Monday, June 26, 2017
Love and Faithfulness to God
1 As the time of King David’s death approached, he gave this charge (instruction, commands) to his son Solomon: 2 “I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man (be a strong leader). 3 Observe (obey) the requirements of the LORD your God, and follow all His ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. 4 If you do this, then the LORD will keep the promise He made to me. He told me, ‘If your descendants live as they should and follow Me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’”. . . 10 Then David died and was buried with his ancestors in the City of David (Jerusalem). 11 David had reigned over Israel for forty years, seven of them in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 Solomon became king and sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established. 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 (NLT)
The Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings teaches readers about the importance of an individual and a nation’s faithfulness and obedience to God and His covenant. First Kings opens with King David, Israel’s greatest human king, giving final instructions to his son Solomon on the importance of remaining wholeheartedly faithful to God and His covenant. As guardian of the covenant with God, Israel’s rulers came to symbolize the spiritual health of the nation. All kings after King David would be judged by their faithfulness to God and His covenant. First and Second Samuel describe King David’s life and his kingship.
Israel reached its Golden Age under the kingships of David and Solomon. However, the book of Kings concludes with the true and living God allowing His people’s defeat by foreign powers and their exile into the foreign lands of Assyria and Babylon. The Old Testament book of Lamentations expresses the pain and grief of this tragic period (e.g., see Lamentation 1:1).
What brought about Israel’s defeat? As 1 and 2 Kings reveal, Israel failed to wholeheartedly love and obey God and His commandments and statutes. First Kings 9 warned Israel of destruction if they refused to obey God faithfully and walk in all His ways:
6 "But if you or your descendants abandon Me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, 7 then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor My Name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations." 1 Kings 9:6-7 (NLT)
The Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings describe the highest and lowest period of ancient Israel history from 970 to 586 BC. The Hebrew text originally treated 1 and 2 Kings as one book, called in the Hebrew tradition simply “Kings.” Another Old Testament book, 2 Chronicles, covers the same historical period as the book of Kings. Moreover, the book of Kings forms the background for other Old Testament prophetic books of the Bible, including Amos, Hosea, Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk. God’s faithful prophets continually warned each ruler and the people about the dangers of God’s judgments if they did not repent and wholeheartedly love and obey the living God.
The two-part book of Kings can be confusing and hopeless to keep straight. The book of Kings lists 39 rulers: 38 kings and one queen. Beginning with Solomon’s reign (approximately 971 BC), 1 Kings traces the history of Israel as one nation after David’s death. Chapters 3 through 11 of 1 Kings describe Solomon’s reign of the united kingdom of Israel, including the building of the Temple of God (also known as the First Temple). Despite Solomon’s success, Solomon’s heart turned away from wholeheartedly loving and obeying the true and living God, and he began to worship other gods as result of his many foreign wives (see 1 Kings 11:1-8).
After Solomon's death, 1 Kings 12 marks the beginning of a civil war that ruptured Israel into two nations: Israel in the North and Judah in the South. Beginning with 1 Kings 12, Israel is divided into two nations (Israel in the North with ten tribes and Judah in the South with two tribes). King Solomon’s son Rehoboam succeeded him as king of Israel. However, Rehoboam was immature and reckless, and he lost the ten northern tribes to Jeroboam. Jeroboam, son of Nebat, led Northern Israel into independence from Solomon’s son Rehoboam and Judah (1 Kings 12:1-24). So the ten northern tribes of Israel revolted against Rehoboam forming two separate nations. Nevertheless, God was faithful to Rehoboam and allowed him to keep two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, in the south. Thereafter, the two kingdoms were known as Israel in the North and Judah in the South (see 1 Kings 12:18-24). In all, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were united for 120 years under kings David and Solomon. Then the kingdoms were divided for approximately 200 years after Solomon’s death. Starting with 1 Kings 13, the book of Kings tells of the dark days for Israel and Judah.
All of the Northern kings were unfaithful and disobedient to the true and living God and not one Northern king followed the ways of God. The Northern Kingdom brought institutionalized idolatry and corruption into their religion with the worship of gods manufactured by Jeroboam, two golden calves at Dan and Bethel (see 1 Kings 12:25-30). Moreover, Jeroboam institutionalized the creation of shrines on high places and the appointment of unlawful priests (see 1 Kings 12:31-33). The worship of the two golden calves, the shrines on high places, and the unlawful priests became known as the “sin of Jeroboam.” Israel’s worse rulers, King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel, introduced the terrible practice of Baal worship. Of the 19 Northern rulers, eight kings either were murdered or committed suicide. One king, Zimri, lasted only seven days.
Because of Israel’s unfaithfulness and idolatry, the true and living God raised up the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the Northern Kingdom to lead Israel. During Elijah and Elisha’s ministries, mighty miracles broke out with unusual frequency. Through these two mighty prophets, the true and living God led and controlled the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of Israel’s ineffective kingship. The prophets Elijah and Elisha appeared at a crucial point in the history of the Northern Kingdom, just as evil King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel were changing the official religion from the worship of God to the worship of Baal, a foreign god of Canaan (see 1 Kings 16:29-34). Israel’s idolatry and unfaithfulness to the living God ultimately led to Northern Israel’s exile into Assyria (see 2 Kings 17).
However, almost half of Judah’s rulers remained somewhat faithful to God “doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord” while the others proved wicked and disobedient to God. Such good kings as Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah in the Southern Kingdom of Judah were godly kings and walked faithfully with God. Despite some good kings, overall Israel and Judah and its people failed to faithfully follow God and walk in all His ways. Idolatry and sinfulness also plagued Judah (see 2 Kings 21:10-16). Many of Judah’s rulers failed to have a wholehearted allegiance to God.
So, God allowed the North Kingdom of Israel to fall to the Assyrians. Israel disappeared in approximately 722 BC with the Assyrian’s defeat of Israel, and the people of the Northern Kingdom were carried into Assyrian captivity (see 2 Kings 17). After Israel’s defeat by the Assyrian, Judah lasted alone for 135 years until the Babylonians destroyed Judah along with Jerusalem in approximately 586 BC and carried the people of the Southern Kingdom into the Babylon captivity (see 2 Kings 25). Although judgment may appear to be slow, God will judge evil harshly.
The book of Kings ended with a bleak picture: refugees picking through the rubble of Jerusalem, the Jewish people enslaved by foreign powers, and the Jerusalem Temple of God laying in ruins with its treasures carted off to Babylon. At the end of the book of Kings, the Jewish people were scattered across the earth, not to be united as an independent nation for 25 centuries. No independent Jewish nation existed until the 20th century. All along, God’s faithful prophets repeatedly warned Israel and Judah to return to God and His righteous commands. Ever since the Jewish people looked to 1 and 2 Kings when everything fell apart. However, the book of Kings ends with Israel’s hope and restoration as the One true and living God remains ready to forgive all who repent! Despite the destruction of Israel and Judah, God maintained His promise to King David. The line of David continued until the arrival of Jesus the Messiah (see Matthew 1:1-17)!
Amplified Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).