It had been one intense day after another. David’s health was not improving despite every effort to revive him. One of Solomon’s half-brothers had taken advantage of David’s condition, and tried to pry the kingdom from his frail fingers. Only a last minute intervention by the prophet Nathan and Bathsheba foiled his plot. David, lucid enough to realize he had to act, ordered Nathan to anoint Solomon to take his place as King. As the news spread, the people rejoiced with such fervor that I Kings chapter one says that all their noise rent the Earth.
Solomon had been given the throne, but now it was time for him to establish his kingdom.
What a magnificent moment it was! David had gathered an enormous wealth of building materials and precious metals to build God a house. Until now, the old tabernacle had been the center of worship, but all of that was about to change. For the first time, God would have a permanent and grand temple for His Spirit to dwell. It would be a glorious place, like none other on Earth. David had delivered the plans for this structure to Solomon, and it was his charge to bring it to life.
Not only was Israel prospering, but the people were rallying around their new King. He was surrounded by strong military leaders, eager to prove their loyalty. The enemies David had identified were efficiently dispatched, and any threat of a coup had been eliminated. Solomon’s grip on the kingdom was sure, his support solid, his future secure. And in Jerusalem, joy filled every heart and celebration filled the air as its citizens welcomed their new King.
Now, it was time for Solomon to go to work.
He ordered all the leaders and governors of his kingdom to gather (II Chronicles 1). As they moved toward Jerusalem, no doubt they discussed among themselves just what this new King had in mind. Would there be a great coronation party? Would he reorganize the kingdom and shift all their responsibilities?
Perhaps the more pious among them remembered the place in Jerusalem where the Ark of the Covenant sat, that small tent David had set-up that sheltered Israel’s most precious possession: the place where God’s Spirit dwelt.
“Surely, that’s what this is all about,” they may have said. “With Solomon’s triumph over his wicked brother, the King’s warehouses full of priceless treasures, and the unified favor of all the people, the King will have us gather around the Ark and we will shout and rejoice and celebrate God’s blessings upon us, and let all the people get a good look at the new leaders God has given them.”
But those marching leaders did not stop at the King’s house. Nor at the city center. Neither did they stop at the little tent where the Ark of the Covenant rested.
For five more miles they marched, finally stopping at the little town of Gibeon. Here, there stood no ornate temple in which to worship, neither dwelt here a holy seer to anoint their heads. There were no accommodations to host a retreat or leadership seminar.
About the only thing in Gibeon that was worthy of note was a temporary structure that had been sitting there for some time. Made mostly of animal hides and skins, its luster had faded ages ago. But it was to this small compound that Israel’s new King was drawn.
Solomon had not gathered his leadership team together to rejoice in their newly cast power, or to celebrate their victory over their detractors. He hadn’t called them to give a public demonstration of God’s might and authority. Neither did he direct them to worship around the Ark of the Covenant.
Instead, he gathered his team around the brasen altar — the same altar that had borne Israel’s sacrifices since Moses commissioned it for service when the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness. Here, five miles from the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon offered a sacrifice unto the Lord.
He didn’t order a new altar built to signify a new day in Israel. He understood the mercies of God flowed from the long established law God gave to his forefathers.
He knew a day would come when they would rejoice in the presence of the Lord around the Ark of the Covenant, but he understood that sacrifice and humility must be practiced first.
Being anointed King was a big deal, but Solomon knew that the oil ran down from his head only because of the mercies of God and the faithfulness of his father. He had yet to do anything praiseworthy. So, they marched right passed the Ark of the Covenant and didn’t stop until they came to the altar.
When assuming power or position, too many folks run straight to the beautiful and shining Ark of the Covenant to celebrate. The altar is too far away; it’s too gloomy and too messy. To them, that old relic is a left-over from the past.
But a real leader knows from where his authority flows. He understands that power must be seasoned with gratitude or it quickly corrupts. And he realizes that he is just a temporary steward of whatever power he possesses: it doesn’t belong to him.
Those things aren’t learned at the Ark of the Covenant. They are the products of an altar.
Want to be a good leader? Take frequent trips to the altar. Take your family and your team with you. Not only will it keep your spirit pure, but it will teach you how to appreciate and enjoy those visits to the Ark of the Covenant.
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