The LORD appeared a second time to Solomon:
“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws,
I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’" (1 Kings 9:4–5)
Solomon was only about 20 years old when he ascended the throne. He asked God for wisdom and God was pleased to grant it. The LORD desired to bless Israel with peace and prosperity, and to bless the world through his people Israel.
But of course just as there are consequences to good actions, there are consequences to evil actions.
“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples." (1 Kings 9:6–7)
Much of the rest of the book of 1 & 2 Kings is the sad story the decline of Israel because of the failure of her kings, Solomon included. There are a few good kings who have a heart for God, and for a time and to a degree they stem the tide. But Solomon squanders the wisdom given him, and Israel must wait a different savior. It won’t be Solomon, but one of his descendants.
Then the priests carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place, which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left the land of Egypt.
When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the LORD. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the LORD filled the Temple of the LORD. (1 Kings 8:6–11)
In all the complexity and chaos of the life of Solomon, king of Israel, we must not overlook the powerful moment when the presence of the LORD fills the newly built Temple. It’s a display of beauty and power meant to remind Israel of the holiness and nearness of God. God is with his people because he loves them and claims them as his treasured possession.
Today the Church is the dwelling place of God’s spirit, his presence. See what the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17)
May the beauty and power of God’s presence be noticeable among us today.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to avert certain disaster with a tool that’s freely available and can be used by anyone who is willing to practice? How would you use that tool if you had it?
Asking good questions is a great tool to have in your relational toolbox. This woman used it skillfully:
When Joab’s forces arrived, they attacked Abel-beth-maacah. They built a siege ramp against the town’s fortifications and began battering down the wall. But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, “Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.”
As he approached, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?”
“I am,” he replied.
So she said, “Listen carefully to your servant.”
“I’m listening,” he said.
Then she continued, “There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel. Why do you want to devour what belongs to the LORD?” (2 Samuel 20:15–19)
The unnamed woman got to the heart of the matter (and the danger) by asking an open-ended question. The question was open-ended because it couldn't be answered Yes or No. Her question got Joab to clarify what his purpose was. He wasn’t there to destroy the town, but to track down a rebel that had hidden himself there. Her wise question opened the way for the town and Joab to work together for a mutually beneficial end, greatly reducing collateral damage.
Good questions are a pretty handy tool to be handy with.
How could you use this great tool?
The king then crossed over to Gilgal, taking Kimham with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel escorted the king on his way.
But all the men of Israel complained to the king, “The men of Judah stole the king and didn’t give us the honor of helping take you, your household, and all your men across the Jordan.”
The men of Judah replied, “The king is one of our own kinsmen. Why should this make you angry? We haven’t eaten any of the king’s food or received any special favors!”
“But there are ten tribes in Israel,” the others replied. “So we have ten times as much right to the king as you do. What right do you have to treat us with such contempt? Weren’t we the first to speak of bringing him back to be our king again?” The argument continued back and forth, and the men of Judah spoke even more harshly than the men of Israel. (2 Samuel 19:40–43)
Why do petty slights take on such significance and cause such deep hurt?
Hey— who are you calling “petty”? That hurts!
Don’t be stupid. I didn’t call you petty.
Now you’re calling me stupid! I’ll get you for that!
…and on it goes.
Why? Honor is a pretty big deal to most of us, even most of us who think it’s not. Why else would we get so heated? Why else would we be so insistent on clearing up any misunderstanding that makes us look bad?
The book Fruitfulness on the Frontline, by Mark Greene urges Christians to see their ordinary lives as their primary place to serve God. Along with Modeling Godly Character and Ministering Grace and Love, Greene points out that there comes a time in everyone’s life when they must be a Mouthpiece for Truth and Justice. The context for speaking out might be quite small, perhaps within one’s own family. King David missed his opportunity more than once. So did Absalom when he learned that his sister, Tamar, was raped.
She was wearing a long, beautiful robe, as was the custom in those days for the king’s virgin daughters. But now Tamar tore her robe and put ashes on her head. And then, with her face in her hands, she went away crying.
Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, “Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.” So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.
When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister. (2 Samuel 13:18–22)
David knew the truth of the awful wrong done to Tamar by his own son, Amnon, but he said nothing. Absalom her brother also knew, but said nothing and did nothing for two years. Those closest to the situation did not act, and became part of the problem.
Advocating for justice is popular, even fashionable, in addressing public issues. For most of us the greater issues of justice and truth are played out in our every day lives, and we will have opportunities to speak a timely word.
What might you need to speak up about?
Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds! (2 Samuel 14:24–26)
After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!” (2 Samuel 15:1–4)
Absalom was the third son of King David, whose mother was the daughter of the king of Aram. The above two glimpses of Absalom’s life give a clear enough look at his character: he is vain and manipulative. And let’s not forget he murdered his half-brother, Amnon. He also lusts for power, and ousts his own father, David, in a bid to become King of Israel. And the people of Israel loved Absalom— for a time.
