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The books of First and Second Samuel show us the failure of the priesthood, and, in consequence, when a state of evident shame and dishonour overspread the face of Israel, the heart of the people desired a king, to the disparagement of the prophets that judged Israel whom the Lord had raised up in extraordinary grace. But, thereupon, the Spirit of God, even before all this, was manifest, declares in prophetic communication the immense change that was about to take place; for while it was man's sin to have desired a king, like the nations, to go at the head of Israel, it had always been the purpose of God, only God made His own counsel to coalesce with their sin one of those mysterious but admirably divine ways of the Lord that we find continually in scripture. Thus man has ever showed how little he is to be accounted of God has ever shown how worthy He is of all our trust. God made use of man's infidelity to Him to bring in what was not only better then, but the type of that which will be infinitely good in its own way in the day that is coming. For all this furnished the beautiful shadow of a king after God's heart. Nevertheless, this did not come in at once; for as the people were faithless towards the Lord, they did not ask the Lord to choose them a king they preferred to choose one themselves. They chose one to their own still greater shame and hurt, and consequently, the first Book of Samuel is that which is naturally in regard to king Saul. The second Book is, at any rate, the type, and in a certain sense the reality, as far as a pledge was concerned, of that which was spiritual. The king after God's heart is established on the throne of Israel in the person of David. This is the great subject of the second Book of Samuel, and I have made this prefatory observation in order that we may the better understand the connection of the two preceding books with those that come before us now.
It is clear that the Books of Kings are the natural consequence and successors, if I may so say, of the Books of Samuel; so much so that they are, in some copies of the scriptures, all classed as Books of Kings. But here we have David approaching his end; and the eldest of his sons that then survived Adonijah takes advantage of the king's infirmity for his own ambitious purpose. There was no fear of God in this. For it was well known in the house of David, and in the land of Israel, that as God chose David from the midst of his brethren, so He had been pleased also to designate Solomon for the throne of Israel. Hence, therefore, it was not only human ambition, but we learn this very serious lesson for our souls that the indulgence of what is fleshly assumes a graver character in us than in the people of God in their measure, of old; in us still more now. It was not mere ambition in Adonijah. In one totally ignorant of the word of God and the will of Jehovah for Israel, it would have been ambition. But if we have an incomparable blessing in the word of God, we have a greatly increased responsibility, and further, sin acquires a new character. The sin of Adonijah was not merely therefore ambition; not merely, even, rebellion against the king, against David; it was rebellion against Jehovah. It was a direct act of setting himself in contradiction of the declared and revealed purpose of God.
Now it is always of the greatest importance that we should bear this in mind, because we are so apt to look at things merely as they lie on the surface. When, for instance, Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of their sad sin in the church of God, how does the apostle Peter treat it? Not merely as a lie. They had lied to God. Why was this? Why was there in that lie something altogether beyond an ordinary lie, bad as a lie always is in a Christian; indeed, in any one? But why was it so especially and emphatically a lying to God? Because Peter, at any rate, believed that God was there; that it was not merely therefore the general moral feeling against a person saying what was false and deceiving another, nay, not merely that it was against God's will and word, but it was an affront done in the very presence of God. And consequently, as the sense of the presence of God was so fresh and strong in the minds of all of them in, Peter above all he, in the power of that Spirit who manifested God's presence, pronounced the judgment no doubt according to God's guidance on the sin; and Ananias at first, his wife shortly after, breathed their last; a sin manifestly unto death. So that in the very earliest days of the church of God, we may say, the solemn truth had this voucher before them all, that God will not tolerate sin in that which bears the name of the Lord Jesus upon the earth. The very object of the church of God is to be an expression of the judgment of sin. We begin with that; we begin with Christ our Passover sacrificed for us; consequently, the lump must be a new one, as ye are unleavened as ye rare unleavened not that ye may be unleavened, but ye are unleavened, and, therefore, the old leaven is to be purged out. Whatever might be the natural tendency, whatever might be the special wickedness (for what will not Satan attempt?) just because God has wrought in the might of His own grace, this furnishes further occasion to the devil. He takes advantage of the goodness of God to bring a fresh slight upon Him and to dishonour Him the more because of the greatness of His love. Accordingly, therefore, God showed on this very occasion, by His servant, His deep resentment of the dishonour that was done Him, and, as the consequence, the judgment of the man and his wife that had been guilty of this great offence.
So it was upon this occasion. Adonijah had presumed upon his father's old age and infirmities, for he was stricken in years, and covered with clothes, but even thus found little comfort from it. And Adonijah accordingly at once takes his measures; but then there is more than this. There is another lesson that we have to gather from it; it is written for our instruction. His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, "Why hast thou done so?" A good man, a man after God's own heart, a great man, too, for such, surely, was David; one of those rare men that have ever appeared in this earth, not only rare as a man, but remarkably blest of God and honoured too. For who has furnished, as he has done, that which has filled the heart and expressed the feelings of saints of God from that day to this? I do not say that there was not the constant, inevitable (as far as man is concerned) blot. For indeed there was; not always of the same kind, but alas! we see in him, as we see too commonly, that where there was most conspicuous power and blessing and honour, there might be a most shameful evil against the name of the Lord. There is no preserving in any honour that God puts upon us; there is no possible way for any soul to be kept from sin against the Lord, except by his self-judgment and dependence; and therefore even, the more exalted a man is, the more liable is he to fall. There is no greater mistake, therefore, than to suppose that the signal honour of David, or the grace that had wrought in David, was any preserving power. Not so; rather the contrary. Where the eye is taken away from the Lord and this was exactly the case with David we are all liable to it. There is no security, I do not say as to eventual recovery and as to the preservative grace of the Lord in the end, but there is no security against dishonouring the Lord by the way, save in continually looking to Him.
