When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” – 1 Kings 2:1-4 ESV
Solomon is the newly anointed king of Israel. But David is still alive and will serve as the acting king until his death. Solomon will serve as his co-regent and, because of David’s ill health and Solomon’s youth, he will serve as the face of the crown, representing David in any public events. But in the meantime, David has a chance to pass on words of wisdom to his son, while he is still living. David will give Solomon two sets of instructions. One will be spiritual in nature, while the other will be personal.
The first thing David does is pass on to his son what God had told him. Back when David had come up with the idea to build a house for the Lord, God had denied him that privilege. But God had also made a promise to David:
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:12-16 ESV
David knew that the key to any success he had experienced as a king had been due to God. And he knew that the success of Solomon’s reign was going to be dependent upon the Lord as well. So, he passed along what God had told him. And he added a few vital words of encouragement and warning:
Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn… – 1 Kings 2:2-3 ESV
Where had David gotten this bit of information? How could he be so sure that God would prosper Solomon if he would be obedient? All the way back in the book of Deuteronomy, long before there was a king in Israel, God had given the people of Israel a series of commands concerning the day when they would demand to have a king like all the other nations.
And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. – Deuteronomy 17:18-20 ESV
God had instructed that each and every king of Israel was to live by His law. The king was to keep a copy of the law at hand and have it read to him every day of his life. But it wasn’t enough to be familiar with the content of the law, the king was to keep it – every word, statute and commandment. There was to be no veering to the left or right. No cherry picking or selective obedience. The health and longevity of the king’s reign was going to be directly tied to his obedience to the law.
So David makes sure Solomon is well aware of God’s expectations. In fact, David ties Solomon’s manhood to his ability to keep God’s law. He tells him to act like a man and be strong. And he makes it clear that the proof of Solomon’s manhood will be found in his obedience to God. But David knew what God knew. Solomon would sin. He would have times of disobedience, just like David had. But God had promised to deal with Solomon in a loving manner, like a father to his son.
“If he sins, I will correct and discipline him with the rod, like any father would do. But my favor will not be taken from him as I took it from Saul…” – 2 Samuel 7:14-15 NLT
Yet, David knew that obedience was preferable to discipline. It was far better to obey than to learn the difficult lessons that come as a result of God’s loving hand of discipline. David had lost three sons due to his own sins. He had watched as two of his sons attempted to take his kingdom from him. He had seen innocent people die because of his disobedience. And he knew that living in submission and obedience to the will of God was far better in the long run, and the true mark of a godly man. He also knew that obeying the Lord was going to take real strength. For Solomon to do what God commanded was going to take faith, trust, and a willingness to die to his own self-centered desires and wishes. Disobedience is the way of cowards.
The words that David speaks to Solomon are very similar to those Joshua spoke to the people of Israel as he prepared for his own death.
“Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.” – Joshua 23:7-8 ESV
Be strong. Obey. Don’t veer to the left or right. Stay the course. Cling to the Lord your God. Joshua knew what the people were going to have to do if they were to be successful in their attempt to possess the land. And David knew what Solomon was going to need to do if he was going to be successful in leading the people of Israel. His success would not be tied to his own leadership skills, the strength of his military, the combined intelligence of his cabinet, or the size of his kingdom. It would be directly tied to his willingness to obey God. Nothing more. Nothing less.
In his letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul gave a similar charge. He encouraged them to, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV). Living the Christian life is anything but easy. Following the will of God is far more difficult than giving in to your own will. It isn’t easy to stand firm in the faith you have in the gospel of Jesus Christ when everything around you seems to be caving in and the waves of doubts confront you. Solomon was going to have days of doubt. He was going to have moments of despair. He would end up turning to all kinds of things, like money, materialism, human wisdom, sexual pleasure, food and even science, in an attempt to seek meaning in life. In fact, he would chronicles his thoughts in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon would end up surrounding himself with hundreds of wives and concubines, whose false gods would lead him astray. Solomon would start out strong, heeding his father’s advice and obeying the Lord’s commands. But his reign would end poorly. He would start out as a godly man, but not end that way.
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.” – 1 Kings 11:9-11 ESV
Hundreds of wives and concubines didn’t make Solomon a man. A mighty kingdom and a massive army didn’t make Solomon a man. A reputation for wisdom and wealth didn’t make Solomon a man. A true man is a godly man, a man who loves, fears, and obeys his God. A godly man is a man who knows his help is from the Lord, who realizes that he is nothing apart from the presence and power of God in his life. Faith in God requires real strength. Disobedience is easy. Which is why Paul calls us to “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.