Divided Hearts, Divided Kingdoms

Posted: March 19, 2015 in 1 Kings, Route 66

Route 66: 1 Kings, “Divided Hearts, Divided Kingdoms”

Have you ever taken a look at something (or someone) and wondered “What happened here?”  Perhaps it’s an old landmark that broke down and decayed over the years – perhaps it’s an old childhood friend that is barely recognizable from old photographs.  Something happened that changed the original plan, and there were a lot of obstacles along the way.

We might ask a similar question about the kingdom of Israel.  Once David became the king, things seemed to start out terrifically well.  Things only got better under his son Solomon.  And then things went haywire.  What had started out so beautifully decayed into something that was barely recognizable as God’s people and kingdom.

The book of Kings is that account.  Yet although it is an account of sin, it isn’t an account of hopelessness.  God extended hope to the nation all the way through their history; they just needed to look to Him to grab hold of it.

BACKGROUND:
As with Samuel and Chronicles, the book of Kings was originally one work, somewhat arbitrarily split in two.  The reason for these sorts of splits was probably more practical than anything else.  Scrolls could only be so-long before running out of space (or becoming too unwieldy), and books as we know them today were a much later invention.  Thus, longer written works might be split in half simply to make them easier to copy/use.

Author is unknown.  Ancient thought speculated was that it was Jeremiah, but this seems unlikely & isn’t held by scholars today.  Who the author is depends on when it was written.  Although there are many statements that reference something occurring “to this day,” most scholars believe the author actually wrote from the perspective of being past the Babylonian exile (as with the author of Chronicles).  It’s quite possible that the author compiled evidence from several sources to put together a comprehensive history of the kingdom years – it would have been the original source material that quoted “to this day.” 

As to its theme, the book of Kings picks up where the book of Samuel left off.  It seems likely that the author wrote it in a specific attempt to provide a sequel to Samuel.  After all, although David was the preeminent king of Israel, he was not the only king.  Saul and David merely started the line of kings…there were many more to follow, and much of it was downhill.  The kingdom reached a peak during the reigns of David and Solomon, and began a rapid decline from there.  What began as a united people split into two nations, often warring against one another.  What began as a people worshipping their God in holiness became people once again falling into apostasy and paganism.  All of the things that the people believed would be solved upon gaining a king all turned out to be false.  Their nation may not have been completely overrun with chaos and lawlessness (as during the days of the judges), but their hearts were no more dedicated to the Lord.  Just as God judged the people during those years, delivering them over to their enemies, so would God do the same with the kingdom.  In time, both the northern and southern kingdoms would be delivered over to their enemies, and the book of Kings follows each of their long descents.

SIGNIFICANCE
Knowing that Kings provides a history of the Israelite monarchy, what does it offer the Christian today?

First, we see God’s preservation of His covenant.  The books of Kings do not provide a political or academic history of Israel; they provide a covenantal history.  Some kings (of either Israel or Judah) are barely given any treatment at all, whereas others have a great amount of detail.  Generally speaking, the “major” characters have some sort of impact (or attempted impact) on the covenant God made with either (1) His people as a whole, or (2) His promise of the future Messiah.  What we see through the book is that God is faithful to His word, no matter what.  People may be evil, but God is always good.  Satan tried to extinguish the possibility of the future Messiah; God preserved His promise through every trial.

Second, we see the justice of God.  The road to captivity (both the Assyrian overthrow of Israel, and the Babylonian captivity of Judah) was long and hard…but it had to be done.  In line with God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises, one of the things He promised was judgment if the people fell into apostasy.  They were faithless, so God had to be faithful.  His discipline is a tough lesson for anyone to experience, but ultimately it underscores God’s goodness and righteousness.  When we do experience the discipline of God, we know that it comes from a God who is right in dealing it out.

