mistakes

1 Kings 1, Ezekiel 32

Today’s readings are 1 Kings 1 and Ezekiel 32.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 1.

The longer you live, the more information you have about life. Getting older allows you to see how decisions you made when you were young or younger have turned out or are turning out. You can also witness how the lives and decisions of others around you have turned out. The wise pay attention to what is happening around them and learn some lessons as they get older.

The opening verses of 1 Kings 1 suggest that David has learned some things about women. As David aged, he had a hard time staying warm at night no matter how many blankets they stacked on top of him (v. 1). His servants, then, decided he needed a warm body to sleep with. They could have set up a schedule for his many wives to take turns keeping him warm at night but, knowing that he had an eye for a pretty girl, they looked for a newer, younger, prettier model to keep him company instead (v. 2).

While their stated goal was to keep the king warm (v. 2c), the fact that they chose a girl based on her beauty suggests that they wanted to satisfy the king in other ways as well. The girl they found was beautiful and useful according to verse 4a, b but according to verse 4c, “...the king had no sexual relations with her.” This suggests that David had learned something about the appropriate relationship a man should have with a woman that is not his wife. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon, and the way that Absolom used David’s concubines had, maybe, taught him some respect for women that he did not have when he was younger. At any rate, in this one instance at least, David was able to keep his attraction for Abishag in check. So, perhaps, getting older and experiencing the chastening hand of God in his life had taught the king an important moral lesson.

However, David didn’t learn all the lessons he should have learned. The rest of this chapter described the royal crisis that David’s son Adonijah created when he decided to designate himself king. Before he proclaimed himself to be king, however, Adonijah had developed a habit of self-promotion. Verse 5e says that Adonijah “got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.” The next verse, verse 6, indicates that Adonijah had done this kind of thing many times before. That is indicated by the words, “His father had never rebuked him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’ in verse 6. Recall that Absolom did this same sort of thing (2 Sam 15:1) before he tried to usurp David’s throne. So David had seen this activity before, but he apparently did not learn much from it. If he had responded to Adonijah when he began acting like Absolom, perhaps Solomon could have become king without any intrigue, without a rushed coronation ceremony, and without the violence that we’ll read about tomorrow.

One of the patterns that we see in David’s life is passivity in certain situations. He showed no reluctance when it came to making war against other nations but he seemed to have great reluctance when it came to dealing with Joab or with his children. He did not confront Amnon when he sinned and raped Tamar. He did not confront Absolom the numerous times that Absolom sinned. And, now, he avoided confronting his son Adonijah or dealing with Adonijah after Solomon became king.

If you look back over your life, you will probably see how sins or just weaknesses in your character or personality have caused you problems again and again. You probably already know what things trip you up repeatedly but you are reluctant to change. Please reconsider; look how costly David’s reluctance to change was in his life and the life of his kingdom. Is it really worth it to let your kids ruin their lives just because you don’t like confrontation? Is the comfort of passivity worth the pain that comes from living on cruise control? What decision do you need to make or difficult conversation do you need to have that you are avoiding? Learn from David’s life and do what you know you should do. Don’t relive the same mistakes over and over again.

1 Kings 1, Galatians 5, Ezekiel 32, Psalm 80

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.