June 1, 2017

A Table of Lessons for June



A Table of Lessons for June

June 1

1 Kings. 1:1-27,  Acts 11:19-30
1 Kings 1:28-53, 1 Cor. 15

Commentary, 1 Kings 1

“Now King David was old and stricken in years.” He is probably about 69 years of age, not terribly old by modern standards. But David has spent many years in the field sharing the deprivations of the soldier, and his reign was marked by strife and rebellion, even within his own house. The burden of leadership has aged him beyond his years, and now we see him weak, feeble, and near death. Yet he is not allowed to go to his grave in peace.  His sons are not satisfied with the prestige and prosperity they enjoy as members of the royal family.  Instead they are jealous for power, and each seems to desire the throne after David’s death.  Adonijah appears to be the oldest son, and believes the throne belongs to him, like a right to be enjoyed rather than a service to be rendered. Many modern politicians seem to have the same view of their offices. Like his brother, Absalom, he gathers chariots and foot soldiers around him and proclaims himself king.  He is supported by Joab, leader of David's army, and by Abiathar, the priest of the house of Eli.

The bedridden David, weak and tired, is forced into a public role again. If Adonijah remains as king, he will execute a bloodbath on all his brothers, whom he sees as competitors for the throne.  All of the supporters and advisors of David will also die in Adonijah’s attempt to secure the throne for himself, and He will rule Israel as though the land and people belong to him rather than God.  Adonijah has powerful support in high and low places, mostly from people who want favours and wealth from him when he comes into his kingdom.  People often enthrone the most unfit of men to the highest and most powerful positions in church and state, people who use their positions to enrich themselves and reward their cronies rather than serve God and His people.

Solomon himself is a weak and sinful man, as are all the children of Adam.  Even the best of us hold the treasures of God in earthen vessels. Even the best fail, sin, and disappoint. Even the most noble among us bring suffering and sorrow by our best efforts.  But when people gain power only to use it to benefit themselves and their party, the suffering and sorrow of the people are multiplied a thousandfold.

This is the story we will see repeated time and time again through the books of Kings and Chronicles.  There will be high points.  There will be kings, who, flawed as they are, will at least attempt to lead the nation into Godliness, with its resultant freedom and opportunity.  But these revivals will be brief and affect relatively small parts of the population.  The general trend of the nation will always be to sink back into the muck and mire of the surrounding pagan nations.

The chapter closes with Solomon proclaimed king, and the supporters of Adonijah in flight.  At this point, Solomon is disposed toward leniency.  Rather than executing his brother, as Adonijah certainly intended to do to Solomon, Solomon releases Adonijah to his own home in peace.

June 2

1 Kings 2:1-25, Acts 12
1 Kings, 2:26-46, 1 Cor.1 6

Commentary, 1 Kings 2

In spite of all his military and political skills, David was a failure as a husband and father.  His household lived in turmoil all his life, and continued in it for generations after his death. Therefore, in chapter 2, he encourages Solomon to keep the charge of the Lord.  It is certain that, realising his own failures, he hopes for better things for his son.  “If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee a man on the throne of Israel,” David says reiterating the words of God to him.

David also knows the trouble that lies ahead for Solomon. Joab will oppose him. He who murdered Abner and killed Amasa, now supports Adonijah’s bid for the throne.  He is a powerful and dangerous enemy.  Adonijah still intends to become king. Asking Bath-sheba to give him David’s concubine, Abishag as his wife, besides being against all laws of decency, is a claim to be lord of David's house and property, and, therefore, the rightful king.  This is why Solomon says to Bathsheba, “ask for Adonijah the kingdom also.”  To claim the right to David's harem, is to claim the right to David's throne.  Realising Adonijah will always be an enemy, Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he fell upon Adonijah that he died.

Abiathar the Priest once supported David, but now supports Adonijah.  Because of his friendship to David, and because of his priestly office, Solomon will not raise his hand against the Lord's anointed.  Instead Abiathar is forced out of Jerusalem and no longer functions as the High Priest of Israel. This fulfills the word of the Lord to Eli in 1 Samuel 2:31-35.

Joab’s duplicity finally destroys him.  Though having some good traits and wisdom, Joab seems to have always had his eye on what was good for Joab. Realising this, and that he cannot be trusted, in accordance with his father's counsel, Solomon forces Joab to pay the ultimate price.

