Lectures Introductory to 1 Kings: Chapters 1-8, Continued

1 Kings 1‑8  •  24 min. read  •  grade level: 8
And this is what we are sanctified to, not merely to obey, but to obey as Christ obeyed. For this is the meaning of “sanctified,” where it says that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the spirit unto obedience.” Yes, but it is the “obedience,” as well as the “sprinkling of the blood,” of Jesus Christ. It is not the obedience of a Jew; it is not the obedience of the law. It is the obedience of Jesus Christ. Not but what this does accomplish the righteousness of the law. For there is no man that so thoroughly loves God and loves his neighbor as the man that obeys in the same spirit as our blessed Lord. And this is what we are all called to as Christians. Those that have merely the law before them as a thing to obey, do not really meet the righteousness of the law. Those that have Christ do, as it is said— “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.” You observe the language is exceedingly strong. He does not merely say, “fulfilled by us,” but, “fulfilled in us.” “Fulfilled in us” shows the reality of it; the intrinsic character of the fulfillment of the law in its great righteous character and requirement. And so it is alone fulfilled in Christ, or the Christian, as it was, in a measure, by those who were looking to Christ in the days before.
Well then, Bathsheba showed her own confidence in the will of God—her faith in short—by coming to Nathan. She went to the right quarter. She told him of the conspiracy of Adonijah and his party, and she goes to the presence of the king. Nathan followed. The consequence was, the king shows that, however aged, he was perfectly alive to the solemnity of the occasion. He saw and judged the crisis that was coming, and the only effect of Adonijah's conspiracy was, not to hinder, but, to forward Solomon to the throne of Israel. Had there not been the conspiracy, Solomon would have waited, we can hardly doubt, for the death of the king, but the result was just simply to secure it and to secure it at once. So it is that if we are only calm, God always accomplishes His purpose. Who would have thought that the way for Joseph to be exalted—so that his father and mother and his brethren should bow down to a thing that at first rather irritated Jacob, much as he loved his son, and which irritated still more his brethren who would have thought that the way in which this was to be accomplished was by the wickedness of his brethren—either wanting to kill him, or even the most mild of them to sell him? But so it was. The pathway of sin, alas! which is so natural, to sinners, is the very thing that God employs for the accomplishment of His purpose. This does not make the sin less, but it certainly exalts God the more. And there is the blessedness, beloved friends, of reading, and of growing in the knowledge of God as it is shown in the precious word, because we are growing in our acquaintance and intimacy with Him with whom we shall be forever. And it is our privilege to have this acquaintance, and to cultivate it, and to enjoy it now; Hence, God has given us this word.
But now a word upon the great object of the Spirit of God in this book generally, and more particularly what has come before us. For this is particularly what I desire, not merely to draw your attention to great moral lessons, which would detain us too much with the detail of the chapters, but to give simply a wide and general sketch which you may fill up in your own reading of this book—I trust with some moral suggestions to profit and help. My purpose now is to gather the great object of the Spirit of God—that which is not so easily seen and laid hold of by souls, unless someone shows it; but that which if true you will prove to be true, and which you will enjoy so much the more, the more simply you receive it. But it is the word of God that will either confirm wherever one is true, or set aside wherever there is a mistake.
I say then that the grand point here is the establishment of the son of David, not merely man's kingdom set up in Saul and God's kingdom set up in king David, but now it is the son of David. And inasmuch as there were many sons this was the question. The devil was quite willing to make use of a son of David against the son of David. This was precisely the question now, and God was pleased to make use of the wickedness of those that insulted the king by practically treating him as a dead man while he was still alive. The hurry and haste of Adonijah only the more confirmed the title of Solomon. We need never trouble ourselves with our schemes for the accomplishment of God's plans. All man's efforts are in vain. God has His own way, and very often through man's sin. Do you suppose that if Joseph had been out of the prison he could have come to be the chief man in Egypt so quickly as by the prison? That was not man's way to raise him to be the prime minister of the king of Egypt. But there was no way, I will not say so sure, but there was no way so straight. It looked no doubt very far, indeed rather a turning his back upon the throne, to go into the dungeon, but in point of fact it was not only the way of God but, after all, it was the speediest way of all. The story as given in the word of God will explain without further remark from me.
