The Day of Reckoning
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 26, 2001
Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.
"I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the LORD may keep his promise to me: `If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'
"Now you yourself know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me-- what he did to the two commanders of Israel's armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. He killed them, shedding their blood in peacetime as if in battle, and with that blood stained the belt round his waist and the sandals on his feet. Deal with him according to your wisdom, but do not let his grey head go down to the grave in peace.
"But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.
"And remember, you have with you Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, who called down bitter curses on me the day I went to Mahanaim. When he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD: `I will not put you to death by the sword.' But now, do not consider him innocent. You are a man of wisdom; you will know what to do to him. Bring his grey head down to the grave in blood."
Then David rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. He had reigned for forty years over Israel--seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.
1 Kings 2:1-12
The first two chapters of 1 Kings speak about judgment. There is a judgment that is coming for everyone. It is a just, divine, inescapable judgment. It is a judgment that will conducted by God himself, who is the righteous Judge of the universe.
The Inevitability of Judgment
We recently heard of a public figure whose many adulteries were just exposed to the world. The son of a Baptist minister, this man stood for family values and had counseled other public figures to confess and come clean when they committed adultery. He did not think he himself would be discovered, but he was. There is a day of reckoning for everyone.
Most people live in complete ignorance of the divine judgment to come. God's judgment has been meted out throughout history, but there is a final judgment that will take place at the end of history. According to theologian John Murray, the whole panorama of history waits for and moves toward God's final adjudication. That is why it is important to live our lives in the light of the singular fact that man is destined to die once, and after that, to face judgment. "For [God] has set a day," wrote Paul in Acts 17:31, "when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed," even the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible tells us that the demons are aware of this final judgment. In Matthew 8:29 we read, "What do you want with us, Son of God?" the demons are speaking. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" These fallen angels were well aware of the final divine adjudication.
Humans are aware of the final judgment also. In 1 Kings 17:18 we find the widow of Zarephath asking Elijah when her son died, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" Everyone has an awareness of a coming judgment day.
David's Charge to Solomon
In 1 Kings 2 we see how King Solomon executed judgment in accordance with the will of his father David. This is an illustration of the judgment that will be executed by Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that all judgment is given by the heavenly Father to the Son. He who is greater than Solomon has come and will come again to judge in righteousness.
In 1 Kings 1-2 we find King David old and dying. As he lay in his bed, he had quite a bit of time to reflect upon his life. He came to realize several failures he had made in administering justice. So before he died, David made sure he gave Solomon counsel in two matters.
First, David told Solomon that he should live in obedience to the word of God, something David himself had failed to do at all times, and something Solomon would later fail in also. But now at the end of his life, David tells Solomon, "So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses" (vv. 2-3).
Second, he told him to administer justice with the wisdom God had given him. Specifically, David told Solomon to deal with Joab, his general, and Shimei, who had cursed David. Both of these had violated God's law but David failed to deal with them in justice.
Solomon obeyed the will of his father David and in 1 Kings 2 we find him executing judgment on a number of people. First, he dealt with Prince Adonijah, his older brother who had tried to usurp the throne. Next, he dealt with Abiathar the priest, who had supported Adonijah in his rebellion. Then he dealt with Joab the great general. Finally, he dealt with Shimei, a wealthy relative of Saul.
The Judgment of Adonijah
The day of reckoning for Prince Adonijah came at a moment he least expected it. Adonijah had a good name which meant, "My Lord is Jehovah," but Adonijah lived a life that was completely antithetical to his name. Since Amnon and Absalom had died, Adonijah was the oldest living son when King David died.
God had revealed to David that Solomon should succeed him, as we read in 2 Samuel 12:24-25, and 1 Chronicles 22:9-10 and 28:4-7. But David had failed to declare this publicly. I suspect he did not want to make Adonijah feel bad.
At this time Adonijah was about thirty-five years old. Like his brother Absalom, he was very handsome. In his desire to be king, he exalted himself and put himself forward publicly. He refused to submit to God's will and he refused to submit to the weak and dying David. Proud, arrogant Adonijah was a great politician who wanted to use his own political genius to accomplish his goals.
Why was Adonijah so bold in his rebellion? We find a reason in 1 Kings 1:6, where we read, "His father had never interfered with him by asking, 'Why do you behave as you do?'" Apparently, David never disciplined his sons. In the Hebrew this sentence means that David did not want to upset his son. It seems that David was lax in his exercise of fatherly discipline. When his son Amnon raped his sister Tamar, we are told that David was furious when he heard about it, but we are never told that he disciplined Amnon. In fact, God himself had to discipline Amnon by killing him at the hands of Absalom.
Fathers, are you disciplining your children? I know some fathers do not, but when that happens, their children grow wild. Why do you think fathers don't discipline? It is because they themselves do not like discipline. But parents who will not discipline soon begin to experience pressure, problems, pain, and trouble from their children's actions.
