Sermon preached on 1 Kings 2:1-12 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 6/16/2019 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Kings 2:1-12
And He Charged Solomon His Son
We began our first chapter in 1 Kings last week with Solomon being given the throne of his father David. Solomon would continue the Davidic kingdom as God had promised to David in the Davidic covenant. And yet though Solomon now in this chapter is already reining as King, his father David gives him this final charge before he dies. David is giving Solomon important instruction he needs to further and firmly establish his kingdom and reign. In fact, that word of “establishing” the kingdom appears not only in verse 12 but a total of four times in this chapter. That is the major theme in this chapter, about how the new King Solomon will firmly establish his kingdom. This first section of the chapter introduces that then with David’s final words to Solomon.
We begin then today with the first three verses. There, we find that David’s charge begins by pointing him to the charge of the Lord. That’s verse 3, “And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” This is a command to closely study and keep all the laws God had given them in Scripture. You should especially think of all that God had given in the Torah for how Israel was to conduct themselves in godliness under the Mosaic covenant. I love, by the way, how David said in the previous verse that this is how Solomon can prove that he is a man and strong – by doing what we just read there in verse 3. It’s like the slogan, “Real men pray!” Men, especially powerful men in authority, can be tempted to think showing their manliness and strength is done on the battlefield or in sports or by what lady they land – note how Adonijah tries to strengthen his hand in the next passage by trying to land a certain lady. But David tells his son from the start to not fall into the trap of such temptations. David tells him that to truly be a man, he needs to be a man of God, and find strength in him.
So then, this initial charge in verse 3 on the one hand is the general advice that’s true for all God’s people. You can find this sort of language in various places in Scripture. One good example is in Deuteronomy 6. There, just before the people of Israel were finally about to enter and possess the Promised Land, God reminds them of all the laws and terms of the Mosaic covenant. Deuteronomy 6:1 then charges all the people like this:
Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.
So, you will notice how similar those instructions are for all Israel to be doing. And so, every one of God’s people at that time also could have heard David’s words in verse 3 and looked to put them into practice. We too, even while living not under the old covenant but the new can still take and apply these words. If we want to know how to best operate within the covenant relationship that God has brought us into, we should try to carefully study and live out what he has told us. We should be looking to walk in the righteous way of the Lord, not in the wayward ways of the wicked. We should look to keep all his statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies. By the way, those four labels are used throughout the Torah to refer to various instructions by God. Some people have tried to define what each word specifically refers to, but what’s probably meant is to emphasize how we need to strive to keep the totality of God’s laws. Too often when people start getting really zealous to keep each and every command God gives, people might accuse you of being a legalist. But if your zeal is not being done to earn your salvation but because you are saved, then you’re not being a legalist. You’re just trying to obey God, which is exactly what every Christian should try to be doing.
And so, verse 3 rightly applies to all God’s people. But it does especially apply to the kings among God’s people. The Mosaic covenant gave specific instructions for kings in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. It too says that the king’s strength should not be in outward things like horses or money. But it shall be in the law of God. There it commands the future kings to carefully observe all the words of this law and all its statutes, and to not turn aside to the right or to the left. Those instructions are very similar to what David summarizes here in verse 3. And Deuteronomy 17 concludes that this must be the case for the king, so he doesn’t think he’s better than all his fellow Israelites. And so, I love the idea here. You could imagine that in some nations, the king thought himself above the law. That the king thought the law was to keep the people in line, but that as king he could do whatever he wanted. But that was not to be the thinking of Israelite kings. The reason why is that no king, pagan, or otherwise, was above the law of God. No human king should try to put themselves above their people, let along above the High King of Heaven. And so, David charges Solomon here to follow carefully the law of God to make sure all his various instructions are carried out.
Let me further clarify this. While I said verse 3 applies to all God’s people, I said it especially applies to the kings among God’s people. The reasoning is clear. As king, it will be his job to lead the nation in the close and careful following of these laws. I’m not just talking about him being an example of righteousness. I’m talking about his looking to administer righteousness and justice among the people. Remember, that was the problem stated during the time of the judges, that there was no king so everyone just did what was right in their own eyes. But the king of Israel was to carefully study and know all these various old covenant laws and provisions and statutes so he could administer them and enforce them among the nation. That’s why Deuteronomy 17 also says he needs to write for himself a copy of the law in a book. It’s so that he would have his own personal copy to study and use each day. I like how later 1 Peter 2:14 summarizes the job of a king, that God tasks him with the job “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” And so, the king as head of state would be tasked with seeing that not only does he keep verse 3, but that the nation keeps verse 3. And so, David charges him that righteousness according to the law of God must characterize his kingdom.