Now David had failed greatly at home as well as abroad on particular occasions. Alas! at home in this very respect; he had a tender and a soft heart. He was one that greatly enjoyed the grace of God towards his own soul; he felt the need of it, but, instead of making him careful for the Lord, grace is very apt, if we are not watchful, to be severed from truth. In Christ they were perfectly combined; in the Christian they should be. It is what God looks for, expects from us. In David there was a failure, and there was a failure at home very often a critical place for any of us. It was so, at any rate, with king David. This son of his seems to have been a special favourite as bad a thing for the son as for the father. His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, "Why hast thou done so?" And if his father had not displeased him he must reap the bitter fruit; he must be displeased himself. The son would certainly displease the father if the father had not displeased the son. There was no greater failure in jealous care and in loving care, too; for, after all, to have been displeased for his good, for his reproof, would have been a deeper love not so showy, not so apparently gracious. But we must distinguish between grace and graciousness. There was a deal of graciousness in David in all this. I do not think there was much grace, for it is all a mistake to suppose that grace is not watchful. It was just the want of grace. It was a father's kindness, a father's tenderness, but it was not grace. Had there been grace there would have been truth. Real grace always maintains the truth. The truth was not maintained in the relationship of David towards his son Adonijah. Adonijah lives therefore to be the shame and grief of his father. This was not merely to manifest his father's fault before all Israel, to manifest his father's failure before all the saints, all the people of God of all times, but, beloved brethren, for our profit, if we are wise.
Now it takes then a public shape. The son the failure at least (to speak of it by the mildest name) the failure that had long gone on at home bursts out abroad. Adonijah therefore confers with a suitable person. He confers with Joab, the man that had constantly used David for his own purpose. Joab reckoned now that David would be of very little use to him any longer. The opportunity seemed fair; he embraced it. Policy is always ruinous work in the end, at any rate among God's people. There was no faith in Joab. He was a wise man after the flesh; he was an extremely political individual. Joab was a person who saw directly what could turn to his own profit, what offered an opportunity for his talents, for he was a man of great ability; and Joab now made up his mind. Adonijah was the man for him, so that they suited each other. Joab was remarkably adapted to Adonijah's object, and at the same time Adonijah suited Joab's policy. Had there been faith Joab had resisted Adonijah far more sternly than he once did David. This was the man that reproved David's numbering the house of Israel, for a man that has not faith is sharp enough to see the failure even of a man of faith when he steps out of his own proper line. Joab well knew that the day was when David single-handed fought the battle of Israel. He, after the Lord's most signal exaltation and blessing, he to be guilty of that which would have been poor work in any man of Israel, but most of all in David! he to be merely numbering the hosts of Israel as if they were the strength of the people, and not the Lord God! Therefore it was that Joab considered that the danger was too great for the result. He would not have minded the sin; he was afraid of the punishment, he was afraid of what it would involve. He had a sort of instinctive sense that the thing was wrong; that it was peculiarly wrong in David. He warned him therefore as we know. David would not be warned, and he fell into the snare completely.
But now the same man that could warn David could not warn himself. What lessons! beloved friends, at every turn. How wholesome for our souls! Of what importance it is that we should go on simply in the path of faith.
Joab, then, confers with Adonijah. The priest, too, is found necessary as well as the commander-in-chief, and they follow Adonijah and help him. "But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada," who was the true servant of the king's purposes, not Joab Joab, had the name, the title, but Benaiah was the man that did the real work "Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet," the man that was the interpreter of the mind of God these, as well as "Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men which belonged to David, were not with Adonijah." Adonijah might have his feast and invite all his brethren the king's sons! For this is another thing too that we have to observe. A departure from the mind of God is always apt to be successful at first. Every step of unfaithfulness has a great result in the world where there is ability, where there is the marshalling of all that would act upon the mind, for no doubt this was well calculated. Joab would influence a certain set. Abiathar the priest would have his religious name and reputation. And above all there were the king's sons all of them save Solomon, and "all the men of Judah," as it is said, "the king's servants." It was a widespread, and it seemed, a prudently concocted rebellion. "But Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not." And there is just where faith can rest on God's word. That was what gave the weight to Solomon; for there was nothing very particular known as to Solomon at this time, if indeed we leave God out. Yet that is really the root of all his blessing; for there is no vital blessing except where the call of God is. It matters not where his choice lies, the blessing of God is found, and the power of God too, with His election, and only there. And this was the very thing that was left out. No, it was this that irritated Adonijah; for naturally he had superior claims if the flesh was the rule and not God. The flesh may govern for a while in the world, but God must rule among God's people.
