Thursday, May 24, 2007

Kings of Judah, Pt. 1: "The Past Has No Future" (1 Ki 1)

THE PAST HAS NO FUTURE (1 KINGS 1:11-22, 41-53)
Charlie Brown tells Linus, “Sometimes I feel like I want to run away from everything.” Overhearing the conversation, Snoopy responds in his thoughts, “I remember having that feeling once when I was at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm. I climbed over the fence but I was still in the world!”

Are you a prisoner or victim of the past? Have you surmounted the past, especially its cruel, complex and colored past?

The past is a wonderful teacher. We can live in the past, learn from the past or leave out the past. We can embrace, escape or employ it.

When King David was old and ill, Solomon, one of his youngest sons assumed the throne in a most unlikely manner. It began when his brother Adonijah plotted to ascend the throne and invited all the brothers except Solomon to the self-proclaimed coronation.

Solomon’s father was David, the most recognizable, the highly regarded and the greatly revered king of Israel. However, David failed as a husband and father. Besides his first wife, who was Saul’s daughter Michal, he had at least seven wives (1 Chron 3:1-5) and ten concubines (2 Sam. 15:16). 1 Chronicles 3 records that six became his wives in his seven and a half years of exile in Hebron, and Bathsheba he forcibly took from Uriah while in Jerusalem. He had ten sons from his seven wives and another nine sons whose mothers were not named, not counting daughters and more sons from his concubines.

Why do we have to better our past, especially with its burdensome history? How is one able to escape and overcome the past?

Free Yourself from Past Consummation
16 Bathsheba bowed low and knelt before the king. “What is it you want?” the king asked. 17 She said to him, “My Lord, you yourself swore to me your servant by the LORD your God: ‘Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne.’ 18 But now Adonijah has become king, and you, my Lord the king, do not know about it. 19 He has sacrificed great numbers of cattle, fattened calves, and sheep, and has invited all the king’s sons, Abiathar the priest and Joab the commander of the army, but he has not invited Solomon your servant. 20 My Lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to learn from you who will sit on the throne of my Lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise, as soon as my Lord the king is laid to rest with his fathers, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.” (1 Kings 1:16-21)

The famed architect-designer, Stanford White (1853–1906), once shocked an editor by the high price he charged for a magazine cover design. Although he had spent much thought in preparing the design, its classic simplicity caused his customer to wonder at the bill of $500—a goodly sum at the turn of the 1900s.

“I’d say that was a pretty steep price for such a plain design,” said the editor. “The price,” explained White, “was for knowing what to leave out.” (, Source: Best of Three Minutes A Day, Vol. 26, Dec. 22)

The past has a lengthy reach and a long extension if you don’t cut its arms. It has a long memory if you continually save and file unhappiness and pain instead of deleting it, considering it as junk, or throwing it into the trash bin.

Solomon did not live in a healthy family environment. Not only could he not count all the half-siblings he had, he could not keep track of the rivalry and the score between the rival palace families and children. His half-sister Tamar from David’s No. 3 wife was molested by his half-brother Amnon from David’s No. 1 wife. Tamar’s brother Absalom avenged his sister’s death by killing Amnon and later ousted his own father David from the throne. Many years after the death of Absalom, another half-brother Adonijah considered Solomon a potential rival to the throne (vv 12, 21) and sought to seize the throne and terminate any rivals. Still, Solomon did not allow himself to get caught up with challenging, confronting and countering Adonijah for the right to the throne.

Solomon had a heavy baggage, but the condemnation, complexity and conflict of his parents’ generation did not faze him. The wisest man in history wisely put it in the past. It belonged to the previous generation and his misguided siblings. It had to end. The cycle and the circus and the calamity had to stop. It was not Solomon’s fault that his parents committed adultery, that his father was a womanizer and his brothers were murderous. It’s been said that one cannot choose one’s parents, siblings or relatives. The upcoming king chose the next best thing: to move on. A person cannot ignore the past but he can choose his future.

Today’s ceaseless talk of genes and research on genetic code almost robs a person of choices, paralyzes a person into inaction and rids a person of responsibility. Maybe there was a time in your life you want to escape from an unhappy childhood, a dysfunctional family or a broken home. Solomon did not fear his past. He fitted his noble ancestry, royal birthright and his imperial upbringing like a glove.

Free Yourself from Present Conspiracy
38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, the Kerethites and the Pelethites went down and put Solomon on King David’s mule and escorted him to Gihon. 39 Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing flutes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound.
(1 Kings 1:38-40)

The Renaissance sculptor Simone da Fiesole was famous for all the wrong reasons. His job was to transform an enormous piece of marble into a beautiful piece of sculpture for display in a cathedral. Unfortunately, he did such a poor job carving a giant figure that he “hacked a hole between the legs, and it was altogether misshapen and reduced to ruin,” according to Vasari.