Just the same now. Adonijah no doubt was interfering, but then it seemed as if he had a claim. it only affirmed the superior claim of God. And this was a grand point to establish at the beginning of the kingdom of Israel—that it was not merely, as in ordinary cases, a king in God's providence. It was not, on the other hand, a thing that had to do with God's people as such; but the remarkable character of the throne in Israel was that it was a king by God's election—the only king that, in the full force of the word, was so. Nebuchadnezzar no doubt was by God's providence, but there was more than providence in the case of the throne of Israel. And for this simple reason. The throne of Israel was in a very true and real sense the throne of Jehovah. And it is the only throne in this world that ever was the throne of Jehovah. This is the express statement of the word of God, as anyone can see, but for this reason it has a character of importance that no kingdom ever had—I do not say will have—for what was done then is only the shadow of that which is going to be done.
And this is of great moment, beloved friends, for us to be clear about, for we are apt to be taken up by our own special blessings; yet the knowledge of the church of God ought not to hinder our interest in the kingdom of God, nor should the shape that the kingdom of God takes now at all obliterate that which God has given in the kingdom of old. It is not a proof of great faith to be only occupied with what concerns ourselves, but rather of little faith. I grant you that people who do not, first of all, and as the great lesson to learn, seek to know their own place are mere theorists, but when we have found our place in Christ—when we have got our need supplied, our relationship defined, ourselves in the enjoyment of what grace has brought us into—what is the great practical object of God? Free for all He has to tell us, and free for all He bids us do, it is no longer a question of what touches ourselves. If so, then we shall enjoy each thing in the word of God because it is what interests God; it is what concerns Him; and there is no one thing which ought to be so dear to us now as that God means to have a kingdom—not merely a kingdom spiritually enjoyed as now; for “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink"; it is not eating and drinking, “but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” All that no doubt is spiritually enjoyed, and into that call we are brought now. We see that kingdom; we enter that kingdom now. We are in the kingdom of God now in that sense.
It is called also “the kingdom of heaven,” because He who is the King of it is not on the earth, but rejected and is exalted in heaven. Consequently “the kingdom of God” is also “the kingdom of heaven"; and we are now in the form of it which is called “the mystery of the kingdom of God.” But then it is not always to be a mystery. It is going to be manifested; it is going to be a place where God will tolerate no evil, where self-will will be manifestly judged, where righteousness will cover the earth, where there will be the manifest blessing of God, all produced by His own power here below, when the King Himself will be exalted over the earth, and very particularly over this portion of it—the land of the people of Israel. Any one familiar with the scripture must know that the land is a part of the deed, if I may so say—is part of that great charter which secures the kingdom; not merely the people but the land. The land and the people, I repeat, are both in the charter. Well then that will be when the Lord Jesus is no longer in heaven, but comes again and takes the kingdom.
But perhaps you say, “How does that concern us?” And I would answer that by another question. If God has revealed it, is it not for us? Never confound these two things. It is not merely that God has revealed what is about us. He has given us a great deal that is not about us, but all that God has revealed is given to us. We ought to enjoy all the word of God, and it is a failure in faith where we do not. And further, we shall find the want of it—we shall miss the blessing of it when we least expect it. The way to be truly strong in the day of difficulty is not to be collecting our arms when the enemy has come, but it is to be well armed before he appears. I grant you that it is only dependence upon God that after all can be strength, but I speak now as far as armor is concerned, and I repeat, it is too late in the day of battle to be looking after our arms. We ought to prepare beforehand.
The kingdom then is of very great moment, and particularly so. For if we do not understand the nature of the kingdom we shall be exposed to those that confound it with the church. There is no more common error at this present time than to make out that the kingdom and the church are the same. Allow me to tell you that that is one of the great roots of popery. The papists think that the kingdom and the church are the same, and their great ground of assumption is that very identification for the simple reason that the kingdom supposes power applied to compel subjection. Hence, therefore, they ground upon that their title to put down kings, because what are the kings of the earth compared to those that have got a heavenly kingdom? They use, therefore, the title of the heavenly kingdom to put down earthly kings and to make a priest a far more important person really than the earthly king. Hence, again, their vain dream is founded upon this great confusion. Well, but you will find the same thing among most Protestants. I will just give you one or two examples to show you how very prevalent this delusion is, and how very important it is that we should distinguish in this matter.
Take a very respectable set of persons in Protestantism—the Presbyterians. Well now the whole of their system is founded upon Christ being the King—not Christ being the Head of the church, but Christ being King. That was the battle cry of the old covenanters, and that was the great cry at the time that the Free Church was established. It was that Christ was the King—that the crown of England was using its title against the rights of Christ. In the case about which there was so much talk some years ago, and to which I need not refer more particularly, this was the great thought. It was Christ's title of King in the church that was disputed. So you will find in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is their grand standard of doctrine. In short, they always go upon the ground of Christ being King of the church.
So again with the Independents—just the same thing. When they managed to get the upper hand in England for a time they made very small scruple of sending the king to the block because they considered him to be the enemy of the King of the church—that Christ was the King, and not King Charles; that King Charles had behaved very badly and deserved to suffer, and so on; and they were the asserters of the rights of Christ the King.
