Friday, September 30, 2016

First and Second Kings: lessons from the lives of the kings

First and Second Kings is the story of the kings of Israel and Judah. It is the story of how David’s kingdom was split into two and the actions of the kings which followed him. Some of the kings did right in the eyes of the Lord and others did incredible evil. For the purpose of this post, I will profile three kings: Solomon, the wisest king, Ahab, the evil king and Hezekiah, the reformer king. There many important lessons to learn from the lives of these men. For each king, I will highlight one important lesson. The lesson of how your personal life can invalidate effective leadership. The lesson of how selfishness can lead to great evil. And the lesson of how reforms can be short-lived when plans aren’t made to preserve them for the future.

Everyone is familiar with Solomon. The wise king who discovered a way to determine who the mother was the surviving child was (1 Kings 3:18-28). The wise king who the Queen of Sheba traveled from afar to challenge him (1 Kings 10:1-13). The son of King David and his wife, Bathsheba, Solomon was God’s choice for David’s heir. Despite his wisdom, his effectiveness as a leadership was nullified by his ineffective leadership in his personal life. Solomon had the sense to recognize his need for wisdom; however, by the time he asked for wisdom, he already a habit that would make his wisdom ineffective in his own life. First, he sealed a pact with Egypt by marrying the daughter of the Pharaoh (1 Kings 3:1). Solomon would continue to marry foreign wives despite the Lord’s command not to intermarry with other nations (Exodus 34:16). Solomon would marry 700 women from Egypt, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidonia, and Hittites. His wives led him astray. As he grew old, his wives were able to turn his heart to other gods. The Lord tells Solomon that since his has not kept His commands, the Lord will tear apart the kingdom (1 Kings 11:11), which occurs after Solomon’s death, the kingdom is split in two: the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. Due to Solomon’s lack of leadership in his personal life, it began to effective his leadership in the kingdom. To which the kingdom was split in two and would be at odds for generations. Even leading the people into exile because the wise king didn’t have the commitment to apply his wisdom in his personal life and resist the temptations which led him away from his devotion to the Lord.

King Ahab was ruler over the kingdom of Israel. If there were one word to describe Ahab, I would use selfish. He was so used to getting his way, he would pout and become depressed when he didn’t. The best example of this is when he desired a vineyard and when the owner, Naboth, refused, Ahab “went home, sullen and angry” (1 Kings 21:4). Jezebel, his wife, then sets Naboth, up to be killed leaving his land for the taking (1 Kings 21: 8-16). Sullen and angry would be used to describe Ahab in 1 Kings 20:43 after he fails to defeat the king of Aram. He also blamed the prophet, Elijah, for his troubles rather than his own actions. He surrounded himself with people who encouraged him to do what he wished, regardless of the consequences. He only listened to the prophets when they brought good news and his propensity to listen to the majority leads to his death. Ahab is an example of a childish man who only wanted to hear “yes” when making decisions. He took advice which should have been ignored when weighed against God’s commandments. Selfishness can lead to great evil, either by the person himself or by others in response. The best example of this would be Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. She did great evil in response to her husband’s selfishness. Not only did she set up Naboth to be killed but she also killed thousands of God’s prophets (1 Kings 18:4), when she threatened to kill Elijah after he killed her prophets of Baal and being a general thorn in their side for his prophecies against them (1 Kings 19:2). Jezebel ranks as the evilest woman in the Bible. Ahab is the selfish king who did not consider the consequences of his actions, only his own desires.

King Hezekiah is the reformer king. A king who had a close relationship with God when kings around him and before him did not. He removed anything that could be used as an idol and restored the temple as a place of worship. Passover was celebrated for the first time in generations and a revival swept the kingdom of Judah. After Hezekiah received a letter from Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who tried to discourage his faith that God will protect Jerusalem, Hezekiah does something other kings did not. He prayed. My favorite verse of his prayer is in 2 Kings 19:19, “Now O Lord, our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” Hezekiah’s prayer is an example of his faith in God. He was not afraid to approach God with his request for protection and deliverance. However, while he focused on the present problems, he did not take measures to ensure his reforms would be in place for the future. While he removed the images and practices of paganism from the kingdom, he did not think of the future, long after he was gone, for the kingdom to continue on their path with God. Due to his success and prosperity, Hezekiah became proud and failed to credit God’s blessings when envoys of Babylon came to the kingdom (2 Kings 20:12-13). He proudly showed off his wealth and treasures. Isaiah prophesied that the wealth of Judah would be carried off to Babylon and Hezekiah’s descendants would be carried off as well (2 Kings 20:16-18). This prophesy came to pass as Nebuchadnezzar laid waste to Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah was no more (2 Kings 25). While he restored God as the source of worship in Judah, Hezekiah soon became prideful which led him to ignore plans for the future to ensure that future generations would carry on his reforms.

First and Second Kings is filled with the stories of the good, bad and evil kings of Israel and Judah. King Solomon was known as the wisest king of all but he failed to put his wisdom to practice in his own life. This lack of attention to his personal life caused him to be led away by his pagan wives and caused his kingdom to be split into two. King Ahab was a selfish man who desired what he could not have and in order to please him, his wife did great evil. King Hezekiah failed to provide for the future because he was shortsighted by his present success. To apply the lesson of these three men would be: wisdom needs to be applied to all aspects of life, selfishness can have disastrous consequences and keep future generations in mind while working on the problems of today.