Finally (at least, for our purposes), we see the mercy of God.  The fact that the road to captivity was so long is itself a demonstration of God’s mercy!  God repeatedly reached out to those He knew would reject Him.  Even the “best” of the kings had their low points, and God continually reached out to them, warning them what would happen if they rejected Him.  God would definitely bring His judgment when necessary, but that was not His desire for them.  His desire was for His people to walk by faith, and God went up and beyond in His outreach to help His people do exactly that.

GENERAL OUTLINE

  • The Kingdom United (i.e Solomon’s reign, 1-11)
    • Solomon’s beginnings (1-4)
    • Solomon’s buildings (5-8)
    • Solomon’s fame and fall (9-11)
  • The Kingdom Divided (12-16)
    • The final break (12-14)
    • Succession of kings (15-16)
  • The Northern Kingdom’s Apostasy (17-22)
    • Elijah the prophet (17-19)
    • Ahab the apostate (20-22)

 

The Kingdom United (i.e., Solomon’s Reign, 1-11)
Solomon’s beginnings (1-4)
Another son claims the throne (1)
As the book of Kings begins, David is basically on his deathbed.  Old and in ill health, the time is near for the kingdom to be passed on to another.  Although David had already declared Solomon to be the heir to the throne, long before he became ill (1 Chr 22:5), another son of David saw an opportunity to seize the throne, and he took it.  Adonijah likely thought it was his turn: Amnon (the firstborn) had been murdered by Abasalom. Chileab (the 2nd son) was born of Abigail, and perhaps not in line for the throne.  Absalom himself was 3rd, and he had died in his rebellion.  Adonijah was 4th, and he seemed to think he could make things happen on his own.  Gathering chariots, priests, and noblemen to himself, he made large public sacrifices, showing himself to be king over Israel.

The prophet Nathan and Bathsheba got wind of this, and knew that not only was Solomon’s promised reign in danger, but so was his life.  They appealed to the king, and David made an oath that Solomon would be king.  David had Solomon publicly anointed, held a rally proclaiming him as king, and the people rejoiced so loudly “that the earth seemed to split with their sound.” (1:40)

Adonijah understandably became afraid (along with those who supported him), and he went to the tabernacle altar begging for mercy and sanctuary.  Solomon graciously gave it to him, with the warning that if he showed himself wicked, he would die.

  • Considering that ancient transfers of power usually took place over a lot of bloodshed, this was fairly remarkable!  However, even this confusion could have been avoided if David hadn’t put off the inevitable.  Sometimes tough decisions need to be made, and we need to have the courage to make them.  (And those are times we really need to rely upon the strength and wisdom of the Lord!)

Solomon the king (2)
Solomon had been made king, and David charged him to carry out some unsolved issues of justice that David himself had not done during his own reign.  Eventually all sin needed to be answered, even if David wasn’t the one who needed to answer it.  The same principle of justice also revealed itself after David died.  Adonijah seemed to take the mercy he was given for granted, and he appealed to Bathsheba to ask a favor of her son Solomon on his behalf.  Solomon saw right through his trickery, and had him executed.

Solomon also took out justice on Abiathar the priest (who had supported Adonijah), by exiling him from Judah – as well as upon Joab, the commander of David’s armies (who had done the same thing).  Joab, however faced execution.  Not only had Joab defected to Adonijah, but he had twice committed murder (acts of revenge).  Finally, Solomon also took vengeance upon Shimei, who had cursed his father David while David was fleeing Absalom.  Solomon had given Shimei the opportunity to live at peace (though basically under house arrest), and Shimei flaunted it, confirming his own death sentence.

Already, Solomon is showing himself to be a wise king…but his wisdom was about to grow exponentially!

