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David, part 30

Adonijah's Rebellion.

1 Kings 1:5-31.

The near prospect of David's death gave rise to that serious calamity which is incident to kingdoms in certain conditions—a disputed succession. Absalom had attempted to dethrone his father during his lifetime, and Adonijah, anticipating the time of his father's death, now endeavours to secure the throne, which he knew was designed for Solomon. This act of Adonijali not only divides the house of David, but ranges the leading men of the kingdom into two parties hostile to each other, and leads to the death of some: of the most eminent and active of David's servants and supporters, and among them of the renowned general of his army, Joah the son of Zeruiah. These fatal and fearful results of their rising in favour of Adonijah are mentioned, not simply as the reward of their present crime, but as a retribution for deeds long past, but neither forgotten nor forgiven. This subject, almost too large in itself and too multifarious in its particulars to be taken in at one view, must yet, to prevent our exceeding reasonable limits, be compressed if possible into one chapter.

Regarding the kingdom of Israel, as representative of the kingdom of the Lord—of that kingdom especially as spoken of by the Lord Himself when He said, "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you "— we are led at once to place the present history before us as containing some spiritual instruction interesting and useful to us as beings whose chief business it is to live for eternity. Considered apart from revelation, the principles of a sound, though not necessarily of a profound philosophy, enable us to see that history is a projection of the state of human nature. In the conduct and economy of men in their collective capacity, we can read with some degree of certainty the state of the human heart, without presuming to decide on individual states and eternal consequences, which are known to God only. There are, no doubt, important differences between profane and sacred history. Sacred history equally with secular exhibits the state of human nature; and displays, often in painful and humiliating lessons, the corruptions of the human heart. But it shows us these in a way which not only fits us to judge of the general state of the human mind, but which directs us to look, and enables us to see, into our own hearts individually, and to learn how they may be changed from their natural and worldly to a spiritual and heavenly state. The natural events which are recorded actually correspond to spiritual events in the history of our own inward spiritual experience. And yet those outward events themselves were not determined by any arbitrary decree or compulsory control. They were in harmony with the invariable laws and operations of Divine Providence, which leave the freedom of the human will untouched. Yet volition and action are acted upon providentially in a thousand ways, which leads men themselves freely to choose what they resolve and do. The inspired record also is so framed, and the incidents are so selected, as to form the receptacle of spiritual truth, which may be derived from it by the law of analogy or correspondence.

In treating of David and Abishag the Shunammite, we endeavoured to trace the analogy principally in relation to the Lord and His Church, whom David and Abishag represented. The present subject equally relates to the Lord and to His Church or kingdom. As in the case of Absalom's rebellion, which has already been considered, so in the case of Adonijah's revolt, we see the nature of the temptations which the Lord suffered in working out the redemption of His creatures. These temptations arose immediately out of the frailty of the humanity which He took upon Him, and which He took for the very purpose of being tempted, that He might overcome the tempter—the tempter being Satan and the devil, or the whole powers of darkness. But the ultimate end of our Lord in suffering and overcoming was to succour those who suffer, that they also may overcome. To us, therefore, and to all who enter on the life of heaven do these historical circumstances refer; for the servant is not greater than his lord, neither is he that is sent greater than him that sent him. "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, much more shall they call them of his household."

Our Lord, in speaking of the necessary effects of the principles of the Gospel, declared that He came not to send peace on earth, but a sword; for He had come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law; and that a man's foes should be they of his own household. When the Lord told His disciples and the people that He came to sow division and to make a man's household his foes, He pointed out the spiritual results of the reception of the principles of Christianity in creating division in the mind between the old man with his carnal lusts and the new man with his spiritual affections. When the Lord said that He came not to send peace on earth He alluded to the effect which would be produced in the natural mind, which is meant by the earth, in stirring up that conflict between good and evil, truth and error, by which evil and error are cast out, and good and truth are confirmed; and the Lord's kingdom comes, and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

The type or example of this condition of the Christian mind which is presented in the present conduct of Adonijah is to be considered as part of the realization of the judgement pronounced on David for his sin in the matter of Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, that the sword should never depart from his house, and that out of his own house the Lord would raise up enmity against him. These foes of his own household are the principles of the natural mind that are indisposed to submit to the rule of those of the spiritual, and are ever ready to usurp the authority which Divine truth and Divine order award to the higher and purer principles that belong to the new kingdom which the Lord establishes in the souls of the faithful. Adonijah, who attempted to usurp the power which he knew was intended for Solomon, must be considered as representing a principle in the mind which is the opposite of that which Solomon himself represented. As however Adonijah and Absalom are mentioned in connection in the sacred history, and as their crimes were of a somewhat similar character, the one having rebelled against his father and the other against his brother, though Solomon was not yet king, the nature of the evil which the attempt of the second son of David represented may be more clearly seen by comparing it with that which was made by the first.

