Farewell 

MTS-3430

Farewell

“I am about to go the way of all the
earth…”

             1 Kings 2:2

 

The end of our life is always right before our eyes even during the time when we aren’t thinking
about it. Even though there is plenty of joy and laughter on the way, deep inside
we are all well aware that we are journeying toward a definite destination, and
all things earthly will come to an abrupt end when we get there.

Like all people, King David might have been leading his life as if the end would never
come. Indeed he had many enemies to overcome and a large territory to occupy
and he simply could not afford to dwell on what was going to take place in the distant
future. He had to live in the present by necessity.

The future can always wait, for we have so much to accomplish at the present time. O, we
just have so much fun traveling, and are frightened to think that we may get to
our destination too soon. O how we desire to freeze the moment when our life
seems to be so perfect that we long to remain where we are.

Ah, how the king longed for the time when he was a little shepherd who didn’t have a care
in this world except to keep a few sheep protected and fed. How he missed the
days when his love for the Lord was as fresh as a spring morning on the prairie
and every word he composed shone like sparkling morning dew. Had the king any
choice at all, he probably would have chosen to be a shepherd forever.

Then one day, while he was lying on the green grass by a quiet river, meditating and
daydreaming, he was awakened by a loud shout: “Prophet Samuel wants to see you.
Go home straightway!”

Young David wasn’t seeking anything in particular at the time. In fact, he was just too
young to have any great dreams and aspirations for his life. Life as a shepherd
was ideal and he couldn’t have imagined anything better beyond the horizon.

What was the aging king thinking and dreaming about when he was lying in his bed deep at
night, with a virgin girl cuddled next to him, drifting from one dream after
another? His heroic exploits and all the blood he had shed must have caused him
to have nightmares that vexed his heart and stung his soul. O how he wished he
hadn’t slaughtered so many people, even though many of them might have deserved
to die. He longed for peace, yet was thrown into many wars; he yearned for
tranquility, yet his life was engulfed by turmoil. The painful moaning and
groaning of his dying enemies might have often robbed the king of his sleep and
his aching heart was consoled only during the moments when he was meditating on
the days of his youth, when his love and devotion for the Lord was pure and
remained undisturbed by the affairs of this world. 

Ah, the world seemed to be drifting farther and farther away from the king and he was about
to launch his last journey into eternity alone. Such is the journey all of us
must take after we get to our final destination on earth, and no one will
accompany us on the way into eternity except our heavenly Shepherd, providing
we are his sheep.   

Thursday, January 31, 2013 6:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Last Charge 

MTS-3429

The Last Charge

“When the time drew near for David to
die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.”            1 Kings 2:1

 

The world seemed to become more and more distant as David’s mind was turning foggier and
foggier. He felt like a ship sailing out of the harbor for the last time. Before
him was a vast ocean of eternity and behind him only a continent shrouded in
darkness with a few dim lights shimmering. There were thousands of times when
David pondered about what it would be like to depart from this world, yet he
still felt quite ill-prepared as the time was quickly approaching. There was a
sense of urgency in his heart which prompted him to do what he deemed the most
crucial while his mind was still lucid: he needed to give his son Solomon an important
charge for the last time.

“People’s words are good when they are about to die (人之將死其言也善.)” What does this Chinese saying
mean? I have often wondered. Does death have any sort of cleansing power that
washes away the stain in our hearts, therefore whatever we utter is done with
good intention? This is hardly the case in some people whose hearts seem to
fill with bitterness before they bid farewell to the world, so they don’t
really have anything good to say. One thing that is for sure, though: whatever
we speak with our dying breath has to be something we deem the most important.

So the dying king who just gave up his throne summoned his son to his chamber and gave him his
last words.

David had no idea when the fateful moment would occur, but he knew his mind was fading as he
drifted in and out of consciousness. On his good days he thought he might have
more days left in him and he could put the last charge off, but he wondered
whether he had any energy left to speak or not on his bad days. He simply could
not wait any longer.

