Friday, April 4. 1 Kings 16 – 18

Ahab, whose reign begins in 1 Kings 16, gets more space than any other northern kingdom king – seven chapters – despite the fact that he doesn’t reign all that long (only 22 years). Jereboam reigns at least as long, but Baasha, Jehu, and Jereboam II all reign longer and Omri, though his reign was shorter, was a greater king, founding the city of Samaria.

Ahab’s distinctiveness is the evil that he cultivated. In fact, notice how, in chapter 16, the evil of Israel is compounded by its leaders. Baasha, Elah, and Zimri continue the evil begun by Jereboam, but Omri sinned more than those before him and Ahab did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any before him. In fact, the writer of Kings summarizes Ahab’s reign with these words: “there never was a man like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings 21:25).

Chapter 16 covers some sixty years, but its brief point is that the northern kingdom is rapidly becoming as evil as the Canaanites God sought to dispossess.

The wholesale rejection of God is seen at the end of the chapter. Old Testament Scholar and Beeson University professor Paul House comments as follows: “On the surface this verse seems to have little reason for occupying its present position. It reads like a curious aside about Jericho, yet it reveals two important points. First, in the polytheistic climate in Ahab’s Israel, a man feels free to offer his children as sacrifices to build a city. . . Second, this wicked event reminds readers of God’s word through Joshua that rebuilding Jericho would bring death to the builder’s family (Josh 6:26). God’s word is still active in history according to the author. Despite all the sin in Israel, the Lord is still in charge.”

Thursday, April 3. 1 Kings 13 – 15

George DeHoff, a preacher from my father’s generation tells this story: It was a Sunday morning and the church was about to begin their worship assembly. George was sitting on the front pew as he was to be the guest speaker. A man took a seat beside him and whispered seriously: “The Lord told me I was to speak today.” George, without missing a beat said: “What time did you speak with the Lord?” The man replied and George answered with: “Yes, I know, but later the Lord told me he’s changed his mind and you were to be quiet while I speak.”

With competing voices, how is one to know what is really the word of the Lord?

The first prophet in the story may have wondered if the Lord had really spoken to him, but it is to his credit that if he doubted at all, he followed the Lord’s instructions even in the face of opposing a king. All doubt would have been removed however when the altar split in two and when the king’s arm withered before everyone’s eyes.

The problem came when the second prophet lied: “An angel of the Lord spoke to me . . .” he began and then contradicted everything the Lord had told the first prophet.

Duped, the first prophet ended up disobeying God – and it cost him his life.

How fair is that, and, again, with competing voices, how are you supposed to know which way is right?

The first prophet knew by experience that God had spoken to him. He didn’t know God had spoken to the second prophet. He should have asked for proof. But more than that, God is not in the habit of changing His mind. The first prophet should have smelled a rat.

The Bible is the confirmed message from God. Messages to the contrary are to be held suspect. The same competing voices were heard in Isaiah’s day to which God replied: “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” Then notice this command: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.” (Isaiah 8:19-20).

It’s sound advice. Any fool can claim to have a message from God. The wise man will make sure the message really is from God by comparing what is suspect with what is certain.

Tuesday, April 1. 1 Kings 7 – 9

David had brought the Ark of the covenant up from the home of Obed-Edom (2 Samuel 6), but the tabernacle had been left in Gibeon. In chapter eight, Solomon unites the two in Jerusalem as the temple takes the place of the tabernacle. This will be the last mention of the tabernacle in the Old Testament. The dark cloud of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord, driving out all the priests and God took up his residence there among His people.

Solomon’s prayer of dedication is significant for several reasons:

First, Solomon acknowledges that the temple is not, really, the dwelling place of God. Certainly no human built edifice could contain the maker of heaven and earth.

But second, the temple is the symbol of God’s dwelling among his people. That is why Solomon so often refers to it (note “this temple,” and “this place”). When God’s people seek God’s presence in prayer, Solomon prays that God will hear them.

Third, Solomon justifies his request for God to hear his prayer and the prayers of his people because God has made promises to do so.

Fourth, Solomon acknowledges that God is the God of all people in that he asks God to hear even the prayers of those not His people IF they will turn to God.

The Church, according to Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, is the temple of God today. It is the symbol of God’s residence among His people and connection with God, in life and in prayer, is intended to be through His Church.

Sunday, March 30. 2 Samuel 24 – 1 Kings 3

In chapter 3 there is a noticeable change in this brief story of Solomon.

We were told in 2 Samuel 12 that Solomon was the second son born to David’s union with Bathsheba. We are also told concerning this child that “the Lord loved him,” though we are never told why. Reading the opening chapters of Kings, we might well wonder if the Lord’s love persists.

After all . . .

Solomon kills his half brother Adonijah. I understand that Adonijah is competition for the throne, but still, should he have been murdered?

