because they did not listen to the Lord, the Lord gave them what they asked for and the Lord appointed Saul to rule over them. And though Saul looked the part, because he was taller than everyone else it soon became clear that he was not a good king, but a bad king. And he was a bad king because he would not obey the Lord.
And so, God sent Samuel the prophet to the home of Jesse to anoint his youngest son, David, to be king over God’s people in place of Saul. David was God’s choice to be king. And in the rest of 1 Samuel we read about the efforts Saul took to kill David, but the Lord kept David safe and eventually Saul died. And 2 Samuel begins with David hearing of Saul’s death; and then it tells us how David became king of Israel in place of Saul.
Overall David was a good king, because he tried to obey the Lord and to walk in his ways and he led his army in victory over the Philistines who were living in the land in those days. However, there was the famous incident with Bathsheba, who was married to Uriah, when David sinned against the Lord by taking Uriah’s wife and Uriah’s life. And afterwards, David’s son Absalom rebelled against his father so that David had to flee from Jerusalem. However, Absalom was killed and the rebellion ended and David was able to return to Jerusalem. And 2 Samuel ended with David offering a sacrifice to the Lord to pay for the sins of his people. And that’s a picture for us of the good news of the gospel, because the gospel is about God’s True Anointed King, Jesus Christ, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins in full so that we can have peace with God and the hope of everlasting life.
When we studied 1 and 2 Samuel, I made the point that what we read about David points us to Christ our King and Saviour. And what we’ll read about the kings of Israel who followed David points us to Christ our King and Saviour. He is the true king, who rules and reigns over all things in heaven and on earth; and he’s extending his kingdom throughout the world through the reading and preaching of his word. Whenever his word is proclaimed, he is calling men and women and boys and girls to yield their lives to him and to enter his kingdom through repentance and faith. And in his kingdom there is forgiveness and there’s the hope of everlasting peace and joy and life in the presence of God.
And so, having studied 1 and 2 Samuel in 2020 and 2021, it’s time now for us to return to the story of the kings of Israel.
Verses 1 to 4
And in the first four verses we learn that David is now old and well advanced in years. The shepherd boy who once defeated Goliath with a sling and a stone is now an old man. And we’re told that he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. I remember how we used to visit my grandparents when they were alive; and nearly every time we visited them I felt I was about to melt because they kept their home so hot. And while I was boiling because of the heat, they still complained that they were cold. Apparently there’s a condition which is common among the elderly in which the flow of blood around the body is obstructed which leaves you feeling cold. And perhaps David was suffering from that condition. In any case, he was cold and could not get warm.
His servants come up with a solution which was to appoint a young woman to attend to the king and to take care of him. And when the king was cold, she could lie beside him and keep him warm with her own body heat. The commentators discuss whether there was a sexual connotation to all of this. And since the servants searched the land not just for any girl, but for a beautiful girl, then it makes you wonder whether she was to be more than just a nurse. However, we’re told in verse 4 that the king has no intimate relations with her. So, she only lay beside him and tried to keep him warm through the long, cold nights.
So, that’s how 1 Kings begins. The king is old and he’s cold. It seems that all his vim and vigour has gone. He’s only a shadow of the man he once was. Who would believe, when they looked at this old man, that he was once a mighty warrior and the woman used to sing: ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’? Who would have believed it?
Verses 5 and 6
That’s David. And in verse 5 we’re introduced to one of his sons called Adonijah. Perhaps though we could name him ‘Diotrephes’. Do you remember Distrephes? We read about him last week when we were studying 3 John. Diotrephes, John told us, loves to be first. That is, he wanted to run things. He wanted to take over the church and impose his will on everyone else. And it seems that Adonijah is just like Diotrephes, because we’re told he put himself forward and said, ‘I will be king’. He wanted to be first. He wanted to run things. He wanted to rule as king in place of his decrepit father. And instead of waiting to be crowned, he was prepared to take the throne. And so, he put himself forward. That is, he exalted himself.
Adonijah was David’s fourth son. David’s first son, Ammon, was killed by Absalom. David’s second son probably died at a young age, because nothing is ever said about him apart from the fact that he was born. David’s third son was Absalom who rebelled against his father and was killed. And so, Adonijah is David’s fourth son. And he got chariots and horses and 50 men to run before him. This is what Absalom had done whenever he was conspiring against David back in chapter 15 of 2 Samuel. Just as King Charles doesn’t appear on his own, or the President of the USA doesn’t appear on his own, but they’re accompanied by body guards and a motorcade and servants, so Adonijah had these chariots and horses and men to accompany him. He was making sure that he looked like a king.
