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Kingdom Begins

Date: Sep. 21, 2014

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

1 Kings 1:1-2:46

Key Verse: 1 Kings 2:4

“…and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘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 successor on the throne of Israel.’”

Welcome, everybody who is new and everybody who has been here for a while. Last week we concluded our series on the book of Acts. It was an awesome series that showed us how unstoppable God’s gospel, his good news. From the beginning to then end we saw God advancing his gospel through crazy odds. The message of Jesus moved from Jerusalem to Samaria and Judea to the ends of the earth, when Paul was boldly sharing the gospel in Rome, where all roads lead. If you missed any of that, all or nearly all the sermons are on our website. If you go there, you will find the text that we shared and most of them will have audio that you can listen to. You can stream it or download it. It is up to you. This week, we begin something new. The series that we begin today is called God’s Great Kingdom and the premise is similar to what we saw in Acts. Acts is all about the unstoppable gospel, but going hand-in-hand with that unstoppable gospel is the establishment of God’s kingdom.

If you look throughout history, the nations of the world rise and fall. There were some really big and powerful nations, but most of them have fallen and disappeared. The Roman Empire is a great example. At its peak it stretched from the Sahara in Africa to England and from Spain to the Holy Land. It covered 2,509,664 square miles and had a population of 88 million. As a comparison the US covers 3,717,813 square miles and has a population of 318 million. Rome was the strongest military power the world had ever seen and they were so advanced that homes had central heating and cooling. This was a large and important civilization. In fact, it was the standard of civilization. About 400 years after its establishment, the Roman Empire was split in two, eastern and western empires. The Western Empire was still centered on Rome, while Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) was the capital of the Eastern Empire. The Western Empire fell in 476 AD, while the Eastern Empire fell in 1453. Rome fell nearly 500 years after its establishment of an empire and the empire died completely after nearly 1500 years. Even the greatest and mightiest nations disappear, their splendor reduced to ruin and ash.

We’re nothing but dust to the universe and what we create is reduced to nothing but dust. However, God is not dust. He created everything and is greater than everything. God is eternal. So whatever he establishes lasts forever. God’s kingdom has no end and there is no way to stop it. It just keeps going. No one or nothing is powerful enough to stop it, and we will see in this series God’s kingdom keeps moving on. The first part of the series is based on 1 & 2 Kings and is called Kingdom. In Kingdom, we will be focusing on God’s faithfulness and his promise. God made lots of promises to his chosen people the Israelites, and some of those promises had conditions. The books of 1 & 2 Kings give a chronology of God’s promise from King David’s death in 970 BC and the complete exile of Israelites and Judahites in 586 BC. These books that we are going to go through may just look like a historical account, but the historically significant people are not the focus. Some of the greatest political kings only get a handful of verses. The focus is on promise. Either the focus is on how God fulfills his promises or how the people treat their promise to God. Ultimately, through the promises, we will see God is in charge and is directing his kingdom not to be merely a physical one, but to be a kingdom of people’s hearts and soul. We will see this kingdom come after we finish 1 & 2 Kings and get to the next part of the series in Matthew’s gospel called Kingdom Come.

Before we get into today’s passage, I really want to talk about a little general background on 1 & 2 Kings as books and get a little history up to this point. The books of 1 & 2 Kings are sometimes considered one book with 1 & 2 Samuel. If you have forgotten it or weren’t around for it, we studied these books from September 2010 until June 2011. That’s nearly an entire year. All the sermons are on our website and you can read them there. It is a direct continuation of those books. There is no explicit statement of purpose in the books, but by reading the contents the main purpose that Kings were written was to give an account to the exiled Jews on how they became exiled. It is most likely that these books were written during the Babylonian exile in around 550 BC or about 24 years after the fall of Jerusalem. The Israelites were God’s chosen people; how could these brutal nations take God’s people into exile? The answer is that God kept his promise. In the book of Deuteronomy there is a promise if the Israelites didn’t follow God’s law, “Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other.” (Deuteronomy 28:64) The purpose deals with the end, but there is a lot in the beginning and middle about God’s promises great and small. Instead of jumping to the end, let’s start at the beginning.

