Reading: 1 Kings 1:1-37.
WHO is to be the heir? Who will be given the throne? These were the questions in everybody’s minds during the dying moments of David’s earthly life. One man felt confident that he knew the answer, and that man was Adonijah. In those days of uncertainty and confusion it probably seemed good to find a man with the qualities of initiative and resolution which were so desirable. Adonijah had much to commend him. “I will be king”, he affirmed, and for the moment it seemed likely that he would be.
He had the means. He must have been a wealthy man already. He had chariots, horsemen, and a large bodyguard all at his disposal. He is also described as “a very goodly man”, which suggests that he had an excellent appearance and presence, he had the regal carriage and the easy manners which were so suitable for David’s heir. More than that, he had the seniority. Absalom, at one time a pretender to the throne, was now dead and Adonijah was next in the succession to him. Perhaps for this very reason Joab and Abiathar, who had remained loyal at the time of Absalom’s insurrection now backed Adonijah and were ready to co-operate in setting him on the throne. With the backing of such eminent civil and religious leaders the matter appeared to be as good as settled. He was the central figure of a great banquet where he was being toasted as the new king.
It was at this juncture that David acted. He was not dead — not yet — and he was the one man who could give an authoritative decision. It may be felt that he had left it rather late, but it was not too late. By his decree Adonijah was set aside and Solomon anointed king.
We may questions the reason for this decision, since Solomon was certainly junior to Adonijah. He seems to have made no claim for himself, his cause being taken up by Nathan, who was later helped by Bath-sheba. At that stage Solomon seems to have been a silent young man and when later he talked to God he confessed: “I am but a little child” (1 Kings 3:7). He neither had Adonijah’s self confidence, nor did he seem to have his wealth. No mention is made of his chariots and horses, but only that he was to be caused to ride on David’s mule.
Yet it was he who was chosen to inherit the kingdom. David was most emphatic about this choice and ordered that Solomon should be anointed forthwith. Of course, it could be possible that David was mistaken, but the choice was not primarily his, but God’s. As Benaiah so aptly commented: “Amen; the Lord, the God of my lord the king, say so too!” But why? The answer is not far to seek. In the course of the description given of Adonijah the illuminating remark is made — “And his father had not displeased him all his life in saying, Why hast thou done so?” He had always had his own way. Because Adonijah had never been chastened he was quite unfit to inherit his father’s throne. And Solomon? Well, it was he who passed on the excellent counsel quoted in Hebrews 12:5 and 6: “My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”
THE TRAINING OF SONS
Solomon ultimately, by God’s grace, became a man of very great wisdom, and among other things he came to appreciate the value of his strict upbringing. The quotation is from the book of his Proverbs which on a number of occasions gives quite clear directions as to how children should be educated. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24). There are a number of similar adages. They are, of course, in direct contrast with modern educational theories, but there seems no doubt that in Solomon’s case it resulted in a son who could safely be entrusted with his father’s kingdom. Although he deteriorated later — as all types must do — he became for a time the ideal king. And he was made an inspired writer to record truths which surely are as much entitled to acceptance as other books of the Word of God.
It was really a question of love, as he himself came to realize. Solomon had been especially loved from his birth, not only by David but by God Himself (2 Samuel 12:25). And even before his birth he had been designated by name as the son destined to [7/8] become David’s heir (1 Chronicles 22:9). It is not surprising, therefore, that David treated this son with special discipline, while he let the others have their own way and never said ‘No’ to them.
Probably the young Solomon found this chastening irksome, and often longed to be like Adonijah, who was never crossed in any wish of his and never made to do what he disliked. It must have seemed most unfair at the time. Solomon, however, lived to understand it all and wrote his words of reminder that a true son must expect to find his father’s hand heavy at times.
“He that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” The word ‘betimes’ seems to suggest that there were certain occasions when Solomon deserved to suffer. No doubt this was true in his case, but it is not the meaning of the quotation in Hebrews, for there the matter of chastening circles round the great Son of God Himself.
