Our lives are filled with defining moments.
- The moment we decide to become a Christian.
- The moment we realize that we have met the person we want to marry.
- The happy occasion when our first child is born.
- The day of our retirement.
These defining moments are important because it is during these times that the course of our lives changes affecting everything and everyone around us. I suppose this is why we create memories and make speeches at these times since each occasion provides us an opportunity to teach valuable lessons that may be needed along the way.
In this final lesson looking at King David, I'd like to focus on one such defining moment as his life and rule were coming to an end. This was the moment when he gave a charge to his son, Solomon, who would rule after he was gone.
David's life had its share of "defining moments:"
- When he went out to face and defeat Goliath. He went from being an obscure shepherd boy to a national celebrity.
- When Samuel anointed him to become future king. He went from a favored military leader to hunted outlaw always in fear for his life.
- When Saul died and he became king. He took on responsibility for the entire nation, not just the band of rebels he led while hiding out from Saul.
Through each of these changes God was shaping and defining David's character and spirit so that he could become a man after His own heart. When David was old and at the end of his reign, he handed the kingdom over to his son Solomon. This was a final "defining moment" for David and one of the first for Solomon. During this important exchange there was a charge that David made to Solomon which contained a pearl of wisdom that can be passed on to those who will be the leaders of the church in the future. The charge to Solomon by David is contained in I Kings 2:1-4.
1 "Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 "I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, 'If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,' He said, 'you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel."
David had reigned for 40 tumultuous years during which time he had secured peace for the nation and had amassed great wealth. Now it was time for Solomon to take over, and so at this critical moment David provides him with a charge that instructs his son to do three things in order to succeed in the future:
1. Grow Up (verse 2)
In the Hebrew, the word strong meant to establish yourself, to stand on your own two feet. "Show yourself a man" was the Hebrew way of saying, "Act like an adult." Solomon had been groomed for the throne but was always in the shadow of his father. He could practice being king, but he didn't have to really make the decisions and abide by the consequences. David's first charge, then, is to take off the training wheels; cast off the safety net of childhood; begin acting like an adult because now it was for real, he was going to be the king.
I suppose this would also be my first charge to the future leaders of the church and their wives. The time to grow up spiritually is now, not sometime in the future when there's more time or opportunity!
- Young mothers need to realize that the critical training of their children's spiritual lives happens now, not when they are teenagers. By then, it will be too late in many cases.
- Young men and fathers need to realize that elders and deacons who are serving now will not serve forever. They will need to be replaced by men who are learning about these roles today.
- In many cases the building and the congregation itself were established and built by people who decided to "grow-up" spiritually and take responsibility for their church and its needs.
Of course, this charge goes both ways. For example:
- David didn't just pretend to give Solomon the crown, he actually gave his son the nation to rule, and took himself off of the throne.
- Present leaders and teachers should actively search for and encourage those who are willing and able to take the lead in ministering to the church and gradually allow them to take full responsibility. Congregations should be aware of not only who the leaders are, but who are the future leaders.
2. Obey the Lord (verse 3)
David says it in a variety of ways:
- Keep the charge of the Lord
- Walk in His ways
- Keep His statutes, ordinances, testimonies
In the end, however, it was all the same charge, obey the Lord in all that you say and do because without obedience you will fail.
It is interesting to note that Solomon lived out this very charge. He began well by obeying the Lord and was blessed in every way possible. Then he fell into idolatry, and his disobedience led the nation and his own household into ruin. At the end of his own life he wrote that to obey God and keep HIs commands were all that really mattered in life.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.
- Ecclesiastes 12:13
This particular charge is relevant for young people. Certainly, to obey the Lord is a priority at any age, but it is especially important for those who are either young in years or young in Christ. You see, it is at the beginning of something that one creates habits and ways of acting that will repeat themselves all through life. Learning the habit of obeying God is critical if one is to have a successful Christian life.
Parents and grandparents can vouch for this. If young people put God first in life, they will be blessed. If they abandon the Lord, forsake His church and disobey His word their lives will be filled with sorrow, trouble, uncertainty and an emptiness inside. Studies show that young people who begin well as Christians usually fall away after they graduate from high school or college. Along with the responsibility for being a young independent adult comes the responsibility for maintaining one's faith and choosing to obey the Lord in all things. Parents are less able to encourage their children to go to church once they become young adults. The responsibility for faithfulness now falls to the young adults once they leave home and start their independent lives.
It is at this important time in life when we really find out if our faith, our commitment and our love for Christ are really ours or just something borrowed from our parents.
No matter who one becomes, no matter how much success or failure one experiences, remember that it will all be for nothing if you are not a faithful Christian at the end of your life. How faithful a person is at the end of their life depends on how faithful and obedient they choose to be at the critical time: when they were young.
You can't put it off (I'll start going to church later, I'll get involved later, I'll become more spiritual when I'm older). Solomon warned that if you didn't choose to do it when you were young, you might not have the chance to do it when you become older (Ecclesiastes 12).
3. Teach Your Children Well (verse 4)
David tells Solomon that he is giving him this charge because God charged him with the same charge. He now tells Solomon that he too must pass along these things to his own children if he wishes to continue God's blessings upon them.
Again, we see that Solomon in all of his wisdom did not see fit to teach his own children and they fell into idolatry and divided the kingdom into two after Solomon's death. Solomon had 1000 wives and concubines, most of whom were pagan. This is how the influence of idolatry came into his house and the nation.
David addresses this point in his son's life by reminding him how he was taught and how he is to teach his own children. This is a good lesson to encourage young singles to marry men and women who are faithful to Christ, faithful to His Word and faithful to His church. If they do:
- They will be able to teach their children without conflict in the home.
- They will be able to share and encourage each other's faith.
- They will have a marriage that has more peace, more joy, more success because God promises this to you if you obey Him in this.
Our children are never too young to hear this message because you date who you hang around with and you marry who you date. I would encourage young people to decide early on that they will only marry a faithful Christian because this will set the course of their friendships, their lives and the lives of their children forever.
After David's charge, Solomon went on to be a great king, but because he failed to listen to his father's voice, he suffered depression, trouble in his family and ultimately destruction of the great kingdom established by his father. He did repent in the end to save his soul, but much suffering had already happened by then.
If we are to gain anything from the experience of these kings, we should recognize that their lessons affect all of us:
- To the leaders: Be on the look-out for and cultivate tomorrow's leaders today. Neglecting to do so will create a leadership vacuum in the future, a dangerous thing.
- To everyone: Make the obeying of the Lord a priority in your life, and a priority lesson you teach your children. This is the gateway to so many blessings, and neglecting to do so is the path to so many sorrows.
- To young people: Choose friends and marriage partners who can help you remain faithful to Christ and support your ministry in the church. No other choice will affect your life more than this one.
This is the end of the section on David. Our next king will be one that very few people know about but who teaches many lessons about trust: King Hanun.