Solomon’s wisdom (3)
What would you ask for if God told you to ask for anything?  If God promised to grant you anything your heart desired, what would it be?  That was the promise God made to Solomon one night as he dreamed, and to his credit, Solomon asked for something wonderful: wisdom.  1 Kings 3:7–9, "(7) Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. (8) And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. (9) Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”"

The Bible doesn’t tell us how old Solomon was when he became king.  Some traditions say he was 12-13 – other possibilities suggest he may have been around 20.  The fact that Solomon called himself a “little child” is somewhat an exaggeration, but it goes to demonstrate Solomon’s own humility at the time.  For what he had seen, Solomon understood there was much he had NOT seen, and he’d be unable to rule apart from the help of God.  Thankfully, he understood who he could ask for help, especially when God offered.

  • We have the same promise!  James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."  Do you need help?  The wisdom of God for how to handle a situation according to His glory?  Ask!  We have not, because we ask not.

Of course, God did give him wisdom.  Because Solomon asked for wisdom, and not riches or power (or anything else that was materialistic), God promised to give him all of that and more.  As long as Solomon kept seeking the Lord, God would bless him with riches and honor.  (The consistency would be the tricky part!)

Chapter 3 ends out with a famous example of Solomon’s wisdom: splitting the baby.  Once Israel heard of it, they were all amazed & feared the king.  They knew he had the blessing of God, and they gave Solomon the respect he needed to reign.

Solomon’s blessings (4)
After a listing of the various people included in Solomon’s government and administration (a great example of God knowing each individual by name!), we’re given a summary of Solomon’s material blessings (in terms of livestock and food), an overview of the broad extent of his kingdom, and an overview of his encyclopedic knowledge.  God had truly blessed Solomon in every respect, and he was known throughout the ancient Middle East.  [MAP]

One aspect that comes across in these descriptions of Solomon’s blessings is a preview of the Millennial Kingdom.  As good as things were during the height of Solomon’s reign, things will be even better when Jesus sits on the throne in Jerusalem.  During that time, the borders will be far more extensive – the wisdom of God will be far more evident – the glory will be amazingly better.  All the world will know and see the true blessings of God, exemplified in Christ Jesus.

  • And we get to have a front-row seat to it all!  Just as Solomon employed people in his administration, it seems that those who come to faith in Christ in this age will be employed by Jesus as His administrators and judges in the Kingdom.  Paul says that we will even judge angels (1 Cor 6:3).  The future we look forward to is truly amazing!

 

Solomon’s buildings (5-8)
Building the temple (5-6)
Aside from his wisdom, Solomon is likely most famous for the Jerusalem temple.  God had not allowed David permission to build a temple, but God did permit Solomon to do it.  God was the One who built David a house (Solomon himself being the first example, leading all the way to Christ), and David simply received the blessing (just like we simply receive grace).  Yet a temple was in God’s plan, and it came to fruition during Solomon’s reign (using much material that David had set aside for this purpose). 

Working with craftsmen from the kingdom of Tyre, the temple was built in the 480th year after the Israelites came out of Egyptian slavery (6:1).  The floor plan of it was basically an enlarged version of the ancient tabernacle, with an outer sanctuary, inner sanctuary, all overlaid with gold signifying the grandeur and royalty of the Most High God. [PIC]  Attempts have been made to calculate the cost involved – just the gold overlay would range in the billions of dollars in today’s prices.  No doubt, it was something to behold. (And even that was a pale imitation of the true temple of God in heaven!  For that matter, gold itself is the equivalent of asphalt.)

Furnishing the temple (7)
Chapter 7 begins with a listing of some of the other construction projects of Solomon, but quickly moves to the various furnishings of the tabernacle.  Things such as the two pillars, the bronze sea and oxen, the carts, etc.  All the preparations were made for the priestly service, and the temple was beautified and decorated beyond compare.

Why include all the information about the temple decorations?  From a historical perspective, the Jews needed to be able to picture it in their minds – after all, it’s not as if they captured it all on Instagram or Facebook.  From a spiritual perspective, we can see a parallel with Jesus’ treatment of the Church (the temple of the Holy Spirit & His bride).  When we come to faith in Christ, Jesus doesn’t leave us in the filthy rags of our sin; He cleanses us by the washing of water by the word (Eph 5:26).  He presents us back to Himself as spotless, clean…beautiful, and ready for the wedding feast.  That’s far better than any pillars or pomegranates that were fashioned for Solomon’s temple!

