It is the purpose of God in the gospel to destroy sinful pride within us and bring us to the place of humble submission before Him.
This is illustrated in the Scriptures in the account we are told of Adonijah. Adonijah was one of the sons of David. He was the son who tried to be king instead of Solomon. Not Absalom but Adonijah. Adonijah tried to become king when David was an old man, just before the moment that Solomon would have taken over.
It was at that time, we read in I Kings 1, that Adonijah gathered around him some of the most trusted and long-time friends of David. With their help he tried to snatch the crown from Solomon and become king himself.
I would like to talk today about that history, revealed to us in I Kings 1, under the title: Adonijah: Self-exaltation Brought Low.
The key for explaining his action of trying to become king instead of Solomon, and the key for explaining the action which almost brought about anarchy in the kingdom of God and threatened civil war, was: pride.
We read in verse 5 of I Kings 1, “Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king.” We would ask now, what drove him to do this? Perhaps we could point to some of his upbringing. For we read of his childhood that his father, that is, David, had not displeased him at any time in saying, “Why hast thou done so?” David never wanted to bring discomfort to this son. David could not stand it if Adonijah was not happy, and he could not say “No” to Adonijah.
Shall we, perhaps, psychoanalyze then and say, “Well, this son, because he was never told ‘No,’ doesn’t know any better and thinks that simply because he wants something he should have it”? Should we explain it that way? No doubt that was a factor. Yet the Word of God is very plain. Adonijah did this because he exalted himself. That is, the sin was his own pride, arrogance, and self-conceit, which led to rebellion. The irony is that “Adonijah” means: “Jehovah is my master, or Lord.” In naming his son, David expressed what is the prayer of every covenant parent. May my child acknowledge Thee as his master. Then all is well. But Adonijah’s name did not correspond to what he was. Adonijah’s name was a tag, not a revelation of himself.
Adonijah felt that he had a right to be king, that he ought to be king, that he was the obvious choice to become king. And Solomon, the one whom David had promised to Bathsheba that he would be king, was, after all, born from a woman taken in fornication. Adonijah, being most likely the oldest living son, had a more legitimate claim to the throne than did Solomon. He felt he was the best man in every respect to fill the office of the king. Evidently, so did Joab, the old warrior who had stood by David throughout his life. So, what did it matter what David his father thought? David was old and senile. Adonijah wanted the crown. It belonged on his head, he thought. And the power and grandeur of it was on his heart.
So we read that he prepared himself chariots and horsemen and fifty men to run before him. Adonijah wanted to be supreme, to have people doing obeisance to him, and to hear the shouts: “God save the king.” He exalted himself.
May it not be easier for us to see that in Adonijah than to see that in ourselves? Why do men and women think it clever to dismiss religion in the place of worship, to turn their back on religion, to say that religion is for the old and for the imbalanced, and that they really are superior and do not need it? Why do men persist in ridiculing God’s truth? We have but to listen to what men say and to our own thoughts by nature and we have the answer: the same thing rules as ruled in Adonijah. That same old thing is pride and rebellion. The tendency to raise the question, has God said? Why has He said? Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?
Adonijah felt he was being kept down, kept back, that he lacked freedom to decide for himself. So men and women believe that the gospel of God binds and fetters them and stands in the way of their own desires. The Bible, the teaching of the church, the lives of the saints stand between them and the things that appeal to their natural hearts. God, by His grace, must identify this in us. The real source of our problem with the Christian life, with the absolutes of the revealed truth of God, is not on the surface. It is not simply that we say, “Well, I don’t really see that. I don’t know why that’s so important that the Bible teaches that.” That is not the real problem. The real problem is this hatred that our nature has for God and His ways because they stand in the way of our pet theories and ideas. We crave freedom of expression. We crave the right to live our lives and to think the thoughts that we want to think. We want life in our own way. Why should we be hemmed in, we say. Let God say all that He wants. Let the Word of God veto and prohibit this and that. Let the church, let father and mother and whoever else say what they want. I am determined to do what I like and think what I want. That was Adonijah. And that pride and rebellion were at the bottom of his attempt to become king.
One never lacks encouragement when he proceeds upon a way of pride and rebellion. We read in I Kings 1:7, “And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him.” Both Joab and Abiathar went back a long way with David, back to days when David had fled and hid from Saul. Joab had been David’s general, a mighty man of war, one of the greatest soldiers of his day. He had been faithful to David throughout his service. Abiathar was one the two chief priests who had come to David when he was down and out, after Saul killed Abiathar’s father’s house. If Adonijah did not have the encouragement of these two men, he probably would have proceeded no further with his attempt to become king. But with these two in his corner, he believed there was nothing that could stop him. He wanted the throne. So he went to find influential people who agreed with him.
You see, a sinner needs support. No man sins alone. Sin has no courage to stand alone. Right has the courage to stand alone. But man does not want to be isolated in his rebellion against God. He can always quote impressive names in support of his actions and ideas. Brilliant thinkers agree with him. Successful people share the same opinion. Why, even Joab – you can not question his mettle. And Abiathar! A priest, a churchman, nothing less.
So people want to deny some aspect of God’s truth. They find justification for their denial and for their sinful course of action in setting aside the Word of God, by finding someone in high position who will agree with them. Perhaps they find a sermon or an opinion or something else which agrees with their own proud course of action. Decide to turn your back on God and live according to your own ideas? The world will help you! Its Joabs and Abiathars will be on your side. You will be popular. They will speak well of you. Be guided by a conscience which is captive to the Word of God and you will be made to feel in a minority. But set the Word of God aside for your own opinions and you will not find anyone in the world to criticize you. The world encourages all men and women to go wrong. The world of sin is organized. The world of sin is not the chaotic mess you might imagine it to be. It comes in different flavors, but its thought is one. And its thought is this: the world will encourage you to shake off the nonsense of the infallible Scripture and of a sovereign God. At least that is what they call it. They call it enlightenment. In their editorials and their newspaper reporting and their books they will do all to encourage you to defy God and to proceed on your own chosen way.
