For Sunday, June 7 at Mosaic Baptist Church
And the remaining words of Jeroboam and all that he did – are these not written in the words of the book of the days of Judah’s kings?
1 Kings 14:19 (Own translation)
But when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving to you, and you inherit it and live in it and say, “I will set over myself a ruler just like the other nations surrounding me,” you may appoint over you a king which YHWH your God selects. You shall select a king over you from among your brothers. Do not appoint over yourselves a foreigner who is not your brother. He must not multiply horses for himself or send the people to Egypt to multiply horses for him – for the YHWH said, “Never return that way again.” And he shall not multiply for himself wives – in case they turn his heart away – nor multiply for himself great amounts of silver and gold.
And when he sits on his throne he shall write a copy of this law in a book for himself according to the Levitical priests, and it will be with him and he will read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all these commands, and to do these decrees, so that his heart may not rise above his brothers, nor deviate to the right or left of the commands, so that his reign may long continue, he and his children in Israel.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (Own Translation)
Today we begin an eight-part journey through the book of 1 Kings. This collection of writings sits firmly in the genre of history. It records the final part of the reign of King David, the handing over of the kingdom to his son, Solomon, and the splintering of the kingdom into Israel and Judah.
In many ways this is a disturbing and sobering account.
Jeroboam was one of the kings in this story. After the record of his reign we read: ‘And the remaining words of Jeroboam and all that he did – are these not written in the words of the book of the days of Judah’s kings?‘ (1 Kings 14:19).
A similar statement is made after each reign throughout the account. This indicates, I would suggest, that there is something specific about the material collected here. The reader will not find all that could be said about each ruler in this document. In fact, the author – or compiler – points those wanting to know more to another historical source.
This raises important questions as to what the author is seeking to do here. Clearly it is not exhaustive history. Rather, it is selective.
Could it be that this account of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah seeks to offer God’s people a spiritual perspective on their history?
After all this is a nation that claims that YHWH established them in this land that was not theirs. This is not because they were so special or good. It is more on account of the abominable practices of the nations they overthrew. Still, their conquest makes disturbing reading.
Yet by the time Israel is considering who will follow King David, there is peace. And with this peace comes the opportunity for prosperity.
This was far from unpredictable. Indeed before the land was even entered, as we have read, Moses pointed to the dangers of a settled future. The great prophet wrote specific instructions for a people who would one day seek their own king – like the nations around them.
Moses words read like something of a compromise of God’s part – a set of instructions for a people who would imitate kingdoms other than God’s.
So when they set up their own king, they are to make sure that he resists extravagant military might, multiple marriage alliances, and the accumulation of wealth. The reason given for a limited number of wives could overarch all of these: ‘…in case they turn his heart away…’.
The protection offered seems to be an elaborate – and overseen – writing, reading, and learning and re-visiting of the teaching of Moses. Again the reason for this points to the soul of the king: ‘…so that his heart may not rise above his brothers, nor deviate to the right or left of the commands…’.
This emersion in the law is to be the the greatest, most important and far reaching project the king undertakes. After all, the formation of this heart will determine the path the nation takes.
How do you feel about God compromising and giving Israel a king? What does this ay about the nature of God? What does it say about followers of this God?
If the heart of Israel’s rulers was so vital, what kind of king or queen do you believe you would have been?
If a ‘spiritual history’ – focused on the heart – was written about you, how do you think it would read?