It’s worth the effort. Wading through 400 years of history with all its political upheaval is a challenge. When I read through the books of 1 and 2 Kings, I have to keep a timeline handy or sing the songs to try to keep all of those kings straight! But, it’s critical to understand how the United Kingdom became the Divided Kingdom as it shifts from David to the glory of building the temple under Solomon to the kingdom’s fracture, division, and ultimate capture. Studying these books gives the background information to over half of the books in the Old Testament! Whether it’s books of poetry written during this time period, or a majority of prophets who spoke directly to Israel and/or Judah in the aftermath of these circumstances; that’s a significant portion of the Bible! More than just the names of the kings, we learn about our great God who is still active and still in charge throughout the turmoil. As you read, notice what these words and phrases teach us about Him:
“For the sake of my servant David” – His patience and promises. We’ve talked about God’s faithfulness and long-suffering in several of our previous studies. It’s evident in many books, but after centuries of complaining, cycles of apostasy, and now king after king who led the people into idolatry; you and I would have thrown in the towel long ago. “Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:4-5). It really is awe-inspiring the lengths God went to in order to preserve the seed-line and promises to David (which was also still God fulfilling His Genesis 12 promise to Abraham). That is His nature, but also a reminder that it is not my nature and perhaps I should work a little harder on my long-suffering!
“This is a simple matter in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 3:18) – His Power and Protection. A highlight of the books of Kings are the miracles of Elijah and Elisha. While some are well known, others are more obscure, but each one is evidence of God’s power over nature and His superiority to any other deity. Pay close attention to the instances where God uses His power to protect and care for His people. It should be a reminder for us today that no matter how seemingly insurmountable our troubles, God, through His providence, still cares and provides for His people today. And it really is so simple for Him!
“Because of the sins of…” – His punishment. United Israel had everything they needed for success. David had led them in the ways of God. Solomon built the temple and God was dwelling with His people. It was not a foregone conclusion that they should have to go into captivity (2 Kings 21:8), though God knew they would make that choice. When captivity did come, however, God was very clear with the reasons why. For the North, it was because of the sins of Jeroboam and all who followed him. For Southern Judah, “Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done…” (2 Kings 24:3ff) Just as expectations for the Israelites were clearly set (1 Kings 9:4;11:38), they are set for us today (2 Tim. 2:19). It is a reminder to take those warnings seriously, because God’s punishment will be full and perfect.
“Walk/Walked” The challenge for the month is based on this keyword of 1 and 2 Kings. The kings, both of Judah and Israel, were assessed in 3 primary areas: Did they worship the God of Israel? Did they eliminate the idols? Did they keep the covenant? Each king walked in someone’s footsteps. Make a chart of each king’s evaluation. Then, take some time to evaluate your walk! Are you just following in the footsteps of your parents, or have you made your faith your own? Do my lips say that I walk after God, but my steps indicate it’s money, position, or acceptance that I’m chasing? If we can learn one thing from this time period in Old Testament history, it’s that our allegiance follows our affections. Spend some time in the great “walking” books of the New Testament – Ephesians and Colossians. Make sure your feet are pointed in the direction God desires them to go! It’s worth the effort!