So then, with that first point clearly stated, let’s move know to our second point and consider the first point’s relevance for the Davidic covenant. That’s the transition that happens at verse 4. There, in verse 4, David remembers that covenant God entered into with him back in 2 Samuel 7. There, God gave the most amazing promise to David. He promised that David’s kingdom would endure forever. That’s the overarching promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7, in what we call the Davidic covenant. But if you look at the details of that covenant, we can be a little more nuanced which will help explain David’s words here in verse 4. You see, ultimately, the David covenant was an unconditional covenant. What I mean is that the ultimate promise of an everlasting kingdom to David was not conditioned on any human efforts. Yet, when you read 2 Samuel 7, you’ll see there is one conditional clause in the covenant, a clause that looks for David’s descendant to live and lead in righteousness. Listen to this excerpt from 2 Samuel 7 that gives both the conditional and unconditional aspects. This is God speaking to David about his descendants:
I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever. (2 Sam. 7:14-16)
Further revelation on how to understand that David covenant only further confirms what we see there. Ultimately, the Davidic covenant would be realized. But along the way, from one generation to the next among David’s descendants, their own place as king in the kingdom would be conditioned on their righteousness. If they sinned, God would chasten them. We see later in history that this chastening would include some real tough medicine. It would include things like for a time the bulk of the tribes of Israel being removed from their rule. It would even include them losing their throne in the earthly Jerusalem when the Babylonians conquered and captured them. The unconditional part of the Davidic covenant meant that God’s overarching promise would yet be fulfilled, that the kingdom would ultimately come to a point of everlasting dominion in one of David’s offspring. That finally happened when God sent the Son of God to be born into the lineage of King David. In his perfect righteousness, Jesus would never need any chastening, and so he could finally usher in the fullness of the unconditional promise given to David.
But do you see then the point here in verse 4? David didn’t know how all that future would work out. He didn’t know the details of how this Davidic covenant would unfold. Frankly, for all David knew, Solomon was to be the final promised Messiah. But what David did know then is that if Solomon was to be well established as a king in the Davidic kingdom, it would be by his keeping verse 3. If Solomon was to be firmly established and fixed as King over Israel and not experience God’s fatherly chastening, then Solomon would need to follow verse 3. Solomon would need to closely walk in the ways of the Lord and lead the people in closely administering the law of God among them. And so, this was David applying the specific terms of the Davidic covenant to Solomon in these final words to him. As David’s last words are recorded in 2 Samuel 23:3, “He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”
So then, that bring us to our third point for today to see then the more specific instructions that David gives Solomon in verses 5-9. Here David tells Solomon that there are several specific things he needs to do with regard to certain people: Joab, Barzillai, and Shimei. Now, I have to say, I’m a bit surprised at how too many commentators divorce these verses from what we just looked at in verses 3-4. Too many scholars think that David moves on here from this pious and good advice to then instruct Solomon on a few personal scores that David needs Solomon to settle for him. In other words, some people think that David has turned here to talk about personal revenge. That he wants Solomon to avenge him where he himself hadn’t been able to. I don’t agree with such interpretation.
Rather, it seems clear here that verses 5-9 are a specific application of the principle in verse 3. For whatever reasons, there were certain aspects of law and justice and righteousness that David wasn’t able to accomplish as king. He knows that these are things that were left undone in terms of the ideal role for the king. And so now, in the context of David wanting to see Solomon well established in the kingdom, he tells Solomon of these things that need to be taken care. These things need to be dealt with for the sake of closely keeping all the statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies of God’s law. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying David was perfect or that all of his motivations here are completely pure and perfect. But I do think that David’s general purpose in giving these specific instructions in verses 5-9 is so Solomon can begin to live out this charge to walk in the ways of the Lord and to administer righteousness among the people.
