If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 1, Galatians 5, Ezekiel 32, Psalm 80. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 1.
Someone once said that there are two ways to become wise. You can (1) learn from your mistakes or (2) learn from someone else’s mistakes. The second of these two is, obviously, far better. It keeps you from experiencing the pain and consequences of making mistakes and it also allows you to progress faster because you don’t have to try again after your mistaken approach fails.
Too bad Adonijah did not choose the second path to wisdom. He saw his older brother Absalom attempt to appoint himself as king (2 Sam 15:10). Although Adonijah waited until his father was older and weaker, he still made the same decision that failed Absalom (5a). Adonijah even copied Absalom’s attempt to exalt himself by riding around in chariots with 50 forerunners to announce his coming (2 Sam 15:1 cf 1 Ki 1:5). It appears that Adonijah was the oldest living child of David’s at this point in his life. With David being old and possibly in bad health (v. 1), and based on cultural customs in their times, it was reasonable to expect that Adonijah would succeed David as king. The oldest son alive at the time of a man’s death was usually the heir that received the most inheritance, including the kingship. Although it may be been customary for the oldest living son to be chosen as king, it was David’s prerogative as king to appoint his successor. So why did Adonijah make the same mistake as Absalom and try to appoint himself king before David had died?
One answer to this question is that David had already chosen Solomon. We see this in verse 13 here in 1 Kings 1; indeed, that verse says that David had sworn to Bathsheba that Solomon would succeed him as king. Although the text does not say so, it is probable that David had made his plans to choose Solomon well-known in his family and circle of advisors. This is suggested by the fact that Adonijah “invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the special guard or his brother Solomon” (vv. 9-10). Why did Adonijah invite all his brothers except for Solomon? Why did he invite all the royal officials except for a select few (cf. vv. 8-10)? The most likely answer is that he knew that David had chosen Solomon, not him, so he would try to take the kingdom by subversion and deal with Solomon later (see v. 21). Adonijah’s actions, then, are quite similar to Absalom’s. But Absalom failed and Adonijah could have learned from that failure. God’s word tells us more than once not to exalt ourselves. Consider:
- Proverbs 25:6-7: Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.”
- Luke 14:7-11: When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Don’t assume that a promotion at work will be yours or that a slick plan can give you something you want or even what you feel entitled to get. Instead, learn to act in humility instead of putting yourself in a position to be humiliated.
David, unfortunately, did not follow the first way to wisdom by learning from his own mistakes. Verse 6 suggests that Adonijah’s chariot and 50 men entourage was something he had done more than once before he declared himself king. But, just as David did not deal with Amnon when he raped Tamar (2 Sam 13:21) or Absalom when he killed Amnon (2 Sam 13:39), he did not speak to Adonijah when he saw him exalting himself. We all make mistakes. We all make foolish decisions that are costly. We all sin sometimes. A wise person will learn from his own errors and take different actions in the future to avoid making that error again.
There is a third way to wisdom and it is the best way of the three. Learn from your own mistakes, yes. Learn from other people’s mistakes, absolutely. But better than both is to learn from God’s revelation. When we sin, we are testing the truthfulness of God’s word. We may presume that our case is an exceptional one, worthy of an exception to God’s word. Or, we may presume that we can get away with something that someone else did not get away with. Or we might presume that God will forgive us and that his forgiveness will limit the damage of the consequences for our sin. All of these are foolish. When we take God at his word and live obediently to him, we can avoid the problems that sin brings.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.