By J.R. Miller
1 Kings 1:28-39
The life of David was troubled to its close. The tragic death of Absalom ended his rebellion against the king--but David found little of that love and restful quiet which make old age ideal in its peace. There were continuous strifes and dissensions in his kingdom. In his own home also there were jealousies and quarrels.
David incurred the divine displeasure by numbering the people, and had his choice of judgments. Three days of pestilence was followed by the king's setting up an altar and offering sacrifices in the threshing floor of Araunah when pestilence ceased. When the king was very old another rebellion was plotted by Adonijah. Bathsheba, aided by Nathan the prophet, aroused David to have Solomon declared king at once, before Adonijah could be crowned. It was a strong appeal which was made to the king. "Is this thing done by my lord the king," demanded Nathan, "and you have not showed unto your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?" David replied: "Call Bathsheba." And she came into the king's presence.
The mother was very deeply interested in the future of her son. She was ambitious for him. What true mother is not interested in her boy's career, and ambitious for his success? No mother wants to see her boy make a failure of his life. It is a part of mother-love to wish great things for her children. They need not always be things that are great in this world's estimation. Indeed, the mother who has the truest aspirations for her children, cares far more that they may live worthily and grow into noble character; into "whatever things are true, . . . whatever things are lovely"-- and fulfill God's purpose for their life--than that they may win high places in this world.
Yet every mother has lofty yearnings for her children. The mother of James and John craved for her sons places at the right and left hand of Jesus in His kingdom. Bathsheba wished to see her son crowned a king. As we think of these longings in the universal mother-heart, we need not be surprised at Bathsheba's eagerness and earnestness in this matter. She was quick to have Solomon's right to the throne protected. Boys do not know what great things their mothers dream for them, and how they strive and toil to have them win honor and attain lofty and worthy things. It ought to be every boy's aim not to disappoint his mother--but to become what she wishes him to be.
David had sworn to Bathsheba in the past--that Solomon, her son, should reign as king. He now declares to her that his oath will be sacredly kept. He would not disappoint her. We should learn a lesson here on the sacredness of keeping engagements and promises. Whatever we have solemnly pledged ourselves to do--we should do at any cost to ourselves. One of the marks of the man who shall abide in God's presence, we are told, is, "That he swears to his own hurt, and changes not." Many people's conscience needs toning up in this regard. There is altogether too much carelessness in keeping promises. Too many people find it very easy to "forget" to do what they have solemnly said they would do. Pledges sit very lightly upon their conscience. Vows are thoughtlessly made--and just as thoughtlessly broken. We ought to learn a lesson from David's assurance to Bathsheba. He had made an oath to her, and now he declares to her that he will certainly do what he has sworn to do.
The solemnity of an oath should not be needed, however, to make an engagement sacred and inviolable. One's simple word should be held irrevocably binding--just as binding as one's most sacred oath. We should be absolutely true. To speak anything but the truth is a degradation of our whole nature. Forgetfulness is no excuse for failing to keep a promise. We have no right to forget things that we promise. If our memory is defective--we should put down our promises in writing, and keep them so before our mind that it will be impossible for us to forget them. We ought to be so careful in keeping our word even in the very smallest matters--that people shall learn to trust absolutely every lightest promise we make. One who can be implicitly relied upon, who never fails those who trust in him, is like a fragment of the Rock of Ages.
David's assurance to Bathsheba must have given strong comfort to her. It was a great thing to succeed such a man as David. Indeed, it is a great thing, a high honor, for any boy or young man to be the successor of a good and worthy father. Many young people who study this lesson, have fathers and mothers who have lived nobly, who have brought to them a rich inheritance of blessing--a good name, honor, influence, if not money. It is a high honor to a son to be a successful father's successor in business. When a father dies, and the son is called to take up his work, it is as if a crown had been put upon his head. Every son should seek to be a worthy successor to his father.
We may profitably compare Adonijah and Solomon, two sons of the same royal father. Adonijah sought to be his father's successor in place and in power--but sought it in such a way as to make himself a criminal in the eyes of the world. On the other hand, Solomon was thoughtful, studious, faithful to all duties as a young man, discarding the vices that his brother Adonijah loved, and striving after the true, manly virtues.
So far as we know, Solomon himself made no claim to the throne and made no effort to get it. He was God's choice for David's successor. Whatever we may say about his later life, he certainly began well. He was worthy to take his father's place.
We find these two types of sons in a great many homes. We find those who desire to profit in a father's inheritance--but have no desire to wear the garments of a father's worthy name and character. There are too many prodigal sons who demand their portion of the father's substance--but have no intention of succeeding their father in character, in moral principle, in his place in the Church, and in the doing of good. A young man who would be a worthy successor to a good father, must remember that he has his father's name to bear and to keep unsullied before the world, as well as to share his father's patrimony. The responsibility of being a godly man's successor is very great. We have a sacred trust committed to us which we must guard with sedulous care.
David showed his old-time spirit and energy in the way he carried out his determination regarding Solomon. He called Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah, and commanded them to make Solomon king. "Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon: and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel."
The old fire in David's heart flamed up into brightness again. Although he had been so feeble, when he now saw his throne about to be seized unlawfully by his prodigal son, all the man in him awoke--the old warrior, the brave master of circumstances.
We must admire his promptness, his firmness, his courage, and his unfaltering purpose. He knew it was God's will that Solomon should reign in his place, and he was eager to carry out God's thought for Solomon. No nobler ambition could be in any parent's heart than so to lead his child that the child shall fulfill the plan of God for his life. A great many parents are ambitious for their children, without asking what God would have them to do. David's example is better. He was swift in duty, although so feeble, because he knew what God's will was, and he was determined to carry it out. He was ready to make a sacrifice of himself, giving up the throne in order that Solomon might be crowned at once.
The swiftness of David's course probably saved him and the country from a repetition of the experiences which marked the time of Absalom's rebellion. If he had lingered a little longer, Adonijah would have been declared king, and probably would have had a great following among the people. David might have been driven away from his palace, Solomon might have been killed, and the future of the empire imperiled. But the promptness of David saved the country from this danger and himself from humiliation and sorrow.
Many men lose all the best opportunities of their life for lack of promptness. They dally until it is too late to do anything. Then they wake up and try to do their duty--but the time is gone! They might as well sleep on now and take their rest.
The men whom David had charged with the duty of anointing Solomon lost no time--but carried out the king's commandment instantly. "And Zadok the priest took the horn of oil out of the Tent, and anointed Solomon."
The oil was the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The anointing was a type of the anointing of the Spirit. The meaning of the ceremony was that, as men anointed the young king with oil, so God would anoint him with divine grace, setting him apart as king and gifting him for His service. Something like this is the sacrament of baptism, when water is used. The water has no power to cleanse or change a heart--but it is a symbol of the Divine Spirit. As we baptize with water, we pray that God may baptize with His own grace. When Jesus was being baptized He prayed, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. Thus He was anointed for His ministry as Redeemer of the world. God anoints every one of us, as we wait at His feet in consecration, giving us His Spirit to fit us for His work.
Solomon must have felt a new responsibility in his soul as the holy oil touched his brow. New duties were his now. He was separated from his fellows--and set apart for a new life. It is related of a Russian prince that he was in Paris, having for his companions certain rich young men who passed their time in reveling. One night they were feasting, and in the midst of their revels a sealed message was handed to the prince. He opened and read it, then, rising, said to his companions, "I am emperor now." He then turned away and left them, separating himself forever from his past life. When we are called to any new duty we should break with whatever in our past life has been unworthy.