Adonijah: The Substitute

“1 Kings 1:1 Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. 1:2 Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and cherish him; and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. 1:3 So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the borders of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 1:4And the damsel was very fair; and she cherished the king, and ministered to him; but the king knew her not.1:5 Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. 1:6 And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he was also a very goodly man; and he was born after Absalom. 1:7 And he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah, and with Abiathar the priest: and they following Adonijah helped him. 1:8 But Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shimei, and Rei, and the mighty men that belonged to David, were not with Adonijah. 1:9 And Adonijah slew sheep and oxen and fatlings by the stone of Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel; and he called all his brethren, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants: 1:10 but Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not.”

I have clear memories of growing up Pentecostal. From the time I was born my parents carted me off to church services, camp meetings, church fellowships and revivals. The church that they attended was a throwback church; they still practiced “holiness” in their dress and lifestyles.

There was some legalism to be sure but that did not affect me much as a young child. I was kind of good at it actually. One time one of my brothers brought home the Kiss album “Love Gun” on an 8 track and tried to hide it from my parents. I of course found it and did my duty by promptly turning the backslider in to the parental authorities. All in all it was a good life, I was pretty ashamed of their religion at school, but that is par for the course for almost any kid, religion is not a big discussion topic at recess. The services never touched me in any real way; I went along because that is what you did. Even though I never answered an altar call or ‘asked Jesus into my heart’, I was impacted and did not know it. I saw the moving of the Holy Ghost from under the seats with my pillow or slouched down in my chair- the tongues and interpretation, the prophecy given at any time during the service by congregation members, the healings.

Recently while back in Pennsylvania I went back to that church where I grew up. I don’t know what I was expecting but what I got was angry and disappointed. 30 years removed from the scenes burned into my mind and it is only a shell of what it once was. There is no fire, no moving of the Holy Ghost, no tongues or interpretation, no healings. The congregation has dwindled from being a full house to a scant handful that never move, never amen, never clap. And the majority of them were suffering from some kind of illness that is easily, easily healed but no one has the gift of healing anymore. Sunday school is in the morning with the main service at 11 am, everything is all done by noon and everyone heads home.

To someone like me that has an almost allergic reaction to dead religion, it was like being tossed into a ditch full of rag weed and that’s the truth. There is nothing more dead than a dead Pentecostal, nothing more pathetic than someone who has seen God move and no longer does. A dead Methodist or Presbyterian can get excited about the things of the Spirit once they see them first hand. A dead Pentecostal is almost without hope, all that is left is the zombified glaze in their eyes that says “you should have seen God move in 1960.”

For some people my ministry is a bit hard to come to terms with. But if you take a second and juxtapose the dead Trinitarian Pentecostals with the Adonijah-like ministries of today that are parading themselves about as the heirs of revival and the power of God, and then throw an ex-skinhead into the mix with memories of A.A. Allen and the Pentecost of old, you start to get the picture I think. I know what the move of God looks like and what I see isn’t it. Some may think that I am stuck in the past, I just don’t like the ‘new thing’ that God is doing. But I am all for non-conventional ministry, friend. I have two full tattoo sleeves on my arms, I have a shaved head and wear Doc Martins when I preach, and I teach MMA to men’s groups- I have no issue with not being conventional. In fact, the holiness circles take issue with me most times; I am not allowed to preach because of how I look or because of my past.

No, I do not take issue with any ‘new thing’ God is doing, I take issue with lying snakes who try to pass themselves off as servants of God when the only God they know is their own belly. I hate religion (the worship of God in His absence) more than anything and what I see demonstrated on a daily scale in the American church is nothing more than a counterfeit moving of the Holy Ghost in many, many places.

I am afraid that we live in an age of substitution. We have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and have watered down the power of God until the only place where anything is happening spiritually are the gatherings of the gold dust chasers and bird feather idolizers. And we dare ask where the power of God has gone! It left about the time you substituted the moving of the Holy Ghost for “left-leg anointings” and threw the word of God out the window so that you could base everything on your subjective experiences alone. Hear me; This generation is the generation of substitutes, the generation of Adonijah.

Take a look around you, there are egg substitutes for your health, meat substitutes, and health substitutes, drugs to calm you, balance you, and placate you into a sense of normalcy. We watch reality shows so we do not have to deal with our own reality or maybe it is because theirs is so much more exciting than our own. And the desire for truth and reality beats inside of us, driving us to run from one substitute to the next in order to placate our own feral desires.

Adonijah lived in just such a time. David the King was still alive, bedridden in the palace, his glorious youth and conquests behind him now. The legend lay dying in his bed. The people had heard of course of this mighty man. But they lived in an age where the recent memory of events was near enough to insure them not being discounted as rumor or fabrication and yet far enough away to cause a desire to move out of the limbo and possess something real.