That is why Paul could say in I Corinthians 4, “I am made a spectacle to the world; we are fools for Christ’s sake, we are defamed, we are made the filth of the world and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”
Apparently Adonijah was successful. Or at least for a while he thought he was succeeding. We read, “And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by Enrogel, and called all his brethren the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah the king’s servants.” Flushed with his success and buoyed by his support, he proceeds to give a great dinner. He sets the scene to make the announcement, to be carried on shoulders, to be made king. All was well. The thing was obviously right and it was going easier than he had imagined. He had been a fool, he thought, to wait so long. His brothers came. There was more support. There was a feeling in the air – electricity. It was simply wonderful, he thought.
There is no greater fallacy than to imagine that the moment a man sins he will immediately have his punishment. Sin can appear to be successful. And many a person has spoken to himself as did Adonijah. At first, he thought he had better be hesitant. He heard voices in his mind saying, “There may be consequences of turning from God and doing my own thing.” He toyed with the idea, “What would actually happen if I do this?” At last he did it and, lo and behold, instead of instant calamity, nothing happened. In fact, it seemed to be going remarkably and amazingly well. How foolish he had been, he thought, for being hesitant, by fearing retribution from God.
And so it can be. You do not go to church on a Sunday? You do not pass by the party? You become drunk? Nothing happens. No bolt of lightning. Can sin be enjoyed? Apparently sin says to you, “Yes, I can be enjoyed.” Apparently.
For we read, “And Adonijah and all the guests that were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, Wherefore is this noise of the city being in an uproar?” Suddenly Adonijah, in the midst of his feast, did not hear the shouts: “Long live king Adonijah,” but he began to hear from the streets the shouts: “God save king Solomon.”
For his plot had been told to David. And David, acting instantly, goes about to crown Solomon to be king. Can sin be enjoyed?
Scripture emphasizes now to us the timing. Adonijah was enjoying himself. The food was perfect, the company was stimulating, the speakers had outdone themselves, the music was great, the crowd was saying, “Long live Adonijah.” Undoubtedly he was the best man to be found. The glories of David will soon be forgotten before those of Adonijah. Long live the king! He had never been so happy. He was surrounded by friends who all said that they supported him and would risk everything for him. They would go to the wall for him.
Then there was another sound. What was it? At first, they said, “Oh, it is nothing.” But there it was again. The city was in an uproar. And he hears the news that Solomon has been anointed by David. And David has decreed that Solomon shall be king.
So a man may say, “I will defy God and nothing happens.” Perhaps a man will say, “Soul, take thine ease. All is well.” Then suddenly comes the Word: “Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee.” For the last word will always be God’s Word. That things go on very well and you are able, perhaps, to carry on in the way of sin does not mean that all is well for you. A person may feel that all is perfect. They may say, “I’ve never been so happy. All that stuff I was told about sin and truth and serving God – there’s nothing to it, evidently. Oh, occasionally there’s a little pinge, a little pain of conscience. But apparently I can go on my own way and nothing will come of it. It’s my choice. Life is there for me to live my own way.”
Do you think that you shall escape from God? God is advancing. God calls to judgment. God does come. And all the world and all who live in pride and all who rebel against Him shall be caught up and taken before Him. Do not be deceived. Be warned. Do not sleep on a pillow of sin and sinful pleasures believing that in the morning you can awake and go on your way. Life is not doing your own thing. Life is not self-determination. Life is not “You pick the standard.” But life is God. Life is found in one place: bent on your knees in awe before the living God of the Scriptures.
So Adonijah was brought low. We read, “And all the guests that were with Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way.” The very people who had encouraged him to go forward and praised him and promised him so much, at the moment of crisis got up and walked out and left him.
So the modern ideas which come and portray themselves as so superior to the old fashioned beliefs of holy Scripture. They may inflate an ego at a dinner party. They may cause the head of a young man to swoon, who is waiting to break out of the accepted norms. But they are utterly useless in a crisis. Those modern ideas are utterly useless in a cancer ward, when we are desperate. When there are hours or only minutes separating us from death, then all those great ideas flee away.
Adonijah reached the moment of truth. And all that he had looked to for support vanished like a dream. Do you think a person can be comforted on a deathbed by anything other than God? What does a party have to offer for your soul? What has rock music or dancing or movies or gambling or business or success with the elite crowd? Where are they when you are desperate? Like the friends of Adonijah, they forsake you. They are fair-weather friends. They are traitors. Look where Adonijah’s arrogance and pride brought him. He is brought to terror and to alarm.
God must reveal that this pride and this arrogance belongs to us. Our rebellion, our disobedience, our pride – we must own them, that is, confess them by His grace. We rejoice in the gospel that God has given His Son to remove this sin, that God has given His Son, Christ, to the cruel and shameful death of Calvary’s cross, where all of our sins were forgiven in the blood of the Lamb. Now that grace of God brings us to repent of our pride, to bend humbly and to ask for forgiveness and to worship and to become submissive and obedient to the great God of heaven.
That is freedom. That is life. Life is not when you are ruled by yourself. Life is to be ruled by the glorious and only true God Jehovah, the God of the Bible. He is the one who says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” By grace, repent. Cast yourself at His feet. Acknowledge your sin. Bow before Him. And hear Him say the most blessed of all words: “Come, ye blessed of My Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
God bless His Word to our hearts.
Let us pray.
Father, we confess that we are proud and arrogant by nature and that we lift up ourselves against Thee, the only good. Forgive and humble us before Thee. In Jesus’ name, Amen.