How does it feel to tie a knot to the long string of one’s earthly days? Do we need to
summon all the energy we have left to put a resounding period to the
illustrated book we have been composing. O the story is so good and so exhilarating
that we long to keep on telling it!

There were no more stories for David to narrate. The poet had written his last line and sung
his final psalm and the screen turns dark when “the end” appears. The actor had
to bid his last adieu.

The same destiny has happened to peasants and kings in days past, and it will continue
to occur to all of us today and in the days to come. What David had to say was
significant only if it pertained to eternity and his charge to his son would
remain eternally valid only if it was related to his relationship to God. The
legacy we leave behind will quickly vanish unless it’s the heritage of our
intimate walk with the Lord.   

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 6:12:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ambition 

MTS-3428

Ambition

“But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went
and took hold of the horns of the altar.”           1 Kings 1:50

 

It was just moments before that Adonijah was surrounded by his admirers and supporters and
the crown seemed to be within his grasp, yet all of a sudden the tide turned
and the man who aspired to be king had to run for his life. His scheme failed
miserably and all his followers dispersed. Adonijah found himself standing
alone, taking hold of the horns of the altar, hoping that his life would be
spared.

Like the rest of the king’s many sons, Adonijah could have kept a low profile during the time
of power transition and he would have been fine. The throne was enticing and
appealing, but it could only be achieved at a lofty price. No one can achieve
the ultimate without vaunting ambition, but the force that drives one to
succeed may also get him killed.

The head that seeks a crown may have it chopped off in the process. Adonijah had no one to
turn to when things went badly except one last resort. Like all desperate
people, he ran to the horns of the altar.

One’s life is in great peril once a king perceives him as a threat to his crown. Adonijah’s
life might have been spared for the time being, but it was only a matter of
time before Solomon had him removed. The new king had already made up his mind
as soon as he assumed the kingship that his elder brother should be executed,
and all he needed was an appropriate time and a proper excuse.   

Adonijah’s aspiration and ambition to become great in men’s eyes was what caused his
ultimate ruin. Most of us are tempted by recognition, respect, and renown among
men and, unless we consciously fight against such an urge, we may ultimately
succumb to its deadly force and become hapless victims of our own unbridled
ambition.  

We should all aspire to become great in God’s eyes.

King David never sought the throne and he continued to be humble and meek even after the crown
fell upon his head. The kingship might have corrupted him in the process, but David
seemed to have remained a shepherd lad who loved and adored the Lord. David
would have been equally great in God’s eyes had he remained a shepherd his
entire life. What made the man great before God weren’t his exploits in battle;
it was his profound love for the Lord, and ultimately, David’s life was defined
by who he was, not by what he had done.  

“What have I done for God’s kingdom thus far?” I can’t help asking. I have preached a couple
of thousand times and probably baptized close to two hundred people over the
years in this small church, but all these are all for naught unless I have done
all out of my love for the Lord. What we do amounts to nothing in the grand scheme
of things, but who we are counts for everything.   

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 6:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Celebration 

MTS-3427

Celebration

“And all the people went up after him,
playing pipes and rejoicing greatly, so that the ground shook with the
sound.”            1 Kings 1:40

 

Whether Adonijah or Solomon became king probably would not make a whole lot of
difference to their lives; the Israelites were just looking for an occasion to
celebrate. Life was hard and boring and they were hungry for some sort of
diversion to divert their attention from the hardships of life.

They all put down what they were doing at the time and rushed to the streets to celebrate,
even though some might not have had the slightest idea what was going on.
Something worth celebrating must be happening, they thought.

Was it worth celebrating? David had been king for a while now and people had long gotten
used to the man and his leadership style. They had indeed come to love the man,
but their affection might have been wearing off by no fault of their own.
Familiarity does breed contempt and David had been with them for so long. They
wanted someone new and charismatic to be their leader.

So they went up after Solomon, “playing pipes and rejoicing greatly.”

David’s heroic exploits were a distant memory to most of them and many of them hadn’t
even been born when the old king was in his prime. Indeed they had heard about
Goliath the Philistine and how their legendary king took him out in one fell swoop,
yet the story was waxing old since it had been repeated so often and for so
long. The people desired to see something exciting, something to make their
hearts race and blood pump and young Solomon appeared to be such a man to
perform great deeds.

Had they any idea that the new king would soon start a building project that would demand
both time and money from them? Had they even entertained the thought that the
king might start a war or two that would require their blood? Had they ever
thought the young king might come to their village and town to take the most
desirable women from them? These things were farthest from their minds as they
were crying out “long live the king,” playing pipes and marching down the
street.

The best kind of king or queen may be the ones who are void of great ambition, the ones who
leave the populace alone, who are more an empty appearance and a glorious symbol
of bygone days than anything else, just like the elderly Queen Elizabeth of
Great Britain whose job consists of showing up on great occasions to greet
dignitaries from other counties and waving her hand from a platform to the
crowd.

Surely King Solomon wasn’t going to be such a king, for he was too clever and far too
ambitious to remain passive and inactive. Building a temple for the Lord was
indeed praiseworthy, but the project was lengthy and costly, demanding from the
masses their sweat and blood. This was something the Israelites might have been
willing to do, but erecting a glamorous palace for the king and his harem was
an entirely different thing.

Was the occasion really worth celebrating for the Israelites? They might have paused a
little had they known better.    

 

     

  

Monday, January 28, 2013 6:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Throne 

MTS-3426

The Throne

“I have appointed him ruler over Israel
and Judah.”

       
1 Kings 1:35

 

David had to struggle long and hard before he dethroned the previous king of Israel. It was
difficult for him to finally get to sit in the throne, and it was equally
difficult, if not more so, for him to remove himself from the throne. Power is
addictive, and absolutely power is absolutely addictive. It was no exception
for the man after God own heart to a certain extent.

Many vultures started to circle around above the throne as soon as they sensed the stench of
death. Indeed the king was aging and his earthly days were decreasing rapidly.
Many who aspired to be king were eagerly waiting for the moment to arrive and
they would swiftly pounce when the opportunity arose.

No one had to remind the aging king about the tyranny of time and the inevitable. How could
he be blinded to the gray hair, the loss of eyesight and hearing, the
increasing difficulty of staying asleep at night and keeping himself warm, and
the pain all over his weakening body? Yes, David was aware of it all and was
getting ready to give up all he had accumulated over the years - the fame and
fortune and, ah, the crown.

He could give the crown up on his own or it could be taken away from him by force, and both
were extremely difficult to do. Of course I am looking at this purely from a
human point of view.

David was a godly man and he knew full well that it was the Lord who crowned him king over
Israel years ago and he must have considered it a tremendous privilege to serve
the Almighty in that particular capacity. Had he ever abused his power? Being
human, evidently he had done so many times, but all in all his heart was in the
right place, for he always put the Lord before him. The fear of the Lord must
have kept him from abusing his power numerous times during his lengthy reign
and such holy reverence also caused him to give up his power when the time
finally came.

“I have appointed him ruler over Israel and Judah.” David ordered Nathan the prophet
and Zadok the priest to anoint Solomon king and to sit him on his throne.

Surely David was given a rare opportunity to do great things for Israel as a ruler and he
did all he could to honor God’s calling. He might have stumbled a few times
along the way and suffered the consequences of his failures, yet he nonetheless
finished the course and handed the baton to the next generation. Had he any
regrets at the end? A few perhaps, but he knew he had done his best.

We are called to fulfill a certain purpose in life, whether we are a monarch or a mason,
which matters very little in God’s eyes, I believe. We do what we are charged
to do faithfully while we are still able and give it up when the time
comes. 

  

   

 

   

Friday, January 25, 2013 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Prophet 

MTS-3425

The Prophet

“While she was still speaking with the
king, Nathan the prophet arrived.”