Let’s walk through these specific instructions. The first there is in verses 5 and 6 about dealing with Joab. King David accuses Joab of murder, of killing two military commanders, Abner and Amasa. David says that Joab shed the blood of war in peacetime. If you recall to each of those incidents, the first was in 2 Sam 3 with Abner and the second in 2 Sam 20 with Amasa. In both incidents these commanders had already negotiated peace with David when Joab then proceeded to deceitfully and treacherously kill them. David says Joab was guilty of these two murders and that justice demanded his death because of it. We could speculate on why David hadn’t dealt with this himself before that time, but it would just be speculation. And so, while some want to accuse David of vengeance here toward Joab, I would remind us of David’s personal experience as king in 2 Samuel 21. There, God sent a famine on the land because of how King Saul had previously murdered Gibeonites and David hadn’t yet done anything in terms of justice when he had become king. The famine wasn’t so much a punishment for Saul’s crime as it was for how David hadn’t administered justice in the situation. If you recall, once David remedied that by holding Saul’s house accountable for the crimes, then God lifted the famine. Clearly David remembers this lesson and charges his son to use wisdom to take care of this long overdue justice with regard to Joab.
The next specific instruction from David to Solomon is in verse 7 – a very different sort of instruction – a call to bless Barzillai’s descendants. Back in 2 Samuel, when David had to flee Jerusalem for a time when Absalom was attempting a coup, David received a lot of help from Barzillai during that time. Then, in 2 Samuel 19, after Absalom was defeated and David returned to Jerusalem, he wanted Barzillai to return with him and eat at the kings table to honor and commend him. But Barzillai said he was too old to go with David. So then, David thinks there is a positive debt of honor that still needs to be paid to that family. This reminds us like what we read in 1 Peter, that a king’s duty is not just to punish evil doers but also to reward and commend those who do good. For David’s kingdom to be firmly established in Solomon, Solomon would need to remember to commend such people who deserve reward.
The last specific instruction from David to Solomon is in verses 8-9. This is regarding the interesting case of Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite. If you recall from 2 Samuel 16-19, that when David had to flee from Absalom into temporary exile, that this Shimei came out and cursed David. Shimei was from the family of the late King Saul and thought Saul’s house should still have the throne. After David won over Absalom, Shimei came and asked David for forgiveness. David granted him mercy and spared his life at that time and even took an oath to that end. At the time, when David was just being restored as king, he didn’t think it was a day for more Israelites to die. So, David spared him. Yet, David clearly in retrospect thinks there was an evil done by Shimei that justice required to be dealt with. Yet, David believed he was not the one to do that because of his oath. But he calls for Solomon to use great wisdom in thinking about how to properly handle this. We’ll see that wisdom put into action later in this chapter.
So then, David’s final words recorded here to King Solomon are his charge to Solomon for how to firmly establish the kingdom. In general, David commends the keeping and administering of God’s law to Solomon. In specific, David pointed to several items that David didn’t accomplish, but he called Solomon now to complete.
So then, this theme of Solomon establishing himself as king in the kingdom looks forward to Jesus. Jesus is the king who has perfectly walked in the ways of the Lord and has perfectly kept and fulfilled all the laws of God. Jesus has likewise called for his people to administer justice and righteousness in our midst. And not only that, but we know that ultimately when Jesus comes back, he will tie up all the loose ends, so to speak, in terms of justice. Like Jesus says of himself in Matthew 13, at the end, he will “send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” At the end, Jesus will punish all remaining evil doers and reward his faithful followers.
So then, brothers and sisters of Christ, the Davidic kingdom is ultimately and eternally established in Jesus Christ. While we await its final installment at the end, that kingdom is being manifested through the church. Therefore, the church, in service to King Jesus, is given this continued call to promote the ways of the Lord and his righteousness in our midst. David’s charge to Solomon especially finds application then to our church officers. Let us support, encourage, and pray for our pastors, elders, and deacons, to especially lead the way in this regard. But let us see that each of us does our part, in the general office of believer. As those made royalty in Christ, let us promote righteousness and godliness. Let us each take our personal copies of the Scriptures and study and meditate on them daily. Let us walk in them and speak of them each day. If we’ve had past mistakes and past things left undone, let’s look to correct them. Let’s be about these things until the final coming of the kingdom. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.