Yesterday I read the book of Kings (1 and 2 Kings). It is a tremendous and heartbreaking story. But most importantly, it is a story which we must know if we are going to understand what it means to be a part of the kingdom of God. Jesus’ story has a backstory and so much of it can be found in the book of Kings. Here are a few things I think we should notice.
A Tragic Story
The book of Kings covers less than 400 years and it tells the story of how God’s people disregarded His law and ended up in exile. It is much like the story of Adam and Eve. In the beginning, the people are living in paradise, but because of their disobedience, they are driven out to the east. This is why 1 and 2 Kings really need to be read together because the reader is supposed to see the difference between the beginning of the story and the end of the story.
For instance, in 1 Kings 3, there is the famous story of two women fighting over the custody of a child. There was a child who died and a child who was alive. Each woman claimed the living child as her own. Solomon wisely offered to cut the child in half, knowing the true mother would surrender custody rather than let her child be killed.
This story is contrasted with something that happens in 2 Kings 6, during a siege of Samaria. Like Solomon, the king is asked to settle a dispute between two women. In this story as well, there is a dead child and a living child. However, in this story, the woman who comes to the king is upset because she and another woman were so hungry they had decided to boil and eat their babies. But after they ate this woman’s baby, the second mother hid her living child.
The book of Kings is filled with these types of contrasts so the reader can see just how tragic was Israel’s fall. When Solomon reigned, “silver was as common in Jerusalem as stone.” By the end of the book, the king of Judah and most of God’s people are prisoners and slaves in Babylon. Solomon built a beautiful and glorious temple. By the end of the book, the temple is an ash heap. When Solomon reigned, foreign dignitaries came to marvel at Israel and her king. By the end of the book, Israel has become “a byword among all peoples.”
For some reason, we often think of Solomon as one of the good kings of Israel. But in spite of the wisdom God gave him, Solomon brought idolatry to the kingdom. Solomon was the king who set Israel on a trajectory towards exile.
In fact, the author of Kings is somewhat subtle in introducing Solomon’s sin. When we, as modern readers, read about Solomon’s thousands of horses and chariots, and we read about all of his silver and gold, we are impressed. However, we should NOT be impressed. We should be horrified. We should be shouting at the pages of our Bibles, “No! No, Solomon! Don’t do it! This is exactly what the Lord said not to do.”
From the very beginning of his reign, Solomon was a worldly king. In Deuteronomy 17:16-17, God had given these instructions for future kings of Israel:
- Don’t acquire many horses.
- Don’t acquire many wives.
- Don’t acquire excessive silver and gold.
These three things were like kings’ forbidden fruit. Solomon wasted no time before he picked the fruit and took a bite.
Horses and Chariots
One of the recurring themes in the book is horses and chariots. A chariot was like the tank of the ancient world. It was the most advanced military technology and the king with the most chariots was confident he would prevail in battle.
But Israel was supposed to be different. They weren’t supposed to think like that. They weren’t supposed to believe they were in danger from armies with chariots. They were supposed to believe God was their shield and defender. They were supposed to believe it didn’t matter how many chariots the armies of men had because chariots were no match for God.
But from the beginning of the story, their trust was misplaced.
- They trusted in horses and chariots.
- They trusted in alliances with other nations.
- They trusted in “gods” of other nations.
God continually tried to open their eyes and help them see His unseen army and His chariots of fire; the hosts He leads are greater and more powerful than any nation on earth. He tried to help them realize He could defeat world empires without a shot being fired. He could cause kings of mighty armies to hear noises or rumors and retreat from the battle in fear.
He tried to get His people to walk by faith, but they were afraid and they put their trust in things they could see.
Resurrection and Restoration
The story of Kings points forward to Jesus in many wonderful ways. First, of course, in the anticipation of a Davidic king, one like Josiah, who would end the exile and bring the kingdom of heaven. But the prophets of God also point forward to Jesus and His ministry.
Both Elijah and Elisha bring dead people back to life. In fact, the occurrences in this book might be the first times in the Bible when people are brought back to life. As people whose primary hope is tied up in the coming resurrection, these accounts should be of great significance to us.
Consider the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings. She trusted the Lord and her son was raised to life. But also, after her sojourn, “The king appointed an official for her, saying, ‘Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.'” She trusted in the Lord and her family experienced resurrection and they inherited the earth.
But my favorite story is that of the man who was buried in Elisha’s tomb (2 Kings 13). As soon as his dead body touched Elisha’s bones, he was raised to life. What a tremendous foreshadowing of the Gospel. All of us who are buried with Jesus will be brought to life by Him.
When are God’s people today going to learn from the story of which we are a part? When are we going to learn to stop trusting in gold and chariots and alliances with worldly nations? When are we going to realize the Messiah has come and ended our exile? When are we going to realize He raises the dead and we do not have to fear those who can destroy the body? Think on these things.
I love you and God loves you,