The piece of marble remained untouched for the next forty years. The exasperated city mayor then dared the great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo in 1501 to accept the challenge of salvaging the marble piece. For three years, the famed artist worked behind a screen before unveiling his work of art before the stunned public. The masterpiece turned out to be none other than the famous statue of David. An unwanted and misunderstood block of stone had become one of the most beautiful sculptures the world has ever seen. (Bits and Pieces 10/10/96)

Greatness was predicted for Solomon at his birth, but the young man did not let the talk go to his head. At Solomon’s birth, the prophet Nathan was sent to call him Jedidiah or “God’s beloved.” Greatness followed under the right tutelage, on the right team and with the right temperament, and yet greatness did not matter to Solomon. One can say the throne was his mother’s plan, the priest and the prophet’s idea. He did not reject or resist it; he claimed it but he did not covet it. Solomon did not demand greatness, nor did he dodge it. Unlike his older half-brothers Amnon and Absalom, Solomon had no interest and regard in things forcibly taken: people or power. He had no desire for something his father did not see it fit and wise to give or something his father did not think he could do. It wasn’t in his nature to lobby for the throne, push for a mandate, put forward his case or boast of his merit. The biggest thing going for Solomon was his lack of concern or interest in greatness. Fame, power or greatness is often most satisfying and humbling when it comes unintentionally or by default, and most consuming and obnoxious when it is intentional or by design.

The trio of priest, prophet and general sat Solomon on the mule (v 38), the priest Zadok anointed him with sacred oil (v 39) and the whole country erupted with joy. The ride, the reign and the roar were not Solomon’s idea. He did not ask for the affirmation, the appointment, the announcement, the attention and the adulation. Adonijah’s claim to the throne was deceived by his outlandish ego and a cheering section, but Solomon’s right to the throne was acknowledged by the outgoing king and the cheering public.

Solomon was groom for the throne from young but he took a different path from his warrior father and his two murderous brothers to fame. Their priorities, personalities and perspective were different. David was a shepherd, a soldier and a survivor, but Solomon was a sage, a philosopher and an arbitrator. The father solved problems the army way; the son solved problems the amicable way. Also, unlike his brothers, Solomon was never ambitious, pretentious or vicious.

David’s sphere of influence included Samuel the prophet and Joab the bloodthirsty general, but Solomon’s mentors were Nathan the prophet and Zadok the priest, and Benaniah. David came from the countryside of Bethlehem, but Solomon was born in the city of Jerusalem. Readers do not know much about David’s mother, but they sure know about Solomon’ mother.

Free Yourself from Potential Condemnation
49 At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. 50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’” 52 Solomon replied, “If he shows himself to be a worthy man, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground; but if evil is found in him, he will die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent men, and they brought him down from the altar. And Adonijah came and bowed down to King Solomon, and Solomon said, “Go to your home.” (1 Kings 1:49-53)

Linus asked his friend Charlie Brown a question as they were walking in the woods and pondering dealing with life: “If you have some problems in your life, do you believe you should try to solve it right away or think about it for awhile?” As they sat down by a log, Charlie Brown responded, “Oh, think about it. By all means. I believe you should think about it for awhile.”

When they started walking again, the puzzled Linus clarified: “To give yourself time to do the right thing about the problem?” Charlie Brown explained, “No. To give it time to go away.”

A friend taught me one of the most effective answers to give when handed a persisting, perplexing and pressing problem. The person would respond wisely not with “Yes” or “No” but “Let me think about it.” It’s been said, “Rushed decisions are poor decisions.”

Solomon was not bloodthirsty or violent, unlike his father. Reacting and retaliating were not his attitude and approach. He bettered his life the old-fashioned way, through education, exhortation and endeavor. Education gave him wisdom; his advisers provided the exhortation but he still had to prove himself. The scholarly-minded king believed in the pen than in the sword, dedicated himself to the writings than to his weapons and believed in using reason than rule to solve matters.

The incoming king did not order his soldiers to strike his brother who had a death-proof action by hiding in the temple and clinging to the altar. He did not use the old-fashioned method of killing one to terrorize one thousand, or as the Chinese say, “Kill one to warn a hundred殺一警百” or “Kill a chicken to warn the monkey殺雞警猴.” The new king avoided bloodshed at all costs. His advisors and mentors were not around when he decided on his own to let his brother live. He was not a puppet or a pawn, and he had no need for them to be around as long as he upheld fairness, mercy and justice. They had served their purpose, done their part and had work to do. Mostly, Solomon had to think for himself, tackle things by himself and trust in his own judgment. He was his own man. Asking his aging and ailing father what to do was inadvisable. Nobody put the words in his mouth and told him what to tell his misguided brother. Even though advised and surrounded by priest, prophet and general, he was a self-thinking man.

Solomon passed his first kingly decision with flying colors. His brother Adonijah had tried to undermine him, doubtless seeking his death if he had succeeded (v 12), but Solomon did not strike back or get even. He was not furious or friendly but he was fair. The new king gave his brother a chance to live normally and an opportunity to prove himself. Swearing loyalty, foreign exile and home imprisonment did not cross Solomon’s mind. The king was there to succeed a throne, stabilize the nation and salvage the family, not there to send a message, show his muscle or seek a confession. The new king had confidence in the abundance. He also did not summon those who were at Adoniajh’s premature coronation for questioning, ask of their loyalty or look into their roles.

Conclusion: Do you have the godly character, inspirational motivation, mental toughness, moral strength and emotional well-being for your part in life? Are you burdened by past troubles that were not our fault? Are you immobilized and paralyzed by fear and failure? Everyone has his or her own life to live, decisions to make and conscience to resolve. All the money in the world cannot buy a clean heart, a cheery outlook and a clear conscience.


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