Like I mentioned earlier, these books start with King David’s death in 970 BC and there is a whole history before that. This history starts with God creating everything, including people. Those people walked with God for a while, but disobeyed God and sin entered into the world. Over the course of time, more people were born and nations were created. Eventually, God approached a guy name Abram and wanted to use Abram (or Abraham as he was later known as) and his descendants as his own chosen people. Hundreds of years go by and Abraham’s descendants grow to be very numerous. They prospered in Egypt, even as slaves. God eventually sets them free through Moses and they are taken to a Promised Land. They had to push out these evil people already living in the land and settle the land. The Israelites, as they became known as, settled in the land, but they had difficulties with their neighbors. Oppression and war would ensue. Then the people would cry out to God and he would raise up a leader to push back and make peace. When there was peace the people would turn from God, which would bring oppression and war, and the cycle would repeat.

The last of these leaders, called judges, was a man named Samuel. The books of 1 & 2 Samuel cover the time of Samuel, Saul and David. Near the end of Samuel’s life the people asked for a king. God was their king, but they wanted to have a human one. They wanted to be like all other nations. God chose a man named Saul, who for a short while walked with God, but one day he became impatient and disobeyed God. After that, God replaced Saul as king with David, a man after God’s own heart. After establishing David’s kingdom, God promised David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16) 1 Kings opens with David’s death and his passing of the kingdom to his son Solomon. That’s the quick version of the history up to this point.

One last note before we actually get into the passage. If you were around for our series on 1 & 2 Samuel, then you might remember that we had a sermon from this exact same passage at the end of the series. We studied this passage on June 27, 2011, but the focus then was on rounding out the reign of David. The focus was on David’s passing and passing the torch. This time, this passage is about a beginning and alludes to a hope that this beginning brings.

The passage starts out, “When King David was very old, he could not keep warm even when they put covers over him. So his attendants said to him, ‘Let us look for a young virgin to serve the king and take care of him. She can lie beside him so that our lord the king may keep warm.’ Then they searched throughout Israel for a beautiful young woman and found Abishag, a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The woman was very beautiful; she took care of the king and waited on him, but the king had no sexual relations with her.” (1:1-4) By this point in time David was around 70 years old. Like many older people, David was having trouble staying warm. Instead of having heating pads and electric blankets to help, it was a common medical practice to keep someone warm with the body heat of another person. For David, being king, they made sure that it was nothing but the best for him and so they found Abishag. She tended to the kings needs.

Because David was getting old, there was need to name a successor. David had already chosen who would be the next king, but it wasn’t publicly known. Now Adonijah was David’s fourth son and his oldest living son. The third oldest Absalom was killed after trying to take the throne for himself, and Absalom murdered the oldest Amnon because he raped Absalom’s full sister Tamar. All these events left Adonijah as the oldest. Being the oldest Adonijah assumed that he would become the next king, so he started to make himself look good by getting a posse and cruising around Jerusalem in his tricked out chariot with his entourage in tow. It was the kings duty to name a successor, but Adonijah was circumventing the king’s authority and trying to make himself king. He was acting suspiciously like Absalom.

Adonijah, received support from a number of key people, and when he felt confident enough, he made some sacrifices and had a feast. Adonijah invited most of the important people, except those who knew of David’s choice for Solomon to succeed David. Why else would Adonijah invite all the king’s sons, his brothers, except Solomon? Adonijah knew whom David had chosen, but he wanted to take the throne for himself. People were having a great time, but word got around to Nathan the prophet.

Nathan went to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother and told her what was going on. If Adonijah was going to take the throne on his own, then Bathsheba and Solomon were going to be killed because they were a threat to his kingdom. So, Nathan prompted Bathsheba to talk to David about his promise to make Solomon king. Although it is not written anywhere in the Bible, this passage mentions that David promised Bathsheba that Solomon would become king. Adonijah was trying to go against that promise, but Nathan and Bathsheba remind David of the very promise he made. When this is brought to David’s attention, he wastes no time in making Solomon king.

