The Dangerous Error of Self-Anointing

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Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” — 1 Kings 1:5

There’s a sober warning to readers of the Bible in the very beginning of 1 Kings that should cause every one of us to pause and examine our hearts before the Lord. 1 Kings opens with David as a very old man, on his death bed. Upon the news of his father’s impending passing, Adonijah, David’s fourth son, “exalts himself” and claims the throne (1:5). He gathers a following, and begins to celebrate by offering sacrifices and having a feast. But Nathan, one of David’s most trusted spiritual advisors, knows that the true heir to the throne is not Adonijah, but Solomon. So, through a series of events, Solomon is brought forth and anointed as King, and the people rejoice at David’s faithfulness to his word and the mercy of God. In fact, their rejoicing was so loud, that Adonijah, who was celebrating his own self-anointing father away, heard the uproar and wondered what it was about.

When he was told the news that David had appointed Solomon as King, he became understandably concerned. “Then all the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose, and each went his own way.” (1:49). Adonijah’s followers left him when they realized he was not to be King, and Adonijah himself “feared Solomon” (1:50). But the newly appointed King had no plans to punish his half-brother, and agreed to spare him despite his treason. In gratitude, Adonijah “paid homage to King Solomon” and was sent on his way (1:53).

So what is the warning here? There are several.


The discipline of the gospel helps us to recognize that we deserve none of the mercy and blessings God has given us, and should act to keep our selfishness in check.


First, Adonijah was arrogant because he was never denied anything. “His father had never at any time displeased him… He was also a very handsome man…” (1:6). David’s failure to discipline his son came back to haunt him and nearly cost him his kingdom. The warning for us is twofold: first, there’s a lesson here about how parents must be careful to not spoil a child by never disciplining them. Second, in our hearts, we all are like children who foolishly (and sinfully) become upset when we don’t get what we want or think we deserve. The discipline of the gospel helps us to recognize that we deserve none of the mercy and blessings God has given us, and should act to keep our selfishness in check.


We must never turn a blind eye to what God has made clear in order to gain something from disobedience.


Second, Adonijah had no regard for God’s covenant or promises. In his arrogance, Adonijah assumed that God’s plan would surely include him as King. He believed he knew better. But God had been quite clear about his plans for Solomon. The warning we should heed here is that, like Adonijah, we are prone to ignore the clarity of God’s will in the pursuit of self-service. We must never turn a blind eye to what God has made clear in order to gain something from such disobedience.

Lastly, Adonijah cared more about his own kingdom than God’s. The heart of Adonijah’s foolishness wasn’t simply that he didn’t care about the unity God’s people, the clarity of God’s word, or the wishes of his own father. It was that he cared chiefly about himself above these things. Sure, he may have masked it with good religious piety — he had Joab and the priest, and he even offered sacrifices! But that means nothing to a God of righteousness and justice, who sees and knows the heart of man. We must examine ourself to see where we might be at odds with the Kingdom of God and the Lord’s anointed. Could it be in our finances? In our workplace or homes?


The heart of Adonijah’s foolishness wasn’t simply that he didn’t care about the unity God’s people, the clarity of God’s word, or the wishes of his own father. It was that he cared chiefly about himself above these things.


Ask the Lord to help reveal where your heart and actions have resembled that of Adonijah, and resolve yourself now work for the fulfillment of his Kingdom and the glory of our true King, Jesus Christ.

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By Bobby Oliveri