              1 Kings 1:22

 

Why was it necessary for Nathan the prophet to get involved in the fight over the throne
among David’s children? Being the servant of God, the prophet could have stayed
away from the mess and waited until the dust settled to determine what action
he should take. By throwing his hat into the ring, he appeared to take a public
stance in the struggle and, had Solomon failed to win the crown, Nathan’s life
would have been in great peril.

Being a faithful servant of the Lord, Nathan’s true allegiance was to God, not to men.
He took Solomon’s cause not because he deemed Bathsheba’s son was a better
person for the position or because of his personal affection for the young
prince. He believed it was God’s will that Solomon should succeed David as the
king over Israel.

It wasn’t for his own sake that Nathan took such drastic action. The Lord only gave him one
option at the time, and he decided to obey, despite the serious consequences it
might incur.

Surely it was extremely dangerous for him to go to David and to expose his sin of all sins
concerning Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. Had Nathan considered the possible
results of his bold action? Surely he had. The king could have become furious over
the confrontation and done away with the prophet once and for all. It could
easily have happened, but this dread and threat did not keep the prophet from
doing and saying the right thing. God the Almighty alone was the One he was serving
and, because of his reverent fear of God, the prophet feared no man.

“As he that fears God fears nothing else, so, he that sees God sees everything else,” wrote
John Donne in his meditation.

Has fear of men ever kept us from doing or saying the right thing? Have we all been taught
by our parents to protect ourselves by always taking an easy way out in any sort
of controversy (明哲保身?)
Indeed, what Nathan did at the time probably wasn’t the wisest thing, since
Adonijah seemed to be gathering momentum and it appeared that he would be
taking over the throne in a matter of days.

Justice will not prevail if we all have this kind of mentality. Our self-protective
mechanism may kick in when we are convicted to do or to say the right thing in
any conflict, but we should never let it deter us from doing what we are called
to do as Christians. Silence is not always golden when God’s righteousness is
at stake.

Adonijah could easily have become king over Israel had Nathan done nothing. Of course, God’s
will always prevail under any kind of adverse circumstance, but Nathan himself
would have suffered loss had he not heeded God’s calling to do the right thing.

      

       

Thursday, January 24, 2013 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Bathsheba 

MTS-3424

Bathsheba

“So Bathsheba went to see the aged king
in his room, where Abishag the Shunammite was attending him.”          1 Kings 1:15

 

The one who had caused David to commit two of his greatest sins was now an elderly woman as
well. She wasn’t as desirable as she used to be, and David’s heart no longer
burned with passion at the sight of the woman. The King might still have had feelings
for Bathsheba, but the passion that caused him to do reckless things was long
gone. David had become an old man and a much younger girl was attending him.

By this time Bathsheba might have served as a reminder of David’s sin more than anything
else, and he could sense a strong wave of regret and remorse rising from his
heart whenever Bathsheba appeared before him. O how he wished he could undo
what has been done to the woman and her husband.

Indeed the passion he had for the beautiful woman didn’t outlast his regret for the sin he
had committed, and while the infatuation might have died, but the woman was
still there, demanding his every attention, and he had no choice but to take
sides in this deadly power struggle for the throne. Had he made a vow to
Bathsheba, promising her son would succeed him as king? It might have occurred,
but his fading memory failed to illuminate the situation. One thing he knew for
sure, however, that it was the Lord’s will that Solomon should take over the
nation when he was no more. Therefore he took Bathsheba’s side, not so much for
his love for the woman, but for his reverence for the Lord. Yes, Solomon was
the one to sit in the throne after him.

Abishag was every bit as beautiful and desirable as the young Bathsheba, but the elderly
king’s passion for women was dwindling and he had neither the emotional nor
physical strength to get entangled with a young woman, however desirable she
might be.

