The Road is not for the Swift

By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr

(Sabbath, 7th Jan., 2012)

The Man who would be King begs for his Life

David, the warrior-king, is approaching his end. Old age has caught up with him and with it, bouts of shivers.   Uppermost in the minds of royalty and subjects alike is the question of the king’s successor. Of course, the heir apparent had been Amnon, David’s firstborn, whom Absalom slew in revenge for raping his full sister Tamar, while Absalom himself, ‘the next in line’, had been killed in a short-lived coup to occupy the throne even before David is dead!

So, of the remaining 16 sons of David (his second born having apparently died as a child), who will succeed the king? The palace is abuzz with gossip and conspiracies as David’s imminent death is awaited. 

But is David as clueless as those who like to speculate about which of his sons will succeed him? 

While the king might have lost the vigour of youth, he has not lost the vigour of His promise made before God to make Solomon his successor. While on his deathbed he learns of a conspiracy by Adonijah, his fourth son, to seize the throne by proclaiming himself king with the support of many of the kingdom’s chief men in both the royal court and the priesthood.  A handsome man like Absalom and the eldest eligible son of David, Adonijah thinks it’s certainly his right to claim the throne by fair or foul means.  And he succeeds to a large extent, throwing a lavish ‘coronation’ party with all the king’s sons and royal officials in attendance except Solomon and a few stalwarts of King David.

Prophet Nathan is so alarmed by the news of the treachery that he quickly instructs Solomon’s mother Bathsheba to alert the king to Adonijah’s usurpation of the throne, whereupon he, the prophet, will also confirm same to the king.  The effort of the pro-Solomon lobby results in David proclaiming his son Solomon the rightful king and is duly anointed by the priest Zadok and paraded through the streets to shouts of "God save King Solomon"! 

The news of Solomon’s elevation to the throne by his father David sends terror through the partying camp of Adonijah, and all the guests leave unceremoniously.  Adonijah himself is reduced to a shivering wreck who now seeks refuge in the temple where he takes hold of the horns of the altar. He no longer stakes a claim to the throne but begs for his life from King Solomon (read 1 King 1).

Adonijah failed because anything born of human will and effort in opposition to the will and power of God eventually comes to ruin. The story shows the sanctity, certainty and power of divine promise, as seen in the life of Solomon (2 Sam. 7:12-16), and the ignominy that attends vain pride and ill will. The LORD had clearly named and identified Solomon as David’s successor (1 Chron. 22:9), and all efforts aimed at thwarting this was doomed to fail, a fact Adonijah acknowledged rather belatedly (1 Kings 2:13-15).

‘Promotion does not come from the East, neither the West nor the South’ 

Adonijah’s failed attempt to make himself king clearly teaches us that merely seizing the initiative does not necessarily confer success but that victory belongs to whom God chooses.

King Solomon later on observed of life: "I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all" (Eccl. 9:11).

At face-value, this scripture seems to be telling us that “time and chance” are the chief determinants of one’s success or failure in life. In other words, success or victory is not guaranteed to a person simply because he has the right qualities or wherewithal; pure luck plays a significant role in how things turn out for people, whether good or bad. 

At once, such a scenario seems at odds with Romans 9:16 which places God at the centre of our fortunes: "It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort but on God’s mercy" (NIV).

But is Eccl. 9:11 really at variance with Rom. 9:16? Not at all when we consider that the Preacher himself acknowledges that "the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God" (Eccl. 9:1). Furthermore, it’s God who controls “time and chance”.

It might not occur readily to us, but very often the people who enrich our lives most and bless us in ways we could never have foreseen weren’t people we actively sought for friendship or companionship; they were people whose paths somehow crossed ours in ways we could not quite explain. While some become life-long acquaintances, others are seen no more once their ‘mission’ is accomplished. The same applies to opportunities that open up when we least expect them.  Aren’t such inexplicable occurrences evidence of the LORD’s unseen hand at work in our lives?

The prophet Jeremiah declares: ”I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23 ESV). Moreover, we read in Prov. 16: "The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.  Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established" (vv. 1, 3).  

So make God the cornerstone of your life this new year, and He will direct your steps (Ps 37:23; Prov. 3:5-6). He knows exactly how to lead you to success: "This is what the LORD says, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you how to succeed, who directs you in the path by which you should go’" (Isa. 48:17 ISV). 

You can never bless yourself. All blessings flow from the most High (1 Chron. 29:11-12), and it’s His exaltation that is truly exaltation:

"Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.

"For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.

"But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another" (Ps. 75:5-7).

Once you commit your ways to the LORD, you have parted ways with failure: "Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass" (Ps. 37:5).

So, what is your expectation for this year? Greater grace and anointing to serve God? Business expansion?  Starting a family?  Setting up a new business? Getting higher education? Commit all to the God with whom nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37; Matt. 19:26). A ‘new year resolution’ or other action plan without God is as good as dead!  This is the point the apostle James makes in Jam. 4:13-16:

"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"–

"Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

"Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’.

"As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil" (ESV; cp Prov. 27).

If even your own life—indeed your very breath and the energy you require to wake up from your sleep—is not in your hands, how much more the opportunities life offers? To boast as if you are the sustainer of life and not God, who controls your life and everything else, is evil and indeed a wilful sin (v. 17).  The right attitude must be to depend on the good will and leading of God to both stay alive and to implement your plans committed to Him (see Ps. 66:9).

The inescapable truth is that "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep" (Ps. 127:1-2 ESV).

Now, which one do you prefer? Relying on your fail-prone finite strength and abilities or relying on the fail-proof infinite power of God to bring all things to pass?  He says in Isa. 40:28-31:

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

"He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength.

"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;

"But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (ESV).

Wouldn’t you rather soar like an eagle this year?

The faithfulness of the Eternal to do you good has never been in doubt and never will:  

"Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will He help the evil doers:

"Till He fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.

"They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought" (Job 8:20-22).

May the portion of the righteous be yours this year.  May He empower you with His everlasting strength so you never hit the wall.  On your part, don’t ever forget the LORD; stay upright for Him, and He will fill your mouth with joy. Amen!