This morning as we continue our series, “The United Church - A Study of Ancient Israel”, we move into the book of 1st Kings. It is traditionally held that the prophet Jeremiah wrote and/or compiled the writings that make up 1st and 2nd Kings (originally they were a single book). Jeremiah lived and ministered some 400 years after the reign of King David. 1st Kings begins where 2nd Samuel left off. It’s opening chapters describe the ascension of David’s son Solomon as the third and final king of united Israel.
Before moving into 1st Kings, let’s take a moment to remember how 2nd Samuel ended. King David had conducted a census, which caused the LORD to become very angry. A severe plague struck Israel for 3 days killing thousands of people. As it approached Jerusalem, the prophet Gad advised David to buy the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and to build an altar there. David followed Gad’s counsel, bought the property, built an altar, and offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the nation. The LORD was satisfied with David’s appeal and the devastating plague ceased.
This event prompted David to remember the plans he’d made years earlier to build a temple for God in the city of Jerusalem. It would serve as a permanent home for the Ark of the Covenant. At that time the LORD told him that he was not the right man to build the temple. Instead, his son would someday do it. Hearing this, David put his plans on hold. But now, in light of the sacrifices he’d made on Araunah’s threshing floor, David became convinced that this was the location where God’s temple should eventually be built. He spent his final days as king preparing his son Solomon to build the temple on this site.
I. PREPARATIONS AND PERSONNEL (1 Chronicles 22-27)
David had grown old and knew that his reign would be ending soon. In these waning years, he focused his attention and energies on preparing his son to construct God’s temple. David gathered a large number of laborers and materials to complete the project. He charged Solomon with the task, and instructed his loyal advisors and Israel’s leaders to help his son do the job. David prayed that Solomon would be prosperous and successful in building the temple.
David knew that God had chosen Solomon to succeed him. He therefore publicly named Solomon as the new king of Israel. But since Solomon was still young and inexperienced, David continued reigning with his son for a short while. During these months, David tried to prepare Solomon for the kingship. He encouraged his son and offered him sound advice that he’d gained over the past several years. The 2 of them worked closely together, with David gradually ceding his authority to Solomon as he grew more confident in his son’s ability.
Possibly with Solomon’s assistance, David went ahead and made personnel assignments for those who would be working in the temple after it had been completed. He numbered the Levites and then assigned them by family with specific responsibilities and duties. These were revised and modernized somewhat from the bygone days of the tabernacle because the temple was to be a stationary structure. David also defined the role and function of the musicians who would serve in the temple. He named people to serve as gatekeepers for and to guard the treasures of the temple. He further assigned officers and judges to conduct outside duties. David named commanders for Israel’s army, chief officers for each of Israel’s tribes, and various other overseers and counselors.
II. PLANS AND PRAYERS (1 Chronicles 28-29:27)
Having made all of these arrangements, David called for a large assembly of Israel’s leaders and prominent citizens to gather in Jerusalem. When they all arrived, David told them of his desire to build a great temple and how God chose Solomon to do it instead. He urged them all, especially his son, to be obedient to God’s will and serve Him wholeheartedly. Then David gave Solomon detailed written plans and/or drawings for how to build the temple and all of its furnishings. These plans were given to David by the direct inspiration of God.
Although he had already given much, David generously committed to dedicate even more of his personal wealth and treasure to the temple. He encouraged all of those gathered at the assembly to do likewise and many consented. A large offering was gathered to help finance the temple and everyone rejoiced greatly. David prayed over the people and they made numerous sacrifices at the site where the temple was to be built.
During this grand celebration that was held in anticipation of the temple’s construction, the people formally anointed Solomon as king again. This time, however, Solomon was named in place of his father rather than alongside him. In other words, David’s reign was now officially ended and the brief coregency was no more. Solomon was made the lone king over Israel.
III. PLOTS AND POWER (1 Kings 1-2; 1 Chronicles 29:28-30)
Apparently young Solomon did not immediately exert his authority as the new king. In the days that followed, David’s oldest surviving son Adonijah exalted himself in place of Solomon. Joab, David’s longtime military commander, and Abiathar the priest sided with Adonijah in his bid to replace Solomon as the rightful king. Adonijah held a large banquet in Jerusalem at which he made his claim to be the new ruler of Israel. It was an elaborate power grab.
By this point, David was quite old and required full-time attendant care. He did not know what Adonijah had done nor was he able to stop it himself. Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and Nathan the prophet approached the aged king in his bedroom and informed him of Adonijah’s rebellious behavior. David was quite concerned and ordered his men to go and anoint Solomon as the new king before Adonijah was successfully able to steal the throne. Not long after this, David died.
When Adonijah’s guests heard that David had made Solomon king, they all abandoned him. Adonijah’s desperate attempt to usurp the kingship failed miserably. As a matter of fact, not long afterward King Solomon had both Adonijah and Joab killed. He also permanently dismissed Abiathar from the priesthood, thereby fulfilling God’s promise to remove Eli’s house (descendants) from priestly service. Solomon also killed Shimei, one of his father’s David’s fiercest critics, because he had violated the king’s terms. By taking these extreme measures, Solomon eliminated his enemies and firmly established himself as the new king of Israel.
David had ruled as king over Israel for 40 years. He lived a long and productive life, died in his old age, and was buried in the capital city of Jerusalem. He spent the last few years of his reign preparing his son Solomon to be Israel’s next king and making arrangements for the building of the temple. Though David did not live to see the construction of the temple, it was his greatest dream. I’m certain he envisioned it in his mind and smiled. God chose Solomon to actually build the temple, but David certainly paved the way for it to happen.
To me, this is quite reminiscent of Moses and Joshua. After a long and difficult exodus Moses longed to lead the Hebrews into the Promised land, but God did not allow it. Instead, Moses died on a nearby mountain top while his successor Joshua took the people across the Jordan River. That said, Moses was instrumental in bringing the children of Israel to the edge of Canaan and preparing them to possess it. Moses prepared the way for Joshua, in much the same way that David did for Solomon.
I believe there is much we can learn from both of these stories. Sometimes God wants us to look to our elders and listen to their wise counsel. He uses them to prepare us for what lies ahead, and may even call us to continue or complete initiatives that they began. We become the legacy of those who went on before us. Other times, God wants us to carefully impart our knowledge to those who will follow in our footsteps. We must help prepare them for the day when they will be called to lead. In this way, the mantle of leadership is passed from one generation to the next.
Another important lesson is this. We, like Solomon, are not called to make our own plan. As Christians, it is our purpose to execute the plan that was already given to us by our Father...