By this point in reading through 1&2 Kings it is hard not to feel exhausted by the cyclical pattern of ungodliness in the leadership of Israel and Judah. But all of this long story of hundreds of years of cyclical ungodly leadership is to there to tell a story…
A story which started way back when God’s people had clamoured for a human king as recorded in 1 Samuel 8, they wanted to be like the nations around them rather than be lead by God as their king leading them through his appointed prophets/judges. God had warned them that this rejection of Him would not be a blessing to the people and 1&2 Kings records that it definitely wasn’t a blessing!
In 2 Kings 24-25 we read of the final sacking of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon of Judah, approximately 120years after the Assyrians overthrow and exile of Israel. 2 Kings 24:2-4 expressly makes God the active agent as Chaldeans, Moabites, Syrians and Ammonites and finally the Babylonians raid Judah and finally overthrow it with a siege and burn the city and the temple and break the walls down.
The sad summary statement in 2 Kings 25:21 reads; “So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.”
The Promised Land is vacated by all except a remnant of poor people, the Temple as the place of worship is ruined and ceases to operate.
What will happen next? What has happened to the covenant?
God’s place – the Promised Land and the Temple lies in ruins, God’s people have been exiled from it.
Israel’s history is littered with priests who failed, prophets who failed & kings who failed.
The people have been unfaithful to the covenants they made and to God’s word to them.
This is the riddle of the Old Testament really.
- God is holy, we are not – what can we do, what will He do?
- God’s people, we need a better, a perfect, an eternal prophet, priest & king.
- God’s people long for a place where we can dwell with God, where worship is not defiled & never ends
- God’s people need forgiveness that’s eternal and truly transforming…
- All this points to the ONE who was to come – Jesus!
- Our Saviour, our perfect Prophet, Priest & King!
After a period of nearly 200yrs since Jeroboam’s succession from Judah, the northern tribes of Israel are eventually conquered by the Assyrians and deported into exile (2 Kings 17:6). Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, the writers of Scripture are very keen to make it plain as to why this happened.
“And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God…and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel…” (2 Kings 17:7-8)
This was an event that came about not because of bad military or political strategy (although the passage reveals there were mis-steps made), Scripture attributes the source of the capitulation and capture of Israel by Assyria as being God Himself as the active agent.
The whole of the chapter reads like a charge sheet being read out in a court room, the list of charges against the accused, the guilty one;
- You have sinned against your God who brought you out of Egypt and into this Promised Land
- You walked in the customs of the nations whom I judged and drove out before you
- You followed wicked evil kings who lead you into sin
- You built for yourself your own places of worship, altars to false gods & served idols
- You did wicked things before me, and made sacrifices to these false gods
- You provoked me to anger (says God)
- I warned you again and again through the prophets, but you would not listen and were stubborn (vs13-14)
- You did not believe
- You despised my commands
- You even burned your sons & daughters as worship to false gods provoking me to righteous anger
And because of this the judgement comes;
18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only… 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight. (2 Kings 17:18&20)
23…the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day. (2 Kings 17:23)
Yes, God is ‘slow to anger and abounding in love’ (Exodus 34:6) but that does not mean that eventually God will not say; ‘enough!’ God was patient, forbearing with Israel but eventually love for all those sinned against, all those who lost loved ones, love for all those babies sacrificed to false gods looked like God judging sin. God had appealed again and again, urged them to turn from their wickedness – but they refused to with hard stubborn hearts.
So what can we learn from this for our lives?
May we not ever trust our hearts, which are so prone to lead us astray from serving the living God. May we hold on to His words, will and ways laid out for us in Holy Scripture. May we never tamper with His Word and make our own false gods suitable to our fancies and our modern culture’s preferences. May we repent when and if we have sinned against Him, and may we worship our Holy God with holy reverence and as our loving response to all the love He has poured out to us through the gift of His precious Son, Jesus.
In what is a long section of brutal narrative…
Exactly what God promised through Elijah in response to Jezebel and Ahab’s killing of Naboth for his vineyard in 1 Kings 21 is now fulfilled and Ahab’s sin and Jezebel’s sin and evil is punished by God in 2 Kings 9-10 by Jehu.
What can we learn from this for our lives?
Sin is extremely serious. If we don’t recognise the seriousness of sin before a Holy God we are deluded, we cheapen grace and ultimately we don’t need a Saviour to rescue us from our sin or to forgive us for our sin.
“Salvation shines forth brightly when it is seen against the dark background of divine judgment. We cheapen the gospel if we represent it as a deliverance only from unhappiness, fear, guilt and other felt needs, instead of as a rescue from the coming wrath.” – John Stott
Don’t prematurely decide that just because people don’t seem for the moment to be accountable before God for their sin and their rejection of Him that they won’t be held accountable by the Holy One.
All people’s only hope is Jesus Christ who was the propitiation for our sin! That means, Jesus was the sacrifice that was paid in our place for our sin, the sacrifice which took away the wrath of God;
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)
Another feature of this section and all through 1&2 Kings are the little cameo’s in the BIG STORY of human history and salvation by often unremarkable individuals who did the work and will of God in the midst of a crooked and evil age.