This then becomes known. The mother of Solomon goes to the aged king after conferring with the prophet; and there she showed that whatever might be her weakness her heart was right. She went to the one who, above all, could give the mind of God to Nathan the one that had himself reproved the king in the midst of his power, the one that had courage to speak for God whatever the consequence. She goes to Nathan. And allow me to say, beloved friends, as a matter of practical profit, we always show where our heart is by our confidence. Supposing a man is going wrong in his will. He is sure to take advice just in the very quarter where he ought not. He looks for advice where there will be weakness if he cannot count upon positive sanction where at any rate there will be the feeblest protest, if not a measure of encouragement; for weakness is apt to lean on weakness. Whereas, where there is a single eye we are indeed conscious of our weakness, and ought to be; but if there is a single eye we want the will of God. "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." Whatever is not the will of God perishes, and ought to perish, for what are we sanctified for if it be not to do the will of God? It was the very character of Christ; it was what all His life consisted of. You might sum it up in this one word, He came to do God's will. "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." There is no one thing that more unvaryingly describes Christ than that very thing. Not miracles; He did not always do miracles. He did miracles in a comparatively small compass of His life. He was not always working atonement. No greater mistake, and no more injury done to the atonement itself, than to confound it with what is not atoning. He was not always suffering either, still less was He suffering in the same way, even when He did suffer. But He was always doing the will of God.
And this is what we are sanctified to, not merely to obey, but to obey as Christ obeyed. For this is the meaning of "sanctified,'' where it says that we are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit unto obedience." Yes, but it is the "obedience," as well as the "sprinkling of the blood," of Jesus Christ. It is not the obedience of a Jew; it is not the obedience of the law. It is the obedience of Jesus Christ. Not but what this does accomplish the righteousness of the law. For there is no man that so thoroughly loves God and loves his neighbour as the man that obeys in the same spirit as our blessed Lord. And this is what we are all called to as Christians. Those that have merely the law before them as a thing to obey, do not really meet the righteousness of the law. Those that have Christ do, as it is said "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit." You observe the language is exceedingly strong. He does not merely say, "fulfilled by us," but, "fulfilled in us." "Fulfilled in us" shows the reality of it; the intrinsic character of the fulfilment of the law in its great righteous character and requirement. And so it is alone fulfilled in Christ, or the Christian, as it was, in a measure, by those who were looking to Christ in the days before.
Well then, Bathsheba showed her own confidence in the will of God her faith in short by coming to Nathan. She went to the right quarter. She told him of the conspiracy of Adonijah and his party, and she goes to the presence of the king. Nathan followed. The consequence was, the king shows that, however aged, he was perfectly alive to the solemnity of the occasion. He saw and judged the crisis that was coming, and the only effect of Adonijah's conspiracy was, not to hinder, but, to forward Solomon to the throne of Israel. Had there not been the conspiracy, Solomon would have waited, we can hardly doubt, for the death of the king, but the result was just simply to secure it and to secure it at once. So it is that if we are only calm, God always accomplishes His purpose. Who would have thought that the way for Joseph to be exalted so that his father and mother and his brethren should bow down to a thing that at first rather irritated Jacob, much as he loved his son, and which irritated still more his brethren who would have thought that the way in which this was to be accomplished was by the wickedness of his brethren either wanting to kill him, or even the most mild of them to sell him? But so it was. The pathway of sin, alas! which is so natural to sinners, is the very thing that God employs for the accomplishment of His purpose. This does not make the sin less, but it certainly exalts God the more. And there is the blessedness, beloved friends, of reading, and of growing in the knowledge of God as it is shown in the precious word, because we are growing in our acquaintance and intimacy with Him with whom we shall be for ever. And it is our privilege to have this acquaintance, and to cultivate it, and to enjoy it now. Hence, God has given us this word.
But now a word upon the great object of the Spirit of God in this book generally, and more particularly what has come before us. For this is particularly what I desire, not merely to draw your attention to great moral lessons, which would detain us too much with the detail of the chapters, but to give simply a wide and general sketch which you may fill up in your own reading of this book I trust with some moral suggestions to profit and help. My purpose now is to gather the great object of the Spirit of God that which is not so easily seen and laid hold of by souls, unless someone shows it; but that which if true you will prove to be true, and which you will enjoy so much the more, the more simply you receive it. But it is the word of God that will either confirm wherever one is true, or set aside wherever there is a mistake.
I say then that the grand point here is the establishment of the son of David, not merely man's kingdom set up in Saul and God's kingdom set up in king David, but now it is the son of David. And inasmuch as there were many sons this was the question. The devil was quite willing to make use of a son of David against the son of David. This was precisely the question now, and God was pleased to make use of the wickedness of those that insulted the king by practically treating him as a dead man while he was still alive. The hurry and haste of Adonijah only the more confirmed the title of Solomon. We need never trouble ourselves with our schemes for the accomplishment of God's plans. All man's efforts are in vain. God has His own way, and very often through man's sin. Do you suppose that if Joseph had been out of the prison he could have come to be the chief man in Egypt so quickly as by the prison? That was not man's way to raise him to be the prime minister of the king of Egypt. But there was no way, I will not say so sure, but there was no way so straight. It looked no doubt very far, indeed rather a turning his back upon the throne, to go into the dungeon, but in point of fact it was not only the way of God but, after all, it was the speediest way of all. The story as given in the word of God will explain without further remark from me.
