For the Love of God, Volume 1/October 13
From Gospel Translations
1 Kings 16; Colossians 3; Ezekiel 46; Psalm 102
FIRST AND 2 KINGS narrate the declining fortunes of both the northern and southern kingdoms. Occasionally there is a reforming king in one realm or the other. But on the whole the direction is downward. Some orientation (1 Kings 16):
(1) Although 1 and 2 Kings treat both the northern and the southern kingdoms, the emphasis is on the former. By contrast, 1 and 2 Chronicles, which cover roughly the same material, tilt strongly in favor of the kingdom of Judah.
(2) In the south, the Davidic dynasty continues. During its history, there are, humanly speaking, some very close calls. Nevertheless God preserves the line; his entire redemptive purposes are bound up with continuity of that Davidic line. The stance throughout is well expressed in 1 Kings 15:4. Abijah king of Judah, who reigned only three years, was doubtless an evil king. “Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong.” In the north, however, no dynasty survives very long. The dynasty of Jeroboam lasted two generations and was then butchered (15:25-30), replaced by Baasha (15:33-34). His dynasty likewise produced two kings, and then the males in his family were wiped out by Zimri (16:8- 13), whose reign lasted all of seven days (16:15-19). And so it goes. If the Davidic line continues in the south, it is all of grace.
(3) These successions in the north are brutal and bloody. For instance, after Zimri the citizens of Israel face a brief civil war, divided as they are between Omri and Tibni. The followers of the former win. The text wryly comments, “So Tibni died and Omri became king” (16:22). In short, there is perennial lust for power, few systems for orderly hand over of government, no hearty submission to the living God.
(4) From God’s perspective, however, the severity of the sin is measured first and foremost not in terms of the bloody violence, but in terms of the idolatry (for example, 16:30-33). Omri was a strong ruler who strengthened the nation enormously, but little of that is recorded: from God’s perspective he “did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him” (16:25). Building programs and a rising GDP do not make up for idolatry.
(5) Details in these accounts often tie the narrative to events much earlier and later. Thus the rebuilding of Jericho (16:34) calls to mind the curse on the city when it was destroyed centuries earlier (Josh. 6:26). The founding of the city of Samaria (16:24) anticipates countless narratives of what takes place in that city— including Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4; see March 14 meditation).