I want you to turn with me to 1 Kings chapter 1, this is the passage that I've been allocated this morning. So, 1 Kings chapter 1, the title that this passage has been given is 'Following The Wrong King', and we're going to look at verses 1 through to verse 9 first of all: "Now King David was old, advanced in years", this is the New King James Version by the way, "Now King David was old, advanced in years", some believe 70 years of age, "and they put covers on him, but he could not get warm". Now if you're 70 years of age or above, don't get depressed, he was obviously a very ailing 70 years of age. When you consider that David lived about ten lifetimes of any man or woman, you can imagine why he is in the state he is now. Verse 2: "Therefore his servants said to him, 'Let a young woman, a virgin, be sought for our lord the king, and let her stand before the king, and let her care for him; and let her lie in your bosom, that our lord the king may be warm'. So they sought for a lovely young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The young woman was very lovely; and she cared for the king, and served him; but the king did not know her. Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, 'I will be king'; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. (And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, 'Why have you done so?' He was also very good-looking. His mother had borne him after Absalom). Then he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they followed and helped Adonijah. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and the mighty men who belonged to David were not with Adonijah. And Adonijah sacrificed sheep and oxen and fattened cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by En Rogel; he also invited all his brothers, the king's sons, and all the men of Judah, the king's servants".
Really what you have in this passage of Scripture - we haven't read it all, I mean it's quite long, down to verse 53, although we will be delving into it in a moment or two - is the making and the breaking of a rebel in Adonijah, the son of David. Adonijah is now David's oldest surviving son, and because of that he considers himself to be next in line to the throne. Now Amnon and Absalom, some of you may be familiar with this scriptural narrative, you will know that they are dead by now - it's very tragic. David's first son, Amnon, has been murdered by his third son, Absalom - who himself died, incidentally, as a rebel in rebellion to his father, trying to take the crown. Chileab is another son, but he is not mentioned any more, which would make us assume that he has died also. So the kingdom of Israel is facing a great crisis, because David is now - it appears - on his deathbed; and before his father dies, Adonijah proclaims himself king. This is a national crisis.
Someone described it like this: 'A crisis isn't what makes a person, a crisis shows what a person is made of'. A real leader looks at a crisis and asks: 'What can I do that will best help the people?'. An opportunist looks at a crisis and asks: 'How can I use this situation to promote myself and get what I want?'. Opportunists usually show up uninvited, focus attention on themselves, and end up making the crisis worse. Now Adonijah was that kind of person, he was an opportunist. He made the mistake of thinking that his father was unable, because of his ill health and age, he was unable to function normally, and therefore interfere with his plans to take the throne. But Adonijah was very wrong, as we will see. Very cunningly - and wisely, I would have to say - Adonijah enlisted the support of both the army in the person of General Joab, and the priesthood through the High Priest Abiathar. Both of these men served David faithfully for many years through some of his most difficult times, but now they were turning their backs on the great King.
Now what I want you to see this morning are two things: the making of this rebel son, Adonijah; and then secondly, the breaking of him. He was a rebel, you know what a rebel is: to rebel is to oppose the ruling authority. Not only was the ruling authority the King, the ruling authority was his Dad. In verse 5 we see this expression that he makes: 'He exalted himself, saying, 'I will be king''. It sounds like another boast that ended in judgement that we find in Isaiah chapter 14, let me read it to you, verses 12-15. It's depicting Lucifer, Satan, the devil deciding that he was going to usurp the authority of God in heaven: 'How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High'. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol', or hell, 'to the lowest depths of the Pit'. What you see in Adonijah, the rebel son, is effectively the spirit of Lucifer - that of pride, the mother sin. C.S. Lewis put it so well: 'Pride was the sin that made the devil the devil', it is the true, original sin.
Because all of us are sinners - and you might argue with that, but bear with me for a moment - because all of us are sinners, we're all rebels at heart. We rebel, we oppose the ruling authority - primarily that of God. So Adonijah was a rebel by nature, and the Bible teaches us that we are all rebels by nature. If you're a parent or a grandparent, or have young children in your family, you will see it evident in them: that they rebel. The Bible describes it as being born in sin, or being born in rebellion. Vance Havner tells of a father of a strong-willed child who was on the way to the shops, and he kept telling the wee fellow to sit down and buckle the seatbelt in the car. After several times, the boy thought he better comply or disaster would strike. So he slipped down into his seat, snapped the belt on closed, and he said: 'Daddy, I'm sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside!'. That's the rebellion of our hearts. Paul describes it that even the things we want to do, we don't find it within ourselves to be able to do those things - good, moral things. The things that we don't want to do, that we want to avoid, we seem to be drawn to those things. To paraphrase Paul's statement: we, as rebellious sinners, just can't help ourselves.
