According to the dictionary the word “reckoning” has a few different shades of meaning. The first definition in my Oxford American Dictionary is “the action or process of calculating or estimating something.” That is a task that can be done somewhat dispassionately and with the goal of assigning some value to whatever is being examined. Presumably others will reach the same conclusion once they have done the reckoning. The second definition adds a bit more individuality, “a person’s view, opinion, or judgment.” This reckoning implies a personal involvement, and may in fact be colored by one’s particular belief or point of view. This type of reckoning will no doubt not bring everyone to the same conclusion. The third definition adds another twist, “a bill or account, or its settlement, the avenging or punishing of past mistakes or misdeeds.” Now however the process of calculation has been done, it is time to assess responsibility and follow through with appropriate action, either of reward or punishment. This is a big word when we break it down and far more is involved than the simple acknowledgment that our grandfathers intended when they would say casually, “I reckon…”
The sermons that I have been giving this past month on the topic of King David’s retirement conclude with a story of reckoning. I have heard some describe 1 Kings 2 as the vindictive actions of a bitter person at the end of his life trying to get his son to take vengeance on those he always disliked. I don’t believe that is what these stories are about, and I do think that regardless of his flaws David is presented to us in the Bible as an honest and sincere person from whom we can learn many positive lessons.
So I have been doing some personal reckoning as I seek to apply the lessons of David’s past retirement to my own future retirement. And this chapter in particular is one that repeatedly makes me think and evaluate my past. I believe that David was seeking to give good and positive counsel to his son, the next King, as he leads the nation into their future life together. He begins his reckoning with the message to pay attention to Scripture.
Be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires:
Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and
requirements, as written in the Law of Moses (1 Kings 2:2-3).
This foundational statement hearkens back to what Moses had said at his retirement (Deuteronomy 32:46-47) and what Joshua was told as he began his leadership role (Joshua 1:8). No person or church will ever get very far without giving priority attention to the word of God. There will inevitably be differences of interpretation but there must never be a dismissal of the Bible as our authoritative standard for faith and practice.
The three personal matters that David raises with Solomon pertain to the reckoning of past mistakes. The first involved David’s failure to deal properly with administrative issues. He allowed the loose cannon, Joab, to operate unchecked within the government despite his violent and vindictive behaviors. He should have been removed long ago but David failed to do so for reasons that are not given. Perhaps he feared Joab’s retribution.
The second reckoning had to do with the slowness David exhibited in providing a proper recognition and reward to those who supported him. Attention to this matter with the family of Barzillai needs to be an enduring legacy. Maintain this grateful heart and spirit and the loyalty of others will follow.
Paying attention to the environment of the community is the focus of the third reckoning request. When accountability is not required then an atmosphere of insecurity and a lack of safety follows. Shimei was allowed to get away with his cursing, stone throwing attack on King David and his insincere apology when the tide of power changed. David has rethought how he dealt with that and he reminds Solomon of the danger this poses in the kingdom.
As I think over the past thirty-seven years we have been together I am doing some internal reckoning and I ask you to join me. We can learn from our past. We can calculate and evaluate on the basis of Scripture. We can seek to make amends where they may be needed. We can prepare ourselves and our children for the future. It is a reckoning that the aged King David illustrates for us. Let’s do it grateful for what God has done and has yet to do in us, with us, and through us. May he be glorified.
See you in Worship.