And then we have the little note in verse 6 that David had never interfered with him by questioning his behaviour. That suggests that David should have acted earlier to discipline his son as he grew up. And we’re also told in verse 6 that Adonijah was very handsome. And that meant he looked the part. People would look at this handsome young man and think to themselves that he’s bound to be a good king, because just look at him! And yet, we know from what we learned in 1 Samuel that we’re not be be swayed by appearances, because the Lord looks, not an the outward appearance, but at the heart. Adonijah may have looked good, but what was in his heart? And what was in his heart was pride and arrogance, because Adonijah exalted himself and loved to be first.
And we’re also told in verse 6 that he was born next after Absalom. And presumably that means he thought that he was next in line to the throne. So, why shouldn’t he be king?
I’ll tell you why he shouldn’t be king. 1 Chronicles tells us the same story as 1 Kings, but in a slightly different way. And in 1 Chronicles 22 we’re told that David wanted to build a temple for the Lord. But the Lord told David that he must not build the temple, because he had shed much blood and had fought many battles. But David will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest; and God will give David’s son rest from all his enemies. And that son’s name will be Solomon. That’s what God said. And so, God’s will was for Solomon to be king and not Adonijah. Why shouldn’t Adonijah be king? Because God has told David that Solomon will be king.
Verses 7 to 10
However, in verses 7 to 10 of 1 Kings, we have the steps Adonijah took to exalt himself. First, he conferred with Joab who was a military leader and with Abiathar who was a religious leader. And he got their support, though there were others who did not support him. So, he knew who was for him and who was against him. And then he arranged a get-together outside Jerusalem for all his suporters, including most of his brothers. But there was one brother who was not invited; and it won’t surprise you to learn that the brother he did not invite was Solomon, who was God’s choice to be king. And that might mean that he was aware that Solomon was the first choice to be king, but he did not care.
And while the text does not tell us here, we soon discover that this get-together for all of Adonijah’s supporters was a coronation service. They gathered together in order to crown Adonijah as king in place of his father.
Verses 11 to 40
In verse 11 the writer turns our attention to Nathan the prophet. He was the prophet who confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba. And we’re told in verse 11 that he went to Bathsheba, who was Solomon’s mother, to tell her that Adonijah had become king without David’s knowledge. And he said to her in verse 12 that he was going to advise her what to do in order to save her own life and the life of Solomon. You see, Adonijah’s first item of business after making himself king would be to eliminate all possible contenders to the throne. And that would mean he would want to execute Solomon and his mother. And we learn from verse 13 that David had once sworn to Bathsheba that Solomon would be king after David.
And so, this is Nathan’s advice: Go to David and tell him what has happened and remind him of his promise to you about Solomon. And once she has spoken to the king, Nathan himself will come in and confirm it all.
We’re then told in verse 15 that Bathsheba went to the king and confronted him with the news. And in verse 20 she challenged him: The eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne after you. All eyes are on you. What are you going to do?
And while she was still speaking, Nathan arrived. He confirmed what Bathsheba had said. And asked the king whether this was something the king had agreed without telling him about it?
And David then called Bathsheba back and he took an oath in verse 29: ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, I will surely carry out today 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.’ And this old, decrepit king suddenly had a burst of energy, because he summoned Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, one of the military commanders. And when they appeared before the king, he ordered them to set Solomon on the king’s mule and take him down to Gihon where they should anoint him as king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout: ‘Long live King Solomon!’ And then have him sit on David’s throne where he will reign in David’s place. And David said: ‘I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.’
And in verses 38 to 40 they carried out his instructions and made Solomon king. And all the people went up after Solomon, playing flutes and rejoicing greatly and the ground shook with the sound.
Verses 41 to 53
Verse 41 takes us back to Adonijah’s get-together. He and all his guests heard the noise. What’s going on? And right at that moment, Jonathan, the son of Abiathar the priest, arrived. Adonijah thought he had come with good news. And while the news was good for those who loved Solomon, it was bad news for Adonijah, because David had made Solomon king instead of Adonijah and Solomon was now seated on the king’s throne.
