Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 14-18

For a proper understanding of the events we will read about in today’s scriptural reading (1 Kings 14-18), I begin with a reminder of the historical context of our passage.  Israel is now a divided nation.  The ten tribes in the north are now named “Israel”; however, they do not include the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin.  Judah and Benjamin combine to become one nation known as “Judah” and Jerusalem serves as the nation’s capital.  Although Israel was a divided nation, God remembered His promises to David and his lineage continued to reign in Jerusalem over Judah.

King David is dead. King Solomon is dead; and Rehoboam, Solomon’s son reigns over a divided nation (1 Kings 12:1-16).   Jeroboam, Solomon’s old enemy returned from exile in Egypt to lead the northern ten tribes in an act of defiance against king Rehoboam and rebellion against the LORD (1 Kings 12:16-33).

We read of Jeroboam, he “returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places” (1 Kings 13:33).  Jeroboam rejected the God of Israel, His Word, worship and sacrifices in Jerusalem and substituted a pretense of religion and ordained morally destitute priests to compliment his and Israel’s (the northern ten tribes) wickedness.

Such is the way of the world and the wicked. Evil leaders and sinners are not necessarily against religion; however, they are against the God of Heaven, His law and commandments that expose and condemn their sins. For sinners and politicians who serve them, religion is one of many tools employed in manipulating the masses and there are always “priests” (and preachers) of the lowest order willing to serve and accommodate their sins.

1 Kings 14 begins as a prophecy against Jeroboam, king of Israel, revealing his son will die and eventually his lineage be cut off from reigning over Israel.   Jeroboam dies (14:20) and his son Nadab ascends to Israel’s throne.

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over Judah; however, his reign was marred by all manner of wickedness and the nation’s decline continued (14:21-24).   Shishak king of Egypt invaded Judah and took away the treasures that had marked the wealth and opulence of Solomon’s reign, including the shields of gold decorating the walls of the king’s palace (14:25-26).   To save face and mask the decline of his reign and the nation, Rehoboam had golden shields of brass made as a substitute for the shields of gold taken by the king of Egypt (14:27-28).

For a parallel of the same concealing of reality, I invite you to ponder our own nation’s pretense of wealth and prosperity.   While Rehoboam made shields of brass that were a cheap copy of the shields of gold that were lost, our own nation continues to print dollars and borrowing $20 trillion to keep up a pretense of supporting a government and social programs we can no longer afford.  Such is the way of a nation when its people turn away from God.

1 Kings 15-16 records a succession of kings reigning over Israel and Judah.  While Israel in the north continued in its wickedness, a glimmer of revival rose in Judah when king Asa “did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD” (15:11-14).

The notoriously wicked king Ahab came to reign over Israel and he took to wife an equally wicked wife named Jezebel (1 Kings 16:29-33).  Of Ahab we read, “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:33).

God had not forgotten His people and raised up the prophet Elijah to minister to and confront the sins of Ahab, his wife Jezebel and the nation (1 Kings 17).  While the nation suffered drought, God lovingly provided for Elijah, first at a brook (17:2-7) and then in a widow’s household (17:8-24).

As the drought and famine continued, we learn in 1 Kings 18 the depth of wickedness to which king Ahab and his wife Jezebel had descended.  While Jezebel perpetuated the worship of Baal (1 Kings 16:31-32) she also sought to murder all the prophets of the LORD in Israel (18:3-4).  A man named Obadiah, a servant to king Ahab described as fearing “the LORD greatly” (18:3), saved the lives of one hundred prophets by hiding, feeding and giving them water to drink (18:4).

Having sought for and failed to slay the prophet Elijah, the stage was set in 1 Kings 18 for one of the great contest between the wicked personified in Ahab and Jezebel and Elijah, the prophet of God.  The failure of the prophets of Baal to call down fire from heaven and the blessing of God upon Elijah’s faith fulfilled in the LORD sending fire and consuming the sacrifices was a testimony, “The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God” (18:37-40).

After having slain the prophets of Baal (18:4), the LORD sent rain from heaven (18:41-46). In spite of the testimony of the LORD and His prophet Elijah, Jezebel will continue her quest to slain Elijah in 1 Kings 19.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith