Posted by: arieliondotcom | April 20, 2013

Settling Accounts (1 Kings 2)

Settling Accounts
(1 Kings 2)

As I write this it’s tax season. Some are expecting refunds. Some still owe money. Some are still settling accounts, filing late. Although most know what it’s like to pay taxes, there are differences in what we pay and how we pay depending on our circumstances of life. Taxes differ between the single and married, those with or without children and between personal and business taxes. That is a lesson we can learn from today’s Scripture. We are all sinners and Scripture applies to all equally. GOD tells us we are not to condemn others in the same situation of sin but expect not to be judged ourselves. But many are in different circumstances we don’t have a clue about. That is why it’s so important to never judge a person, only behavior. And to always keep our judgment based on the right judgment of Scripture not opinion.

David’s on his deathbed and calls his son, newly crowned Solomon, to his side. Solomon is 12 years old but he has literally been named by GOD to be king. And his father, the dying king, gives him a direct order: Settle the books. Kill those people who had betrayed David to rid the kingdom of them.

Now we know that David knows all about forgiveness. King Saul before him was hunting him like an animal without cause. But when David had the opportunity to kill Saul and would have been justified in the world’s eyes for doing it he would not. He knew GOD would settle the score and GOD had Saul die in battle. So why now is David wanting people guilty of much less offenses dead? Had he become a cranky old man in his old age? No. He had his son to think of now and his son was the new king, the new shepherd of his people Israel. As an individual, hiding in the caves with a band of followers, David knew he had no right to kill the king of his people for offenses against him personally. And as king, training a boy king, his son, David had the responsibility to clear the books of anyone disloyal or subversive to the kingdom. Even as a 12-year-old, Solomon knew this, too.

The good news, as David tells his son, is that if we follow the Law of the LORD we will be blessed and all will be well with us. And he commands his son to be faithful to GOD and His Laws. The bad news as anyone who has tried knows, is that it is impossible to do that. Not because we can’t physically do it. Moses had explained to the people when he relayed the Law to them from GOD that they weren’t being asked to do something they physically couldn’t do. Rather, we can’t keep the Law because sin warps our will. Even when we do it we do it with wrong motives. Or we’re prideful about it or keep track of it. So our obedience will always be flawed.

So David tells Solomon how to keep the kingdom, under GOD, as best he can. As an individual he might have forgiven these men. But as a king they both had responsibilities individuals don’t.

The first man to die was Joab. He had been a problem for decades. He was deceitful, conniving, power hungry and mean. But he had been useful to the kingdom, so David had let him live. As a man, David despised and distrusted Joab. And rightly so. (If any of you are old enough to remember the relationship of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, his vice-president, you’ll understand this). But as a general, Joab was among the most qualified. So David let him live for the protection of his people and kingdom. Until now. David tells Solomon to find a clever, acceptable reason to kill Joab just the way Joab had found clever, though unacceptable ways to deceive others.

Solomon will kill Joab for treason after David’s death when both the traitor brother of Solomon, Adonijah, and the traitor priest, Abiathar, were no longer able to protect Joab. Without them for top cover, Joab was left exposed for the vermin he was. He ran to the altar and took hold of the horns on it, hoping to claim protection (as we saw Adonijah do in the previous chapter). But it didn’t work. Thanks to David, Solomon knew Joab had violated the law in Exodus 21:14 of killing men like Abner without cause and by deceit. And the Law said, literally, to kill such a man even if you had to pull him off the altar. And that was the end of Joab.

As we said, Adonijah was put to death, too. He had tried to take the kingdom from David and after David’s death he tries to take it from his brother Solomon. This was purely Satanic because he knows and admits GOD Himself wants Solomon to be king. Yet he lies to Bathsheba that all the people wanted him as they truly had wanted Absalom for king after being neglected by David. Adonijah’s mistake was thinking Solomon was as gullible as Bathsheba. He went to Bathsheba asking for the servant Abishag as his wife. Abishag was the beautiful virgin who never had sex with old David but literally just kept his body warm when he shivered and clothes didn’t work. Now that David’s dead, Adonijah acts like marrying Abishag would be a consolation prize for being able to take the kingdom but not doing so. (Though he knew this was a lie.) Bathsheba naiively agrees to ask Solomon to do it.

