“I DON’T CARE what anyone says, I’m going to do it!” he yells at his mother as he storms out of the house.
This is a familiar scene in our society. The words change, but the essential message is the same… the person is not open to advice because his mind is closed. Some advice may be sought, but it is heeded only if it reinforces the decision already made or is an easier path to take. It is human nature to reject help and to do things our way.
A much wiser approach is to seek, hear, and heed the advice of good counsellors. Solomon, the world’s wisest man, urges this in Proverbs (see 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). How ironic that his son and successor, Rehoboam, listened instead to foolish advice, with devastating results. At Rehoboam’s inauguration, he was petitioned by the people to be a kind of generous ruler. The older men counselled him to “be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favourable answer” (12:7). But Rehoboam agrees to the cruel words of his peers who urge him to be harsh. As a result, Rehoboam split the kingdom. Learn from Rehoboam’s mistake. Commit yourself to seeking and following wise counsel.
The main events of 1 Kings are David’s death, Solomon’s reign, the division of the kingdom, and Elijah’s ministry. As Solomon ascended the throne, David charged him to obey God’s law and to walk “in his ways” (2:3). This Solomon did; and when given the choice of gifts from God, he humbly asked for discernment (3:9). As a result, Solomon’s reign began with great success, including the construction of the temple – his greatest achievement. Unfortunately, Solomon took many pagan wives and concubines who eventually turned his heart away from the Lord to their false gods (11:1-4).
Rehoboam succeeded Solomon and had the opportunity to be a wise, compassionate, and just king. Instead, he accepted the poor advice of his young friends and attempted to rule with an iron hand. But the people rebelled, and the kingdom split with ten tribes in the north (Israel) ruled by Jeroboam, and only Judah and Benjamin remaining with Rehoboam. Both kingdoms wove a path through the reigns of corrupt and idolatrous kings with only the clear voice of the prophets continuing to warn and call the nation back to God.
Elijah is surely one of the greatest prophets, and chapters 17-22 feature his conflict with wicked Ahab and Jezebel in Israel. In one of the most dramatic confrontations in history, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. In spite of incredible opposition, Elijah stood for God and proves that one plus God is a majority. If God is on our side, no-one can stand against us (Romans 8:31).
PURPOSE: To contrast the lives of those who live for God and those who refuse to do so through the history of the kings of Israel and Judah
AUTHOR: Unknown. Possibly Jeremiah or a group of prophets
SETTING: The once great nation of Israel turned into a land divided, not only physically, but also spiritually
KEY VERSES: “As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel for ever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel’ “ (9:4, 5).
KEY PEOPLE: David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel
SPECIAL FEATURE: The books of 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book.
The United Kingdom (1:1-11:43) Solomon was a botanist, zoologist, architect, poet, and philosopher. He was the wisest king in the history of Israel, but his wives led to the introduction of false gods and false worship in Israel. It is good for us to have wisdom, but that is not enough. The highest goal in life is to obey the Lord. Patient obedience to God should characterise our lives.
- Solomon becomes king
- Solomon’s wisdom
- Solomon builds the temple
- Solomon’s greatness and downfall
The Divided Kingdom (12:1-22:53) When the northern kingdom of Israel was being led by wicked kings, God raised up a prophet to proclaim his messages. Elijah single-handedly challenged the priesthood of the state religion and had them removed in one day. Through the dividing of the kingdom and the sending of Elijah, God dealt with the people’s sin in powerful ways. Sin in our lives is graciously forgiven by God. However, the sin of an unrepentant person will be handled harshly. We must turn from sin and turn to God to be saved from judgment.
- Revolt of the northern tribes
- Kings of Israel and Judah
- Elijah’s ministry
- Kings of Israel and Judah
Explanation: Solomon’s wisdom, power, and achievements brought honour to the Israelite nation and to God. All the kings of Israel and Judah were told to obey God and to govern according to his laws. But their tendency to abandon God’s commands and to worship other gods led them to change the religion and government to meet their personal desires. This neglect of God’s law led to their downfall.
Importance: Wisdom, power, and achievement do not ultimately come from any human source; they are from God. No matter what we lead or govern, we can’t do well when we ignore God’s guidelines. Whether or not we are leaders, effectiveness depends upon listening and obeying God’s word. Don’t let your personal desires distort God’s word.
Explanation: Solomon’s temple was a beautiful place of worship and prayer. This sanctuary was the centre of Jewish religion. It was the place of God’s special presence and housed the ark of the covenant the Ten Commandments.
Importance: A beautiful house of worship doesn’t always guarantee heartfelt worship of God. Providing opportunities for true worship doesn’t ensure that it will happen. God wants to live in our hearts, not just meet us in a sanctuary.
Explanation: Although the Israelites had God’s law and experienced his presence among them, they became attracted to other gods. When this happened, their hearts become cold to God’s law, resulting in the ruin of families and government, and eventually leading to the destruction of the nation.
Importance: Through the years, the people took on the false qualities of the false gods they worshipped. They became cruel, power-hungry, and sexually perverse. We tend to become what we worship. Unless we serve the true God, we will become slaves to whatever takes place.
The Prophet’s Message
Explanation: The prophet’s responsibility was to confront and correct any deviation from God’s law. Elijah was a bolt of judgment against Israel. His message and miracles were a warning to the evil and rebellious kings and people.
Importance: The Bible, the truth in sermons, and the wise counsel of believers are warnings to us. Anyone who points out how we deviate from obeying God’s word is a blessing to us. Changing our lives in order to obey God and get back on track often takes painful discipline and hard work.
Sin and Repentance
Explanation: Each king had God’s commands, a priest or prophet, and the lessons of the past to draw him back to God. All the people had the same resources. Whenever they repented and returned to God, God heard their prayers and forgave them.
Importance: God hears and forgives us when we pray – if we are willing to trust him and turn from sin. Our desire to forsake our sin must be heartfelt and sincere. Then he will give us a fresh start and a desire to live for him.
©KingsWay International Church, 1973.