In the beginning of this chapter, in describing Adonijah and his attempt to seize the throne, it is said at the 6th verse that "he was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom." Of the six sons born to David in Hebron, "the third was Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith." From these particulars and from their general history we learn, that they were both born while David remained in Hebron; that they were both beautiful in person; that they were born in nearest succession; that they were both fondly loved by their father; and that they both rose up against him, the one against his person, the other against his sovereign will. The sons born to David in Hebron represented the principles that are produced while the regenerating man is in an external state, and which have their residence in the external or natural mind. And as Solomon was born to David after his removal to Jerusalem, he represented a principle produced in the mind when the regenerating man has advanced to an internal state, and having its residence in the internal man. These sons born in Hebron being six in number, represent also, like the six days of labour that precede the seventh of rest, states of temptation and conflict, while Solomon, the seventh son, represents that state of rest and peace which exists when the warfare of the spiritual life is accomplished. Now as the natural mind is opposed to the spiritual mind, and is not only impatient of its rule but is desirous to rule over it, this is the general ground and reason of the attempted usurpation both of Absalom and Adonijah. The rebellions of Absalom and Adonijah, while they have the same general representative character—both representing the rebellion of the external man against the government and dominion of the internal—yet have that difference which is always involved in two acts that have the same general character. One represents opposition to the government of truth, the other opposition to the government of goodness. This is further indicated by the representative character of the distinct government of those against whom Absalom and Adonijah rebelled. The kingdom under David represented the government of truth in the mind, and the kingdom under Solomon represented the government of good in the mind. The rebellion of Absalom represented, therefore, opposition and hostility to the government of Divine truth, and that of Adonijah represented opposition and hostility to the government of Divine goodness.

In the economy of salvation and in the order of the Divine government this principle is ever operating either potentially or actually, that the first shall be last and the last first. The principles that are first acquired, and which have at first the ascendancy, are designed and destined, if regeneration proceeds, to become the last, and yield to the ascendancy of principles acquired in a more perfect state of the religious life. This inversion of state is not effected without internal conflict; and often does it require a long and painful struggle in the mind, and with ourselves, before it is accomplished. How long and tenaciously do we often cling to early impressions and opinions, prejudices and habits, even after we have formed inward principles that are subversive of them. In every state, too, when a change is to take place in our habits and pursuits and our very enjoyments, there is always time spent and difficulty experienced in obtaining emancipation from the dominion of the one, and bringing ourselves quietly and happily to submit to the government of the other. We have an early example in the weaned child, so expressively used in Scripture to describe the experience of the child of God becoming weaned from self and the world. How passionately does young and tender nature rebel against the power that remove it from under the dominion of one set of tastes and habits and enjoyments to another. Another trial and sometimes another conflict awaits the young denizen of this changing but progressive life in the transition from amusement to study, from the dominion of the parent to that of the teacher. In every transition period and state of life it is the same. There are always difficulties and repugnances to be overcome—always a tendency to carry the old feelings and habits into the new sphere of action, and not infrequently a conflict ensues between the old and the new. The difference of the two is sometimes so great that the result is opposite in different persons. Some, for example, who enter on the business of life, seem to find it so difficult to change the habit and the mode to which they have been accustomed, that they fail of success for want of application, while others, who overcome them and enter with delight and industry into their new duties, go forward with satisfaction and profit. If this is the case in natural life, much more must it be the case in spiritual life. These changes are of such a nature that they bring into conflict principles and feelings and thoughts and habits that are as opposite to each other as time and eternity, the world and heaven, the flesh and the spirit. These in fallen man are opposite and conflicting; and the lower are desirous to have dominion over the higher. Their influence over us is naturally great. The world seems to us to be beautiful, and everything connected with its enjoyments and its prospects seems fair, before any spiritual affections have been awakened in the mind. This is the case not only generally, but particularly. In every particular state on which we enter in passing through the regenerate life, there are opposite affections and thoughts brought into action that have never been active in relation to each other before. There are natural tendencies that come into actual development that have never before been subjected to the scrutiny, and have never been opposed by the principles, of the spiritual mind. Adonijah had never been displeased by his father at any time, by his saying to him, Why have you done so? Naturally, this does not bespeak wisdom, though it indicates tenderness, or rather fondness, in the father, and may help to account for the son's want of respect for his father's will. Spiritually it signifies that, during the previous states of regeneration, the principle represented by Adonijah had never come under the scrutiny of the internal man, as a principle having in it anything in opposition to himself. And now it comes into manifestation, and shows itself in acts of open hostility. It draws also into connection with itself principles which had previously been active on the side of order. Joab went after Adonijah, though he had not gone after Absalom. Absalom's rebellion was opposition offered to the rule of truth; Adonijah's was opposition offered to the rule of good. That which submits to the rule of one may not submit to that of the other. And whenever the rule of love, which is the rule of goodness, is in its commencement, there must be resistance from affections and thoughts, and therefore also from lower and apparent goods and truths, which, though suited to the wants and conditions of a spiritual, are not suited to those of a celestial state.

We may learn, then, from the history of Adonijah that in the regeneration there are changes of state which act upon the inmost principles of our spiritual life; but are so overruled by a wise and merciful God as to bring everlasting benefit to those who love and serve Him.