Solomon demotes Abiathar the High priest. Apparently at this time, there were two High Priests, Abiathar and Zadok. Because Abiathar supported Adonijah in his quest for the throne, Solomon, on his own, removes Abiathar from the priesthood. We can wonder if Solomon had the authority to do this. Of course, the observation is made that this was according to the plan of God to deprive Eli’s descendants from the priesthood, but working according to the plan of God is not exactly the same as working according to the word of God. If God told Solomon to do this, we are not given that information. It simply seems as if Solomon is acting on his own.

Solomon has Joab murdered, and he kills Shimei.

It’s a bloody story and we are right in wondering whether Solomon could possibly still have God’s blessing. But the trouble doesn’t end there. Solomon goes to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, the “most important high place.” The tabernacle is there, but the Ark of the covenant is in Jerusalem. Where should he have gone? This little note points out Solomon’s confusion. He doesn’t really know what he is doing, or what he ought to do.

But in chapter three, things change.

During a dream, Solomon goes to God in prayer. God offers him whatever he desires and Solomon chooses wisdom – specifically the Lord’s wisdom to govern correctly. We have to admit, it was something Solomon desperately needed.

For the next eight chapters, Solomon goes from one success to another until finally, his success goes to his head and he stops living by the wisdom of God. Failure is on the horizon.

One message from this is, of course, to stick within the guidance of the Lord. But another, more pertinent to chapter three, is that when you don’t know what you are doing, it’s best to admit it and go to God in prayer for guidance.

Wednesday, June 19. 1 Kings 20 – 22

As the first half of the book of Kings comes to a close, we have two very long stories: one of grace, and another of judgment. The story of grace concerns Syria’s war against Israel. Despite the fact that Israel is living in rebellion to God, and despite the fact that she is ruled by a monarch unique in the eyes of the Lord for devoting himself to do evil (21:25-26), God grants Israel tremendous victory.

The story of judgment is in 1 Kings 22.

Just as important as the story however is the application.

Remember that this book was written some three hundred and fifty years after the event. The nation of Israel is no more. And yet, thus far, it is very much the focal point of this book. In the story of Ahab and Jehoshaphat, even though Jehoshaphat does right in asking the advice of a prophet of the Lord, he doesn’t follow that advice. Instead, he follows Ahab. In fact, he submits to Ahab’s authority in a very stupid way, remaining dressed in his royal garments while allowing Ahab to disguise himself as a regular soldier. Why would he allow that? In the end, it cost Jehoshaphat his life.

The message for Judah would be clear. There can be no alliances with those who do not listen to God. God’s people can never be subservient to them. Success can only be found in faithfulness to God.

Tuesday, June 18. 1 Kings 17 – 19

It is 120 miles, in a straight line, from Mt. Carmel to Beersheba. One would presume that Elijah did not travel along the main roads while Jezebel and Ahab were looking for him after the debacle at Mt. Carmel, so it must have been an arduous trip, emphasized by the fact that when he finally got to rest, he had a hard time waking up. He was starving, but too tired to eat. It took an angel of the Lord to rouse him so as to preserve his life.

But Elijah wasn’t done running. In the next forty days, he traveled another two hundred miles to Mt. Sinai (Horeb).

It’s interesting that all the time he is running, God doesn’t speak to him, but just takes care of him.

It is at Sinai that the “still small voice” (NIV – “whisper”) of the Lord came to him.

Many Christian people talk about listening to the “still small voice” within them, directing their lives, but I doubt their understanding of this story is anywhere close to its reality. They mean that God is speaking to them independently, giving them guidance – often an excuse for doing what they feel they must. Instead, the “still small voice” of 1 Kings 19 is first calming. An anxious heart doesn’t need a lot of noise. Second, it is corrective. “What are you doing here” is not asking for information or justification. It is a rebuke. I never find those folks who claim to hear a “still small voice within them” (which is decidedly NOT where Elijah hears it) refer to it as a rebuke. Third, it was directive in a way that will not be convenient nor safe. Back through dangerous territory, Elijah is to travel four hundred miles to the desert of Damascus, and his purpose is to anoint two executioners and his successor. In other words, God is sending him into harm’s way to his ultimate death.

I’m not opposed to listening to the whisper of God. I just think we should realize that God’s whisper more often contains not words of approval, but words of rebuke and commission. That it is a whisper is probably why that voice is so seldom heard.

Monday, June 17. 1 Kings 14 – 16

Books of the Bible claim to be from God, but they were written by men. There is no contradiction here, for the Bible says these writers “spoke from God as they were guided by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). That text does not, however, say how the Holy Spirit influenced them. However it came about, there was work and research on the part of the writers.

