Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Colonnade and shops in Bath, England

Monday, April 17, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 18, 1 Kgs 15-17

Today's readings are 1 Kgs 15-17.

In 1 Kings 15:1-8, Abijam's (sometimes known as "Abijah") reign typifies the constant tension between Judah's propensity to fall into idolatry and God's faithfulness to His people. We see Maacah's  name again in v 2. She is the granddaughter of Absalom. Her son, Abijam is an evil king. Meanwhile, tensions between Israel and Judah escalate.
This short passage relates three ongoing undercurrents concerning the two kingdoms: (1) The continuing influence of the dowager queen, Maacah. (2) The continued backsliding of Judah. (3) The escalating war with the north.

Asa reigns after Abijam. He is a godly man who initiates reform in godly worship and does much to set Judah on the right path (1 Kgs 15:9-15).  He removes Maacah from her position and burns her idols in the brook of Kidron, Jerusalem’s garbage dump at the time. But, he fails to tear down the "high places," the sites for pagan idol worship. His heart is for God, his commitment to holiness is enviable, but not total.  This is probably evidence of the culture he lives in which fluctuates between dedication to God and the allure of worldly gods and idols. Nonetheless, it will prove to be a problem for those that follow. The Scriptures compare Asa favorably to David.

King Baasha of Israel fights an ongoing war with Judah. He builds Ramah, which lies on the Central Benjamin Plateau north of Jerusalem (1 Kgs 15:16-17). Ramah guards the only easy-to-navigate roadway to Jerusalem. If Baasha controls Ramah, he can nearly control Jerusalem.

To counter Baasha’s attack, Asa forms an alliance with the kingdom of Aram (Syria). This is a highly questionable move as the Syrians have historically been enemies of God's people. Asa is a good and godly man, but he does not always seek God’s counsel before making crucial decisions. Making matters worse, Asa gives the treasures of the house of the Lord to Ben-hadaad, the king of Syria (1 Kgs 15:18-20).

Asa is devoted to God but can allow his circumstances to lead him into compromise and self-reliance. He seems willing to make hard decisions in following the Lord but, at times, unwilling to trust Him.

With new threats coming from the North, Baasha abandons his plans for Ramah. Asa carries away the spoils and dies sometime afterward (1 Kgs 15:21-24).

Up to this point, we’ve been reviewing a short history of Judah’s kings. 1 Kgs 15:25-31 begins a summary of the kings of Israel, starting with Nadab, then moving to Baasha in 1 Kgs 15:33-34. These two kings were mentioned previously but, in this passage, are introduced with more detail as we look at Israel closer. The brief summaries concerning the first two kings are intended to convey the idea of a lot of turnover in leadership for Israel, an example of the upheaval and turmoil in the northern kingdom. Pay close attention to the length of the reigns of the kings that follow.

Baasha follows in the way of Jeroboam and is condemned by God through the prophet Jehu (1 Kgs 16:1-7). Those who become leaders will be accountable for how they lead. God makes it clear, through His prophet, that He is the one who put Baasha in place and He will be the one to exact a consequence for Baasha's rebellion against God.

Baasha's son, Elah takes over. After two years as king, Elah comes to a bad end at the hands of Zimri who wipes out the entire house of Baasha (1 Kgs 16:8-11) just as God prophesied in 1 Kgs 16:3.

Zimri becomes king but, after only seven days on the throne, commits suicide when Omri, the commander of the army, comes against him (1 Kgs 16:15-20).

As Omri assumes the throne, the northern kingdom splits and begins to war with itself (1 Kgs 16:21-22). Omri wins the battle and becomes another of the growing line of evil kings of Israel. He builds a city that will become integral to the history of the region, Samaria (1 Kgs 16:21-25). When Omri dies after reigning for twelve years, his son, Ahab takes his place (1 Kgs 16:25-28).

Ahab seems to be the worst of the entire lot, so far. Ahab leads Israel in total apostasy, worshiping Baal and setting up altars to false gods and idols (1 Kgs 16:29-34).

In 1 Kings 17, we meet Elijah (My God is Yahweh), a prophet, sent by God to Israel and its backsliding king (1 Kgs 17:1-2). God affirms Elijah by supernatural signs. Elijah is miraculously provided for by ravens (1 Kgs 17:4-7) and God uses Elijah to raise the dead son of a widow (1 Kgs 17:23). The woman says of Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord is in your mouth.” (1 Kgs 17:24). A spectacular sign such as the raising of the widow’s son would not have gone unnoticed in the community. As he is about the approach Ahab, Elijah has serious credentials as a prophet.

The two signs God performed in and through Elijah have symbolic significance as well as establishing his reputation as a prophet. The ravens provided for Elijah during an extended drought.  The drought was with godly purpose. Ahab worships Baal, the supposed god of rain and vegetation in this region. The one true God clearly demonstrated this His power is greater than any false gods by overpowering Baal and controlling the weather in Baal's home territory. We saw the same sovereign power when God used Elijah to raise the widow's dead son. Only God has the power of life and death, not any pagan "god." Yahweh is God of all nations and God of all people, whether they worship Him or not.

Notice the grace of God working even in a backslider's life. God sends a man to bring the truth to Ahab. Ahab will either turn from his ways or have no excuse when judgment falls on him.  

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