BASED ON THE EARLY CHAPTERS OF 1 KINGS
In critical and difficult times loyalties are tested, motives surface and leadership is needed. This is true in both assembly life and family life. A believer’s first loyalty should be to the Lord, and His will and interests should come first. Crises happened on a number of occasions in the history of Israel. Such a crisis occurred when David’s life was ebbing and his designated successor, Solomon, was waiting in the wings for his coronation.
But a conspiracy was brewing. We have three men who were a serious threat to the heir to David’s throne: Adonijah, one of David’s sons, spurred on by selfish ambition; Joab and Abiathar, motivated by self-interest. These show themselves to be false leaders. We also have three men who sought to maintain the rights and interests of Solomon; Nathan, Zadok, and Benaiah, who play a crucial part in the events at this critical time and who are shown to be true leaders.
ADONIJAHattempts to seize power by means of a coup. He has himself crowned in the company of an inner circle and key national figures, 1 Kgs. 1. 5-8. His character belies his name, ‘my Lord is Jehovah’. He is marked by particular sins:
self-centredness: 'I will be king’. He wants power for himself.
self-will: ‘I will be king’. He wants his will to prevail, in disregard and defiance of God’s will.
self-exaltation: ‘I will be king’. He exalts himself; he wants to be somebody, to be as high in others’ esteem as he is in his own.
These characteristics are found in those who want prominence and status, who would promote themselves. We see the same thing in Absalom when he rebels. Hushai acting on David’s behalf appeals to Absalom’s pride and ego as he seeks to thwart his conspiracy and rebellion; he suggests that ‘all Israel be … gathered unto thee … as the sand … for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person’, 2 Sam. 17. 11. Absalom is clearly taken by the idea. In the very same incident, Ahithophel’s pride and selfcentredness are seen as he gives his advice to Absalom. He is clearly acting on his own behalf. He says, ‘Let me … I will arise … I will … I will … I will bring’, 2 Sam. 17. 2-3. Sadly, this spirit can be found in any one of us. Diotrephes exhibited such a spirit; we read, ‘who (Diotrephes) likes to put himself first’, 3 John 9 Amplified.
JOAB AND ABIATHARwere loyal to David when Absalom rebelled. Now they follow Adonijah rather than Solomon. Would it be unkind to say, at least where Joab is concerned, that his motive on both occasions was to a large extent self-interest?
Here is man who likes being leader in the army. When his position is threatened he acts to preserve it, if necessary by killing rivals, 1 Kgs. 2. 5. The second chapter of Philippians shows that the sin of self-interest is not uncommon amongst God’s people: ‘all look after their own interests’, v. 21 RSV. We are here to serve His interests.
Who, then, will remain true to David? We shall find such amongst those not invited to the usurper’s enthronement party, those whose loyalties were clearly elsewhere, 1 Kgs. 1. 7-8.
NATHAN THE PROPHET‘Sconcern in life is very different from that of the rebels: the mind and will of God and its communication and implementation are his concern. Here, he acts to thwart the usurper and so ensure God’s will is done, that is, the enthronement of Solomon, 1 Kgs. 1. 9-11. We observe his promptness. He wastes no time in gaining admittance to David to acquaint him with the facts of the case: this is seen in the words, ‘He (Adonijah) is gone down this day’, 1 Kgs. 1. 25. The coronation of Solomon is effected later that day. Delay and procrastination are perils we cannot afford. When obedience is required, action is needed, danger threatens. Nathan’s actions are paralleled by Phinehas’ when he took a spear and summarily put to death an Israelite man with his Midianite woman, thereby seeking to cleanse the camp of the Lord’s people, Num. 25. 6- 8; by Paul’s who, at the very commencement of his letters to the Corinthian assembly and to the assemblies of Galatia, went straight to the point of critical issues involving the rights and interests of the Lord, ‘It hath been declared unto me … that there are contentions among you’, 1 Cor. 1. 11ff; ‘I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him who called you … unto another gospel’, Gal. 1. 6ff. We observe also Nathan’s focus on the future. He was a man who took a longterm view, who looked to the needs of God’s people of future generations. This is seen some hundreds of years later when we read of Hezekiah’s restoration of temple worship, which is done according to ‘the commandment of … Nathan’, 2 Chr. 29. 25-27. Nathan had written down instructions as he had received them from the Lord. Corporate worship has never been a ‘do your own thing’, but commandments and guidance were in place then, as today, as we can see from apostolic teaching, cf. 1 Cor. 11. 23; 14. 37, for instance.
As a result of Nathan’s actions the conspiracy of the usurper crumbled.
ZADOK the PRIESTis loyal to David and is the one who actually has the privilege and responsibility of anointing Solomon as king. He acts in his priestly capacity using the oil from the golden lamp. Zadok exalts David’s son and heir, 1 Kgs. 1. 38-39. In the coronation, he throws the spotlight fully and exclusively on to Solomon. He ensures that Solomon is centre stage. He orchestrates his acclamation. How important that the Lord Jesus is exalted as Lord personally, ‘He must increase’. How equally important that He is exalted Head of each local assembly. Zadok also exalts God, and is selfeffacing. This is seen when Solomon gives thanks to God subsequent to the dream that God gave him at the outset of his reign, 1 Kgs. 3. 5, 15. Solomon goes to the tabernacle to offer burnt and peace offerings. Zadok is not mentioned; but he is there, quietly doing his job, not drawing attention to himself, ‘I must decrease’. This is true worship. So Peter speaks of himself as a ‘fellow-elder’, 1 Pet. 5. 1; whilst Paul tells the assembly at Corinth to think of Apollos and himself as ‘servants’ (Gk. diakonos). The supreme self-effacement is that of the Lord Jesus Himself, as shown in Philippians chapter 2. As a result of Zadok’s actions the rightful heir is crowned.
BENAIAH the son of Jehoidais another man who is loyal to the king and his concern is to serve David’s son. He is a man who rejoices in David’s son being honoured; indeed, he desires that he may be honoured more than David and that his kingdom be greater, and he tells David so, 1 Kgs. 1. 36-37! Can we honour the Son of David, the Son of God too much, too highly? The Lord Jesus is worthy of all honour, to be honoured above all and by all. In honouring the Lord Jesus, we honour the Father, John 5. 23. In the early days of his reign, Solomon gives Benaiah the task of executing Adonijah, Shimei and Joab, all of whom are unrighteous men and threats to his kingdom. In the case of Joab, however, he clings to the horns of the altar and refuses to move. Responsibly, Benaiah returns to Solomon, gives him an accurate picture and awaits confirmation or otherwise of Solomon’s instruction, 1 Kgs. 2. 29- 31. So, he carries out Solomon’s instructions reliably and faithfully. He wants to ensure he does nothing that may not be his lord’s will. Paul’s advice in Ephesians chapter 5 verses 15-17 is exemplified in Benaiah who walked circumspectly and wisely; he does so in the matters referred to above, but also another instance is noted in David’s honours list, when he killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day, observantly noting footprints going into, but not coming from, the pit, 2 Sam. 23. 20.
As a result of Benaiah’s actions the king’s reign is established.
These last three men all sought to maintain the rights and interests of David’s son. So should we.