Little cameo’s like;
- The little Jewish girl who was carried away by Syrians and served in the house of Naaman who believed God could heal her master (2 Kings 5:2-3)
- The unnamed servants of Naaman who helped him not miss his healing because of his reaction to Elisha’s instruction (2 Kings 5:13)
- The four lepers (2 Kings 7) through whom God ended the brutal siege of Samaria
- Princess Jehosheba who hid Joash from Athaliah for 6yrs in the house of God with the priest until the priest anointed him as king at the tender age of 7yrs old.
- Joash the young 7yr old who listened to Jehoiada who discipled and instructed him and so he did amazingly good things reforming Judah and dealing with sin and Baal worship and repaired the temple.
What can we learn for our lives?
You never do know when you are going to do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, or whether you have just done it! – Michael Eaton
God’s kingdom advances through people just like you and I doing often what might not seem like extraordinary things. Live every day as if it is the day you will do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, live on the edge in anticipation and serve God with whatever and whoever God puts before you, disciple, reach out, love, speak the words of God….
It’s been three years since Elijah told Ahab and Israel that there would be no rain until he said so… God tells Elijah to go to king Ahab.
On seeing him Ahab exclaims; “Is it you, you troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17) This is an important little moment – who is responsible for the suffering in the land? Is it Elijah’s fault because he spoke and the rain stopped? Or is it Ahab’s fault because of his sin?
Elijah greets Ahab back with the following retort; “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:18). Scripture makes it clear, the famine is the result of God’s judgement on the gross sin and idol-worship of Ahab, his foreign wife Jezebel and his predecessor’s.
Ahab might be king, but Elijah is calling all the shots! Elijah instructs Ahab to gather all of Israel and the 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah who eat at his wife’s table (1 Kings 18:19) at Mount Carmel. Elijah inspired by God, wants a showdown to help Israel choose whom they will worship.
Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)
Compromise and double-mindedness is massively offensive to God. The Ten Commands start; “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments…” (Exodus 20:1-6)
God wants His people to choose. Either God is God, or Baal is God but they can’t both be God, because God makes an exclusive claim on being God and so makes a rightful jealous call for devoted and exclusive worship and trust. Elijah asks the people to choose therefore, but they remain silent, they say nothing, refuse to choose (1 Kings 18:21).
The stage is set and Elijah (still calling the shots and making demands on the king) tells the 450 prophets of Baal to make an altar, place an offering on it and then to pray for fire… The prophets of Baal cry out for Baal to answer them for hours from ‘morning to noon’ for Baal to send fire.
“But there was no voice, and no one answered” (1 Kings 18:26) “And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation (evening sacrifice), but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:29)
Poignant! No reply, nothing because Baal like all other false-gods is nothing, man made nonsense that can say and do nothing.
Then Elijah makes an altar like theirs, but does even more than them by dousing his altar and offering with copious amounts of water to underline the sign and wonder that’s about to happen.
Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39)
The One true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel and Elijah is personal, He speaks and guides and instructs and answers prayer – He alone is God and worthy of trust & worship. He is the God they should have chosen when Elijah challenged them to make up their minds. Now, on the evidence before them, with this contrasting display of power and God’s responding to the prayer of his servant – the nation fell on their faces proclaiming the truth about God.
Baal worship has been exposed as futile, Baal’s ‘prophets’ exposed as charlatan’s and therefore executed.
What relevance does this have for your life and mine?
Confidence – God alone is Almighty God awesome in power & majesty and ready to respond to prayer!
Consider – Am I in any way compromising by being double-minded effectively, putting my trust in anything or anyone other than God?
Repent – If you’ve doubted God in any way or been dabbling with the worship/trust of anything other than God, repent and turn back to exclusive worship of God alone.
The man who loved God (1 Kings 3:3), the man God chose to use to finally build Him a dwelling place, the one who had the privilege of fulfilling promises and had promises made to him by God who revealed Himself to him personally twice, the one God blessed by answering his prayers and going beyond just answering into exceeding blessing and peace and prosperity…
That one, did the very thing his dad had warned him not to do, the very thing God had spoken to him twice about directly in a very personal way. After the overflowing blessing of chapters 9-10, 1 Kings 11 is a tragedy of monumental proportions!
We can be tempted sometimes to think something along lines of; “if only I had…….. then I’d be content”. Solomon is probably the clearest example in all of Scripture exposes that thinking as false.
Solomon had God’s favour as a chosen man with destiny, God’s promises, God’s blessing financially, God’s blessing in his role as king with peace in the nation, God’s blessing with wisdom. More than this he wasn’t single wanting to be married but was married…
And yet he wasn’t satisfied! That’s because things don’t satisfy us, only God can truly satisfy us.
Solomon’s desire for more is most clearly expressed in his insatiable lust for women. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines! His lust for women blinded his eyes and shut his ears to the words of his father and more expressly the words of God and the commands of God which urged him to follow God’s ways and God’s commandments.