Dedicating the temple (8)
Finally when the temple was made ready, the ark was brought in, and along with it the glory of God.  1 Kings 8:10–11, "(10) And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, (11) so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord."  Remember this was the same thing that took place at the dedication of the tabernacle (Lev 9:23-24) and it showed the literal presence of God among His people.

Solomon gave thanks and praise to God, and prayed that God would bless His people through the temple.  Knowing that the people would sin, he prayed that as the Israelites turned back to God in repentance (shown in prayer and acts of sacrifice at the temple), God would hear and forgive.  Solomon was well aware of the historical failings of his people, and understood their need for the mercy and grace of God.

  • We don’t look to a temple today, but we do look to a sacrifice: the one sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross.  And because that sacrifice is made, we are assured of our forgiveness when we cast ourselves upon His mercy and grace!

Solomon’s fame and fall (9-11)
God’s warning (9:1-9)
God appeared to Solomon once more in a dream.  He had heard Solomon’s prayer at the temple dedication, and promised to answer it, being faithful to the covenant given through Moses and David.  God would be faithful (as He always is), and He required one thing of Solomon: that Solomon would be faithful as well.  Solomon had done well up to this point, but Solomon (like all of us) was weak.  If he or the nation turned to go follow other gods, the True God would deliver them into the hands of their enemies.

Interestingly, we’re not told Solomon’s response to God’s warning.  Solomon surely heard, but he didn’t heed for very long.  Things would continue to go well, but they would also go to his head.

Solomon’s growing fame (9:10-28)
More accounts are given of Solomon’s fame and achievements.  He built more cities – he had military victories over historical enemies (former inhabitants of the land who had not been fully cast out) – he took as wife a daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh – he even built a naval fleet (something that would not be repeated by any Hebrew king).

The queen of Sheba (10:1-13)
Solomon’s fame grew so large that people came from vast recesses of the world just to hear his teaching, and such was the cast with the queen of Sheba.  Sheba seems to have been a region close to the far southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula, which meant she travelled a long way to hear the teaching of Solomon!  When she arrived, she was amazed by what she heard and saw.  1 Kings 10:6–9, "(6) Then she said to the king: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. (7) However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. (8) Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! (9) Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”"  The queen brought many gifts to Solomon, and Solomon turned around and blessed her with many more.  It was impossible to out-give the richest man on the planet (just as it is impossible to out-give God).

  • Seems to be one more picture of the Millennial Kingdom, as people come from every nation to be amazed at King Jesus.  Solomon offers just the tiniest taste of what it will be in that time.

Solomon’s growing wealth (10:14-29)
One final account is given of his immense wealth.  How rich WAS Solomon?  So much so that silver became as stones (10:24).  Truly there was none like Solomon among all the history of the kings of Israel.

The tragic part was that it would all soon be gone.  For as much wealth as Solomon acquired, it wasn’t able to be kept.  Solomon couldn’t take it with him, and as the people were defeated it battle, it was siphoned off to other nations around the world.

  • Our trust can never be in wealth, but only in the Lord God!

Solomon’s apostasy and adversaries (11)
Solomon lived much of his life in wisdom, but he didn’t always apply it to himself.  Solomon’s downfall was his love of women, as he multiplied wives and concubines for himself (something the Lord never commanded him to do).  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and they all eventually turned his heart from following the Lord (11:3-4).  Solomon built idols and altars to other gods, even to the pagan gods that required human sacrifice.

Remember that this was a man to whom the Lord appeared twice.  The Bible tells us God was angry with Solomon (11:9), and rightly so.  Solomon had less excuse than most to fall away from the Lord.  He couldn’t blame his apostasy on hardships, trials, or hunger – he had every luxury imaginable.  And he still fell away.  (Sin is inherent to us all!)