David tells Nathan the prophet and Zadok the priest, “Take your lord’s servants with you and have Solomon my son mount my own mule and take him down to Gihon. There have Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel. Blow the trumpet and shout, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ Then you are to go up with him, and he is to come and sit on my throne and reign in my place. I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.” (1:33-35) David wanted to make sure that everyone knew that Solomon was David’s choice for king, so he put Solomon on his mule, had the priest and prophet anoint him before the Lord and had Solomon sit on the throne. These were extremely clear signs that Solomon was now king. When word reached Adonijah as to what was going on, his guests scattered, Adonijah became scared for his life and pleaded with Solomon to spare him. Solomon let him live on the condition that no evil was found in him, meaning if he tried anything sneaky, Adonijah would die.

Once Solomon’s throne was established and Adonijah’s coup was put to rest, David has some final words for his son Solomon. “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘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 successor on the throne of Israel.’” (2:2-4) David charges Solomon to follow God’s way and he mentions God’s promise to him, which we saw when we studied 2 Samuel, after David had become king. God promised David that there would be an everlasting kingdom with one of his descendants sitting on the throne forever. Solomon was the first step in this process and David wanted his son to carry on that promise.

Then David gives Solomon a charge about Joab and Shimei. Joab and Shimei behaved horribly during David’s lifetime, but David chose to spare their lives, but now that Solomon was king, judgment was now in Solomon’s hands. Joab had murdered in cold blood two men who threatened his place as commander of Israel’s armies. David never really dealt with Joab, but he wanted to make sure that Joab would have justice for his actions. Similarly, Shimei cursed David as he was fleeing from Absolom. David spared his life at that time because there was already too much death in the kingdom. But the fact of the matter was that Shimei cursed the ruler of the people, and the law of God prohibited anyone from curing the ruler of the people (Exodus 22:28). So David asked Solomon to use his wisdom to deal with Shimei.

After David died, Adonijah came back with a request: to have Abishag as his wife. Now on the surface this seems innocuous, innocent. Abishag was still a virgin and only served David by keeping him warm. Why not, right? When Solomon heard about this request, he saw it for what it was. This was another attempt to usurp the throne from Solomon. Although Abishag was still a virgin and was never really a concubine or wife of David, she was considered a part of the royal harem and if Adonijah were to marry her, then it would be showing that Adonijah had a claim to the throne. So Solomon made good on his promise. Evil was found in the heart of Adonijah and he was killed for it. When Joab heard what happened to Adonijah, he became afraid and tried to seek asylum at the alter. He wouldn’t leave the tent of the Lord, so he was killed there and just as he promised his father, Solomon made sure that Joab did not know peace. The same held for Shimei. Solomon told Shimei not to leave Jerusalem, and that if he did he would die. Three years later, Shimei goes after some runaway slaves. When he returns to Jerusalem, Solomon has him put to death. This might seem a bit cruel, but Shimei made an oath before the Lord. He promised God that he would stay in Jerusalem, but he did not keep his promise to God. Not keeping your promise to God was something that was punishable by death. It was very serious to not keep your promise to God, especially if you took an oath.

If you have been following along, there is a lot of mention about promise in this passage. You’ve got David’s promise that Solomon would become king, Solomon’s promise that Adonijah would die if he tried to take the throne again, Solomon’s promises to David concerning Joab and Shimei, Solomon’s promise to Shimei, Shimei’s oath to the Lord, and most, of all God’s promise to David about his descendants and the eternal kingdom. There is a lot of promise in this passage and promise is important. It is one of the main tenants of 1 & 2 Kings. Promise is important because it is a strong component of trust. How can you trust someone who doesn’t keep their promises? How could the world function if we were all a bunch of liars who never kept their word? The world wouldn’t function very well, would it? I mean, how could it? People who live with tongues of deceit and constantly lie are not very pleasant to be around. Sure they say all the right things, but those words don’t mean anything. They are hollow and not trustworthy, and people don’t listen to those types of people

Let’s take a look at Adonijah. Adonijah tried to get the kingdom by deceit. Twice he tried to sneak his way onto the throne. His kingdom would be one founded on lies and treachery. It would teach the people that deception and lies were all normal parts of life. They are fully acceptable and would lead to a breakdown in society where no one cared for each other. People would only be out for themselves and it wouldn’t matter what happened to others as long as you got what you wanted. Families could become broken and the kingship would go to the sneakiest of them all. Adonijah probably wouldn’t have been on the throne all that long, replaced by someone who wanted to take it from him. It would be a bloody, bloody place to be.