Adonijah determines that since David is old now and advanced in years and had never really come against him for what he did that David’s silence was really his approval of Adonijah as his heir. And so he gathers men to himself that knew David in his prime and who hold respect among the tribes of Israel and declares himself King.

Now watch this.

The people, in the absence of a “David” quickly became dazzled by the substitute. They saw the parade and the hoopla and assumed that it must be true. For wouldn’t the king strike him down if he were not? Surely if it were not something the king condoned he would take action against this grandstanding, right? And so the people chose the parade as proof of position. Two things we can discern this far into the story. Firstly, substitutionary bait is always presented during the winter of transition. Secondly, people will always judge the internal workings of the spirit by the external evidence most easily grasped by them.

In an age where David is gone (or bedridden) the people long for a return to the days of the golden king in his kingdom and the glory of God’s return to the temple. The early years of David’s reign were heady days indeed for Israel. To go without his charisma and prowess and to suddenly find themselves with no king would be a very difficult proposition. Enter Adonijah’s parade. Here a powerful, “good” young man enters the city with attendants and the vestments of royalty flying about him. Some of the king’s men were there as well, flanking him, showing the natural progression from the age of David to the age of Adonijah. The purpose was to woo the people of Israel into accepting a King not chosen but posturing as if he had been. Because if they accepted the pomp as evidence, if they looked to the young man Adonijah as the new king, Solomon would be out.

What a powerful, transitional time. In essence, the people chose their path that day. By buying the substitute they would lose the real thing. These people did not know Adonijah, knew very little about him personally. And so they could not judge him as a man or a king. All they could see was the external evidences that did not line up all the way with how things should be but were more impressive than Tim the blacksmith’s resume that lived down the street. And how easy to overlook the original requirements of position when to do so would mean losing the substitute which is all you have!

“Any port in a storm”, as it were.

I submit that we are living in a time of transition. An age where there is no David riding into the city and God is silent about his opinion. And so the masses look around for some sign from God as to who his choice is and when they get none, they choose based on the size of the crowd, by the slickness of the marketing and by the word of the imposter. And the response of the Adonijah is never to try and fill the shoes of David; they don’t have that in them. They are opportunists who carefully measure risk and gain. No, they would never attempt anything that would mean faith because nothing they do or have ever done is by faith but rather a substitute, depending on their own charisma instead. Let’s look at what Adonijah did.

1 Kings 1:39 So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. 1:39 And Zadok the priest took the horn of oil out of the Tent, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, Long live king Solomon. 1:40 And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.

1:41 And Adonijah and all the guests that were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, Wherefore is this noise of the city being in an uproar? 1:42 While he yet spake, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came: and Adonijah said, Come in; for thou art a worthy man, and bringest good tidings. 1:43 And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, Verily our lord king David hath made Solomon king: 1:44 and the king hath sent with him Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and they have caused him to ride upon the king’s mule; 1:45 and Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon; and they are come up from thence rejoicing, so that the city rang again. This is the noise that ye have heard. 1:46 And also Solomon sitteth on the throne of the kingdom. 1:47 And moreover the king’s servants came to bless our lord king David, saying, Thy God make the name of Solomon better than thy name, and make his throne greater than thy throne: and the king bowed himself upon the bed. 1:48 And also thus said the king, Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, who hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it.

1:49 And all the guests of Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way. 1:50 And Adonijah feared because of Solomon; and he arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.

So, after his ascent to a supposed throne, he sat back with his friends and basked in the coup by feasting. You see, it was never about Israel or leading the kingdom. No, Adonijah wanted the position but never had the heart God looks for. He would never have served in silence, suffered for the lost, given his last for the other hungry person beside him. He was a pretender and God knew it. That is why God never backed what he did with anything resembling a show of support – because while the people looked on the outward show, God knew the heart of the matter.

God, that we could see the heart of the matter today. We must see that our desperate substitutions are the replacement of tomorrow’s heroes. How tragic that the more real a leader in today’s church is, the more unpopular he is. A minister in today’s society must play the game as the masses and his contemporaries insist. The ministry is a business, a career that you must navigate with all the savvy of an upstart young businessman of Wall Street or die. You must say what the people want you to say, do as they insist you do. You must never color outside the lines; you must never be angry or rail against the system. You must be all things to all men, yes amen, and that means saying what every group wants to hear. That, they tell you, is Jesus’ way. I beg to differ; I say that is the way of Adonijah. The crowd frenzy, the pomp, the kissing of babies. That is the way of the impostor and supplanter.

We must discover where we went wrong, where we left the faith of our fathers that saw the glory of God shake nations. Whether you are Pentecostal and Charismatic, it does not matter, the heritage is a spiritual one and one that we must seek again with our whole hearts. Or we may just be left with an Adonijah on the throne instead of the Solomon that God wants us to have.

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