Summary: Things aren't always simple in leadership but we need to do all we can to make things right in the end.
You probably heard this week that the Rudd government are delaying the introduction of Carbon trading as a result of the Global Financial Crisis. This is quite an about-face for a government that prided itself on its environmental policy, but of course it was forced on them by external circumstances, wasn’t it? In fact isn’t that always the reason given for a shift of policy that moves from the ideal to the practical? That’s just the nature of politics. Well today we see a similar example of the reality of politics, what a German philosopher of the 19th century called Realpolitik.
David is on his deathbed. He’s lived a long life. He’s seen various ups and downs. And because he’s been king in difficult times he’s had to make various decisions that he wasn’t particularly happy about, but that were necessary to maintain his rule. He’s also made some friends and some enemies. Many of his enemies have been defeated, but there are one or two who for one reason or another are still around. In a couple of cases he’s even had to make a truce with them to ensure peace.
But now as he nears the end of his life he wants to tie up all of these loose ends. The first loose end appears in chapter 1 where the question of the succession arises. Adonijah, one of his older sons decides to jump the gun. He thinks the succession is his by right but he doesn’t want to wait around for David to die and then have to argue his case. So he enlists the help of Abiathar the priest and Joab, the leader of David’s army, to set himself on the throne before any of the other contenders catch on. These two think he’s a good choice. He’s good looking, popular and obviously a good tactician. He makes all the right PR moves. He gets himself chariots and horsemen and an entourage of fifty runners, a rent-a-crowd, to go before him as he goes to make a sacrifice to God in preparation for his coronation. And he invites all his brothers except Solomon to celebrate with him
Unfortunately for him, word gets out. Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet hear about this and report it to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. She goes to David to remind him that he’d promised that Solomon would succeed him as king and to tell him that Adonijah is trying to usurp him. Nathan has arranged to come in at this point and confirm everything that Bathsheba has said.
So David is faced with a challenge. This isn’t the first time one of his sons has tried to usurp the throne. The last time it was Absalom who started an armed uprising to depose him and David simply walked away from Jerusalem rather than fight, and possibly kill, his own son. But this time things are different. It isn’t his own rule that’s at issue, it’s that of Solomon. It’s also the issue of God’s choice of his successor. He believes God wants Solomon to be king and he means to make sure that it happens.
So he tells Nathan and Zadok that they’re to take Solomon out of the city, anoint him as king, then bring him into Jerusalem mounted on David’s own mule, to bring him into the palace and seat him on David’s throne.
This has an immediate effect. Adonijah’s supporters melt into the shadows rather than be identified with this usurper of the king’s authority. David has made a clear decisions and even on his deathbed people take notice.
But there are still more loose ends to be tidied up. So David calls Solomon to his bedside to give him some advice.
First he tells him to be strong and courageous; to walk in the ways of God; to keep his commandments. Then, he says, God will do as he’s promised: he’ll establish your kingdom. And if your heirs maintain their faith in God then there’ll never fail to be a successor to the throne.
Well, if only Solomon and his heirs had listened to David’s advice, or the advice of the prophets that God sent later to warn them. But that’s a story for another day.
Right now David has something else on his mind. For nearly forty years he’s been holding off on punishing Joab for an act of treachery in the first years of David’s reign; an act that put a question mark over David’s integrity, in fact. When David first began to reign, one of Saul’s sons set himself up as the king of the northern tribes, with a man named Abner as the commander of his army. But after losing a few battles against David, Abner realised that it would be better if David were king of the entire nation. In fact he’d worked out that the reason he’d done so well was that God had chosen him as the rightful king. So he came to make a treaty with David: to arrange for the northern tribes to make him king. The trouble was, Abner had earlier killed Joab’s brother during one of their battles. So Joab decided to avenge his brother by assassinating Abner, even though he’d come to David under a peace treaty.