It is important, fathers, to stretch your children into shape. Recently I visited the Napa Valley and observed the vineyards. The vines were all disciplined. There was no wildness in the vineyards. And these well-disciplined grapevines were loaded down with fruit, ready for harvest. Such is the benefit of discipline.
The undisciplined Adonijah conferred with Joab, the general of the army, and Abiathar, the priest in his plan to oppose his father David. Both agreed to join his conspiracy, thinking that if they opposed God's decree together, they could effectively thwart God's decree that Solomon be the next king.
But no decree of God can be opposed effectually. What God ordains shall come to pass. Although David was old and tired, there was one person who was vigilant, diligent, and watchful: Nathan the prophet. God worked through faithful prophet Nathan, and all of a sudden the dying David woke up to the reality of Adonijah's rebellion and his need to take action. He made a public proclamation regarding his succession and had Solomon anointed by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet. Now there was a king, a successor to David, and Solomon was installed on David's throne as king.
As all this was happening, Adonijah was holding a feast at which the king's sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar and Joab had all shouted, "Long live Adonijah!" When Adonijah heard that Solomon had been anointed as king, he ran in fear and took hold of the horn of the altar for safety. In grace Solomon let him live on the condition that Adonijah submit to Solomon. In the same way, salvation is offered to us on condition that we submit to Jesus Christ.
But soon Adonijah changed his mind and violated his promise of submission. He expressed to Bathsheba his desire to marry Abishag, the nurse and concubine of David. The only problem with his request was that, according to custom, such a marriage would give Adonijah a right to David's throne, a custom Adonijah was fully aware of.
Adonijah asked Bathsheba to bring his request before her son, King Solomon. Bathsheba was beautiful, but apparently she did not understand much. So she came to King Solomon and says, "Would you please honor this request to give Abishag to your brother Adonijah?"
The wise Solomon saw through Adonijah's criminal plan and had him executed instantly. Thus, Adonijah's day of reckoning came suddenly. God had won, and his will alone was done. Solomon now was king, and his throne was established according to God's word, which says, "Remove the wicked from the king's presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness" (Proverbs 25:5).
The Judgment of Abiathar
The second person to be judged was Abiathar the priest, who had become arrogant and proud. Abiathar had been the only one to escape when Saul destroyed all the priests in the town of Nob years before, and he had served David faithfully for many years as high priest, even during the time of Absalom's rebellion. Yet now Abiathar changed his loyalty from Solomon to Adonijah the rebel. Casting his lot with God's enemies, he became a co-conspirator with Adonijah and Joab. I am sure Abiathar thought that the conspiracy would succeed and Solomon would be killed by the handsome prince Adonijah. He acted foolishly. He did not think there would be a judgment.
The will of God alone prevails because God's decrees always stand. Caught by wise King Solomon, Abiathar was deposed and driven out. Solomon told him, "You deserve to die," but refused to kill him because of his previous loyalty to David. But Abiathar was removed from the priesthood and sent back to his fields in Anathoth.
This particular action of Solomon fulfilled the word of God spoken to Eli long before at Shiloh. In 1 Samuel 2:31-33 we read,
The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your family line and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, in your family line there will never be an old man. Every one of you that I do not cut off from my altar will be spared only to blind your eyes with tears and to grieve your heart, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.
In due course Abiathar, a descendant of Eli, was deposed and driven out from the priesthood. From this point on Zadok, the descendant of Eleazar son of Aaron, became the chief priest, and his line continued until 171 B.C. The day of reckoning came for Abiathar because of his arrogance and disloyalty.
The Judgment of Joab
The next person to be judged was General Joab. Not only was he the general over David's army, but he was also David's nephew, the son of David's sister Zeruiah. But David had Joab help him in the murder of the righteous and godly Uriah, and at that moment David lost his moral authority over his nephew. As someone who would do anything to grab power and to maintain his self-importance, Joab became too strong for David to control. He refused to come under the king's authority because he wanted to be number one.
First, notice what Joab did in reference to Absalom, David's son. In 2 Samuel 18:5 and 12, we read that it was not the will of King David to kill Absalom, and everyone knew it. But Joab would not listen to the word of his uncle the king. He cut down his cousin Absalom, David's son, and from that point on David was absolutely disgusted with his relative Joab.
Second, we notice what Joab did to Abner, the cousin of King Saul and the captain of Saul's army. In a deceitful way and without the knowledge and approval of David, Joab killed the great general Abner, who had come to David in peace. Joab did so to preserve his own power and position. Yet David failed to administer justice and discipline Joab in this situation also. I am sure he did not act because he had lost his own moral authority over Joab in the affair of Bathsheba.
However, David did curse Joab and his family as a result of Abner's death. In 2 Samuel 3:28-29 we read, "Later, when David heard about this, he said, 'I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. May his blood fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father's house! May Joab's house never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.'" And in verse 39 we read, "And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!"
Third, Joab killed another great general by name Amasa, who was also a nephew of David and, thus, a cousin of Joab. Amasa had been the captain of Absalom's army before it was defeated by David's army under Joab. But after Abner's death, David was so fed up with Joab that he appointed Amasa as the captain of the army of Judah instead of Joab. We find David's commission to David in 2 Samuel 19:13: "And say to Amasa, 'Are you not my own flesh and blood? May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if from now on you are not the commander of my army in place of Joab.'"
Joab, of course, became jealous of Amasa. Refusing to tolerate any lessening of his power and in order to restore himself to power, he decided to kill Amasa. In 2 Samuel 20:9-10 we read, "Joab said to Amasa, 'How are you, my brother?' Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab's hand and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died." Joab's plan worked, and in 2 Samuel 20:23 we read, "Joab was over Israel's entire army."
Fourth, Joab acted against to David himself. As the weak, bedridden David lay dying, Joab decided to join Adonijah's conspiracy. PGM In spite of the knowledge that it was God's will that Solomon be the successor, Joab supported Adonijah's attempt at a coup d'etat to promote his own power and be general to the successor. I am sure he was thinking, "I am on a roll. I have grabbed power and kept it all my life. I know I will succeed again. I must continue to be the general of the army of all Israel, and Adonijah looks like the best bet for king."
Joab thought there would be no day of reckoning for his actions, but there was. Of the conspirators against Solomon, Adonijah had already been killed and Abiathar was deposed. When Joab, the third conspirator, heard about the others, he knew his time had come, so he ran into the temple and took hold of the horn of the altar, thinking he would be safe there. But the Bible says only those who accidentally murdered someone can be safe in the sanctuary. There was no safety for the one who had killed Absalom, Abner, Amasa and conspired against David and Solomon. Joab was cut down in the sanctuary. Joab's day of reckoning had come.
The Judgment of Shimei
The last person Solomon had to deal with was Shimei, a wealthy Benjamite who lived in Bahurim, near Bethany. A relative of King Saul, Shimei was a man of influence who could command one thousand Benjamites to follow him, if he wanted. But he sinned greatly by cursing David during Absalom's rebellion.
In 2 Samuel 16:5 we read, "As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the king's officials with stones, though the troops and the special guard were on David's right and left." And in verse 7 we read, "As he cursed, Shimei said, 'Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel!"
According to Exodus 22:28, which says, "Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people," this was a capital offense. It was the sin Jezebel attributed falsely to Naboth and the sin for which Naboth was killed. This was the sin attributed to Jesus falsely and for which he was crucified. This was the sin Shimei committed against David, God's anointed.
I am sure Shimei felt free to curse David because he thought David's days were numbered and that Absalom would surely take control of the kingdom. But that didn't happen. Absalom was defeated and killed, and David returned to power as king of all Israel. So when David returned to Jerusalem, Shimei came to meet him, as we read in 2 Samuel 19:18-20:
When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, "May my lord the king not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first of the whole house of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king."
Of course, Shimei was an opportunist and hypocrite and this speech was not at all sincere. It was all pretension, without any truth to it. But David refused to execute justice on Shimei. He spared him by an oath, telling him, "You shall not die."
But now the day of reckoning had come. In wisdom Solomon dealt with the unfinished business of Shimei by confining Shimei to Jerusalem and preventing him from going to the people of his tribe to foment trouble. Rather than killing him, he showed him grace, saying, in essence, "Build a house in Jerusalem and live in peace. Everything will be all right if you stay here." This is what salvation is all about. Submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ and everything will be all right.
Shimei, however, abused the grace shown to him by Solomon and violated his vow by leaving Jerusalem to search for his runaway slaves. After he found the slaves and came back, someone told Solomon and Shimei was brought before the king. I am sure Shimei, like us, was fully aware of his own sin and guilt and the certainty of a judgment day.
In 1 Kings 1:44-46 we read, "The king also said to Shimei, 'You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the Lord will repay you for your wrongdoing. But King Solomon will be blessed, and David's throne will remain secure before the Lord forever.' Then the king gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck Shimei down and killed him." Shimei's day of reckoning had come.
Our Day of Reckoning
There will be a day of reckoning for every one of us. Some of us may experience God's judgment here. This is sometimes done through troubles in our lives, although we may not recognize them as signs of judgment. Some people have one trouble after another. They have no idea what is going on and attribute their troubles to environmental factors or other reasons, although, in reality, God is dealing with them.
But there will also be a judgment at the end of history. The Bible speaks of the resurrection of the just and the unjust. All will be raised up and their spirits will be united with bodies given to them.
We would like to examine a few points about the judgment of God.