Shimei is another traitor.  His trip to Gath is an attempt to gather support from the Philistines to attack Solomon’s weak and divided kingdom.  If Shimei had been successful, Israel would have become a pagan state instead of the people of God.  Had Adonijah, or Joab, been successful in their rebellions, Israel, as we know it, would have been eliminated. The house of David, all of his supporters, and anyone who opposed, or appeared to oppose, their attempt to seize the throne of Israel and use it for personal gain would have been executed without trial or mercy.  Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, would have died.

June 3

1 Kings 3, Acts 13:1-13
1 Kings 4,  2 Cor. 1

Solomon is known for his wisdom.  But, like all of us, Solomon’s frailties and ego often cloud his judgment.  We see in chapter 3 a laudable prayer for wisdom.  How we wish today that the people in whom we invest the power of government would seek wisdom from God in order to govern wisely and justly.  But, alas, gaining and increasing personal wealth and power seems to dominate most of their time and effort, while government and justice decay unheeded.

God promises to answer Solomon's prayer, and, indeed, his wisdom is shown when the two women bring their sons to him, one living, and one dead.  A child was a woman's social security. He would care and provide for her old age as she had cared and provided for his youth.  Solomon knew the mother of the dead child wanted that security for her old age. He also knew the true mother of the child had a mother's love for her son.  Her heart was filled with compassion and the desire for good things for her son.  The other woman cared nothing for the son.  Her heart was hard and selfish. If she could not have the income from a son, she wanted to deprive the other woman of it also.  “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it,” were her hateful words.

Thus, Solomon recognised the real mother by her love, and returned the child to her, and all the people saw that “the wisdom of God was on him to do judgement.”

If only Solomon had been as wise in his own home and personal life.  In spite of the direct commandments of God, verse 1 tells us, “Solomon made an affinity with pharaoh king of Egypt, and took pharaoh’s daughter into the city of David.” Solomon probably thought it was good to form a peace treaty with Egypt.  He probably thought this was a good political move.  But God's law forbade such marriages (Ex. 34:16) and Solomon’s actions were in direct contradiction to the will of God.  Thus, like Saul, we see at the beginning of his reign the cracks in his armour that will eventually lead to his fall, and split his country forever.  Oh, how often we foolish men follow pied pipers with “better ideas,” only to find they lead us to destruction.  How much better off we would be if instead of following the never ending parade of political New Deals (which all look suspiciously like the one Satan unveiled in Eden) we simply returned to the old, old promise, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.  It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Prov. 3:5-8).

1 Kings 4

God has blessed Israel according to His promises. Through David’s leadership, God has extended the borders of Israel from the Mediterranean east to the Tigris and Euphrates Valley, south through Arabia to the Gulf of Aquba, west again through most of the Sinai Peninsula, and north again beyond the headwaters of the Jordan River.  Not all of these lands were owned or populated by Jews, but all owed some form of allegiance to Israel.  Even mighty Babylon and Egypt were at peace with David during this time, and the children of Israel “dwelt safely, every man under his vine, and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.”

In addition to his myriad wives, Solomon maintained a large standing army.  According to verse 26, he had 46,000 stalls of horses and 12,000 horseman. It is probable that the 46,000 counts only the war horses. There would have been many thousand more mares, foals, and horses in training.  The dromedaries of verse 28, were camels which could carry messages swiftly over long distances and in desert conditions, thus enabling rapid communication, at least for that era.

The maintenance of this army was extremely expensive. The daily needs of Solomon’s household alone required thirty measures of fine flower, about 13,680 pounds.  The meal, probably grain for the horses and cattle, required over 27,000 pounds per day.  The 10 fat oxen were kept in feedlots and fed special rations to increase their weight and flavour.  Twenty more oxen, a hundred sheep, and un-numbered wild goats, deer, and fowl were required in the palace every single day. Some of this came as tribute from the Gentile lands ruled by Solomon, but much of it was taken from the Hebrew people themselves.  Solomon appointed “officers” whose jobs were to procure the tribute and food to sustain his government.  At least one officer was appointed to gather food from each tribe for one month each year.  It is easy to see how Solomon, not answering to any official or elected body, would be tempted to increase the size of his government, and, therefore, the food and substance required to maintain it. We know that in the future he will require the Hebrew people to spend time as bond slaves in his service. Their work will benefit the nation, but mostly it will benefit Solomon at the expense of the people. When David started, he lived in tents and caves while the people lived in houses. At the end of Solomon’s reign, he lived in palaces and the people lived in labor camps.