Thus God promised His discipline.  Although God would keep His promise to David, the bulk of the kingdom would not remain with David’s line.  11 of the 12 tribes would be ripped from Solomon (just like all 12 were ripped from Saul), and only one tribe would remain for which David’s descendants would rule. (Though the Son of David would ultimately rule over all.)

As a result, the peace that had once been the norm in Solomon’s reign disappeared.  Rebels cropped up, eventually producing a former servant of Solomon by the name of Jeroboam.  He had been a mighty man of valor, and it was to him that God sent a prophet to declare that God had given him the kingdom.  The prophet made it clear that David’s descendants would still rule Judah, but the rest of the kingdom would go to Jeroboam and his lineage, if Jeroboam followed God.  Just as God had earlier offered Solomon, He offered to build Jeroboam an enduring house, if he was faithful (11:38).  Would he be faithful?  Sadly, no.

The Kingdom Divided (12-16)
The breakup (12-14)
Rebellion against Rehoboam (12:1-24)
Solomon died, and his son Rehoboam became king.  Foolishly taking the advice of his young friends rather than the trusted counselors of his father, Rehoboam promised to be a harsh taskmaster for the people, demanding even more from them than his father.  The people understandably rebelled, and this was the very instance God used to rip the kingdom from Solomon’s line to give to Jeroboam.

Jeroboam’s sin (12:25-13:10)
Jeroboam took advantage of his favor among the people, established his capital to the north in Shechem, and the northern kingdom of Israel was now officially separated from that of Judah to the south.  The problem (from Jeroboam’s perspective) was that although the nations were separate, the faith was not.  People would still look to the south and the temple in Jerusalem to worship.  In Jeroboam’s mind, that was a threat to his reign, although if he had trusted God’s promise, it wouldn’t have been a problem at all. (Isn’t that often the case?)

His plan to fix it was to build a place of worship in the north.  However, it was not a place that God had commanded, nor was it done in a method according to the law.  He made two golden calves, and told Israel that those were the gods who brought them out of Egypt. (Sound familiar?  Terrible choice!  This is what the people were judged for at Mt. Sinai.)  So Jeroboam made his own gods, installed his own priests, instituted his own feasts, and basically made his own religion.  It was a stench in the nostrils of God, and he would be judged for it.  (People still do the same thing today.)

God sent a prophet to Jeroboam with a message of judgment.  There would be a future king of Judah by the name of Josiah who would come and destroy the false religion of Jeroboam, and the sign was that Jeroboam’s altar would split in two (which it did).  Jeroboam feared when he saw the power of God at work, but instead of repentance, he tried to bribe the prophet, who refused.  Jeroboam’s own judgment would come later.

The prophet tested & judged (13:11-24). 
The prophet had been commanded to go straight home, and although he denied the bribery of Jeroboam, he listened to another prophet who tested him.  He failed the test, and was killed by a lion.  It seems like such a strange event to occur, and perhaps even unfair.  But it illustrates something important: if God holds His kings accountable, He does the same with His prophets. (Judgment begins at the house of God…it begins with the church!)

Jeroboam judged (14:1-20)
Another prophet by the name of Ahijah was the one to actually pronounce God’s judgment upon the apostate king.  Jeroboam’s son had become sick, and he sent his wife in disguise to visit the prophet and ask for help.  (Not only was he faithless, he was a coward!)  Ahijah, though nearly blind, saw right through the disguise and gave the word of judgment from the Lord.  Jeroboam had been given the same incredible opportunity as God had given David, but Jeroboam had despised the promise and grace of God.  God pronounced disaster to come on Jeroboam’s house, and the fact that Jeroboam’s son would die was actually an act of God’s mercy – that child was the only thing God found good in that family. (14:13)

With all of the judgment pronounced upon Jeroboam, judgment is also pronounced upon the whole northern kingdom.  Keep mind that this is the very beginning of the northern kingdom of Israel, and it is doomed from the start.  1 Kings 14:15–16, "(15) For the Lord will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the River, because they have made their wooden images, provoking the Lord to anger. (16) And He will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who sinned and who made Israel sin.”"  God was not blind to the sin of His people.  They had started down the road to paganism, and He knew that it would only get worse from there.  The history of the northern kingdom is one where the kings follow in the “sin of Jeroboam.”  What had begun as an act of God’s mercy would end with an act of God’s judgment as the Assyrians come in and take the whole northern kingdom captive.