Just the same now. Adonijah no doubt was interfering, but then it seemed as if he had a claim. It only affirmed the superior claim of God. And this was a grand point to establish at the beginning of the kingdom of Israel that it was not merely, as in ordinary cases, a king in God's providence. It was not, on the other hand, a thing that had to do with God's people as such; but the remarkable character of the throne in Israel was that it was a king by God's election the only king that, in the full force of the word, was so. Nebuchadnezzar no doubt was by God's providence, but there was more than providence in the case of the throne of Israel. And for this simple reason. The throne of Israel was in a very true and real sense the throne of Jehovah. And it is the only throne in this world that ever was the throne of Jehovah. This is the express statement of the word of God, as any one can see, but for this reason it has a character of importance that no kingdom ever had I do not say will have for what was done then is only the shadow of that which is going to be done.
And this is of great moment, beloved friends, for us to be clear about, for we are apt to be taken up by our own special blessings; yet the knowledge of the church of God ought not to hinder our interest in the kingdom of God, nor should the shape that the kingdom of God takes now at all obliterate that which God has given in the kingdom of old. It is not a proof of great faith to be only occupied with what concerns ourselves, but rather of little faith. I grant you that people who do not, first of all, and as the great lesson to learn, seek to know their own place are mere theorists, but when we have found our place in Christ when we have got our need supplied, our relationship defined, ourselves in the enjoyment of what grace has brought us into what is the great practical object of God? Free for all He has to tell us, and free for all He bids us do, it is no longer a question of what touches ourselves. If so, then we shall enjoy each thing in the word of God because it is what interests God; it is what concerns Him; and there is no one thing which ought to be so dear to us now as that God means to have a kingdom not merely a kingdom spiritually enjoyed as now; for "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink"; it is not eating and drinking, "but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." All that no doubt is spiritually enjoyed, and into that call we are brought now. We see that kingdom; we enter that kingdom now. We are in the kingdom of God now in that sense.
It is called also "the kingdom of heaven," because He who is the King of it is not on the earth, but rejected and is exalted in heaven. Consequently "the kingdom of God" is also "the kingdom of heaven"; and we are now in the form of it which is called "the mystery of the kingdom of God." But then it is not always to be a mystery. It is going to be manifested; it is going to be a place where God will tolerate no evil, where self-will will be manifestly judged, where righteousness will cover the earth, where there will be the manifest blessing of God, all produced by His own power here below, when the King Himself will be exalted over the earth, and very particularly over this portion of it the land of the people of Israel. Any one familiar with the scripture must know that the land is a part of the deed, if I may so say is part of that great charter which secures the kingdom; not merely the people but the land. The land and the people, I repeat, are both in the charter. Well then that will be when the Lord Jesus is no longer in. heaven, but comes again and takes the kingdom.
But perhaps you say, "How does that concern us?" And I would answer that by another question. If God has revealed it, is it not for us? Never confound these two things. It is not merely that God has revealed what is about us. He has given us a great deal that is not about us, but all that God has revealed is given to us. We ought to enjoy all the word of God, and it is a failure in faith where we do not. And further, we shall find the want of it we shall miss the blessing of it when we least expect it. The way to be truly strong in the day of difficulty is not to be collecting our arms when the enemy has come, but it is to be well armed before he appears. I grant you that it is only dependence upon God that after all can be strength, but I speak now as far as armour is concerned, and I repeat, it is too late in the day of battle to be looking after our arms. We ought to prepare, beforehand.
The kingdom then is of very great moment, and particularly so. For if we do not understand the nature of the kingdom we shall be exposed to those that confound it with the church. There is no more common error at this present time than to make out that the kingdom and the church are the same. Allow me to tell you that that is one of the great roots of popery. The papists think that the kingdom and the church are the same, and their great ground of assumption is that very identification for the simple reason that the kingdom supposes power applied to compel subjection. Hence, therefore, they ground upon that their title to put down kings, because what are the kings of the earth compared to those that have got a heavenly kingdom? They use, therefore, the title of the heavenly kingdom to put down earthly kings and to make a priest a far more important person really than the earthly king. Hence, again, their vain dream is founded upon this great confusion. Well, but you will find the same thing among most Protestants. I will just give you one or two examples to show you how very prevalent this delusion is, and how very important it is that we should distinguish in this matter.
Take a very respectable set of persons in Protestantism the Presbyterians. Well now the whole of their system is founded upon Christ being the King not Christ being the Head of the church, but Christ being King. That was the battle cry of the old covenanters, and that was the great cry at the time that the Free Church was established. It was that Christ was the King that the crown of England was using its title against the rights of Christ. In the case about which there was so much talk some years ago, and to which I need not refer more particularly, this was the great thought. It was Christ's title of King in the church that was disputed. So you will find in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is their grand standard of doctrine. In short, they always go upon the ground of Christ being King of the church.
