David, having named his successor and abdicated his throne, lay dying. His final task was to give Solomon some instructions as he began his rule as King of Israel. He counseled his son to settle his own heart spiritually and to settle the score with those who threatened the peace of the kingdom.
Verse 2 records David’s fatherly advice to “be strong and show yourself a man.” Verses 3-4 tells where that strength comes from: living by God’s guidelines, for God’s glory. Success for ancient kings and modern believers springs from the same source, the Word of God. As we order our lives around the Word of God and put its truth into practice in our daily lives, we please the Lord and put ourselves in position to receive His blessings. David spoke from experience: his greatest heartaches had come from violating God’s Word, and we can expect the same.
Joab and Shimei were men whom David knew would be dangerous threats to the peace of Israel and the rule of the new king. His advice on how to deal with them seems harsh (“bring his gray head down with blood” – v.9), but their treachery and rebellion were acts of violence against God and His Kingdom, not just David. Solomon took his father’s advice, sending his personal guard Benaiah, the great warrior, to execute the men. Joab’s vain attempt at running to the God he had so often disregarded was too little, too late (v.28). Loud-mouthed Shemei, who had once vehemently cursed David, was eventually condemned by his own words (v.38, 43-44), earning a fatal visit from Benaiah.
Solomon also dealt with two threats of his own. He expelled Abiathar from the priesthood for his role in Adonijah’s failed attempt to seize the throne, mercifully sending him back to his hometown instead of executing him. Adonijah could have lived out his life in peace as well, but he persisted in his rebellion. In a devious attempt to undermine Solomon’s authority, Adonijah appealed to the King’s mother, Bathsheba, asking that she secure Abishag (David’s beautiful young caretaker in his last days) to be his wife. Solomon saw through the plan and eliminated treacherous Adonijah.
This is the kind of chapter that can leave you wondering, “How is this supposed to apply to my life?” Here is my answer: Solomon took radical steps to ensure that God’s will was done and to eradicate rebellion and evil from his kingdom. Similarly, I must deal radically with the rebellion in my own heart and the evil tendencies of my flesh. Repentance is my Benaiah. It is a sin-killer. As I take David’s advice to immerse myself in the Word of God and to demonstrate a radical commitment to God’s will (v.3-4), I won’t be willing to jeopardize the glory of God by letting sin reign in my life. And I will not be content to manage my sin — I’ll execute it as I live in a state of repentance.