  • Yet even here, there is grace.  How so?  Think of it this way: over whom will Jesus reign?  All twelve tribes of Israel, in addition to the rest of the world.  In the book of Revelation, all 12 tribes are known, all 12 tribes come to faith, all 12 tribes will participate in the Millennial Kingdom.  The northern 10 tribes (or 11, depending how you count) may have been apostate and bred out, but the Lord God can restore anything from nothing.  THAT is His grace.  And that is what He offers them through Jesus Christ.  (And if that is what He offered Israel, imagine what He offers us as Gentile Christians!)

Rehoboam’s fall (14:21-31)
The attention turns to the south, and Rehoboam is shown to be a bad king.  Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they also provoked God to jealousy in pagan ways and sacrifices.  The only thing they didn’t do was to build two golden calves in replacement of the temple!  God allowed enemies to invade the land, who plundered the wealth, especially within the temple.  In a sad commentary, now that the gold shields made by Solomon were taken, Rehoboam commanded bronze shields to be made in their place.  How quickly the people had fallen!  They could not even pretend that things were the same.

 

Succession of kings (15-16) – These will go quickly…
Abijam of Judah (15:1-8)
The son of Rehoboam, who sinned against God just as his father had done.  Most of the account of Abijam is actually a commentary on the faithfulness of David; a trait not possessed at all by Abijam.

Asa of Judah (15:9-24)
In contrast to his father, Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (15:11).  He removed the idolatrous things from the land, and his heart was loyal unto God (something that gets a bit more commentary in the book of Chronicles).  Asa experienced war against the northern kingdom of Israel, and ended up enlisting the help of Ben-Hadad of Syria, which was a mistake on his part.  Asa should have trusted God until the end, but for the most part he was known as a good king.

Nadab of Israel (15:25-32)
The son of Jeroboam; only reigned two years.  Like his father, he did evil in the sight of God, and he was assassinated by Baasha, who also destroyed the entire lineage of Jeroboam.  This was all a part of God’s judgment upon Jeroboam, exactly according to His promise.

Baasha of Israel (15:33-16:7)
Though he was used by God as an instrument of judgment, Baasha was no better than Jeroboam.  He also did evil, and participated in Jeroboam’s false religion.  God brought word to Baasha of judgment upon him as well.

Elah of Israel (16:8-14)
Elah, the son of Baasha, also reigned only two years when he (and all his house) were assassinated by Zimri. (Being a king of Israel was a dangerous occupation!)  Again, this was the fulfillment of the word of God’s judgment.

Zimri of Israel (16:15-20)
Zimri had assassinated Elah, pronounced himself king, and apparently reigned only a week (7 days, 16:15).  The commander of Israel’s army, Omri, came out against the conspirator, was pronounced king of Israel, and defeated Zimri in battle.

Omri of Israel (16:21-28)
Eventually the people rallied around Omri as king, and he actually reigned for 12 years.  The northern kingdom was solidified under his rule, though he was another evil king of Israel.  In fact, he was the worst to date, with the Bible saying he “did worse than all who were before him.” (16:25)

Ahab of Israel introduced (16:29-34)
Omri’s son became far more famous in history as Ahab came to power and ruled for 22 years.  He also did evil in the sight of the Lord, even more so than his father (16:30).  The Bible’s own account shows how he treated sin so incredibly casually: 1 Kings 16:31–33, "(31) And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. (32) Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. (33) And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him."