Now we can have a philosophical and theological argument - I'm not sure it would get us anywhere - if you disagree with me that you're a sinner, but at the end of the day you would have to agree with me that there are times in your life when you just can't help yourself. When temptation is before you, or when there is a ruling authority and you want to debunk that, usurp that, it really proves the law of sin. The Bible says that law works within us, it is the law that naturally defaults to breaking God's laws, and that's what the Bible means when it says that we are all sinful.
Looking away from yourself for a moment, and looking to the society in which we live: there is so much rebellion, particularly towards God. Louis Blanc, the French socialist and historian, said shortly before his own execution: 'When I was an infant I rebelled against my nurse; when I was a child I rebelled against my teachers; when I was a young man I rebelled against my mother and father; and when I reached a mature age I rebelled against the state. When I die, if there is a heaven and a God, I will rebel against them!'. That's the attitude of many. I'm not suggesting it's your attitude, but it might be. What Adonijah did with rebellion in his nature was, he violated a basic principle, it's this: if we want to be exalted we must humble ourselves, we must not exalt ourselves. Scripture is clear, Psalm 75:6-7: 'Exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another'. James 4:10 puts it: 'Humble yourselves in the sight of God, and He will lift you up'.
So I want to challenge you today, whether you're a Christian or not, is the road that you take the road of humility? If you want to go up, you have to go down. You see, this kingdom of God is a kingdom of opposites. I think it was R. Kent Hughes who said that Jesus Christ reached into the shopping window of humanity and switched the price labels. Everything is upside down, it's a topsy-turvy world. So if you want to come to glory, true glory as God sees it, you've got to take the downward spiral. If you want success you've got to climb down the ladder.
Adonijah didn't learn this. He was a rebel by nature, and said: 'I will be king'. He was also a rebel, I believe, a rebel made by nurture. Look at verse 6: 'His father had not rebuked him at any time'. So verse 5 says that he is preparing himself with chariots, horsemen, 50 men to run before him - he's making it look like he's the King, even though he's not the King. His father was aware of this but he didn't do anything, his father didn't rebuke him. The New American Standard Bible says: 'His father never crossed him at any time'. He didn't discipline him, saying 'Why have you done so?'. He was also very good-looking, which helps, and got him a bit of a following. But verse 6 indicates to us that David, the great King, was an indulgent father, and Adonijah was a spoiled son.
Now we know that David was a man after God's own heart, and we're not taking anything away from that at all, but we also know from this record of his life that he didn't do a very good job raising his own sons. When you look at his biography you see that David had quite a dysfunctional family. There was no discipline toward Adonijah here, and other of his sons, and he failed to restrain not only his own passions as a man - you know about that, don't you, with Bathsheba, his adultery, his murder of Uriah, other misdemeanours in David's life - he not only failed to restrain some of his own passions, but failed to restrain the impulses of his boys. There is an interesting insight here that we would all do well to take note of, and that is that: what you do in measure, your children can take to excess. Think about that one.
Not only was David not the best father to his sons, some have deduced - and I think rightly so - that David didn't have the best relationship with his own father either. When you look at 1 Samuel 16 verse 11, and Samuel the prophet had come to anoint the new King: Jesse, David's father, had put out all his sons before the prophet for the potential of one of them being anointed, but where was David? He was out in the field tending the sheep. Samuel had to ask: 'Is this all your sons?'. So, for whatever reason, Jesse had overlooked David. The godly influence, perhaps, in David's life came more from his mother. We get this from the Psalms, Psalm 86, Psalm 116, David refers to his mother as 'the handmaiden of the Lord'. So maybe David wasn't given a great example of a father in Jesse - but that's no excuse for indulging Adonijah at all, but we have to say it's bound to have affected him. It affects all of us, what our fathers and our mothers are like. So I want to challenge you today: what example have you been given in life? Not just from parents, but from peers, from authority figures. Let me ask you again: what example have you followed?
Do you see the making of a rebel in this young lad? By the nature that was in him to rebel against authority, sinful in heart, pride; but he was made a rebel by nurture, by the examples that he was given. What I want you to see really, at the climax of this passage and this message, is the breaking of the rebel. It's not pleasant, but it's what God's word teaches. Now, in the interim period a lot goes on: Nathan, the prophet who was faithful to David, a friend who shepherded him through some of his darkest days, adultery, and murder, and so on - Nathan, along with Bathsheba (who were not incidentally invited to the coronation of Adonijah as King, along with Solomon, surprise, surprise), Nathan and Bathsheba inform the ailing King of what Adonijah is doing. David confirms that Solomon is the Lord's anointed. So to fast forward quickly, word reaches Adonijah at his premature coronation party that, in fact, David has confirmed the anointing of Solomon.
