Summary: Dramatic monologue as if David were speaking: he starved emotionally his son Adonijah, he indulged his son Solomon, and he distanced himself from his son Absalom.
"Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and do not forget all his benefits ... as a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him."
As a father has compassion for his children … When I first sang those words, I thought I knew what they meant. I supposed that I had been a compassionate father. I believed that I knew all there was to know about compassion. And I imagined that what my wife and I felt after our child died had deepened us, so that never again would we make such terrible mistakes. I thought I had grasped compassion. But I had so much to learn. So much.
I am old now, and in the last days of my life. I am sure that the Lord will soon gather me to the bosom of my fathers. But before I go, I see that I must share with you what I have learned about compassion. I must report, without covering it up any longer, my failures, so that you may learn. Yes, I said, I must report my failures. You see me as a success, and so I am, in some ways. But I am also a failure. A profound failure.
You see me wearing the royal purple. That suggests success. And I did succeed. I rose from being a mere shepherd boy out there tending my father’s flocks, and I became king of Israel and of Judah. I won the hearts of the people; but I failed to win the hearts of my own sons.
You see me decorated in gold, with riches well beyond my ability even to spend them. I succeeded in building a great city, Jerusalem; I succeeded in constructing a magnificent royal palace; I succeeded in amassing materials for the building of a temple for Almighty God. I was a successful builder of things; but I failed to build the character of my own children.
You have already heard this morning some of my literary accomplishments, the psalms. Almost every time you worship you use my words. You know of David the king, David the warrior, David the singer, David the builder. I wish I did not have to tell you of David the father. But I must, I must tell you what I have learned, through a great deal of pain and suffering. I must tell you so that my soul may rest and so that you will see that someone may be a success in a great many things, but may still be a failure in the one thing that matters -- those who look to us for leadership.
How might I say it so that you can remember it? Something like this: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Listen and learn from me, from David, king of Israel, and from my three sons.
One of my sons is Adonijah. Adonijah is the child of my concubine Haggith. Adonijah is my oldest surviving son; there were others, but they are gone. Oh my God, the pain of that memory! Gone! But of that I will speak in a few moments.
Adonijah is my oldest surviving son, and he is so hungry for power. He is so anxious to have position. In fact, only a few weeks ago, Adonijah gathered around himself a few malcontents, and tried to make himself king in my place. Joab, my general; and Abiathar, one of the priests; and a number of others ... they all went out to the place called Zoheleth and staged a big rally. They built an altar and sacrificed sheep and oxen and prayed and preached and pranced all day long. Nothing like dragging God in by the hind legs when you want something for yourself!
And at Zoheleth Adonijah proclaimed himself king. Can you imagine it? What a brazen thing to do! Just stood up on his hind legs in front of this ragtag bunch and shouted, "I will be king." And they, the cowards, answered, "Yes, you shall be king. Long live Kind Adonijah". Can you imagine? I’m not even dead yet, and they think they can take over.
And besides, everyone knows that the Kingdom is promised to my son Solomon. No, Solomon is not the oldest. No, he is not the strongest. But he is the best and the brightest, and I have known since his birth that the Lord had set him aside to be king after me. Adonijah knew this. Joab knew this. So did Abiathar, so did they all. Why did they defy the will of the Lord? What makes Adonijah so presumptuous, so self-centered, so much in a hurry to have whatever he wants?