This is what happens when we begin a cycle of sin (be it individually or corporately/culturally).  The more we do, the more we accept.  The more we accept, the farther we push the boundaries.  Soon, we don’t even recognize good vs. evil any longer, and we are completely lost.  (What saves us?  Only the Lord Jesus!)

 

The Northern Kingdom’s Apostasy (17-22)
Elijah the prophet (17-19)
A drought, a widow, a resurrection (17)
With barely a word given of his background, Elijah the prophet is introduced – demonstrating the fact that God had not given up on Israel.  They were engaged in immense sin, with its leadership being totally corrupt.  But God still had His servants in the land.  He still had a remnant who truly worshipped Him, and who would speak for righteousness.  These sorts of people were wonderfully exemplified in Elijah.

In bringing His judgment upon Israel, God told Elijah to declare a drought that would last for three years. (17:1)  Elijah himself would be cared for by God by hiding out, drinking from a fresh-water brook, and being fed by ravens on a daily basis.

From there, God commanded Elijah to go among the Gentiles to a widow in Zarephath.  God gave this widow the opportunity to come to faith by entrusting her last bit of flour and oil to Elijah as a bit of lunch for him (and for them).  She did so, and found that her flour and oil never ran dry.  Upon the death of her son, she appealed to Elijah, who in turn appealed to God.  God gave the child’s life back to him, and the woman came to (what appears to be) saving faith.

  • Even in the midst of this historical account of Israel, God still cares about the nations.  He still reaches out to the world!

Warning Ahab (18:1-19)
Eventually in the 3rd year of the drought, Elijah came back to Israel and confronted Ahab.  Ahab had allowed his wife Jezebel to have the prophets of God massacred, and the only reason any survived at all was due to the faithfulness of some of Ahab’s servants.  Ahab saw Elijah as a troubler of Israel, but Elijah proclaimed the truth that it was Ahab who had brought all of this upon the people.  The false religion needed to be confronted, and Elijah was throwing down the gauntlet.

Defeating the pagans (18:20-40)
Forget Mayweather vs. Pacquiao; the real fight of the century was between the single prophet of God, Elijah, and the 450 prophets of Baal!  The duel was simple: they would each prepare a sacrifice, and whichever god sent down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice was the real god.  Elijah graciously allowed the prophets of Baal to go first.  What followed was nothing but tragic comedy: 1 Kings 18:27–29, "(27) And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (28) So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. (29) And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention."  Funny, but tragic in that it shows how lost they were in their delusion.  And this was the religion they pushed upon the people, and that which the people believed.  They needed the truth, and all they were served was this garbage of a lie. (No different today!)

Elijah went next, repairing the broken-down altar of God.  He had the sacrifice completely doused in water, so much that the water overflowed the trenches.  With a single prayer, Elijah appealed to God, and God sent fire from heaven to consume not only the sacrifice, but the wood and stones of the altar, and every bit of water that was in the dust.

At that point, there was no denying the truth, and the people fell on their faces in worship of God. (People need to see the truth!  They see it when we tell them AND show them Jesus Christ.)

Ending the drought (18:41-46)
With that, Elijah declared the end of the drought.  It had begun with a word of faith spoken by Elijah, and ended the same way.  Later, the NT writer James shows this an example of faith (Jas 5:16-18).  The prayers of the righteous avail much!

God comforts Elijah (19:1-28)
Elijah had experienced an incredible victory, but soon feared and ran for his life away from Jezebel.  He went all the way to Mt. Horeb (Sinai), and was prepared to die there, though the Lord sent an angel to him with food.  Elijah had felt utterly alone, but God assured him (in a still, small voice) that he was not.  God was still in control, even when it seemed like thing were out of control.  God still had a plan, and He still had a purpose for Elijah, and Elijah needed to get back to it.