THOUGH HE WERE A SON
“Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself” (Hebrews 12:3 — A.V.). He certainly was the Father’s appointed heir, and it was as such that he learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Note “things”; that is not only the great agony of the Cross, but the many lesser trials and crosses of every day. Because the Father loved Him and had destined Him for the throne He could not lead the relatively comfortable life which might have been His (not that He wished it!) but was subjected to much that was irksome, small things as well as great. If we consider the matter we will agree that there was much suffering in His daily life which does not seem to have been absolutely necessary, even for the One who was destined to die on the Cross for sinners.
It may have been inevitable that the religious leaders should reject Him, but why that extra sneer about His works of mercy being attributable to Beelzebub? It was true that His disciples were faulty men who were bound to cause Him much distress, but why did the sensitive Son of God have to endure over three years of close proximity to Judas Iscariot? Not for Judas’s sake, for he got no benefit, but rather condemnation. Not for the eleven’s sake, for they never even suspected that there was anything wrong. Surely, then, this appointment was ordered by the Father and continued right through to the end in order that the Lord Jesus might be under a peculiarly testing discipline. It seemed as though a great sigh of relief came from our Lord when Judas went out into that dark betrayal night, but even then He still had to endure the traitor’s kiss in the garden. So this particular suffering went right through to the very end. The same is true of the believer. There never comes a time in the Christian’s life when he is so experienced or so old that all further trials are removed. He is moving towards an eternal inheritance and so his discipline can never be relaxed. Indeed, sometimes it seems that the testing increases rather than diminishes.
“Consider him … lest ye be weary and faint …”. Think of how this trying discipline of Judas was watched by Satan as well as the Father, especially on that last evening when his repulsive hypocrisy might have extorted some rash reaction from the sorely-tried Son of Man. But no, in this and in every other temptation He never failed: He treated the traitor with courtesy and even with favour right to the very end. As we have said, it seems that the apparently unnecessary wounds not only continued to the end, but even multiplied. He had to be forsaken, but why Peter’s denial and oaths? He had to be crucified, but why the mockery of the soldiers and the crown of thorns? Why indeed, if not for that very chastening which was associated with the Father’s loving concern which always kept the throne in view.
WITH YOU AS WITH SONS
The Hebrew believers who received this letter were suffering similar irksome trials. These seemed so severe and so unnecessary that their hands grew limp with discouragement and their knees palsied with despair. There was even the danger of a root of bitterness springing up in their hearts. To them, therefore, God sent the message of explanation and encouragement based on Solomon’s words. They were to receive a kingdom which cannot be moved, and therefore they should welcome the loving discipline which was calculated to fit them for their high destiny. Were they foolish enough to envy the Adonijahs who have nothing to cross them? Whether David was right to be so indulgent to Adonijah we do not know, but we can well imagine that he silenced any inward doubts by reminding himself that this son of his was never to be his heir, so that it did not matter so much if he grew up to be spoilt. Would the Hebrews wish God to act in this indulgent way towards them? Did they really want that He should never say ‘No’ to them when they begged to have their own way? Of course not. They wanted to be truly loved, and they wanted to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. For this it was necessary to suffer with Him. [8/9]
INSPIRATION FOR US
And we? it is not difficult for us to feel hurt by reason of the trials or even handicaps which mark us out from others. These may seem unnecessary, and sometimes even unfair. We wonder why others can get their own way, or why they seem to have lives so free from the things which irk us. We may well be in danger of losing heart and being tempted to slow down in the race of faith, or even to give it up.
Let us look again at Solomon. No, better still, let us look off unto Jesus. If in His case we have to explain the many painful and puzzling trials of His life by recognizing that these were the Father’s loving ways of fitting Him for His place in the glory, cannot the same — in our smaller measure — be true in our case? It not only can, but it is. God is speaking to us as to sons, and He is dealing with us as with sons. Satan misinterprets our experiences by trying to convince us that they prove that there is some flaw in God’s love for us. The very opposite is true. It is just because He does love us so that He never wants us to have the disappointment and mortification which came to Adonijah; He wants us to have an honoured place in His kingdom. Like Benaiah, let us acclaim His wisdom: “Amen: the Lord God … say so too.”
At times this may appear to be just superficial optimism. It is nothing of the kind. We are reminded that no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous. Nobody is suggesting that we should like our setbacks and painful experiences, or even pretend to do so. No, for the present they may be heavy to bear. “Nevertheless afterwards …”. That is the point. God is working for the “afterwards” of eternity. We may trust His love. – H. F.