Well now there was a grand fundamental error made by all of them. Thus Protestants are just as guilty in another way as the Romanists, for although they do not use the title of Christ to exalt themselves against the powers that be, habitually they do use it when the powers that he fail (as they consider) to behave themselves quite right. Then they think they are perfectly entitled to call them to account, and, if necessary, to put them down, or even send them to the block. Now all this you see is a complete inversion of the right relationship of a Christian man to the powers of the world, and all founded upon the very plausible idea that whether you call Him Head of the church or call Him King of the church, it is all one and the same thing. They say that it is only “hair-splitting brethren” that see anything different; that it is only persons who continually put themselves disagreeably forward and tell people that they do not understand the scriptures; that it is only persons that have that rather quarrelsome, disagreeable style of convicting persons of not knowing the word of God.
Now, beloved friends, I say that however disagreeable it may be to be proved guilty of not knowing the word of God, this is the very thing that we do affirm; this is the very thing that we do assert now, that this is a subject of the greatest possible moment, that is, that our true relationship to Christ is not King of the church—that He is never so treated nay, that He is not even called “King of saints” except in a passage in the Revelation which every scholar knows to be a mistaken translation, the true meaning in that case being, “King of nations,” and not “King of saints,” or King of the church at all. In short, there is no such thought, and the fact is very important. It is no mere idea, and it is no litigious objection to people's dogmas. It is a vital point, not for salvation, but for the true place of the church—the true relationship of the church—and you must remember our duties always depend upon our relationships. If I am wrong about my relationship, I am certain to be wrong about my duty. I am certain to make a duty of what is wrong, and that is exactly what the effect was to one or other of the different classes that I have referred to. That is what they have done. I need not repeat it, but I say that the opposite of the relationship is a fatal thing. The way it works is this. If my relationship to Christ is that of a member of the body to the head, my relationship is of the most intimate kind; my relationship is of the closest nature, and the Head loves me as He loves Himself, for no man ever yet hated his own flesh. Such is the relationship of Christ to the church. It is so intimate that you can have no person between you and the Head—none whatever. You see all depends upon it. The principle of the clergy depends upon it, because if that is the relationship the clergy are at an end. There is no such thing; it is only an imaginary class of beings as far as the truth is concerned. That is, they have no real title in the word of God. There is no such being in the word of God. There is no such position at all. It is only a thing that has been conjured up by persons who do not know the relationship of the church of God to the Head. So exactly that of which I am speaking now—the relationship of the members to the Head—excludes all dealing of the church with the world. The world is nothing to the church. The church is a thing separate from the world—not controlling the world not punishing the world, not putting the world under force to compel it to render unwilling subjection. All this is a total confusion between the kingdom and the church—the kingdom as it will be by and by with this only difference, that then, as we know, the obedience will be real except only in a certain set who afterward become rebellious and are so judged and punished.
Now all this then I maintain, beloved friends, is of a very practical nature, because the reason why so many saints are troubled in their souls among Presbyterians and Dissenters generally is this very thing. If I am only in the relationship of one of a people who have a king, well there is a long distance between the king and the people. No wonder I am not very intimate with the king. No wonder I am not on very happy terms with the king. I ought not to expect to be. My business as one of the people is to remain in a lowly outside place altogether, feeling indeed how poor my subjection is; but as to pretense to draw near the king—to go continually into his presence—it would be a very unbecoming thing in a subject to dare to do such a thing. Thus you destroy the very vitals of Christianity by this doctrine. It is not only that I speak now of great public errors, but I say that you destroy practical Christianity every day and every hour, and I hold, therefore, that this very mistake now of confounding the kingdom and the church is one of the most fatal in its consequences, not for sinners as a question of looking to Christ to be saved, but for Christians as a question of enjoying their own proper relationship, and of walking accordingly. Whereas if you know your place—as brought into the church of God—the body of Christ—then there can be no intimacy more complete; there can be no oneness more absolute. You are put, therefore, as a part of Himself before God, and instead of its being too high or presumptuous, or anything of the kind, on the contrary, it is merely faith in the truth it is merely appreciation of the grace that He has shown you; for it would be perfect nonsense for the body not to share the blessing of the Head; it could not be, and therefore you must deny the fact—you must deny the relationship not to enjoy this blessedness which you have in communion with the Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of God.