Elijah calls Elisha (19:19-21)
Elijah was used mightily by the Lord, but he wouldn’t be around forever.  On his way back to Israel, Elijah was sent to Elisha, who was called to be his disciple.  Elisha left his family behind to go learn the ways of the prophet.

 

Ahab the apostate (20-22)
God allows Ahab to defeat the Syrians (20:1-22)
For as much as Ahab had sinned against God, God wasn’t done reaching out to Ahab in His mercy.  When the Syrians asserted themselves against Israel, God told Ahab to go to battle and promised to give Ahab the victory (which He did).  God wanted Ahab to know that God was the Lord (20:13), and this would be a witness to that fact.  Sure enough, God gave the victory.

God allows Ahab to defeat the Syrians again (20:23-30)
Syria once again came out against Israel, thinking that the first victory was a fluke.  Once more, God told Ahab to go to battle, and God would grant the victory – again, as a testimony that God is the Lord.  Sure enough, God gave the victory.

We might think that two victorious battles against an overwhelming enemy might be enough to cause Ahab to turn to God in faith, right?  Wrong.

Ahab makes a treaty with the Syrians (20:31-43). 
Syria was afraid of Israel by this point, and sent an emissary begging for peace.  Instead of seeking the command of God, Ahab quickly granted mercy to Syria, striking an alliance with them.  In doing so, he made a deal with the devil, and turned fully away from God.  A final prophet came, and promised judgment to come to Ahab.  God had reached out enough times to Ahab, and was now giving him over to his sin and judgment.

Jezebel murders Naboth (21:1-16)
Just to add more crimes to the list, we’re given an account of a conspiracy to murder a man by the name of Naboth.  Ahab had whined and complained that Naboth wouldn’t sell him his vineyard, so Jezebel took matters into her own hands, having Naboth killed.  Ahab said nothing about it, but rather took the land for himself now that it was “vacant.”

God condemns Ahab (21:17-29)
This time using Elijah, God condemned Ahab once more, declaring that God would judge him and Jezebel by having them killed, and their bodies by dogs.  Amazingly enough, after all this, finally Ahab repents!  He tore his clothes, humbled himself in sackcloth and ashes, and God grants him a bit of mercy.  Ahab would still die, but the true calamity would come in the days of his sons.

Ahab warned and killed (22:1-40)
Three years pass, and Israel and Judah are allied together (rather than warring against one another).  They decide to go to war against Syria, and King Jehoshaphat of Judah asks that they first inquire of a prophet of God.  The one prophet of God that does come is hated by King Ahab, and after first giving a sarcastic reply, finally tells Ahab that God had declared disaster against them.  The two kings would go into battle, but only one king would return.  Sure enough, Ahab was killed, and dogs licked up his blood (22:37).

Final kings: Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah (22:41-53)
Two brief notes are made about Jehoshaphat of Judah, and Ahaziah of Israel.  Jehoshaphat was a good king of Judah, who walked in the ways of God – far more is written of him in the book of Chronicles. 

Ahaziah is introduced here, though his story continues in 2 Kings.  A son of Ahab, he continued in the evil ways of his father, including the pagan sins of Jeroboam, provoking God to anger.

Conclusion:
It all ends with a “to be continued…” but where it ends isn’t pretty!  It had begun with such hope!  There was a king who asked the Lord for wisdom, and experienced incredible blessing.  The temple was built, and people came to worship.  The glory of God was experienced among God’s people.  That was His intent for His people all along…but it didn’t stay that way.  The kings and people rebelled.  Their hearts turned from the Lord, and they missed out on the blessing of knowing God.

Through it all, God continued to reach out to them and extend His mercy.  Even to the worst of kings, God gave opportunities for repentance.  Even to forgotten people (like Gentile widows), God gave the opportunity to come to faith.  Our God is a merciful and gracious God! 

The mercies of which Israel received but a taste, we receive in all the fullness of Jesus.  May we rejoice (and truly appreciate) the mercies and grace of God!

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