Some People’s Kids: David’s Dysfunctional Family
1 Kings: 1, 5-11, 15-21 and 29-30
Rev. Sandy Johnson
September 11, 2016
We are nearly finished with our series on King David. This week we are looking at the messy family relationships within David’s household and next week we will see David’s lasting legacy, his final words for then and now.
Let’s begin this morning with a question. How many of you are part of a family? A parent, a child, a grandparent, a sibling, an aunt, uncle – we are all part of a family somehow, or we wouldn’t be here, right?! What are characteristics of a healthy family? Any ideas?
The first is commitment to the family, doing those things that keep the family’s overall health and welfare a #1 priority. Healthy families select activities that promote family cohesiveness and grow together through the process. Healthy families spend time together, they eat together, play together and create traditions together. They communicate well, parents listen to children, and children listen to parents. Healthy families fight fairly and don’t shy away from resolving conflict that arises. There is appreciation among family members in a well-run family. Families that are healthy worship together, spend time teaching and learning right from wrong and making right moral choices. Leaders of healthy families are willing to learn, to get help when their ways might not be working. Being a good leader in a family system doesn’t always mean that the family is healthy. When our children grow up they enact their own free will and sometimes our own best parenting seems to be forgotten as they venture out into the world, making their own disastrous mistakes.
I think that this story about David’s family is one of the finest examples of biblical familial dysfunction that we can find in scripture. Let’s face it, David’s family is a mess. In fact I would argue that this family could be featured on the Jerry Springer Show as opposed to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous! David’s family system is full of drama: rape, incest, murder, jealousy and a fierce rivalry for the throne. I would encourage you to take the time to read all through 1 & 2 Samuel and into Kings to get the full story. You will not be able to put the book down.
So why is this story even in our bible? Is it written as history for history’s sake? Is it a political document or is it included strictly for entertainment? This story certainly could be included in The National Inquirer of the ancient world?!
Where do we start? We know that David has not been the model king, certainly not the best parent, but we come into the story today as David is nearing his death. 1 Kings 1 says that he is old and advanced in years. He is suffering and the family does what they can to bring him relief. It is suspected that he suffered from arteriosclerosis, as it says he is unable to keep warm despite the efforts of those tending to him. Someone decided that what they needed was to bring him a young virgin to keep him warm. (Isn’t that what we all need?!) So they find this beautiful young girl to keep him warm and she tends to David, although Scripture says, not sexually.
At the same time David’s son Adonijah, the crown prince makes a pitch for the throne. David’s first born, Amnon of course had been killed by his half-brother Absalom after Amnon raped his sister Tamar. Absalom may have been justified in defending his sister’s virtue but he was banished for the murder and was then killed in his own failed coup attempt. So David’s first and second born sons were out of the picture. Enter the two remaining children, Adonijah and Solomon.
Adonijah was the older of the two. He certainly anticipated taking over his father’s position as king given that his older brothers were now dead. But from our vantage point, thousands of years later, we know that God doesn’t always follow tradition does she? The eldest is not always the heir apparent. We can look at the biblical examples of Jacob and Esau or Joseph and his brothers to see this carried out. Joseph was the youngest and in spite of his brother’s best attempts to thwart, he was esteemed by God and selected to lead. David also was an unlikely successor chosen by God to lead, ahead of his brothers. We sometimes forget that it is God who is exerting His will, not our own earthly desires, that wins the day.
So David’s oldest son, Adonijah, assumes his new role as king and gathers supporters to witness his coronation. We read in scripture that this man, David’s son, was handsome but spoiled. “His father (David) had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He had been allowed to do as he pleased, without reproach from his father. He was likely arrogant and prideful, he knew what he wanted and he didn’t want to wait for his father to die to claim what was rightfully his.
Adonijah invited all of his supporters, including his brothers and all the royal officials of Judah except, the prophets Nathan and Benaiah, his father’s warriors and he didn’t invite Solomon. Now this was no mistake, it wasn’t an oversight on the invitation list. Adonijah knew what he was doing. The word got out quickly that Adonijah had taken the throne. Nathan told Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother about what had happened and she went directly to King David to see if he was aware. Did he know what was going on outside his bedroom walls? Notice that it is not Solomon who is fighting for the throne, but his mother and the prophet Nathan.
