More thoughts on joy

I disdain politics. All of the promising, posturing, and pomp drive me nuts. And when I read a passage such as 1 Kings 1, I am reminded again of just how frustrating politics are. The story is classic. As David grew older, debate swirled over which of his sons would succeed him as king. There was the obvious choice, his eldest son Amnon, but Amnon had disgraced himself and his family by raping his half-sister Tamar. His second eldest was Daniel, the son of Abigail, widow of Nabal the Carmelite, but there were apparently some questions over whether Daniel was David’s son or Abigail’s first husband’s. Absalom, David’s third son, was killed after rebelling against his father and seizing the throne. And so all logic dictated that the next in line should be son number four, Adonijah.

The only problem: God had told David that Solomon was to be king.

Now, to be fair, we don’t know exactly when this happened. The original revelation comes in 2 Samuel 7, when David aimed to build a temple for the Lord. Before the project could even begin, though, the prophet Nathan returned to David and explained that, because of David’s wars and such, God had reserved the task of building the temple for the son who would succeed him, who would be known as a man of peace. In the original account, we don’t have mention of a specific son, probably because Solomon wouldn’t be born until 2 Samuel 12, but when David recalled the conversation years later in 1 Chronicles 22:6-10, the aging king reported that the Lord had told him, “You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name” (2 Chron 22:8-10 NIV).

Whether this was all in Nathan’s original revelation and just glossed over in the first passage; the result of progressive revelation throughout David’s life; or just the result of David’s observations that Solomon, contrary to all his other brothers, was committed to peace, we don’t know. But back again in 1 Kings 1, God – and David – had promised the throne to Solomon.

Apparently, Adonijah hadn’t gotten the memo. Or, more likely, he had. But in a move that has “politics” written all over it, Adonijah unilaterally decided that he would be king and so raised for himself in vs 5 “chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him” (NASB). Such an entourage would have garnered a lot of attention. The ancient media likely fawned over him as the heir apparent, the front-runner, the first candidate in what would have been the ancient equivalent of campaign season. And when Joab, commander of David’s army, and Abiathar, a prominent priest, both endorsed Adonijah, it seemed as though Solomon’s candidacy and reign were over before they had even begun. In fact, Adonijah and his cohorts were so convinced that he would be king that, in verse 9, the would-be king hosted a great party, complete with plenty of sacrifices, and invited all of David’s other sons and all of the men of David’s tribe, Judah.

All, that is, except for Nathan the prophet, Benaiah and the rest of David’s elite mighty men, and Solomon.

And Adonijah proclaimed himself king.

The next day, I imagine that the paper which arrived on the steps of the palace probably had front-page coverage of what was undoubtedly marked as the biggest success of the campaign season. In the streets of Jerusalem and the rest of Judah, the celebrations were barely contained. Everyone was stoked that Adonijah was going to continue David’s conquest of the Middle East, and Judah was going to be front and center throughout his reign. Oh, and he was endorsed by a priest. Granted, it wasn’t the chief priest. And he didn’t have a prophet. But surely, God would be with Adonijah as He had been with David.

How often do we see this sort of game in politics! Some candidate assembles for himself/herself an entourage, parades around, and holds some grand celebration to trumpet their successes and prominent endorsements. They line up people who will say how strong they are and how much more secure we’ll be under their leadership. They dole out promises to anyone they think will help them get to where they want to be. They throw out some token acknowledgment to religion. And then they act as though they’re already in, even if (a) they’re not and (b) they’re definitely not the person God wants.

But this word study is about joy. So it’s a good thing that 1 Kings 1 doesn’t end with Adonijah taking the throne. Instead, after Nathan picked up the paper the morning after the big party, he went immediately to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mom. Because it’s virtually impossible for a man to resist his wife. And when David heard of the whole affair from Bathsheba, he immediately set in motion a series of things that would establish Solomon as the rightful king in the eyes of all Israel. He had Zadok, the chief priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the head of the elite guard put Solomon on David’s own mule, anoint him as king, and parade him through the streets proclaiming the same. It was a stunning political trick which instantaneously turned the tables on Adonijah. And we read in verse 40 that “all the people went up after [Solomon], playing flutes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.”

Talk about a show!

But here’s what I see that’s relevant to the examination of joy: the people rejoiced in legitimate authority. This wasn’t just a revelry or a mob. It was real joy. Some people were happy when Adonijah declared himself king, but all the people rejoiced when Solomon became the real king.

Far from rejecting or disdaining authority and those in authority, we should take joy in legitimate authority. Even when we don’t always agree with it. Even when we don’t exactly like the person in charge. If their power is real, it is ordained – or, at least, allowed – by God. That means that it’s their job to do something that God wants. And that is cause for rejoicing.

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