So again with the Independents just the same thing. When they managed to get the upper hand in England for a time they made very small scruple of sending the king to the block because they considered him to be the enemy of the King of the church that Christ was the King, and not King Charles; that King Charles had behaved very badly and deserved to suffer, and so on; and they were the asserters of the rights of Christ the King.
Well now there was a grand fundamental error made by all of them. Thus Protestants are just as guilty in another way as the Romanists, for although they do not use the title of Christ to exalt themselves against the powers that be, habitually they do use it when the powers that be fail (as they consider) to behave themselves quite right. Then they think they are perfectly entitled to call them to account, and, if necessary, to put them down, or even send them to the block. Now all this you see is a complete inversion of the right relationship of a Christian man to the powers of the world, and all founded upon the very plausible idea that whether you call Him Head of the church or call Him King of the church, it is all one and the same thing. They say that it is only "hair-splitting brethren" that see anything different; that it is only persons who continually put themselves disagreeably forward and tell people that they do not understand the scriptures; that it is only persons that have that rather quarrelsome, disagreeable style of convicting persons of not knowing the word of God.
Now, beloved friends, I say that however disagreeable it may be to be proved guilty of not knowing the word of God, this is the very thing that we do affirm; this is the very thing that we do assert now, that this is a subject of the greatest possible moment, that is, that our true relationship to Christ is not King of the church that He is never so treated nay, that He is not even called "King of saints" except in a passage in the Revelation which every scholar knows to be a mistaken translation, the true meaning in that case being, "King of nations," and not "King of saints," or King of the church at all. In short, there is no such thought, and the fact is very important. It is no mere idea, and it is no litigious objection to people's dogmas. It is a vital point, not for salvation, but for the true place of the church the true relationship of the church and you must remember our duties always depend upon our relationships. If I am wrong about my relationship, I am certain to be wrong about my duty. I am certain to make a duty of what is wrong, and that is exactly what the effect was to one or other of the different classes that I have referred to. That is what they have done. I need not repeat it, but I say that the opposite of the relationship is a fatal thing. The way it works is this. If my relationship to Christ is that of a member of the body to the head, my relationship is of the most intimate kind; my relationship is of the closest nature, and the Head loves me as He loves Himself, for no man ever yet hated his own flesh. Such is the relationship of Christ to the church. It is so intimate that you can have no person between you and the Head none whatever. You see all depends upon it. The principle of the clergy depends upon it, because if that is the relationship the clergy are at an end. There is no such thing; it is only an imaginary class of beings as far as the truth is concerned. That is, they have no real title in the word of God. There is no such being in the word of God. There is no such position at all. It is only a thing that has been conjured up by persons who do not know the relationship of the church of God to the Head. So exactly that of which I am speaking now the relationship of the members to the Head excludes all dealing of the church with the world. The world is nothing to the church. The church is a thing separate from the world not controlling the world not punishing the world, not putting the world under force to compel it to render unwilling subjection. All this is a total confusion between the kingdom and the church the kingdom as it will be by and by with this only difference, that then, as we know, the obedience will be real except only in a certain set who afterwards become rebellious and are so judged and punished.
Now all this then I maintain, beloved friends, is of a very practical nature, because the reason why so many saints are troubled in their souls among Presbyterians and Dissenters generally is this very thing. If I am only in the relationship of one of a people who have a king, well there is a long distance between the king and the people. No wonder I am not very intimate with the king. No wonder I am not on very happy terms with the king. I ought not to expect to be. My business as one of the people is to remain in a lowly outside place altogether, feeling indeed how poor my subjection is; but as to pretence to draw near the king to go continually into his presence it would be a very unbecoming thing in a subject to dare to do such a thing. Thus you destroy the very vitals of Christianity by this doctrine. It is not only that I speak now of great public errors, but I say that you destroy practical Christianity every day and every hour, and I hold, therefore, that this very mistake now of confounding the kingdom and the church is one of the most fatal in its consequences, not for sinners as a question of looking to Christ to be saved, but for Christians as a question of enjoying their own proper relationship, and of walking accordingly. Whereas if you know your place as brought into the church of God the body of Christ then there can be no intimacy more complete; there can be no oneness more absolute. You are put, therefore, as a part of Himself before God, and instead of its being too high or presumptuous, or anything of the kind, on the contrary, it is merely faith in the truth it is merely appreciation of the grace that He has shown you; for it would be perfect nonsense for the body not to share the blessing of the Head; it could not be, and therefore you must deny the fact you must deny the relationship not to enjoy this blessedness which you have in communion with the Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of God.
But then there is another thing that goes along with it absolute separation from the world; but I do not go farther on this subject. I just touch upon it to show that whether it is the soul's oneness, or whether it is the separateness of the church from the world, all depends for its power upon appreciating that, besides being spiritual in the kingdom, we are really and truly and fully, every one of us, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, and that these relationships, instead of being the same, are wholly distinct, and that, in point of fact, although we are in a certain sense in the kingdom, we are never said to be a kingdom. We are never said; in that sense, to be the sphere except in a mere figurative way. We are said to be kings, not subjects. We are subject, of course. When use the term "kingdom," I mean in the sense of subjects. Subject we are, and I admit that the subjection ought to be more complete and absolute than even that of mere subjects of a king; but the character of the obedience of a subject is distance. The character of the body in subjection is nearness, and this is essential to Christianity.