When they heard this, all Adonijah’s guests rose up in alarm and dispersed. They didn’t want to be seen with Adonijah, otherwise they might be regarded by Solomon as traitors. And Adonijah fled to the tabernacle to seek refuge from Solomon by clinging to the horns of the altar. This is what you did in those days to seek asylum. So long as Adonijah clung to the horns of the altar, he was safe from Solomon. And he refused to let go until Solomon swore that he would not kill him. And though Solomon did not swear an oath, he said that if Adonijah shows himself to be a worthy man, then not a hair of his head will fall to the ground. But if evil is found in him, he will die. So, it’s up to Adonijah. If he submits to Solomon as king, he will live. If not, he will die. And Adonijah listened to the king, and bowed before King Solomon. And so, because he yielded to the king, the king spared his life, even though he has once been a rebel and a traitor.
Let me make the following two points by way of application. Firstly, David was a great king, but at the beginning of this book, he had become old and decrepit and it’s clear that he did not have long to live. He was a great king, but he could not live forever. And the kings who followed him were the same, because none of them could live forever, but all of them died and someone else succeeded them.
However, we have a king who lives forever, because our King is Jesus Christ, God’s Only Begotten Son, who became flesh and who lived among us. And though he died and was buried, he was raised from the grave to live forever. And he was exalted to heaven where he now rules over all things in heaven and on earth for the sake of his people here on earth. And he will not die, but will live forever and his kingdom will never end. David was a good king. He was a great king. But he died. But Christ is an even greater king who lives forever.
And he is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. So, his power will not diminish over time. Just as he possessed all power and authority in heaven and on earth after his resurrection, so he still possesses all power and authority in heaven and on earth. And that means that his people need not be afraid, because Jesus Christ is our King who lives forever and who rules forever and who is powerful forever. And we can trust in him to watch over us and to protect us from all his enemies and our enemies forever and forever. And his ability to help us will never run out.
The Lord Jesus said that he gives his people eternal life and no one will snatch them out of his hand. If he was like David and grew old and decrepit, then his ability to protect us would diminish. But since he does not change, and will remain all-powerful forever, then no one will be able to snatch us from his mighty hand and he is able to keep us in his kingdom forever. So long as Christ is your King and you’re trusting in him, then you have nothing to fear, because he will watch over you forever.
But then let’s also think of Adonijah who put himself forward and exalted himself and wanted to be king in place of the rightful king.
And by nature we’re all like Adonijah, because by nature we want to rule our own lives and do as we please and we do not want to submit to anyone, least of all to Christ the King. Instead of yielding our lives to him, we want to live our lives our own way and we do not want to obey him or anyone else. And instead of being humble towards one another, and seeking to serve one another, we want other people to serve us and to do what we say. And when they do not do as we say, or when they don’t treat us in the way we think they should, we’re offended And so, by nature we all want to be king. That’s what we’re like by nature.
But in the gospel, Christ the King calls on us to submit to him and to yield our lives to him, because he is the true King, appointed to be King by God the Father when the Father raised him from the grave and exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is over all. Christ is the true King.
And just as David promised life to Adonijah, if only Adonijah would yield to David, so the Lord Jesus promises eternal life to all who submit themselves to him and who promise to love and serve him always.
And so, the Lord Jesus comes to you today in the reading and preaching of his word and he says to you that if you have not yet submitted to him, then now is the time to yield your life to him, because whoever yields their life to him will receive eternal life, whereas those who refuse to submit to him will be condemned and punished forever when he comes again. If you show yourself to be worthy, by believing in Christ and submitting to him, then you will live. But if an evil, unbelieving heart is found in you, then you will die and be punished forever. And so, now is the time to submit to him.
And then, the Lord Jesus also gives us his own example to follow, because though Christ is our King, he did not come to be served, but to serve us by giving up his life to pay for our sins. And he calls on his people to follow his example and to live a life of service to others. Instead of living to please ourselves, he calls on us to live to please him. And what pleases him is when we love and serve the people around us and when we look to the interests of others and not to our own interests. Instead of being like Adonijah, who put himself forward and exalted himself, the Lord wants us to humble ourselves and to serve him by serving others.
And so, instead of wanting to be king like Adonijah, we’re to yield our lives to Christ the King. And instead of wanting others to serve us, we should become the servants of all.