Now look at verses 41 through to 43 to see the reaction of Adonijah and his entourage: 'Now Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the horn, he said, 'Why is the city in such a noisy uproar?'. While he was still speaking, there came Jonathan, the son of Abiathar the priest. And Adonijah said to him, 'Come in, for you are a prominent man, and bring good news'. Then Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, 'No! Our lord King David has made Solomon king''. Look at verse 49: 'So all the guests who were with Adonijah were afraid, and arose, and each one went his way'. Fear gripped them - why? Because they were on the wrong side, they were following the wrong King, a false King, a pseudo-king - judgement day was coming, and they all realised it! They discovered that it was going to be dangerous to give allegiance to Adonijah rather than God's anointed, Solomon.
Now, that is a very graphic description of the choice that all of us have to make in who we follow, spiritually speaking. Because Jesus Christ is God's Anointed King, the Son of David, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. He is the Saviour of the world, He's the One who has come in human flesh, pre-existing His birth in Bethlehem - He's the Eternal Son of God, but He came to die as a Man to be our Saviour, to bear the iniquity, the punishment for all our sins on Himself on the cross, to be buried, to rise again, to ascend to heaven, that the Holy Spirit would be poured out - but to come again one day to judge the world. Now we live in a day of forgiveness, we live in a day of grace, we live in a time of good news, that you can know forgiveness of sins. You don't have to be a rebel any more if you bow the need to Jesus Christ and confess that He is Lord - but all of us cannot be ignorant of the fact that there is a day coming when Jesus, the One who God has raised from the dead, Jesus will judge the world. He has given assurance of that fact by raising Him from the dead. So if you want to know if judgement day is really coming, look into the issue of whether Jesus has risen from the dead, and you will find beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law it is proven, it can be proven that Jesus is alive.
I wonder when that Judgement Day comes, and it is coming, will you be found to be following the wrong King? God's word says: 'Choose you this day whom you will serve'. Adonijah made the mistake, Proverbs 14:12 depicts it: 'There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death'. Look at what happens Adonijah in verse 50, quickly: 'Now Adonijah was afraid of Solomon; so he arose, and went and took hold of the horns of the altar' - that's the religious furniture of the tent of meeting, the Tabernacle where the sacrifices were made. So basically what's happening here is, he takes sanctuary, and this was an understood procedure - if you wanted to flee for refuge, you could do this. So, he did it, but what I want you to understand is: this guy is still a rebel. We know the end of the story which I will fill you in with a little bit later. So he was taking sanctuary, but he did not want sanctity - you know what that word means, 'holiness'. To put it another way: he was seeking refuge, but not righteousness. He was saving his skin, but he didn't want to submit to the godly authority. That's interesting, isn't it? He used religion, effectively, for his own personal profit. How many people are using religion? How many people are using church today? They might be doing it for, in one sense, a healthy motivation to save their own bacon - but is there a desire within their hearts to be righteous, to be right with God? Or is it just a fire escape from judgement? It's an interesting question, I'll leave it with you.
But what I want you to see is: this was a false refuge, really, because his heart was not right. He was using religion. There are many people all over our world, and whatever shade of the religious spectrum that you want to look at, whatever religious belief or idea, all of them are fleeing to false refuges - because there is only one place, there is only one true altar, there is only one Name given under heaven to men whereby we must be saved, and it's Jesus Christ. The only way that we can be saved is through His cross, through His blood, His death, His resurrection.
Look at verse 52: 'Solomon said, 'If Adonijah proves himself a worthy man, not one hair of him shall fall to the earth; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die'. So King Solomon sent them to bring him down from the altar. And he came and fell down before King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, 'Go to your house''. It's remarkable, isn't it? Mercy was shown to Adonijah. After this great rebellion, this insurrection, this treason, mercy was shown to Adonijah. I don't have time to show you this, but the end of Adonijah's story is tragic because he squanders the mercy that was given to him. Yes, at this point he does go to his own home; but later on, because that rebellion in his heart had never been dealt with - you see, that's the issue, all of us here need new hearts - and because that wasn't dealt with there came a day when he thought to himself, after David's death: 'Abishag', you know the girl, the concubine that was taken like a human hot water bottle, (I'm not going to enter into all that today, it's a confusing one, but nevertheless it's there!), 'She's a bit of alright, I would like her as my wife'. You see, in those days, you see it in the life of Absalom who went and slept with the concubines of David, that was seen as treason, to take the King's wives or concubines. So what we're saying is that rebellion rises again in Adonijah's heart, and he actually has the audacity to go and ask Solomon, through channels, if this is possible. He has to be put to death, executed, because this again was another attempt at insurrection.