When Bathsheba approaches her son, King Solomon, he bows to her (unthinkable to any other king) instead of her bowing to him. This is significant. We might say “How sweet! He’s honoring his mother!” but that was too far. He should not defer to anyone, including his mother, that much. It may have been for this kind of power, having him obey her even in what she considered a little thing, that Bathsheba agreed to ask him about Abishag. It may have been to get Abishag away from her to keep a rival and memory of David away. (It could not have pleased her that this young, pretty thing had been chosen to keep her husband warm). Whatever the reason, though, she asks. But before she even finishes asking, Solomon swears by GOD he will do what she wants.

Solomon is outraged when he hears the whole request! He knows (and tells Bathsheba) that giving Abishag to Adonijah would be tantamount to handing the kingdom over to him (in violation to GOD’s will). Because he has sworn by GOD to do it, though, he must now kill Adonijah. Again, as an individual and as a half-brother Solomon might have let Adonijah live. But as king he knew Adonijah must die. He was a traitor to king David, his own father. He used treachery with Solomon’s mother to try to trick Solomon. He still wanted the kingdom and would shame his father by taking a woman who was still a virgin from his bed and from Solomon’s harem, inferring neither were man enough to have her and marrying her himself. He was a threat to the people of GOD.So Solomon had him killed.

Abiathar the traitor priest had been faithful to David most of his life and had only betrayed David in favor of Joab because he knew from prophecy that he would be removed from the priesthood under Solomon. But the irony is that it’s that betrayal that Solomon uses as the reason to remove him! But because Abiathar had been so close to David for so long and was a priest who had carried the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon put Abiathar under house arrest instead of killing him.

Solomon did the same for Shimei. We remember that Shimei had thrown stones at David and cursed him as David had run from Absalom taking over the kingdom. Some of David’s men wanted to kill Shimei right then but David said to leave him alone in case it was GOD telling Shimei to curse David. So what changed? Again, David didn’t know if Shimei was sent by GOD and his offense was against David only. David forgave them for the personal offense. And he had given his word not to harm him. But Shimei was a risk to the kingdom. He had no respect for godly leadership. So Solomon put him under house arrest as Abiathar was. The difference was, Shimei was forgetful.

Years passed and when his slaves ran away, Shimei ran after them. It was reported to Solomon and Shimei was killed for violating his oath to stay in his own estate. The irony here is that just as he had thoughtlessly swore curses at the king, Shimei thoughtlessly swore an oath before GOD that he forgot. We can even imagine that it was this habit of cruel cursing and carrying on that drove his slaves away. And the same unbridled acting without thinking that had him chase them at the cost of his life, perhaps knowing full well he was disrespecting Solomon by doing it. And so he was executed.

And yet, in all of these things, we’re told that Solomon’s kingdom was established. GOD did not blame him for any of this.

Over and over in Scripture we will see unusual situations that will make us question how GOD allows them. Soldiers who swear to follow GOD being permitted to bow to foreign gods, JESUS paying taxes to a government built on slavery, and accepting a traitor in his midst and giving him power to do miracles, Paul telling slaves not to fight being slaves though they should take freedom if they can get it. On and on. And in all of it, as in this chapter, GOD is reminding us of second and third order effects. We can only tell of what we know, as Scripture says. We can only advise about our circumstances. And while we share all of that with others we must ultimately lead them to Christ, not ourselves, for their ultimate solutions.

We all sin and JESUS offers the only rescue and the only way to life. We all need Him and only Him. JESUS is the answer. But how we arrive at Him may vary with our lives and circumstances, whether adding the needs of others, subtracting things only we know GOD has told us to get away from, dividing groups and friends as GOD leads us or multiplying solutions beyond what friends can see. Leadership requires skills of calculating second and third order effects, balanced by the books of the Bible, for the sum total of GOD’s will and our good.

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