1. This judgment is necessary.
God alone is sovereign, God alone is God, and there is no other. Every sin is a violation of the rule of this Sovereign God; thus, God has to deal with it. That is why there is the necessity of judgment.
Isaiah 45:22-23 is a classic passage quoted in the New Testament that deals with the necessity of judgment: "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear." This has to do with final judgment that no one can escape, whether righteous or unrighteous.
2. This judgment is universal.
By this we mean there is no possibility for anyone-demons or humans-to escape from God's all-inclusive adjudication.
In Matthew 25:32 we read, "All the nations will be gathered before him. . . ." This means everyone, Jew, Gentile, must face judgment. In Romans 2:5-6 we read, "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will give to each person according to what he has done."
3. This judgment meets certain criteria.
What is the criteria for God's judgment? God's light. Those without the law will be judged by natural law and those who received the law of Moses will be judged by the law of Moses. But those who heard the gospel will be judged by natural law, the law of Moses, and the gospel. Their judgment will be more serious because they have greater revelation. The greater the revelation, the greater will be the punishment for disobedience.
4. This judgment has certain content.
What is the content for God's judgment? Very simply, it is everything we have done in our life. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we read, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."
In Matthew 12:36 Jesus Christ said every idle word we speak will be brought into judgment. Every word, every thought, and every deed will be judged. Oh, many people generally think that it is a joke and just rule it out of hand, saying we don't believe it. But that is what Jesus Christ said.
5. This judgment has a certain agent.
In Matthew 25:43 we read, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'" The risen Christ is the King, the agent of judgment.
6. This judgment has certain results.
The first consequence of this judgment is that rewards will be meted out on the basis of judgment. For the unbelieving and defiant, every deed, every word, and every thought will be judged, and we are told such people will be given everlasting punishment. We read about this in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. . . ." and in Matthew 25:46, "Then they will go away to eternal punishment. . . ." But those who trusted in Jesus Christ will be given everlasting life, as we read in Matthew 25:34, "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world,'" and in verse 46, "Then they will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life."
But the final result of this judgment to come is not eternal punishment or eternal life, but a larger purpose: The glory of God. Every sinner takes away from God's glory. But in Isaiah 48:11 God says, "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another," and in Isaiah 42:8 God says, "I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols." This will be the final vindication of God as the glorious One. As we read in Philippians 2:10-11, "Every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
As we said, every sin is a taking of the glory of God from him. It is necessary, therefore, for God to judge sin and vindicate his glory. He saves his people for his glory, and judges all sinners with eternal punishment for his glory. In other words, not only is heaven is for his glory, but so is hell. The cross was for his glory, for there God punished our sins upon his one and only Son so that all who trust in him shall be saved for his glory.
Submit or Perish!
What happens if we do not submit to the Lordship of Christ? We will perish. This one who is greater than Solomon is the Son of David and the Lord of David and he executes perfect justice in perfect wisdom.
We must understand and acknowledge one thing: Like Adonijah, Abiathar, Joab, and Shimei, we are the conspirators and rebels. We would love to wipe God out of existence. This is the very heart of sin. Sin is not some nice, little offense. The heart of sin is enmity against God.
If we are honest, we will identify ourselves with the people of Psalm 2, of whom it is written, "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.'" This is a description of us. By nature we are rebels who want to get out from under God's rule and reign, his word and law. But through the gospel God gives us salvation and calls us, saying, "Come and surrender." This is what God says to all the rebels of the world, just as Solomon told Shimei: "Come on over. Build a house in Jerusalem and stay. Submit to me."
We find such gracious words of God to rebels in Psalm 2:10-12. First, we read, "Therefore, you kings, be wise." What is wisdom? Fear of the Lord. What is wisdom? Submission to God. What is wisdom? Serving God. What is wisdom? Believing in Jesus Christ. So we read, "Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
God offers salvation to us on the basis of submission to him. This is still the day of grace when all guilty sinners can come in sincerity and faith and plead for pardon. If you do so, I assure you that he will surely pardon you for eternity, and the Bible says he will never remember your sins. He will justify you forever so that you will not dread the day of judgment that is coming. Then you can die in faith and peace. You will be able to say with the apostle, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Romans 5:1) and "Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
Who is going to be saved? He who confesses with his mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believes in his heart that God raised him from the dead he will be saved. God offers us salvation, not on our terms but on his. To the rebels of the world-the Adonijahs, Abiathars, Joabs, and Shimeis of the world-he offers salvation. The one who is greater than Solomon, the King of kings and the Lord of lords and the one who is in charge of all judgment offers us salvation, saying, "Come unto me; I will give you rest."
May God have mercy on us and save everyone who in sincerity surrenders to him, believes in him, and confesses Jesus Christ is Lord. May they live in Zion, in fellowship with the King in full surrender for all eternity. Amen.
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Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
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