By Dick Brogden
David was the great king of Israel. Stunningly listed as a man after God’s own heart, he bore sons who were the devil’s own. How did such a good-hearted (though human and sinful) king give place to such poor-hearted seed? More importantly, what evil seeds are we planting within ourselves, seeds that, according to the inviolate laws of harvest, will one day bear fruit?
Then Amnon hated her [Tamar] with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her “Get up! Go!” (2 Sam. 13:15 ESV)
The fulfilment for which we long can become a curse to us. In Amnon’s case he longed for fulfilment through sexual possession of a beautiful woman, but we can lust for many things including position, power, influence, and title. The seed in Amnon was that he was discontent with his lot, he wanted something that was not his to have—at least not in the way he wanted it.
We recognize sexual lust as horrific and destroying. Do we have the same horror when we are discontent with our level of leadership and influence? We can long for more authority, status, responsibility, and control. When we go about getting it in sinful and inappropriate ways, we end up hating it more than we thought we loved it, and in the end it leads to our death.
The fruit of Amnon’s discontentment was rape, hate, and ultimately death. Our discontent will lead us down just as damaging paths. Let us be horrified when we sense positional lust in us. Let us repent of it and choose to be thankful and content with where God has us.
After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice. And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. (2 Sam. 15:1-6, emphasis added)
We can observe many negative things about Absalom: his long burning hate for his brother that ended in scheming murder; his crafty way of dealing with Joab; and his pride and self-promotion. But what is most alarming to me is his “stealing the hearts” of good men away from their rightful king.
An orderly in the military is supposed to make the soldiers he leads MORE loyal to the authority in place—not more loyal to himself. Do we make our followers more loyal to our leaders or more loyal to ourselves? Do we make our disciples more loyal to Jesus or more loyal to us?
Absalom sat at the gate, charmed and wooed the populace, and sighed and said, “If I was king, you would be happier.” The reality was that when the thief becomes king, no one is better off.
We must be vigilant against our own thieving hearts. The sin within us wants to steal the authority of those that lead us by stealing the affections of their followers. The pride within us wants to steal the glory that goes to God alone by taking credit (even if in a supporting role) for the acts of heaven. There is but one fruit for the thief—grief for all, including himself. Stealing leaves you hanging with javelins through your heart.
[Adonijah] said [to Bathsheba], “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord. And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Speak.” And he said, “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.”
King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.” Then King Solomon swore by the Lord, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life! (1 Kings 2:15–17; 22–23)
Adonijah declared himself king and that didn’t work out so well. Wise enough to see he lost the first round to Solomon, he bided his time and then sneakily asked Bathsheba to procure Abishag for him. He didn’t want Abishag. He wanted the kingdom. And this was his sneaky plan to establish a claim—hollow as it was. Adonijah fooled Bathsheba, a good woman, a woman wise to the twists and turns of palace life, a woman with her own scars and secrets, but he did not fool the king.
The conniving often first fool themselves. We convince ourselves that we are innocent and harmless, but with little words, little postures, little actions, little hesitations, little nuances, little smirks, and little shrugs, we are actually sneakily positioning ourselves for takeover. Adonijah ended up losing his head, but first he lost his honesty—self-honesty and honesty before others. There is nothing holy about being sneaky. The fruit of sneakiness is self-deception. A web of half-truths and clever exaggerations make you first lose your sight, then your way, then ultimately your head.
Next, the conniving fool good people. They play on pity. They take advantage of the goodness or kindness in others. The empathy of good people does not automatically verify a pure heart.
We all craft our image. We all try to present ourselves at times as something we are not or as better than we are. We all protest innocence and claim the moral high ground. This is not a harmless seed. It leads to deceit and death. When we connive, we speak against our own life.
Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. (1 Kings 12:6–8)
It can be unsettling to lead those smarter and more experienced than we are. It can be tempting to want to be different from our predecessors, fathers, and colleagues, and in pursuing that distinction we can cause more harm than good. It is far too easy to notice what others have done wrong and think that we will easily improve on them. In Rehoboam’s case insecurity drove him to be harsher than his father when wisdom called for being gentler.
Afraid of being thought weak, Rehoboam cut his own legs out from under him and lost half the kingdom. He spurned the counsel of his father’s counselors because he thought he had to prove himself strong and forceful, stronger and more forceful than his notable predecessor.
Insecurity is afraid that something will be lost if we do not dramatically distinguish ourselves from those that go before us, whereas security realizes that gentleness can make us stronger, that we don’t have to be different to be noticed. Security is patient, it allows our God-given uniqueness to be demonstrated by time and does not force or rush a distinctive unduly.
The fruit of insecurity is always loss. When we try and grab prestige and commendation, it eludes us. Insecurity is not harmless, it is ruthless. Insecurity makes us act strong, while security makes us act kindly. Insecure leaders cause greater damage to their followers than incompetent ones.
GREEDY, UNACCOUNTABLE SOLOMON
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:1–6 emphasis added)
There is sad irony in the man who had and knew everything (wisdom, riches, honor, and power) not being satisfied with what he possessed. The kings were warned not to import chariots or women from Egypt and beyond, but Solomon imported both in great numbers. The import of multiple wives and concubines was Solomon’s undoing, for they brought with them their idols, and ultimately these women turned not only his head but his heart.
I imagine Solomon’s pursuit of knowledge included curiosity about the cultures and customs of the nations which supplied his harem. I presume that that insatiable curiosity (unbounded as it was, greedy for more) was a slippery path to improper thoughts, experiments, and ultimately worship. It was Solomon’s intelligence combined with his appetite that led him to rationalize what he knew to be wrong and twist it somehow into cleverly seeming right.
What prophet or priest could argue with Solomon? Who could hold a candle to his discernment, insight, intelligence, and acumen? Who then could challenge him, hold him accountable, or push back when wisdom began to decay into sophistry, when much learning began to drive him mad? Having too many women in his life and none that he adored uniquely and cherished solely, who indeed could restrain or even caution his racing mind?
How rare and pure is the one man-one woman romance of Isaac and Rebecca, and how convoluted and painful is every record of polygamy in the Old Testament. What would Solomon’s end have been if he had married one woman and that woman was simple, pure, and godly? What if Solomon had one Jehovah-fearing wife, a wife that he respected, honored, and listened to? The seed was greed and lack of accountability, and the fruit was an evil of stupidity. At the end of his life the wisest man of history made the most foolish of mistakes.