The monarchy has been established, but David has died. What’s next for Israel? In short, lots of kings, lots of trouble, but lots of grace.
1 & 2 Kings is a book of division: divided loyalties leading to a divided kingdom.
1-2 Samuel gave us high hopes for King David and his successors; 1 & 2 Kings pop the bubble quickly.
1. The Kingdom flourishes under a wise King. (1 Kgs 1-10)
Solomon’s on the throne and these are the glory days. The temple of God goes up & God moves in. The King’s palace goes up & the nations come in, amazed and admiring. As the Queen of Sheba says to Solomon… “how happy your people must be!” But soon…
2. The Kingdom is divided under foolish kings. (1 Kgs 10 - 2 Kgs 16).
A desire for more horses, chariots, and wives sees Solomon’s wisdom turn to folly and his kingdom split in two. His death brings a battle for the throne, a split in the nation, and two kings at odds with each other, in the North and the South of Israel.
And from this point on, the camera lens goes back and forwards, from North to South, with over 400 years and 40 kings covered. Some rule longer than others. Some rule better than others. But none can stop the rot. Not even prophets like Elijah and Elisha can turn the tide.
→ first theme to look out for is THE WISDOM AND THE FOLLY OF MAN:
- Both are clear to see and you don’t have to be a king to learn from the kings. Their lives inform us & warn us, of loyalty & disloyalty to God, of wisdom & folly.
3. The Kingdom disintegrates (2 Kgs 17-25)
because of these foolish kings and despite the efforts of some of the better kings, like Hezekiah and Josiah.
- First the Northern kingdom of Israel is invaded by the Assyrians and the people taken into exile.
- Then the Southern kingdom of Judah is invaded by the Babylonians and the people taken into exile.
4. The Kingdom is not done with.
not destroyed. The last few verses end on a cliff-hanger as the king of Judah is released from prison, hinting at a future release for the people of Judah. This is not the end.
→ And here the books make plain both THE KINDNESS AND SEVERITY of GOD
- Sin is dealt with SEVERELY. The consequences are deserved & dreadful.
- But note the KINDNESS. When God acts to judge at the end of these books, we don’t think “How could God do that?” – we’re left thinking “what took him so long?!” The answer is the patience of God. The kindness of God. The grace of God. He truly is 'The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger… [who] does not leave the guilty unpunished…" [Exodus 34].
If Israel are to return, if exile is to end, if the kingdom is to rise again from the dead, it will not be because of Israel. It will be all of God. And in this way a book portraying division proclaims the gospel and pushes us to Jesus: a king who shares the wisdom but not the folly of these kings; who shows the kindness and soaks up the severity of the LORD. Jesus, the son of David, the King of Kings.