But what I want you to see is: here is a man who squandered mercy. In the Gospel, there is mercy for the rebellious - isn't that wonderful? In Deuteronomy 21, in the law of God, you have what is called the law of the rebellious son - you go home and read it. It basically says that if there is a rebellious son and he won't take heed to the pleadings of his father and his mother, they have a right - I'm not sure this ever happened - but they have a right to take him out before the elders of the city, and if they judge that the parents are correct he deserves to be stoned to death. That's why the Pharisees and the Scribes were appalled at Jesus' teaching in Luke chapter 15 on the parable of what we know as the prodigal son, but it's really about the prodigal father - an indulgent, wasteful father with grace and love - because the father, rather than stoning the son, is running out halfway to meet him, throwing his arms around him after he has wasted his inheritance on riotous living. Do you see the confusion? But, you see, this is the grace of God: that we are shown mercy, that we are shown forgiveness, because Jesus paid the penalty, He bore the wrath of the law on the cross, He put our rebellion to death. All the contradictions of our sinfulness have been nailed to His cross, all the transgressions that we have made of God's law have been paid for - but you here today could squander that mercy, because you have never allowed God, through the Holy Spirit, to deal with the rebellion in your heart. In other words, you've never come to Jesus and repented - that means changed your mind about your sin, realised it's not negligible or admissible or inconsequential, that it will damn your soul internally and it's offending a God who loves you enough to send His Son to die for you.
You see, you need a change of mind, a change of heart. You need to come to the foot of the cross and own your sin - that's what confession is, you know, it's putting your hands up in the air and saying 'Guilty as charged. I agree that I have done this. I am rebellious, and even when I try to do that which is good, this law within me takes me the wrong way'. Do you know what your only answer is? Death, spiritual death on the cross with Jesus, where that rebel in you dies; and through the resurrection life of Jesus, a new you, the true you, the intended you that God wanted from the very conception of creation comes forth in a new creation and in the life of Jesus Himself. But I beg of you this morning: please be among those who are celebrating over one sinner that repents, that's what they did over the prodigal son, they threw a party - and Jesus said: 'This is what happens in heaven over one person who comes to God in repentance'. Celebrate one day in heaven with the true King, rather than being in fear with Adonijah, with his entourage, because they were on the wrong side.
Let me close by reading to you the prophet Enoch quoted by Jude, an ancient prophecy, one of the oldest in the Bible: 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him'.
Let's pray. Let's just take a moment, the meeting is over, but let me just take a moment. Do you recognise that nature of rebellion within you? It is there, but you need to recognise it. Even if you've been trying to work against it, you need to recognise that it is a losing battle. Maybe you were made a rebel by nurture as well, or the example that you were set - do you recognise that God is a God of love? He is holy, He is just, and He is going to judge the world one day - but we have had thousands and thousands and thousands of years of God's love and grace and goodness, for He is not willing that any should perish - that's why He is holding off the day of judgement, so that you can know mercy and forgiveness. What will you do this morning? Some of you have been coming regularly to Scrabo in the morning, I beg of you today: don't harden your neck again. Don't even be nonchalant or procrastinate and say: 'Well, not now'; but realise that at any moment any of us could be ushered into eternity, and that a judgement day is coming when we will all give account for what we have done in the body. Will you, right now, at this moment - and I'm going to give you an opportunity to do it right now - would you repent of your sin? Would you, in an act of faith, receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour and bow the knee to Him as your Lord? You could pray this prayer right now, you could say it after me in your heart - would you do this and mean it? 'O God, I confess that I am a sinner, a rebel at heart. I repent, I turn from my sin to You for mercy and forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died for me, and I ask You now to save me, make me Your child. I confess Jesus as Lord, and I ask You to come and live within me so that I might live a life that will glorify You. Thank You, Father, for hearing this prayer. In Jesus' name, Amen'.
I'm going to the door just now, you're all dismissed, but if you prayed that prayer and received Jesus as Your Saviour this morning, would you tell me or tell someone here? We can help you, we can give you some literature. We're not going to annoy you, but we are here to help and we want to do that. If you need a little more help taking that step, we're here and will spend some time even now with you to do that. Let me encourage you: don't squander mercy today, but be in the great celebration that is in heaven right now when one sinner comes to Jesus. God bless you.
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This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall, Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Following The Wrong King" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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