Sunday, March 13, 2011

Scripture Sunday: The First Book of Kings

The First Book of the Kings is still covering David's family dynasty, and the dynasty is still having trouble. David is old and his son Adonijah is throwing parties and declaring himself king; the only trouble with this is that David had said Solomon would be king. So Nathan the prophet (a really bold man) and Bathsheba (Solomon's mother) have to remind David of his promise. Suddenly, Adonijah's plans are overturned and Solomon is the next appointed king. David passes away and Solomon rules in a grand fashion.

In chapter 3, the Lord comes to Solomon in a dream and asks him to make a request, implying that whatever Solomon asks, God will grant. Solomon famously asks for the wisdom to rule his people, and God is so pleased that he asked for wisdom instead of money or military might, that his gives him both wisdom and everything else he might have asked for: "lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days." Twice in a row, God's saying that Solomon is unique--he's gifted with such wisdom that nobody has been like him before and nobody will compare to him after his death. A very big promise, right there.

One of Solomon's big works is building the temple of the Lord, a major undertaking which takes seven years to complete. Solomon has an official dedication of the temple in chapter 8, and he asks God to answer the prayers of his people whenever they turn from their sins and pray to him. God keeps telling Solomon that if he'll do what David did and follow after God in the same fashion, everything will go well and Solomon's family line will be established forever. But the sad fact is, Solomon does not measure up to David. He has superhuman intellect and so much money that practically everything in his palace is covered in gold, but he marries a bunch of foreign wives and decides to worship idols with them. This loses him most of the kingdom.

God leaves a small portion of land for Solomon's heirs to rule, but at this point in history the kingdom is split in two: the bigger "Israel" is ruled by a series of bad kings while "Judah" is ruled by David's descendants, a few of which are righteous men. Judah has it better overall, but there's plenty of war and sinfulness in both places for the next few hundred years.

Prophets play a large role in all these big historical moves. Up until 1st Kings, we've had judges and seers like Samuel, but Nathan is one of the few men actually called a prophet. Now, there are several prophets going around and explaining God's will to people who usually don't listen.
-Ahijah the Shilonite announces the kingdom's split in chapter 11.
-Chapter 13 has a really disturbing episode with a man of God who's just called "the man of God" who delivers a correct prophecy, then disobeys God's instructions and gets killed by a lion. I'm still not sure sure what to make of this passage.
-Ahijah reappears in Chapter 14, and even though he's blind, he can tell who is speaking to him when they disguise their voice.
-Elijah is introduced in Chapter 17, and he is a really key figure among the Old Testament prophets. He's usually honored right up there with Moses, though he didn't lead God's people, he just worked miracles and spoke out against the evil the King Ahab.
-In Chapter 18, a guy named Obadiah keeps 100 prophets hidden from Ahab, which makes you wonder just how many prophets there were--is it like its own separate spiritual establishment, like the Levites?

1st Kings is a historical journey through the kings of Israel and Judah, and some kings get more attention than others, either because of their goodness or the lack thereof, but mostly the latter. It's not as horrific as Judges, but it's close.

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