Was there envy in Bathsheba’s heart when she saw Abishag serving and sleeping with the
king? Not so much, I suppose. Had she had any romantic love for the king, it
must have been erased by the passage of time. Besides, the things that had happened
to her were not entirely out of her volition. All she could do at the time was to
just try to survive in the midst of a scandal. Whether she had any feelings for
the king or not wasn’t an issue at all; she merely did what she was told or
forced to do. As far as her romantic feelings toward any man were concerned,
Uriah might have been the one she truly adored.

It obviously wasn’t the time for Bathsheba to contemplate those things; her main concern was
her life and her son’s future. Her love for the elderly king might have been in
question, but her affection for their son was beyond examination. It was a life
and death issue she was dealing with at the moment and one misstep could have
gotten both of them killed. The woman was again being placed in an unenviable
situation.              

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:23:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Power Struggle 

MTS-3423

Power Struggle

“Now then, let me advise you how you can
save your own life and the life of your son Solomon.”          1 Kings 1:12

 

Bathsheba understood exactly the grave situation she and her son were in when she was
told what Adonijah was doing at the time. There was no possible way that they
could survive Adonijah’s kingship and she agreed with Nathan the prophet that
something must be done and done quickly. It would have been too late had she
waited until Adonijah gathered enough support from the Israelites. The entire
situation would have snowballed on her had it occurred, and both she and the
aged king would have been swallowed up by the swirl of a power struggle. By
this time, Adnoijah appeared to have the support of both wings of military and
spiritual might within the power structure, and all he needed was the support
of the populace, which was something he was working on at the time. For David
to stem the tide of this rebellious movement, he must act right away.

Bathsheba heeded Nathan’s advice and went to the aged king immediately, for she knew both
her life and the life of her son was indeed at stake.

Adnoijah knew full well that Bathsheba and Solomon had had the kings’ ear for quite some time
now and that the mother and son must have been making necessary preparation to seize
the throne as soon as David breathed his last. The son of Haggith knew who the
king’s favorite among his many sons was, and surely he wasn’t the one. David
seemed to have poured all his attention and affection upon Solomon after
Absalom died, and it was clear to all who the king had in mind to succeed him.
Solomon’s head would have been the first head to roll, had Adonijah succeeded
in his scheme.

Of all people in human history, kings and princes from east and west may have had the
shortest lifespans, and a great number of them didn’t die from natural causes.
Absolute power is indeed quite enticing, but it can easily get one killed violently
and prematurely. In order for him to assume the kingship, Tang Taizhong, the
most prominent emperor in the Tang dynasty, found it necessary to slaughter his
two brothers and their ten sons in one campaign, and therefore secure his
kingship. The tragic event was the end result of years of an ongoing feud among
the brothers, and Tang Taizhong would have been killed by his brothers had he
not taken the action first.  

The Lord will eventually prevail, no matter how people strive and scheme in the process. Was Solomon a
better person than all his brothers? Not necessarily so. But indeed he had some
attributes that made him more qualified to assume the kingship than his
brothers, and that was what came about at the end. King Solomon had a promising
beginning as a king and ruled successfully during the golden age of the history
of Israel. Things in the nation started spinning out of control after his
death, which goes to show that human depravity, combined with absolute
authority invested in one person, is by no means the best recipe for governing
a nation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Conspiracy 

MTS-3422

Conspiracy

“Adonijah conferred with Joab son of
Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support.”             1 Kings 1:7

 

The scheme was simple enough. Adonijah started to act like a king, with people and
chariots running ahead of him, and began to make public appearances. As people
was getting used to the idea of him being the successor, he started to take
action by gathering powerful figures around him. His two-pronged goal was to
get support from the military and religious powers in the nation, namely Joab
the general and Abiathar the priest. Getting these two people was half the
success since between these two was the control of people’s hearts and might.