And now in this Book of Kings, as we shall see, you never get the church. You never have the body of Christ. You have only the relationship of the kingdom a very weighty and important thing, and, indeed, very strongly and practically important for us as showing us the distinctness of those new relationships into which we are brought. But the grand point, you observe, even in the kingdom, was this to maintain God's choice, God's will, as the foundation of all action. It was this that led king David, for I do not suppose, and it is never said, that king David made such a pet of, or made so much of, Solomon as he did of Adonijah. We are not told that so it was with all his other children. Adonijah evidently was the spoilt boy, and Adonijah was the one in the family that the father never could bear to displease, and, consequently, the trouble came in by him; it could not be otherwise; it was right that it should be. It is according to God's government that whatever man sows he must reap. So it must be if he sows to the flesh, and so he had done. Of the flesh he reaps corruption. This came to pass now, but, on the other hand, how marvelous the grace! What a recovery is that of God! Think of David now. Think of Bathsheba now. Think of Solomon now. When one remembers who and what Bathsheba had been, of whom Solomon had been born, how wondrous the grace of God, and what a comfort, beloved friends, for anyone that has to look back bitterly upon what was most humiliating most painful! How the grace of God not only triumphs, but makes us more than conquerors through Him that loves us. So we see it even in the kingdom.
Well, the thing is now established, and the very effort to destroy it brings out, as I have already said, the speedy establishment of the will of God. Solomon is caused to ride upon the king's mule. The trumpet is sounded. The real men that had fought the battles of the kingdom and that had guided the counsels of the king, and the king himself above all, put their seal upon this great transaction, and Solomon is fairly seated as the king on the throne of Jehovah in Israel. Such then is the introduction of this book.
In the second chapter we have David's death, and the charge that was given before he died to king Solomon to judge righteously, for David evidently feels that, for his own word's sake, he had spared more than one wicked man. This lay upon his conscience. He could not but deliver it over to king Solomon. It is wrong to call this vindictiveness; there was no vindictiveness in it whatever. It was really a burden upon the king's mind. It was not because of their personal opposition to himself, but that it was so grave a sin against Jehovah's anointed was what filled the king's heart. He tells it to his successor Solomon, and, accordingly, the day comes when these sins rise up and call for judgment, but all in God's time. There was no hurry. Adonijah, however, is the first to bring on his judgment upon him. The king had treated him kindly, had pardoned his offence and rebellion; but now he asks for a request which inevitably suggests the idea of a second and subtle effort after the kingdom. He sought the one that had been the youthful companion of the aged king. He sought and this, too, through Bathsheba "Adonijah, the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. And she said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably. He said moreover, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And she said, Say on. And he said, Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on men that I should reign; howbeit the kingdom is turned about, and is become my brother's: for it was his from the Lord. And now I ask one petition of thee, deny me not. And she said unto him, Say on. And he said, Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the king (for he will not say thee nay) that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife."
It did not look much in appearance, but Solomon was wise. Solomon detected the unjudged ambition and rebellion of Adonijah's heart, and so, then, although it was Bathsheba his mother who was in question, he judges. She presented what she called a small petition. That is often done when there is something great behind, though not always known, for Bathsheba, on this occasion, was but the instrument of one who did not seek something small, but the greatest place in the kingdom, and Abishag, accordingly, is the request. "And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother. And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also; for he is mine elder brother, even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah. Then king Solomon sware by Jehovah, saying, God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah have not spoken this word against his own life. Now therefore, as Jehovah liveth, which hath established me" you observe how simple and how real is the sense in the king's mind that it was of Jehovah's doing, and, so long as this was held fast, Solomon was strong as well as wise; but, says he, "as Jehovah liveth, which hath established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me an house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death this day. And king Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he fell upon him that he died."
Thus we see that although Solomon was not the man of blood that David was, and was not the conquering king of Israel, he was a type of the Lord Jesus when He goes forth as a man of war, which He surely will, and when He executes vengeance upon His adversaries, when He will bring them before Him and have them slain before Him, as He says in the parable. He is the type of the execution of righteous vengeance. There will be great examples made not merely the awful carnage of the day of Edom, but there will be also the tremendous judgment that will cast even into eternal fire that punishment which is prepared for the devil and his angels; that is, there will be what far more than fills up the picture, for, indeed, the anti-type is much greater than the type. Nor is it confined to Adonijah, when Solomon further acts by thrusting out Abiathar and accomplishes the word of the Lord that was given to Eli, for there it was that the wrong family not Phineas, but the other line that had usurped the place of Phineas crept into the high priesthood, now restored according to the word of the Lord. The priesthood in the house of Phineas was to be an everlasting priesthood. All was in confusion for a considerable time. Solomon now is acting righteously, and is ruling in equity according to his measure. Further, Joab at once feels the treatment. He sees that the hand of righteous power is stretched out, and his conscience smites him. He pronounces his own judgment when he turns away and flees to the tabernacle of Jehovah, and vainly lays hold on the horns of the altar. It was told king Solomon, but he simply bids Benaiah execute judgment upon him. Nor this only. The story of Shimei comes before us, and as Joab suffered the due reward of his deeds, Shimei broke a decided fresh lease, if I may so say, which the king gave him. He violated the terms of it, and came under judgment by his own manifest transgression. Thus, righteous judgment executed by the king on the throne of David is the evident intimation of this second chapter.
