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(1 Kings 2:1–9) The Tyranny of Gravel

(1 Kings 2:1–9) The Tyranny of Gravel

by Stephen Davey Ref: 1 Kings 2:1–9

King David learned the hard way what happens when you take your mind off God. At a time when he decided to stop meditating on God's law, he committed adultery and then murder. So it's no wonder why in 1 Kings 2:1-9 he


The Tyranny of Gravel

One of the staff associates involved in the Covey Leadership Center attended a time management seminar where the speaker gave an illustration.  I read it recently and shared it with the men on our men's retreat. . .as I studied the final speech of King David to his son Solomon, I thought of that illustration and decided to attempt a demonstration. . .I've slightly changed the demonstration becuase after practicing it in my garage, it takes to much time to do it all this morning.

In order to attempt this demonstration, I'm going to need a lovely assistant to volunteer to help me.   Is Mr. Cooper here this morning?  Come on up here John, I can think of few people lovelier than you . . . that red blush looks nice on you . . . highlights your cheekbones.

Pull the tablecloth off the jar and pile of rocks.   Now I have up here a plastic jar and several large rocks - these rocks, by the way are from my own backyard, in fact, I think they grow in my back yard - you're welcome to take them home after church and start your own collection.

Raise your hand if you think that I can put all these rocks into this jar?  (John raises hand only after I look at him).  Thank you John.  Well let's see . . . put rocks into jar.

All right - I got them all in!

Now, is the jar full?!

John motions behind me, "NO!"

No!  Although there isn't room for any more large rocks, there is room for gravel!

I pour gravel (John holds the container...turning it slightly)

Now is the jar full?   John motions behind me, "NO!"

You do that again and we're going to have an O.T. stoning!

John pours in water.

Now is the jar is full?  (look at John who nods vigorously!)

What is the point of this illustration as it relates to managing your time, and all the events related to your own busy schedules?!

Well, when I first read this story, my answer was what just about what everyone else ventured, "These big rocks represent the important essentials in your life - if you work hard you can squeeze all lot of the non-essential activities and things in around them"

Let me show you the real lesson

If we were to take the water and gravel and pour them in first...

As you can see I don't have room for two rocks. . .so the question is which two major things in my life am I leaving out. . .


"Make sure you put in the big rocks first!"

Say it with me "Make sure you put in the big rocks first!"

Give Mr. Cooper a hand for his help with this demonstration, and in giving you the answers.

What I want to do is take you to I Kings chapter 2 and I Chronicles 28 and show you David's passionate challenge to his young son.  A challenge that, in effect, would put the big rocks, the main things, the important relationships into his sons life first.

You've probably heard the phrase, "Tyranny of the urgent."

Well, this morning, I'm changing it to something I hope you will never forget - and something that God will bring back to your mind over and over again as you ponder the path of your feet." 

I'll call this issue, "The tyranny of the Gravel."

By the way, the word for tyranny comes directly from the Greek language - the word "tyrannos".  It meant master, ruler - the context developed - a hard, unfair taskmaster.

The truth is, most Christians are mastered and their calendars are subjugated, not by the essential - that is by rock, but by non-essential - gravel. 

At the moment when you do not have time for the essentials because of the optionals - at that moment, gravel has become a tyrant - your master.

It's time we took a hard look at our schedules and distinguished between gravel and rock!

Now in I Kings 2 and I Chron. 28, all the important rocks are not mentioned, but we'll take just enough time to address three of them, and then at the end of our discussion, we'll take a personal test that, I believe will, apply even further our own personal challenge.

Rock #1  A close relationship with God.  I Kings 2:1,2  As David's time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying;  2. "I am going the way of all the earth.  Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.

By the way, these are the same words spoken by Moses to Joshua just before Moses died!  And they are the same words spoken by Joshua to the Israelites before he died!


Flip over to I Chronicles 28:9 

As for you my son Solomon, know the God of your (circle that word) father, and serve him with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.

Now as I thought of David's words to his son, and where David's life intersected Solomon's, there are two areas that would have defined in Solomon's mind what his father was trying to say.

As a young 13 year old Solomon had watched his Father's life over the past 6 or 7 years, he would have understood David's urgent command to know God and serve him to mean at least two things:

Knowing Him and serving him involves:

-submission in spite of God's refusals. 

Look up at the beginning of chapter 28 and listen to the words of David (I Chron. 28:2)  Verse 2 "Then King David rose to his feet and said, "Listen to me, my brethren and my people; I had intended to build a permanent home for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God."