Our eyes were opened to this in 1 Kings 12 with the comment (at the division of the kingdom) “so Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day” (vs. 19). Kings was written at least twenty years into the Babylonian captivity. By that time, the northern kingdom of Israel has been extinct for nearly two hundred years. How could they have been in rebellion “to this day” if they were not existent? In all likelihood, the writer of Kings is copying a document written many years before when Israel was existent.

What document was it?

We don’t know, but 1 Kings 14 mentions two documents accessible to him: the “annals of the kings of Israel” and the “annals of the kings of Judah.”

Chapter fourteen serves as a lasting reminder of the certain and sometimes crushing and often severe judgment of God. It is interesting that, to God, allowing you to be buried could be a blessing. That would happen to Jeroboam’s youngest son. The others would be “burned as one burns dung, until it is all gone. Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city and birds will feed on those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the country.”

Surely the father of Jesus could not be so cruel.

But even Jesus spoke of a judgment where the wicked would be “thrown into hell where the worms who eat them do not die and the fire is not quenched.” All who would deny an eternal torment have a theology that vastly underestimates the seriousness and long-term consequences of God’s judgment.

Sunday, June 16. Song of Solomon 8; 1 Kings 12 – 13

1 Kings 12 and 13 illustrate greatly the sovereignty, as well as the faithfulness of God. Remember that God promised to secure David’s throne for David’s descendants forever (2 Samuel 7:13). All of it, however, was conditional on Israel – as well as David’s descendants – continuing to be faithful to the Lord (1 Kings 9:3-7).

God would have been well within His rights to abandon Israel.

But God didn’t. In God’s eyes, a promise is a promise – conditional or not.

And so the Lord kept His promise to David by preserving Rehoboam’s kingship, but he vastly reduced the kingdom. The fault was both monarchial and national. Solomon worshiped other Gods and therefore lost the right to rule. The people worshiped other gods and lost the privilege of belonging to God. But God doesn’t give them up.

Rehoboam’s problem was that he failed to follow his father’s advice about listening to wise counsel, but listened to his foolish friends instead. Jeroboam’s problem was that he simply didn’t trust the God who had made his kingship possible. Both would be failures.

Thursday, May 30. 1 Kings 9 – 11

You are supposed to be awed by King Solomon in chapter ten.

But be careful. The awe is deceptive.

The book of Kings was written centuries after Solomon, and yet, the description of Solomon’s splendor sounds like that of an eyewitness. Look at the detail he gives you about Solomon’s throne and the ubiquity of gold. How does he know these things? There must have been extensive records – or perhaps remnants carried off to Babylon.

All of it was so impressive the Queen of Sheba admitted words could not adequately describe the impressiveness of Solomon’s court.

But the queen looked at Solomon the way other humans looked at him. His wisdom was seen in his material success.

But how wise was it, really, for Solomon to surround himself with so much splendor? In the first place, to do so was precisely contrary to God’s will. The queen could praise the God of Israel for all He had given Solomon, but she did not praise God for God’s own greatness – nor does she attempt to find the will of the Lord, nor does it seem Solomon tried to explain it to her. Like Hezekiah a few hundred years later, Solomon was glorying too much in his blessings to teach about God.

Notice what kind of person Solomon was becoming. After all that Hiram did for Solomon, every kindness he showed him, Solomon responded with third rate gifts.

Worldly wealth captivates us and blinds us to the light of God and the plight of others. It too often makes us self-centered and corrupts our character. People may look at our prosperity and assume we are wise, when in fact, what we really lack is wisdom.

Wednesday, May 29. 1 Kings 6 – 8

A light reading of the opening chapters of Kings might lead us to marvel at the greatness of Solomon. But there are small dark moments that appear and we must not miss them. Solomon made an alliance with Egypt, marrying Pharaoh’s daughter – the first of many foreign women who contributed to Solomon’s downfall. He worships at a “high place,” rather than the place where God caused his name to dwell. He gives his famous decision about the child of the two prostitutes, but as the text subtly points out, prostitution was present in Israel (all this in chapter 3). In 1 Kings 4 Solomon accumulates the trappings of wealth – specifically forbidden to him by the law (Deuteronomy 17:16) and fulfills the warning of God in 2 Samuel 8: he taxes the people to pay for his lavish lifestyle. Note that Solomon divided his kingdom into twelve districts in order to pay for these extravagances, but note also that Judah is not among them.

In 1 Kings 5, the writer brings the dangers of a king full circle: Solomon enslaves his own people – at least 30,000 of them.

Solomon will not be the greatest king of Israel. He will not be the standard by which all other kings are judged. That honor will belong to his father David . Unfortunately, Solomon fell prey to the things that often befall the children of successful parents – unearned success. The peace David secured through faith in God left Solomon with less to trust God for, and that freedom led to excess and a lack of trust. Passing on faith to your children is tough. That’s why it should be a focused priority of every Christian parent.