In 1 Kings 3:1-28 we have another scene. Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt. Alas! one cannot say that the righteousness in this is maintained; but how wonderful that God should make a thing that was wrong in itself to be a type of what is perfectly good in Him, for, as we know, there is no way in which the Lord has manifested His grace so much as in His dealings with the Gentiles. However, we cannot say that this was according to the mind of God for a king of Israel. "He took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of Jehovah." And I do not think, beloved friends, that that order is without its teaching. It was not until he had built Jehovah's house and his own. He was thinking of his own first. No wonder, therefore, that he was not so particular about Pharaoh's daughter. We are never right when the Lord's house is not before our own. "Only the people sacrificed" for this, alas! accompanied it too. "Like king like people." "Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of Jehovah, until those days."
Now, I do not mean to say that that had the same flagrant character that it had afterwards. We must always remember that it was where Jehovah had placed His name that they were there, and there only, to sacrifice to the Lord. But that was not yet fully, or, at any rate, publicly established; it was about to be. There was to be the house of Jehovah. This would be the public witness of that great truth before all Israel; but that house was not yet built. Therefore, although it might have been a failure, still it was a failure for which the Lord showed His tender mercy and compassion to His people until His own power had established the visible memorials of His worship; and then to depart to the high places became a matter that at once drew down the judgment of the Lord. Now here is an important thing to consider, because it looks plausible in an after day to say, "Well, here you observe people sacrificing in the high places without any condemnation; and, therefore, evidently the Lord had pity for His people at this time, and did not treat it at all in the same way as afterwards." Thus the wicked heart turns the mercy of God His forbearance in a day of difficulty and of trial into an excuse for sin, when there is no excuse possible. So it is that men habitually divorce the word of God from God's object. The king, it is said, "loved Jehovah, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places." His father had not done so. "And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar."
We have noticed elsewhere, I am sure, most of us, how remarkably David showed his sense of what was due to God, because he is found before the ark. The ark was what attracted. This was the more remarkable, because the ark is not at all the public link with God like the great altar. The great altar was in the court; the great altar was before every eye; the great altar was the place where offerings were. The ark was, comparatively, a little thing, and it was unseen. It was purposely behind the curtain veils. It was a matter, simply and purely, for faith, as far as that could be for an Israelite. It was his confidence that there was where Jehovah's glory was most of all concerned. That was what drew king David. Not so much king Solomon not so characteristically. We are told this particularly in contrast with his father. This you observe in the chapter where the tendencies to departure first begin to be perceived. Affinity with Pharaoh's daughter is one; sacrifice at the high places is another.
With his father it was not so. In Gibeon, however, Jehovah appeared. And how great the grace of God that although it is here put in contrast with his father's deeper and higher faith in Gibeon Jehovah appears! What a God was He! He appeared to Solomon in a dream by night and asked what He was to give him nay, told him to ask and Solomon answers with great beauty to the call of the Lord, for he asks what would enable him to govern His people rightly. He asks neither length of days, nor wealth, nor honour; but wisdom, and wisdom that he might govern Israel; and the God that gave him this wisdom, more than to any man that ever reigned, failed not in any other thing, for, as we know, there was none outwardly so blest as the king, none outwardly so renowned as this very king Solomon. I do not say that there was not a very deep and painful departure, as indeed the spirit that overlooked the ark and that went to the high places, must have its fruit in the latter end. For, beloved friends, the failure that is found at the beginning of our Christian career to apply it now to our circumstances does not fail to show itself still more as time passes over, unless it be thoroughly judged and departed from. A little seed of evil bears no small crop. I speak now of the seed as buried. The seed that is sown, not merely that exists, but what is allowed and covered up will another day rise up and bear bitter fruit.
So it was with Solomon, and although this does not appear for a time, it does not fail to appear afterwards. But in the same chapter we have a striking proof of his heart carrying the stamp of God's power along with it in the case of the two women who claimed the living child. I need not dwell upon it. He perfectly understood the heart of man; David entered into the heart of God. There was the difference. Solomon understood the heart of man well no man better; no man so well; and God has employed him as the vessel of the deepest human wisdom that even the word of God contains. I call it human, because it is about human affairs. It is about the heart; it is about the things in the earth; but still, it is divinely given wisdom on human topics. This was just as well suited for king Solomon, as the Book of Psalms that lets the heart of the saint into the understanding of the heart of God (according, of course, to a Jewish measure) was suited to David. That is the difference. The man after God's heart was just the one to write the Book of Psalms; the man that so well knew the heart of men and women was just the person to judge in this case between the two contending mothers, as they pretend to be.
Here then Solomon was king over all Israel, and, accordingly, the honour and glory and administration of his kingdom come before us in 1 Kings 4:1-34, as well as his great wisdom, wealth, and glory.