Why did Joab, the long time general of David’s army, lend the conspirator his support? There
was indeed ongoing tension between Joab and David, and the king had obviously been
harboring animosity towards the general for a long while, since the ruthless
man had slaughtered his beloved son Absalom, although he was clearly instructed
not to. Besides, Joab also killed two people during peace time for whom David
had high regard. Joab must have known his days were numbered and took this rare
opportunity to jump ship while he was still able. It might have been a survival
move for him, since it became clearer to him the king would like to get rid of
him while there was an opportunity.

Why did Abiathar the priest follow suit in the conspiracy?

The priest didn’t seem to have any plausible reason for doing so, unless he was making preparation
for his future, since by this time David was an old man and his days in the
throne were limited. He might have considered it certain that Adonijah would be
the next in line for the throne; therefore he took a chance by siding with him,
thinking his future would be secure if the man indeed succeeded his father as
king over Israel. It was foolish for the man of God to get involved in politics
which were corrupted to the core and, consequently, his privilege of serving
the Lord was forever lost.

Both men took a chance by siding with Adonijah and suffered the dire consequences. Their
career in the court and reputation as a person was ruined. They might have
thought they had made a wise and expedient choice, but it certainly wasn’t a
godly decision.

Loyalty to the king should have counted for something in their decision-making process.
David might not have been a perfect monarch, but he was still God’s anointed
and they showed disrespect for God by being disloyal to the king. Indeed, out
of his reverence for God’s anointed, David twice spared Saul’s life, which was
perfect example of holding God’s anointed king in highest regard.

Had Joab and Abiathar had fear for the Lord in their hearts, they would not have joined the
conspiracy and brought their lives into total ruin. 

           

Monday, January 21, 2013 7:33:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ambition 

MTS-3421

Ambition

“He was also very handsome and was born
next after Absalom.”

             1 Kings 1:6

 

Adonijah must have learned from his deceased brother Absalom, who had aspired to be king and
ended up losing his life in battle. He was a handsome man and must have deemed
himself to be someone suited to be king. He thought his time had come because
his father was aging rapidly and seemed to be losing control over the nation.
He was born after Absalom and there were no competitors among his many brothers
since the most capable one, Absalom, had died. Solomon might have been a worthy
competitor for the throne, but the young lad didn’t seem to be all that
aggressive and wasn’t all that popular among the brothers.

“I will be king,” he proclaimed to all who cared to listen. It was no secret what the man
was going to do and he would pursue his goal to the bitter end.

Indeed he could have remained a prince and enjoyed all the privileges that came with the
position. He was probably the most eligible bachelor in the nation and could
have had his pick among all the beautiful virgins in Israel. Career wise, there
was no reason for him to become anxious over, since a smooth path to fame and
fortune must have been mapped out for him. Yet all these things amounted to
nothing for a man who had a greater aspiration - he wanted to become king like
his father.

Yes, he had seen what a king could do and seen them all. He had seen people bowing down to
the ground before the throne and trembling with fear when the king spoke. He
had seen people and chariots running ahead of the king when the king rode down
the street in his coach and the shouting of “long live the king” vibrating in
the desert heat. “O that’s what a great man should be (大丈夫當如是也,)” Adonijah exclaimed.

No water could have quenched such a vaunting ambition once it started to burn. When an
idea becomes an ambition, it has to run its course until the dream turns into
reality. From then on, nothing would satisfy the man except the glory and
glamour of the throne and he devoted his entire time and energy to pursuing the
goal.

For sure, there is a little bit of Adonijah in all of us.

We may not have the background and entitlement of a prince, but we often consider
ourselves higher than who we are supposed to be and are not content to be who
and what we are. We tend to abuse our authority when, perchance, we are put in
a position of leadership and often consider those under us as lowly and
unworthy. We are by nature selfish and ambitious and, unless we die with Christ
on the cross daily, we will always be arrogant and repulsive, ruthless to
people and repugnant to the Lord. We all have the potential to become as bad as
we can possibly be; yet we can also turn out to be as good as we can ever be,
depending merely on one thing - in whom do we place our trust. 

 

           

Friday, January 18, 2013 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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