Did it ever strike you as odd that God allowed Solomon to succeed David as king? And become an ancestor of Jesus in the process? (See Matthew 1:6) Not only was Solomon not David’s oldest male offspring, he was a child of David’s marriage with THAT woman, Bathsheba. Granted, mum and uncle Nathan did have a hand in Solomon’s succession to the throne. (1 Kings 1:11-40) But God did endorse Solomon’s kingship. (See 1 Kings 3:4-15, especially v.7)

Imagine the talk in Jerusalem’s coffee houses and pubs when the word got out that Solomon would be king after David.

“What? God allowed Solomon to be named successor to David? What could He be thinking? Surely not a child that came from a union established through adultery, murder, and abuse of kingly power. Doesn’t God realize that this might imply that He didn’t take David’s sins seriously? Couldn’t He have led David to choose another son? After all it is not as though there were no other choices, sons of more ‘kosher’ unions. Besides, Solomon is not even the oldest male son.”

But God did allow Solomon to be king after David. I propose that God knew precisely what He was doing.

There is no denying that David, the ‘man after God’s own heart’ sinned horrendously. Sunday school alumni are so used to the image of David the hero and shepherd boy that we forget that he sinned horribly. And there were no mitigating circumstances whatever.

Here was a man who had tasted God’s goodness again and again. Yet one afternoon, he chose not to lead his army to battle. One afternoon, David became a voyeur, spying on a beautiful woman taking a bath, a woman who belonged to another. And he went on to break one commandment after another. If anything, this should remind us of the fragility of our own holiness. The line between our standing and our falling is thin indeed.

If God was purely a God of law, David should have been struck dead. Or Israel should have been allowed to stone him to death. Yet God allowed David to live till a ripe old age. What kind of God is this?

Before we answer that, we first note that there is a principle in life where “we reap what we sow”. When God warns us about the wages of sin, He is not trying to scare us with some fairy tale. He is telling us the truth. Sin destroys. We see this in the death of the first child of David and Bathsheba. No heartfelt petition from David could prevent his death. We see the consequences of sin in the family tragedies that began to afflict the house of David. Sin destroys. But David himself was spared. Why? Here are the words of Scripture.

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against Yahweh.” Nathan then said to David, “Yahweh, for his part, forgives your sin; you are not to die. But since you have outraged Yahweh by doing this, the child born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:13-14 NJB

If this exchange seems a bit thin, we should turn to Psalm 51. Here we see the inner workings of a “broken and contrite heart.” Here, we see David taking responsibility for his sins. He is fully aware that he has no defense whatsoever. He deserves God’s judgment. Yet David also has the audacity to cry out to God to ask for the forgiveness he doesn’t deserve. He is in mortal fear that God’s spirit will be withdrawn from him, that his fellowship with God will be broken forever. And God forgave him.

Cheap grace? Not for us who see this ‘scandalous’ exchange from the perspective of the Cross. Grace was dear indeed. It cost the life of Jesus.

So when God allows Solomon to be the successor of David, God is making a point. He is saying that His last word is grace. That is the kind of God He is. Here is a holy God enraged by sin. But here too is a God of forgiving grace.

The thing is, life can only be lived forward. We cannot turn back the clock. David could not go back in time and change the past. What is done is done. In choosing Solomon however, God is saying that there is a time to move on, that with His grace, our lives need not always be defined by our past and by our failures. Something worth remembering as we move into this New Year.

There will be consequences of sin that we have to live with this side of heaven. And true repentance does not come easy since the heart is deceitful above all else.

True repentance should include confession, sorrow for sin, making restitution, and fresh resolve not to sin again. Often the process will require accountability to spiritual elders.

But there is time to say with Paul:

“Brothers, I do not reckon myself as having taken hold of it; I can only say that forgetting all that lies behind me, and straining forward to what lies in front, I am racing towards the finishing-point to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13-14 NJB

Was the choice of Solomon, a sign that God condones sin? Hardly. But the choice of Solomon was a reminder that with the Lord, grace has the last word. And that God and His grace are larger than our sin.

We must take our sins seriously and deal with them. But God’s grace means that there is also a time to move on.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan