Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Riding on a Mule

This summer, we are working through the life of Solomon. I have enjoyed preparing the sermons and am excited about our congregation engaging the story together. Yesterday, we began our study in 1 Kings. I don’t think I have ever preached nor heard a sermon on this chapter. The story involves David, as an old man, snuggling in bed with a young virgin. All the while, his oldest living son is planning to snatch the kingdom. Adonijah has formed an alliance and is making plans to crown himself king. Thankfully, David’s prophet (Nathan) and wife (Bathsheba) step in to alert David. David takes charge and uses his resources to establish Solomon on the throne.

The chapter is rich with application. On the one hand, David is not paying attention to what God is doing. In the same way, we are often preoccupied and fail to see God working in our midst. Like David, our failure to see God can result in momentousness consequences. A second application comes as we contrast Adonijah with Solomon. Adonijah is using political alliances, horses and chariots to gain control. I particularly like the ESV’s description of Adonijah.

(1 Kings 1:5 ESV) Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself.

We each face the temptation to exalt ourself. Churches sometimes take on a posture of pride as they carry out ministry. We, as church leaders, face the temptation to use the worldly systems of power in order to elevate ministries. We justify our methods by couching them in language that speaks of reaching more people or growing the church. While our intentions are often noble, God calls us to a different posture.

If we keep reading the story, we find unique characteristics in David’s establishing Solomon’s throne. First of all, David has Solomon anointed by the priest and prophet. This is a confession that God is the only one who places a king on the throne. Another striking feature is Solomon’s mode of transportation.

(1 Kings 1:33 ESV) Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon.

Solomon is riding a very humble animal. In contrast, Adonijah chooses a different approach.

(1 Kings 1:5 ESV) And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.

The contrast is worth noting. Later, Jesus (the Son of David) will look more like Solomon and less like Adonijah. As he enters Jerusalem, he is riding a donkey. The words of the prophet are fulfilled.

(Zechariah 9:9 NIV11-GK) Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

As we consider the matter of discerning, may we learn to ride mules. This posture is essential for Christian leaders. If we look more like Adonijah in our approach, we are doomed. We must be willing to forgo the methods of power and politics if we are going to adequately discern the Spirit of God.

I love hidden nuggets of truth, like this one. This is what makes Old Testament studies so enjoyable. I look forward forward to sharing more along the way as we continue the story of Solomon.