These words are suggested from the history of king David and his sons. The influence of example often remains longer than precept, and there is no doubt that it needs to accompany precept if the latter is to be of power. God testifies of David’s example.
He says he walked before Him in integrity of heart and uprightness. 1 Kings 9. 4. He states that David’s heart was perfect with the Lord his God, and that he went fully after the Lord, 11. 4, 6. Then the inspired record reads, “David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite”, 15. 5.
It was in David’s heart to build a house for God, 1 Chron. 22. 7; 28. 2, 3. The desire was pleasing to God, 1 Kings 8. 18, and it arose before Solomon was born, 1 Chron. 22. 9, 10, but God showed him why he should not be allowed to fulfil his desire, 22. 8. Solomon was God’s choice for the work. He was David’s tenth son, 1 Chron. 3. 5, Bathsheba’s son by David, 1 Chron. 3, 5; 1 Kings 1. 11, and he was destined for the throne in succession to his father, 1 Chron. 28. 5.
In anticipation of events, David prepared gold, silver, precious stones, brass, iron, timber and stone for the building of the house, and he put them into Solomon’s care, 1 Chron. 22. 2-4; 29. 2-5. It is clear from 28. 11-12 that David gave to Solomon the design and pattern of all that was to be made, as well as the precious metals “by weight’’ for each specific vessel, 28. 14-19. God originated it. He made it known to David, and Solomon arranged the construction, through Hiram. It is encouraging to read that the wisdom, understanding and artistry needed to make the magnificent house that was filled with the glory of the Lord, was given to a man whose father had been a worker in brass, and whose mother was a widow, 1 Kings 7. 14. David had a heart for God, and desired to build for God. While not allowed by God to build Him a house, David prepared for it with all his might, and he put into Solomon’s possession the results of his preparation, 1 Chron. 29, 1 -5. The total value was almost unbelievable, 22. 14. Solomon came into the good of his father’s devotion and was told, “thou mayest add thereto”. Having read of David’s example to his sons, what do we learn of them?
Amnon, the eldest, was consumed by fleshly lust, and deliberately sinned against his step-sister Tamar. Absalom her brother had him put to death for his wrong, 2 Sam. 13.
David’s second son was Chileab, by Abigail, known also as Daniel, 2 Sam. 3. 3; 1 Chron 3. 1. Nothing is recorded of him.
Absalom was the third son, 2 Sam. 3. 3. He undermined his father’s administration, and by flattery stole the hearts of the men of Israel. Later he conspired against the king, and overthrew him, 2 Sam. 15. In the battle that followed, Joab killed him.
David’s fourth son was Adonijah, 2 Sam. 3. 4. When his father was old and weak, he exalted himself and plotted to seize the throne, helped by Joab and Abiathar the priest, 1 Kings 1. 5-7, 2. 15. Adonijah was a goodly man, like Absalom his brother, 1 Kings 1. 6; 2 Sam. 14. 25, but of deceitful and treacherous character. He was put to death.
Solomon inherited the throne and built the house of the Lord. He began wonderfully well. He had his father’s solemn charge, 1 Chron. 28. 9, 10, unequalled wisdom, riches and honour, 1 Kings 3. 12-13, yet he fell into those very things against which he warned the nation. His father’s heart was perfect with God, and Solomon besought the people to keep a perfect heart, 1 Kings 8. 61, yet his own heart was turned from the Lord his God, and he was not perfect in heart as was David his father, 1 Kings 11. 4. His fleshly desires for many strange women were his downfall. God pronounced judgment and gave most of his Kingdom to his servant, 11. 11-13.
Nothing is recorded of the ways of David’s other sons.
We have been given an example by believers from whom we received spiritual wealth. Older believers can remember those through whose labours local assemblies were formed half a century ago. They were mostly working men, with little leisure, and the assembly was their life. They were characterized by a deep desire for the salvation of others, and earnestly studied the Scriptures so that they might know the blessings of obedience. They taught the Gospel, baptism of believers, the priesthood of al, believers, the joy of Spirit-led worship and ministry, the truth of the assembly and the hope of the coming of the Lord. God greatly blessed in those years. Souls were saved and added to local assemblies through conversions in Sunday schools and Gospel meetings. Our examples were not men and women of prominence, nor outstanding as David was in Israel, but God honoured them, and the results of their work will be seen when they have the Lord’s reward.
What kind of successors are we? In leisure, in facilities and possessions, we have much more than believers had fifty years ago, but how far do we follow their love for the Lord and obedience to the Scriptures Blessing cannot be produced by us, and God has conditions for blessing.
How can we expect spiritual favour or enlargement if we introduce practices from which our predecessors withdrew, so that they might follow the Scriptures? To resort to unscriptural ways to solve lack of exercise and interest will only bring poverty and judgment. To depute one man to preach and teach and another to shepherd, reduces general exercise, so that successors to these men will become more difficult to find.
The answer to present failure is not in the use of expedients, but in urging personal affection and obedience to the Lord and in following His Word. Many Anglican clergy are opposed to the introduction of women priestesses, and if the intention is pursued it could bring about division. The same would be true in assemblies if sisters are encouraged to act contrary to Scripture. That which is intended to strengthen, would divide and weaken.
We have received that which others have given us, so that we might build, but have we forgotten that David said to Solomon, “thou mayest add thereto” In 1 Corinthians 12, the local assembly is likened to the human body where all members function and all are necessary. To transfer mutual care, 12. 25, to just one willing pastor would be a departure from, and a substitute for, Scriptural pattern. Men should accept their responsibilities. They involve self-denial, diligent reading, prayer and caring. We are too ready to say that we have no gift when we ought perhaps to say, “We have no heart”! Assembly principles, as set forth in Scripture, must be right; therefore failure lies with us.
The writer remembers when “open conferences” were common. They were abused by some brethren, and arranged speakers were the substitute. They were, at first, men living in the area but now that gifted men are fewer they are called from a hundred miles away to speak for 40 minutes and expend great effort in travelling for hours. This practice profits the saints, but it does little to strengthen local assemblies, for no general exercise is needed. Where are the younger men to succeed the ministering brethren who at present travel the country The local assembly is the training school. Solomon’s failure to retain for his sons that which God gave him did not arise from lack of knowledge of God’s will, but “his heart was turned from the Lord God… he kept not that which the Lord commanded”, 1 Kings 11. 9, 10.
The writer beseeches the saints to keep a perfect heart and affection for the Lord. This is the way to recovery and blessing.
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