We’re revisiting 1 Kings today in the redone Bible post for this week. Click to read about how even King Solomon drifted away from God, and how easy it is for us to do the same if we’re not careful!
1 Kings 1:47-50
47 Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying ‘May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!’ And the king bowed in worship on his bed 48 and said, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.'”
49 At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. 50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns on the altar.
At the start of 1 Kings, David’s son Adonijah tries to seize the throne for himself, not waiting for David to designate his own successor. But once Bathsheba and Nathan the prophet tell David of this, David quickly hurries to officially designate Solomon as king. This news arrives as Adonijah and all his guests are feasting, celebrating Adonijah’s apparent victory. Suddenly there’s a lot of cheering and noise outside, but the crowd is cheering for King Solomon, not King Adonijah!
No wonder every guest scatters–they don’t want to be associated with Adonijah, whose ill-fated royal coup may well lead to his execution. Instead of running, however, Adonijah clings to the altar, reduced to trembling humility, literally hiding under God’s protection even though he greedily schemed to seize power for himself.
We Don’t Have to Hide from God!
This scene reminds me of a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Like a kid, Adonijah tries to protect himself from the inevitability of punishment for his misdeeds. We Christians often do the same thing when we are caught in sin–we try to cover it up, excuse it, or use outwardly holy actions as a shield, as Adonijah does here.
But when we act in this way, we forget that God already knows what we’ve done, and is prepared to treat us with mercy even as He disciplines us. In the verses immediately after this passage, Solomon treats Adonijah with remarkable goodwill and forgiveness, promising to keep him from harm as long as he does not scheme for the throne again. (One gets the feeling that the rest of Adonijah’s life is likely not as free from scrutiny as he might have hoped, but he is alive and not immediately put to death for his sin.)
God treats us similarly, giving justice and mercy in the same moment, because He knows that we each have weaknesses and foibles. One can see discipline in how Adonijah’s plot is foiled, and yet there is forgiveness available for him, too. Like Solomon’s treatment of his brother, God’s discipline comes tempered with grace–and what a blessing that is!
26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.”
1 Kings 16:34
34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
Joshua had destroyed Jericho according to the will of God, as a symbol of what happens to people who practice unrepentant wickedness–it was one of the first sites in Canaan that was cleansed of sin in this way. Afterwards, he pronounces this curse on anybody who would try to rebuild Jericho as the great walled city it had once been, so as to keep the site dedicated to God.
But, inevitably, after a time, the Israelites forgot this as they forgot God, and in 1 Kings we see Hiel of Bethel rebuilding Jericho’s walls, paying for the sin of rebuilding a wicked city just as Joshua had decreed. (This all happened within the reign of King Ahab, who did nearly as much wickedness as the citizens of Jericho had.)
This is not a particularly comforting pair of Scriptures to read, but it makes an important point: God is Almighty, and has power even over the most powerful of men. When we act against Him, we will face consequences, stemming from divine discipline. Hiel’s sons die not because God worked an act of vengeance or evil, but because God disciplined Hiel for grasping at power. (Note: Joshua’s curse is not merely something spoken by man, but something coming from God, since Joshua led the “cleansing force” of the Israelites through Canaan to reclaim the land for God.)
So, when we purposefully do things that are against God, we should not then wonder why distressing things begin to happen in our own lives. This is not God being evil, because that is impossible; it is God disciplining us for going against Him, much as a parent disciplines a child for breaking rules. Sometimes God has to do fairly drastic things to get our attention, because we’re so bent on having our own way, but it is ultimately for our betterment, and for our realignment with God.
In this part of 1 Kings, Solomon, who has been a quite successful King of Israel so far, following in the footsteps of his father David, now finds himself drifting away from God. He has married many different wives (700 wives in total, all with royal titles), as well as having 300 concubines; however, it’s not the number of wives, but the religions of the wives that makes the tragic difference in Solomon’s life. His wives follow many different gods, according to the beliefs of their homelands (Moab, Ammon, Edom, etc.), and Solomon begins to worship with them instead of continuing to worship God. This begins Solomon’s downhill slide–after this point, many enemies rise up against him, including one of his own officials.
Like Solomon, we too can turn away from God for various reasons. We may not have 700 significant others to lead us astray, but we can certainly end up copying our friends’ bad behavior, for instance. Sometimes, even being alone without friends or family can lead us into doing things we know shouldn’t be part of our lives, just to break up the boredom and loneliness. The more obvious bad choices, like drinking and partying, not showing up to work on time, etc., aren’t the only ways we can drift from God. Sometimes, our drifting is so gradual we don’t even see it–we start using the bad language we hear our family members using, or we start shirking responsibilities one at a time until we can’t be counted on for anything.
We Must Be Honest with Ourselves!
If we truly want to worship God and have a closer relationship with Him, we have to make sure all facets of our lives match up with that goal–living for God doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning and Wednesday night, but on Saturday night, Monday morning, and all the rest of the week. This is a very difficult process; certainly I’m still in the process of weeding out the things in my life that aren’t really in tune with God’s Word. But we must be willing to take a hard look at our lives and see the things that might be pulling us away from God rather than towards Him.