Bathsheba went into see her King and asked him why he hadn’t appointed Solomon king. She says that he had previously said that Solomon would be his successor although we don’t find any evidence of that anywhere else in the bible. She brought the prophet Nathan along to corroborate the story. It isn’t known if this is a legitimate attempt by Bathsheba to get what was rightfully Solomon’s or if she was conspiring to take care of herself and her son, knowing that David would not deny her. She manipulates David, telling him that everyone is watching, and if he doesn’t do this thing, she and Solomon will be mistreated after he’s gone. So the king does what she asks. He tells Nathan to anoint Solomon and make it so. Nathan crowns Solomon as King and Adonijah is left, fearing for his life.
What a mess! How do we respond to this story? Do we find ourselves somewhere in the narrative? Are we the aging parent, manipulated by our children? Are we a sister or brother that has fought with our siblings for what we feel is rightfully ours? Have we conspired to get our own needs met? Are we somehow to emulate the actors in this play? Or is there a greater lesson to be extracted?
In the end I think that this is not a tale with a moral lesson. We aren’t called to behave like Bathsheba, Adonijah, Solomon nor David. We can read this captivating story and recognize that it is more than entertainment. We can choose to believe that there is a “divine purpose behind, and despite, such scandalous events in history.” We can choose to believe that God is in the midst of the drama within our families in spite of our best efforts to handle things on our own.
I always thought that parenting young children was the hardest part of parenting. For some of us that may be true. But for others of us, parenting our adult children has been the greater challenge. I long for the days when the biggest problem was being awoken at 3am to feed and diaper a baby. Parenting adult children is a totally different game. We thought we were finished when they graduated from school and went off to live on their own. But some of them never left home, or left only to return again. The transition to adulthood is not always smooth and at times can create family drama and crisis that rivals David’s. Our children may not be fighting for a crown, but the battles they face are as serious, as our children battle drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, unemployment, divorce, illness and unwanted pregnancies. Life is complicated and messy.
This story today reminds us that we are not alone. In spite of our own pride, arrogance, and belief that we control our own destinies, we forget that for those of us who live a Christian life we have a divine helper, we have someone who will lead and guide us if we will let him. As a forgiven and surrendered Christian we can live our lives knowing that even in the midst of the drama and horror, that God is with us, drying off our tears, holding our hands and providing the comfort and resources to get through whatever lies before us. Even if some of the drama is made by our own hands.
When we become enmeshed in the day to day struggle with our adult children, we must call on the name of Jesus to provide what we need, to not enable them, to allow them to make the mistakes that they are going to make and then fight the urge to fix it for them. We are not called to be Bathsheba and to make everything OK for our children. It is OK to allow them to have to fight for what they need or want. It’s hard though, isn’t it? None of us want to see our children left without a roof over their head, without proper nutrition or to sit back and watch as they are mired down in an unhealthy relationship.
There are no easy answers but God is there in the midst of it all to love you, to guide you, to wipe off your tears, and to remind you that this life is not the end. It doesn’t begin and end here on this planet. The pain and frustration will end one day. And in the meantime, trust in God to provide all of your needs. Rely on your friends to listen to your stories, to offer comfort and support. Many times I think we realize that our stories aren’t as unusual as we might think, as many of us here today are in the same boat. Ultimately in our story today about King David, God’s will prevailed and God’s will prevails today as well. Surrendering to God is the best advice I can give. Turn the heartache over to God and rest in the peace that He has our families surrounded by his love and care.
Let us pray: Gracious God many of us today are in the mire of family drama. We need you Lord, we can’t do this alone. Bring us the confidence to turn our children over to you. Protect them from themselves and give them the courage to make the good and godly decisions they need to live a healthy life. Amen.
 Sale, Richard L, Ph.D. Characteristics of Healthy Families. Accessed at https://parenteducation.unt.edu/resources/publication-university-north-texas-center-parent-education-partnership-texas-council-fam-1 on September 10, 2016.
 1 Kings 1:6