I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.
1 Kings 2:2
A little over a year ago, I transitioned from one employer to another and found myself constantly thinking of one more thing that the man taking my spot needed to know before I left. I suspect that David, seeing the end of his life approach, felt much the same way about his son, Solomon. It always seems that we realize how much we have left undone and the things we wish we had told those who will succeed us when we reach the end of our time in a place or position. David’s charge to Solomon actually takes the first nine verses of the chapter, but it is the first four that I want to zero in on this morning. In those verses, David gives Solomon advice about how to conduct himself that generalize well.
First, David tells Solomon that he (David) is going the way of all the earth. David recognizes that his end is no different than anyone else’s. The way that David puts it is, probably, a euphemism that was in use at the time, but it still communicates a fundamental truth about death that we are wont to overlook, viz. Everyone dies. We often try to escape it by doing anything we can to forestall the inevitable — working out, eating healthy, doing “cleanses,” using creams and lotions, and all manner of other thing to keep ourselves looking and feeling young. This is, I suspect, mostly a Westernized societies thing. And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with keeping fit or eating healthy, but those things ought to be done with the clear knowledge that it will not prevent us going the way of all the earth. A healthy awareness that we, like all the best stories, have an end can keep us from putting things off and help us to live in the here and now.
Second, David tells Solomon to be strong. The addition of therefore with the admonition to be strong tells me that the context of that strength is the death of David. Because David is about to die, Solomon must be strong. We are often sheltered by those who mentor us and try to grow us into who and what we will become. This is true with God , as well. God is often referred to as a shelter and He will sometimes draw back a small measure of that shelter in order to strengthen us, or so the book of Job would seem to indicate. The removal of God’s sheltering from Job’s life refined Job and brought wrong thinking to the surface for correction. Once the wrong thinking was corrected and Job strengthened, God’s sheltering was reestablished over Job’s life.
Third, David tells Solomon to become a man. This thought is a companion to the idea that Solomon should be strong. The idea communicated is that of coming to maturity. Solomon has not had to shoulder all of the responsibilities of a king, just yet. But he is about to. To govern wisely and well, Solomon will need to mature. And David has just the prescription for how to do this in the last admonition.
Fourth and finally, David tells Solomon to keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn. If I want to mature and be strong, then the best course is to keep the charge of the LORD. What is interesting about how David phrases this that he breaks out two distinct things that should be done: walking and keeping. David’s instruction is to keep; to observe the charge of the LORD and that charge is a twofold instruction: walk in His ways and observe His statutes, commandments, ordinances, and testimonies. To walk in His ways means to live in a manner that emulates God. The image I get is that of a child walking behind a parent and trying to copy their stride and rhythm and such. To do that, I need to observe God’s Word. This last instruction comes with a promise form God that David will not lack a descendant on the throne of Israel if those descendants will be careful to keep the charge of the LORD.
Let me keep in mind that I am not a permanent fixture of this planet and have only a certain amount of time. Let that awareness light a fire in me to mature in my faith and grow strong by living in a manner that seeks to copy my LORD.
Father, thank You for David’s instruction to Solomon. The words are good for me, too. Please keep me mindful, in the healthiest way possible, that my time here is limited and let that awareness spur me to live Godly in this moment.