Every group needs leadership. Some groups are content to have a leader whose personality or appearance wins the day, a leader whose promises are a smoke screen for their character flaws and hidden agenda.
What do we need from a good leader? What makes a leader truly good?
Our reading in this part of the Hebrew Bible reveals so many fascinating characters. David is so multifaceted— for good and evil— that you can’t take your eyes off of him. But be careful to notice Uriah the Hittite in 2 Samuel 11 (p.150 in Immerse: Kingdoms)
David has gotten Uriah’s wife pregnant while Uriah is away in battle, fighting for David and his kingdom. David calls Uriah home to be with his wife, Bathsheba, hoping that that will cover up his infidelity. Uriah, a convert to Judaism, takes his faith seriously, and in obedience to the Torah will not return home to his wife.
David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home. (2 Samuel 11:10–13)
David’s coverup is thwarted by Uriah’s integrity and eventually exposed by the prophet Nathan. Even though Uriah is murdered in battle, his life is not a tragedy. We can trust that upon his death he found himself in the care of our just and merciful God. The tragedy of David’s sin would have been much worse if Uriah had abandoned the Biblical standard as he knew it. As it is, Uriah’s integrity puts David’s sin in a harsh light where it belongs. We can learn from both these men.
Is there anything you need to learn from this?
At this point in our reading we see that David has succeeded Saul as king of Israel. Normally kings of that time would hunt down and wipe out the preceding king’s family to prevent civil war. If there is no competing royal family the throne is more secure. David was different; he found his security elsewhere.
David asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
“Where is he?” the king asked.
Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“At your service,” he replied.
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:3–8)
At least two things are noteworthy here: David is merciful to Mephibosheth, and Mephibosheth has no pretensions to the throne. The reason for Mephibosheth’s humility is obvious. He’s got no power in this situation; David has the power, but uses it to bless, not destroy. David is able to govern mercifully only because he realizes he is as dependent on the LORD as Mephibosheth is on him.
What or whom do you depend on?
David, on the run and in great need, was incensed at the lack of hospitality from a wealthy landowner named Nabal. David lost his temper and moved to wipe out Nabal. Nabal’s wife, Abigail, got wind of David’s intent and worked swiftly to ward off the violence. She provided food for David and his men, and she herself went out to meet David and talk him out of his rash decision.
David replied to Abigail, “Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today! Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands. For I swear by the LORD, the God of Israel, who has kept me from hurting you, that if you had not hurried out to meet me, not one of Nabal’s men would still be alive tomorrow morning.”
Then David accepted her present and told her, “Return home in peace. I have heard what you said. We will not kill your husband.” (1 Samuel 25:32–35)
Abigail’s wisdom and her courageous act not only prevented terrible violence and bloodshed, but in doing so kept David from great sin. Everybody needs “a word fitly spoken” from time to time. And we need someone to take the risk to speak that word.
Ask the Lord to give you the right word, the courage to speak it, and the wisdom to know when.
King Saul immediately sent for Ahimelech and all his family, who served as priests at Nob.
When they arrived, Saul shouted at him, “Listen to me, you son of Ahitub!”
“What is it, my king?” Ahimelech asked.
“Why have you and the son of Jesse conspired against me?” Saul demanded. “Why did you give him food and a sword? Why have you consulted God for him? Why have you encouraged him to kill me, as he is trying to do this very day?”
“But sir,” Ahimelech replied, “is anyone among all your servants as faithful as David, your son-in-law? Why, he is the captain of your bodyguard and a highly honored member of your household! This was certainly not the first time I had consulted God for him! May the king not accuse me and my family in this matter, for I knew nothing at all of any plot against you.”
“You will surely die, Ahimelech, along with your entire family!” the king shouted. And he ordered his bodyguards, “Kill these priests of the LORD, for they are allies and conspirators with David! They knew he was running away from me, but they didn’t tell me!” But Saul’s men refused to kill the LORD’s priests.
(1 Samuel 22:11–17)
The flaws in King Saul’s character are on full display. His jealousy of David, his anxiety about his place in the kingdom, his tendency toward violence, and his impatience lead him to one bad decision after another. Saul’s distrust of trustworthy people have cost him friendships, loyal servants, and ultimately what he fears most, the loss of God’s favor. And it will shortly cost him the power he craves.
In contrast are Saul’s men who are pledged to do the king’s bidding. They see what Saul refuses to see, that though Saul has the authority to order the slaughter of innocent men and their families, it is not right. In their dissent they risk their own lives, and for a few moments their courage spares lives.
What principled stand do you need to make?
Pastor Mark loves his wife and grown children, the Word of God, and words. And coffee, chocolate chip cookies, Apple products, small video projects, and the New England Patriots.