But then there is another thing that goes along with it—absolute separation from the world; but I do not go farther on this subject. I just touch upon it to show that whether it is the soul's oneness, or whether it is the separateness of the church from the world, all depends for its power upon appreciating that, besides being spiritual in the kingdom, we are really and truly and fully, every one of us, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, and that these relationships, instead of being the same, are wholly distinct, and that, in point of fact, although we are in a certain sense in the kingdom, we are never said to be a kingdom. We are never said, in subjects. We are subject, of course. When I use the term “kingdom,” I mean in the sense of subjects. Subject we are, and I admit that the subjection ought to be more complete and absolute than even that of mere subjects of a king; but the character of the obedience of a subject is distance. The character of the body in subjection is nearness, and this is essential to Christianity.
And now in this Book of Kings, as we shall see, you never get the church. You never have the body of Christ. You have only the relationship of the kingdom a very weighty and important thing, and, indeed, very strongly and practically important for us as showing us the distinctness of those new relationships into which we are brought. But the grand point, you observe, even in the kingdom, was this—to maintain God's choice, God's will, as the foundation of all action. It was this that led king David, for I do not suppose, and it is never said, that king David made such a pet of, or made so much of, Solomon as he did of Adonijah. We are not told that so it was with all his other children. Adonijah evidently was the spoiled boy, and Adonijah was the one in the family that the father never could bear to displease, and, consequently, the trouble came in by him; it could not be otherwise; it was right that it should be. It is according to God's government that whatever man sows he must reap. So it must be if he sows to the flesh, and so he had done. Of the flesh he reaps corruption. This came to pass now, but, on the other hand, how marvelous the grace! What a recovery is that of God! Think of David now. Think of Bathsheba now. Think of Solomon now. When one remembers who and what Bathsheba had been, of whom Solomon had been born, how wondrous the grace of God, and what a comfort, beloved friends, for anyone that has to look back bitterly upon what was most humiliating most painful! How the grace of God not only triumphs, but makes us more than conquerors through Him that loves us. So we see it even in the kingdom.
Well, the thing is now established, and the very that sense, to be the sphere except in a mere effort to destroy it brings out, as I have already figurative way. We are said to be kings, not said, the speedy establishment of the will of God.
Solomon is caused to ride upon the king's mule. The trumpet is sounded. The real men that had fought the battles of the kingdom and that had guided the counsels of the king, and the king himself above all, put their seal upon this great transaction, and Solomon is fairly seated as the king on the throne of Jehovah in Israel. Such then is the introduction of this book.
In the second chapter we have David's death, and the charge that was given before he died to king Solomon to judge righteously, for David evidently feels that, for his own word's sake, he had spared more than one wicked man. This lay upon his conscience. He could not but deliver it over to king Solomon. It is wrong to call this vindictiveness; there was no vindictiveness in it whatever. It was really a burden upon the king's mind. It was not because of their personal opposition to himself, but that it was so grave a sin against Jehovah's anointed was what filled the king's heart. He tells it to his successor Solomon, and, accordingly, the day comes when these sins rise up and call for judgment, but all in God's time. There was no hurry. Adonijah, however, is the first to bring on his judgment upon him. The king had treated him kindly, had pardoned his offense and rebellion; but now he asks for a request which inevitably suggests the idea of a second and subtle effort after the kingdom. He sought the one that had been the youthful companion of the aged king. He sought—and this, too, through Bathsheba— “Adonijah, the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. And she said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably. He said moreover, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And she said, Say on. And he said, Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign; howbeit the kingdom is turned about, and is become my brother's: for it was his from the Lord. And now I ask one petition of thee, deny me not. And she said unto him, Say on. And he said, Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the king (for he will not say thee nay) that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife.”
It did not look much in appearance, but Solomon was wise. Solomon detected the unjudged ambition and rebellion of Adonijah's heart, and so, then, although it was Bathsheba his mother who was in question, he judges. She presented what she called a small petition. That is often done when there is something great behind, though not always known, for Bathsheba, on this occasion, was but the instrument of one who did not seek something small, but the greatest place in the kingdom, and Abishag, accordingly, is the request. “And king Solomon answered and said unto his mother. And why dost thou ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also; for he is mine elder brother, even for him, and for Abiathar the priest, and for Joab the son of Zeruiah. Then king Solomon sware by Jehovah, saying, God do so to me, and more also, if Adonijah have not spoken this word against his own life. Now therefore, as Jehovah liveth, which hath established me” —you observe how simple and how real is the sense in the king's mind that it was of Jehovah's doing, and, so long as this was held fast, Solomon was strong as well as wise; but, says he, “as Jehovah liveth, which hath established me, and set me on the throne of David my father, and who hath made me an house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death this day. And king Solomon sent by the hand of Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he fell upon him that he died.”
(Continued from page 228)
[W. K.
(To be continued)