Did you catch those poignant words, "I had intended to build. . ."

Two years ago we studied at length this passionate desire of David to build a house for the glory of God's presence - a permanent temple that would replace the movable tabernacle or tent.  It was a pure, wonderful dream.

After 15 years of fighting other nations, the nation Israel experiences peace and David goes to Nathan with his plan.  Nathan, the prophet of God said, "Yes!"  But God came to Nathan in the night and said, "Go back to David with My answer . . . it isn't yes, it's no."

If you'll look at verse 3 we're finally told why - "But God said to me, "You shall not build a house for My name because you are a man of war and have shed blood."

If I were David, right here is when I'd have lost it - those battles David fought were the will of God.  David was a man of war because he had the courage and faith to trust God and obey God and drive from the land the enemies of God.

Every time David swung his sword, God received the glory.

But now!  God said, "Because you swung the sword, you can't build your lifelong dream."

What would David do . . . a life ambition is rejected.  In the secret place of David's heart he was not really a soldier, he was a builder.  When he lay in bed at night, he wasn't dreaming about battle plans, he was drawing up building plans.

But God had refused . . . God had said no.

The mark of your character my friend will be revealed in how you handle what God doesn't do for you more than in what God does do for you.

Has God said "No." to one of your dreams?  Maybe a great accomplishment, a certain career, a ministry, a relationship?  If so, relinquish it.  Let it go.  Like David focus instead on what the Lord will do in your life."

One author wrote, "Rather than pining away the last few years of his life with an ache for that unfulfilled desire, David focuses on what the Lord will allow him to do."

That leads me to the second part of knowing God and serving Him; not only submission in spite of God's refusals, but

     -gratitude in light of God's allowances. 

(Look back at verse 3.  But God said to me, "You shall not build a house for My name becuase you are a man of war and have shed blood.  NOW V. 4  "Yet, (circle that important, character revealing word ...yet, the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever.  For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father's house, and among the sons of my father he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel."

Isn't that great?!  That is knowing God - "He didn't do this but He did do that. . .He did not allow that but He did allow this!"

Get it straight - Rock #1 one is a close personal relationship with God!

Rock #2

A clear accountability to God's word.

Go back to I Kings 2:3. 

I Kings 2:3  And keep the charge of the Lord you God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.

David knew the depths of moral and spiritual failure  - he knew the consequences of an unaccountable life - guilty of murder and adultery, and he would receive the penalty of consequences for those things till the day he died; he knew the only guideline that would ever steer his son through the maze of temptation was the written Word.

It's as if he said, "Son - study the Word, know the precepts and insights and commands and ordinances and testimonies. . .this book is a rock; put it in first!"       

Now, ironically something occurs in his conversation with Solomon that reveals David's failure to some degree in this matter.  

5.  Now you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner, and to Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed; he also shed the blood of war in peace.  And he put the blood of war on his belt about his waist, and on his sandals on his feet.  6.  So act according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to Sheol in peace.  skip to verse 8.  And behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera the Benjamite, of Bahurim; now it was he who cursed me with a violent curse on the day I went to Mahanaim.  But when he came down to me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the Lord, saying, I will not put you to death with the sword. 9.  Now therefore, do not let him go unpunished, for you are a wise man; and you will know what you ought to do to him, and you will bring his gray hair down to Sheol with blood.

Now at first I was convinced that David was acting something like a Mafia Godfather - telling his successor who was on the royal hit list - who to knock off.

But the more I studied and researched, it became clear that one of the consequences related to David's disobedience to the Law was unfinished business. . .there was unfinished business regarding Joab and Shimei that David had failed to carry out.

Dr. Howard Vos writes insightfully, "Was this just a piece of oriental cruelty, as the critics often claim?  Not necessarily.   Both Joab and Shimei had committed acts worthy of the death penalty.  Modern Americans need to remember that ancient Semitic government prescribed the death penalty for many crimes that would not warrant the same treatment today.

Dr. Simon DeVries adds, "Joab had brought blood upon the house of David and Solmon's fulfillment of David's command will be to punish Joab for his bloodthirstiness, but most important, the house of David needed to be purged of blood-guilt so that it might reign in peace."

The point here is, David should have dealt with these men but he couldn't . . . why?  If you study the story of these two men, you will recognize that these men sinned against the Lord at the same time David was sinning or reaping the consequences of his sin against the Lord.

With Shimei - the problem was David's grief over his son Absalom's coup attempt - he had failed Absalom and the Lord as a Father and he was in the process of fleeing when Shimei came out and publickly cursed David - and ultimately Shimei cursed God who had anointed David King.

With Joab, David should have dealt with him years ago.  Joab was guilty of murdering two innocent commanders who just happened to be in his career path.  Why didn't David act with righteous judgment?  Becuase David had earlier used Joab to make sure that Bathseheba's young husband Uriah was killed in battle.  David needed to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba who was pregnant with his child - and so he sent a message back to Joab by the very hand of Uriah that said, in effect,  "Joab, I've got this little problem . . . see to it that Uriah never comes home from battle alive."

Frankly, Joab and Shimei were skeletons in David's closet of past sin!  And they haunted him til the day he died.

I want to address something that doesn't get much prime time coverage; it's a tragic thought but one that happens every day.  It is the sin of a  father or grandfather; the sins of a preacher, politician, executive that have to be dealt with later by the living family members.

In other words, skeletons in some man's closet that come out only after the man dies . . . and the stunned sons and daughters have to pick up the pieces.

I happen to be a Father . . . but I'm also a son - one of the best gifts my father continues to give me is his clean name.  Those of you who have the same gift understand.   I'll run into someone who'll say, "I know your father - he's a godly man; or, as one man told me some time ago who was traveling through town, "I remember your father when he was in college - he was such a student of the word." 

A few months ago I was about to speak to the Student body at Liberty University.  In a few minutes I was going to walk out to a makeshift stage located on the center court of their Athletic Center and preach to some 4-5000 students.  I was in a room nearby with the Campus Pastor and the door opened and the President of the University walked in and gave me a big handshake.  He thanked me for coming and then this man told me to tell my Father hello and shared briefly  how much he appreciated my Father's walk.  I can tell you that speaking to 5,000 students wasn't nearly as significant or meaningful to me as that man's commendation of my Father.

I want that for my kids . . . don't you?!

You can have it - but it means living a life of accountability to the word; THIS HAS TO BE A BIG ROCK! - Your relationship to the word, which among other things means keeping short accounts on sin.

Those of you who don't have a heritage like that have every reason to start that process now.  . . . just remember, "A good name is to be chosen above silver or gold."     

Just a few years ago, a well respected man from a town I used to live in; a man who served as the leading trustee in a church I attended years earlier; a man who was instrumental in the development of a Christian college and seminary; a wealthy business man who seemed outwardly so dedicated to God - He and his wife were winding their way down their driveway that emptied into a street and beyond the street a gaurdrail and then a steep mountain cliff - for some strange reason, the accelerator jammed and the car crashed through the guardrail and off the cliff - they were both killed.  It was a tragic loss to many people, the family, the ministries. . .in the days ahead, to all of our amazement who heard the story, when this man's will was being probated, a young lady in her mid-20's mysteriously appeared, claiming to be his daughter - the result of an immoral relationship he had carried on years earlier - she was able to prove it; along with the fact that she had been recieving payments from him to keep her existence a secret.   

Clean out the skeletons  Don't leave moral or unethical gargae behind for your kids to discover - toxic waste that will deeply hurt them.

Did you know Solomon's name means peace.  In fact, the Hebrew word Shalom and Solomon come from the same root.   Yet the reign of Solomon begins with bloodshed and intrigue that will rock the Israelite world . . .  Solomon's first acts were ridding the kingdom of compromise that David his father had allowed.

Make sure you put this rock in first!

Rock #3

An committed involvment with God's work  (turn back to I Chro. 28)

For all of David's failures and sins - he was referred to as a man after God's own heart.  It wasn't becuase he was perfect, but because ultimately, God was his priority.

By the time of David's death, his worship choruses were being sung throughout the nation.  His acts of faith and courage would be legendary; his expansion of the kingdom and solidification of Israel's worship system were heroic achievements. 

And now in this final scene - in this last recorded conversation with his son - his heart for God is revealed all over again.  Let me show you where. . .in two ways:

1) David communicates  a sense of destiny to his son

look again at I Chro. 28:9.  You can almost see and hear David saying, "Solomon, come here, pull up a chair close to me and listen.    "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.  If you seek Him He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.  (now notice)  10.  Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.

Stop for a moment - imagine if you had only one more conversation with your child - would you say, "Now listen son or sweetheart, make sure you get a good education; get a good paying job that you enjoy, settle down and marry a nice Christian - mind your manners and brush your teeth."

How temporary - while all of those little lessons are necessary - and it's a good idea to brush your teeth and study in school - they all miss the purpose statement of life.

I saw a cartoon about a person who was jogging up a sweat.    The caption underneath has the man saying, "I'm doing whatever         I can to prolong my life, hoping that someday I'll figure out what     it's for."


How many parents are preparing their children and also living with the idea that God has something special for their lives - God has chosen you to know Him and to serve Him in whatever arena he places you. "Follow after God - get to know God - serve God in His church. 

That is passing to your son or daughter, grandson or your close friends a rock like principle around which all the other gravel can settle.

I like the way David adds the words, 10b.  Be courageous AND act!  In contemporary English we would say, "Don't just talk the talk, walk the walk."

But there's a second thing: 

David communicated a passionate desire for God's glory

Look at verse 11 (I Chron. 28)  Then David gave to his son Solomon the plan of the porch of the temple, its buildings, its storehouses, its upper rooms, its inner rooms, and the room for the mercy seat; 12. and the plan of all that he had in mind, for the courts of the house of the Lord.    Can you see David and Solomon with these blueprints rolled out before them on some table - David's showing Solomon every detail.

Solomon, God's house had been my passion - establishing His glory through this house has been my dream . . . I've worked out every detail!

The amazing thing Ladies and Gentlemen is that David was so excited about something he'd never see - that didn't matter - God would see it!

I have read that the statue of liberty towers 151 feet into the air.  The project took years to complete.  The sculptor who finished the work was a frenchman named Bartholdi.  Oxcar Hammerstein once saw a picture of the statue of Liberty, taken from a helicopter.  It showed the top of the Lady's head.  He wrote how amazed he was at the detail there in the lady's hair.      That's amazing when you consider that Bartholdi never lived to see the invention of the airplane or the helicopter . . . in other words, he would have been fairly confident that no one would ever see the top of this lady's hair.  Yet, with as much detail as he sculptured her face and gown, he sculptured the lines and contours of the hair on the top of her head.

If you have a passion for God's glory, it doesn't matter if anyone will ever see your work, it will be done right.

Having a passion for the work of God and the glory of God means performing the tedious with as much intensity as the exciting!

You say, I can't live like that in my own strength!  That's right - notice verse 20.  Then David said to his son Solomon, "Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.  he will not fail you nor forsake you until al the work of the service of the house of the Lord is finished."

Just make sure you put in the rock first - a firm conviction to know Him, a close accountability to His word and a commitment to serve Him and bring Him glory with all that you are.

These are the rocks around which the gravel of life should settle!

APPLICATION:  Now, let's take a personal test.  (on the back of your study notes)

In the spaces below put a G or an R beside each event to designate whether they are life's little extra's - Gravel,  or life's main essentials - Rock.

Now you need to remember that "gravel" doesn't necessarily mean sinful.  But you do need to remember that it is non-essential.  The point is that gravel becomes a tyrant when we allow it to come first or when we so fill our lives with these activities that there just isn't enough room for the rocks. 


At the end of every week, do we look back over our shoulders and wonder, "Why can't I find time to study the word; why can't I find time to get involved in a ministry to others?"  "Why can't I remember the last time my kids and I played games together or my wife and I had some time for just the two of us?"  I'll tell you why - our lives can be ruled by gravel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you are coming to the end of your days and weeks with the same frustration. . .ultimately, you will come to the end of your life - and your epitaph could read, "I never had time for the important things."  

I want you to look for me for just a moment in closing at David's last words. 

Last words are incredibly revealing!  

Some of the most tragic came from Philip III, King of France who said, "What an acocunt I shall have to give to God!  How I should like to have lived differently that I have lived."

Look at David's last recorded words  I Chronicles 29:10  So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  1.  Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thin is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dose exalt Thyself as head over all.  12.  Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone.  13.  Now therefore, our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name. . . WOW!

Now look over at verse 28.  Then he died in a ripe old age, full of days, riches and honor; and his son Solomon reigned in his place.

There is a New Testament postscript to David's life - his epitaph; Acts 13:36.  For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid among his fathers."

The only way you and I can hope to have that said of us - that we did more than create computer programs, sell insurance, raise kids, build buildings, oh no - "That we served the purpose of God in our own generation - is to make sure, by God's grace, that we put the big rocks in first!

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