Solomon gained a throne because of a promise. His father David promised Solomon that he would become king, and he did. When Solomon acted in this passage, he did not act rashly or in secret. Solomon promised to Adonijah and Shimei that they got out of line, they would have to pay the consequences, which was their death. They might have thought that he didn’t mean it, that it was some sort of ploy to sound powerful, but it wasn’t. It was the truth and Solomon kept his word. This lays a strong foundation for people to listen to and obey the king because his words have meaning.

Being a parent, I am starting to understand this a little. As a parent you have to be true to your word and you have to be careful of what you say because you have to be true to your word. I have to carry out what I say, because it creates healthy boundaries for growth. I heard that it was said that young children intentionally disobey in order to test the boundaries. They are looking to see if you have the same response. If you do, they learn that what they are doing is wrong, but if you react differently each time, kids become confused and they don’t learn to trust and obey their parents. If I promise punishment for actions, then I had better follow through or my kids will think that I am all talk and won’t listen to me. If I promise something fun and exciting, then I had better follow through or my kids will never trust that I love them. They would think that I am only trying to make them feel better at the moment and not really care about them. I love my children and if I tell my daughter that I am going to buy her Play-Doh, then I had better do so, not because I like Play-Doh, I find it to be one of the banes of a parent’s existence because it gets everywhere and little Lucas likes to try to eat it, but I had better buy her some so that she can learn to trust my other promises too. I cannot just willy-nilly throw out promises with no intention of keeping them.

God is a promise keeper. Whatever God promises happens. He is true to his word in the strongest sense. He’ll keep his word over hundreds and thousands of years. For example, in his law, God had written down that if his people didn’t keep his laws and decrees, they would be scattered among all the nations. When we get to the end of 1 & 2 Kings, we see that because Israel and Judah repeatedly forgot about God, the Lord followed through with his promise and scattered his people into exile with the Assyrians and the Babylonians. When the Assyrians and Babylonians conquer a people, they had a common practice to uproot the native people and spread them throughout the empire. This would get rid of their national identity and homogenize them into the empire. History actually shows that this happened to Israel and Judah in 721 and 586, respectively. It is a clear example of God’s disciplinary promises.

There is another promise that we know God has kept. Chapter 2 verse 4 refers to the eternal king from the line of David. God promised David that he would have a descendant on the throne of Israel for eternity. It wasn’t that David’s line would just keep going and be kings, but that there would be one king that would stay forever. It was extremely hard to keep this promise from our standpoint. God sent the kingdom into exile and there was no throne in Israel for many years. During the exile, many of the records of lineage were lost. The line of kings couldn’t easily be proved, but 400 years after the end exile God kept his promise and the eternal king was born. Jesus is that eternal king because he is the son of David and the Son of God. Jesus’ human lineage goes straight back to David. Jesus is the promised king, the eternal king that is to rule from the throne beyond all time. A year ago, when we started the book of Acts, we saw Jesus rise up into heaven, where he took his eternal seat on the throne, and that is the fulfillment of his promise to David.

God is a promise keeper. Whatever God says happens. We don’t have to doubt it. He keeps the small promises and the large ones. In the same way, we should hold true to our words, too. We shouldn’t promise anything that we don’t intend to keep and we should try to keep all of the other promises, too. Having a firm foundation in keeping your word mimics God and establishes better relationships with those around you. Deceit and lies push people away and alienate you, but truth and promise let people know that you are reliable. Solomon’s kingdom began on promise and it established his kingdom firmly. Take a look at your life, what choice will you make?

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