In 1 Kings 5:1-18 we see the action, not by affinity, but by alliance, with the Gentiles, and how they become the servant of his purposes; nay, we can say even God's purposes for the earth, as far as Solomon was the servant of them. This is given in a very interesting manner in this fifth chapter.
In 1 Kings 6:1-38 we see the fruit. The temple of Jehovah is built the temple for His praise and glory, and this is described with great care in that chapter. I shall not dwell upon the details of it at this present time. They would rather take me away from the great purpose of giving the sketch that I propose.
In 1 Kings 7:1-51 we have the house. "He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon." We have the difference between what was connected with Solomon in contrast with that which was for Jehovah; and we find one remarkable fact, too, that long as he was upon Jehovah's house, he spent nearly twice as long time upon his own. It is quite evident, therefore, what Solomon was coming to. It might be slow, but the fruit was yet to appear bitter fruit of self. Further, we find that Solomon assembles all the elders of Israel, and the heads of the tribes, and the temple is consecrated. And here we have what is incomparably better and deeper than all the manifest accompanying proof of God's presence. It was not merely that Jehovah's throne was filled by a man by king Solomon His throne upon the earth, as He deigns to call it, but Jehovah took a dwelling-place. Jehovah deigned to come down in a manifest way to dwell in the house that Solomon built. There was no greater act now known in Israel, and this is brought before us in a deeply interesting manner. The priests brought in the one great object that was unchanged. In all the other vessels there was, no doubt, the old type of the tabernacle somewhat changed and enlarged for the temple. The ark was the same. How beautiful when we think of One who is emphatically the same yesterday, today, and for ever, and there was no one thing that more represented Him than the ark. The ark was brought in and the staves were drawn out, and there was nothing in the ark, now, save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb when Jehovah made the covenant with the children of Israel. In short, what was so strikingly found in the ark before is now absent. We see nothing now of that which had been so strikingly the comfort of the people of God in the wilderness. The law, and the law alone, remained. It was not that which was meant for maintaining them in grace through the wilderness. The reason is plain. What was now manifested was the outward kingdom what will be when Satan is bound when the Lord reigns, when the power of evil is checked. But if there is not an emblem of grace any longer found in the ark, there is the expression of the authority of God, because the kingdom will be precisely that. The presence, therefore the combined presence of the tables of stone in the ark is just as striking as the absence of the emblems of grace and priesthood which are now, as you know, the great force of preserving the people and bringing them through the wilderness. Aaron's rod that budded was just as strikingly suited for the ark in the wilderness as only the law was suited for the ark in the land and in the temple the house of Jehovah.
But then Solomon breathed a most striking prayer to God suitable to the new circumstances of the king, and this fills the rest of the chapter.
One thing, however, I must say a word upon. Even he puts it entirely on a conditional ground. He does not fall back upon unconditional grace. He falls back simply upon government. I do not doubt that this was all according to God. It would have been presumptuous, and, indeed, it would have been beyond his measure, to have pleaded unconditional grace. This is only done fully when Christ Himself is seen. When we know Christ and have Christ, we dare not ask any other ground than unconditional grace for our souls. For our walk we must own and bow to the righteous government of the Lord; but for our souls for eternity we dare not have any other foundation than the absolute, sovereign, unconditional grace of God.
Now Solomon has, no thought of this. It is governmental dealings. It is conditional upon subjection, and accordingly, this is carried out throughout the chapter. But the end of it all is this that the king is seen. And here is another point that I may draw attention to the king is seen in a most interesting position: he offered sacrifice before Jehovah. "And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings." How remarkable! The king, not a priest, now. How is that? It is exactly what is predicted in the beginning of the first of Samuel that it would not be the anointed priest now, merely, but another anointed. He should raise up a faithful priest before Jehovah's anointed. Zadok is the type of that faithful priest, but then here is another anointed a greater anointed. In the days before the kings, the great anointed one was the priest; but when the king was established he takes the superior place the evident type, of Christ. The priest retires into a secondary place. The king, accordingly, not only is then the highest in the throne, but he is even the highest in point of sacrifice. It is he that sacrifices before all Israel. So, it is said, "Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto Jehovah, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep."
It is connected with himself; and even more, too, we find. He drove, as we saw, an unfaithful priest out of the priest's office. He takes the superior place over the priest. "The same day did the king hallow." It is all connected with the king now. It is not the priest that hallows. The priest might be the instrument; I am not denying that for a moment, but it is all connected with the king. "The same day did the king hallow the middle court that was before the house of Jehovah" (as he had dedicated the house of Jehovah) "for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brazen altar that was before Jehovah was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings. And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation" the type of the great gathering of the latter day when the Lord Jesus, as the true Son of David, will more than accomplish all that is given here. He did so seven days and seven days, that in the mouth of these two witnesses every word should be accomplished the duplicate witness of perfectness. "On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that Jehovah had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people."
I shall not prolong the subject now, but I hope in a future lecture to give the end, and, I must say, the sorrowful end of king Solomon, as well as the continued failure of those that succeed.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Kings 1". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany