For when our blank canvas has significant flaws….

Durham is a small city in the North of England, home to many beautiful and ancient buildings, including a majestic cathedral.

Last weekend, Durham Cathedral hosted the North East Festival of Youth Choirs. There were a dozen or so carefully selected chamber choirs from schools across the region, Durham University, and Durham Cathedral choristers.

Young voices filled the space high above the floodlit stone arches, words and music blended, listeners drawn into reverie.

For the grand finale of this concert all the choirs massed to sing Handel’s ‘Zadock the Priest’. Freed from performance pressure and enjoying every moment, the depth and volume of sound produced by these youngsters was staggering. A moment of shared enjoyment, musical feat and sensory overload in equal measure for all.

Here are the lyrics for ‘Zadock the Priest’which, written down, sadly seem a little under-whelming for such a regal piece of music.

Zadok the priest
And Nathan the prophet
Anointed Solomon king
And all the people
Rejoiced, rejoiced, rejoiced
And all the people
Rejoiced, rejoiced, rejoiced
Rejoiced, rejoiced, rejoiced
And all the people
Rejoiced, rejoiced, rejoiced and said:

God save the king
Long live the king
God save the king
May the king live forever
Amen, amen, alleluia, alleluia, amen, amen
Amen, amen, alleluia, amen
May the king live
Forever, forever, forever
Amen, amen, alleluia, alleluia, amen, amen, amen, amen
Amen, amen, alleliua, amen, alleluia,
Amen, amen, alleluia, alleluia…

Zadok the Priest is a British anthem which was composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727.

These words tell the simple story of King Solomon’s coronation.(minus all the controversial and potentially more interesting bits) Nevertheless, I’m rather glad Handel chose to make a fuss of Solomon, out of all the biblical kings he could have selected. In reality, Solomon’s coronation almost did not happen. Adonijah, Solomon’s brother had taken advantage of his father’s ill-health and old age to declare himself King and set up a self-made dynasty. He had even gained a measure of public support.

Nathan the prophet saves the day. Nathan had challenged David over his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and had been the one who had brought God’s word to David about who should reign after him. We are told that when Solomon was born, his parents received a promise from God, that God loved Solomon. This must have been precious, given that their firstborn was taken from them by God because of David’s wrong doing. Nathan had a track record of credibility in spiritual discernment and he would now enlist the help of Bathsheba to remind King David of God’s word and his responsibilities to the nation.

About Solomon: ‘the Lord loved him and sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah (meaning loved by the Lord)’

2 Samuel 12,24.

Old age had caught up with King David and he remained cocooned in his palace, indulged (repulsively so) by a young woman whose life and liberty had been sacrificed to meet his needs. His failing heart was no longer able to keep his frail extremities warm, and he seems alone. This was no patriarch gathering his family around him in his last days. His family were as much at war as any of the nations around them. David may have been somewhat to blame. His parenting had been wholly inadequate, failing to stand up for his abused daughter and alienating his son Absalom. And now there was Adonijah, handsome but completely spoiled by David from a young age. We are told specifically that David had never challenged Adonijah’s poor behaviour. But David had plenty to otherwise occupy his mind, aside from who would succeed him. He had scores to settle with known enemies from within the ranks of his armies. Incapacitated now as he was by ill health and old age, unfinished business haunted his thoughts and disturbed his peace.

But King David was not completely alone. He had God and he would not hesitate to confirm Solomon as King when prompted by Nathan and Bathsheba to do so in line with God’s plan for the nation.  For all his failings David remained faithful to God to the end of his life.

So Solomon is crowned King and David is alive to physically pass on the baton, an exercise which proved to be both a blessing and a burden for Solomon. The first days of Solomon’s reign would be consumed with settling scores with his father’s enemies and his jealous brother.

All of us carry burdens from previous generations to some extent or other. But God calls us to live out His will in our less than perfect circumstances and despite being the less than perfect people that we are.

Grace is a fine but strong thread that binds our lives to the sovereignty of God, no matter what.


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