God had specifically instructed him not to marry foreign women for a specific reason – God knew that they would cause him to compromise and would lead him astray to the worship false gods. And that is exactly what we discover happening in 1 Kings 11.
So God eventually swore He would tear the kingdom from Solomon, divide the kingdom into two parts. Was God not gracious in swearing to do this? Sometimes we read the Old Testament and make a wrong conclusion that somehow the God depicted in the Old Testament is different to the New Testament- but that is not true. After all, God didn’t make this pronouncement after the first foreign wife or the second or the third or the 300th or 600th….!
God is is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and yet God is also holy and pure and righteous and He can not leave sin unpunished…
And so the glorious reign of Solomon has a dark lining – it’s a sad end and at the end of his life Solomon himself declares;
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV84)
So sad, what a tumultuous fall from grace and favour! So what can we learn? How does this apply to our lives?
If the one guy in Scripture who literally ‘had it all’ wasn’t satisfied by earthly things, by relationships by sex, money and power – do you honestly think you’ll be?
Seek God, find your joy in God, He alone can truly satisfy as God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (Piper). So don’t be tempted and distracted by temporal things or even the good blessings given to you by God, love God more than anything find your joy in Him.
Our enemy is patient. He is happy sometimes to bide his time, he lays down land-mines in our lives (if we let him) but then waits to detonate them at some point in the future when the impact will be greater than it is now.
Solomon becomes king as a young man, he loves God Scripture says, and is even a humble young king at this point (1 Kings 3:7). But sadly he is already making some wrong choices, disregarding the charge given to him by his father David (1 Kings 2:3) to walk in God’s ways and commandments.
Solomon unwisely, disregards God’s commandment to not marry foreign women. Through Moses God had warned about not doing this because these foreign wives would cause God’s people to compromise and end up worshipping their false gods (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Solomon however marries Pharaoh’s daughter in a political move designed to give him political allies.
Solomon loves God (1 Kings 3:3) but again he is unwise not paying attention to God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 12:1-8 to not worship or make sacrifices anywhere they pleased but rather to only worship God in the place God had chosen (where the tabernacle was at any given time). Solomon does exactly what Deuteronomy 12:8 specifically instructs not to be done and makes sacrifices at the ‘high places’ of worship used for worship of other gods (1 Kings 3:3).
The remainder of chapters 3-4 record Solomon’s good request from God and the blessing that flows from this request for wisdom. God blessed Solomon in incredible ways with wisdom (we see this in his adjudication of the difficult scenario of the two women in 1 Kings 3:16-28), prolific writing and song writing and blessed the whole nation with peace and prosperity.
And yet the seeds of compromise had been sown! Solomon didn’t know it but his compromise was germinating beneath the surface and would later result in his effective downfall. Satan is patient, happy to sow sin-seeds and to leave them there for a later time for greater impact.
How many church leaders or prominent people have years later when they have profile been exposed for some thing that was private that they never dealt with which then later becomes public only to destroy them?
So what relevance does this have for your life and mine?
What might there be in your life that seems small to you at the moment but is in fact an area of compromise?
Is there anything in your life that you are tolerating or turning a blind eye to even though you know God’s will for you is contrary?
I urge you to never see sin-seeds as small things, but to see what they become and to deal with them as soon as the Holy Spirit points them out to you. Remember that Satan is patient, happy to wait for the moment when detonating that land-mine, causing that seed to germinate will have greater impact on you and on others.
Although I am a devoted Christ Follower, I am not a good person in and of myself! There are plenty of people who are more loving, more generous, more patient , more kind — than I am sadly. There are far too many times when I don’t like who I have become in this scenario or that one, when I’m provoked or prodded.
But then a passage like this one reminds me, that I was hopeless without Christ. I was more than hopeless, I was DEAD, living breathing but spiritually DEAD before I came to the point of trusting in Jesus and asking Him to be my LORD and Saviour (vs13).
Sometimes we look at people and think they’re ok, they’re not that bad really. But Scripture never allows for that false perspective – outside of Jesus we are all DEAD in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1 & Colossians 2:13), without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12), not one of us is righteous enough (Romans 3:9-12), everyone of us is morally corrupt and bankrupt (Romans 3:23). I was, we were or still are in a bad situation…
But God. “God made us alive together with Him” (vs13)! God forgave us all of our many sins, God cancelled the long list of all my, all our wrongs against Him and against others (vs13). What good news this is for a person like me, like you. God set aside our sin, by nailing it to the cross when God nailed Jesus to the cross, so that Jesus could pay the punishment for our sin (Romans 6:23) so that we could be ransomed, set free from the consequences of our sin.
And so now, I am free from sin’s consequences and I am free to love and obey and follow God, I am not under the control of sin or the devil anymore (like I once was – see Romans 6:15-23) but am under the loving command and control of Jesus Christ my LORD.
I still mess up, but praise God I am forgiven and I am able to continually keep becoming more and more like my LORD and Saviour Jesus, keep becoming more loving, more kind, more generous and patient…
But only because I have been ‘made alive together in Him’ (vs13) and because of that I have the life and the light of Jesus in my life which keeps having the effect of transforming me daily. Thank you Jesus!