June 4

1 Kings 5,  Acts 13:14-52
1 Kings 6, 2 Cor. 2

Commentary,

1 Kings 5,
We come now to the beginning of the building of the Temple, and of Solomon’s policy of enforced Hebrew labour.  Aside from being forced to pay for the increasingly lavish expenses of Solomon’s court, the people are forced into labour camps for three months of every year.  Originally intended to provide labour for building the Temple, the practice continues and worsens during Solomon’s reign.  What may have started as a voluntary way to finance the Temple, became slavery.  The contrasts with the wilderness Tabernacle are instructive.  The Tabernacle was financed by free offerings; Solomon’s Temple is financed by forced slavery and taxation.  Thus, the early wealth and prosperity of the Jewish people gradually dissipates, while Solomon’s increases daily.  More and more building projects, all of which enrich Solomon while enslaving and impoverishing the people, continue during his reign, decreasing the already fragile nature of the Hebrew nation.  At his death, the nation will split into two separate kingdoms, largely because his son, Rehoboam, insists that his rule will be even more burdensome than his father’s.  Once again we see those entrusted with the service of government abusing their power and treating the people and resources as though they belong to the rulers.  Instead, the rulers should have viewed themselves as servants of the people, entrusted with certain, limited authority only for the purpose of securing the rights of the people.  These abuses are what God said would happen when Israel asked for a king, and, it seems, they have been happening ever since.  The power so gladly given to protect the people is easily used to oppress them.

1 Kings 6

Solomon now proceeds with the project his father most wanted to accomplish, the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. David originally desired to have the people of Tyre help with the building of the Temple (2 Sam 5:11), and Solomon carries out this desire. The people of Tyre  are seafaring people, originally from the Greek isles.  Their boat building skills translated easily into transporting and hewing the Temple timbers as well as the massive stones for the foundation.  It is likely that the early Hebrews put their hands to the good work gladly.  It is also probable that their work away from home was timed to allow for planting, harvesting, and maintaining their homes and farms.  Still, the seven years it took to build Temple, and the very costly furnishings, inside and out, are quite an example of sacrificial giving by the Hebrew people, who, though quite comfortable on their farms and vineyards, were still far from rich by the world's standards.


June 5

1 Kings 7,  Acts 14:1-18
1 Kings 8,  2 Cor. 3

Commentary, 

1 Kings 7,

The Temple was truly a magnificent structure which proclaimed the glory of God to Israel and all peoples.  Though all the children of Israel may not have shared Solomon’s enthusiasm for the task, or desire for the elaborate decor, God still accepted it as a symbol of His dwelling with Israel, and it was fitting that the house of God be aesthetically well appointed.

However, God’s acceptance of this “house,”  like His blessing of the king seems to have been more of an acquiescence to the desires of the people than the implementation of His plan or desire.  God did not ask David to build a house for Him.  Instead He said heaven and earth cannot hold Him, how could a house built of wood and stones by finite and silly people hold Him?  Yet, God accepted their “gift,” and much good came from the Temple.  Even Christ called it, “My house,” and said it “shall be called the house of prayer” (Mt. 21:13).

As the work continues, however, we see more and more that the Temple becomes, and is forever after known as “Solomon’s Temple.”  It often happens that work begun for the glory of God somehow turns to the glory of those who do the work.  This is a constant danger which we must always guard against.

Solomon continues to use conscripted (temporarily enslaved Hebrews) on other building projects.  He builds an elaborate palace for himself (7:1) and another house so vast and ornate it is known as the house of the forest of Lebanon.  A similar house is built for his foreign wife, the daughter of pharaoh (7:8).   This pattern of conscripting the people for Solomon’s projects continues throughout his reign and makes him personally very wealthy through his copper mines and an overland trade route from Ezion Geber to the Mediterranean Sea.  But it causes a growing animosity against him by the people, and will play a major role in dividing the nation after his death.  Solomon has an opportunity to build upon the nation’s unity and prosperity that was its legacy from David.  With humble and prayerful leadership from him, the people could  work freely together to build a Temple that would be a glad act of worship and bring all the tribes together in faith and cooperation.  By  employing, rather than conscripting, the people of Israel to build the palaces and work in the mines and caravans, Solomon could further increase their unity and prosperity.  Instead, his focus turns more and more to his own glory and wealth.  Late in life, looking back over many tragic mistakes, he recorded his hard earned wisdom in the great book of Ecclesiastes.  The stories of his very real accomplishments, found in other books, should always be read in conjunction with his mature reflection on life and its meaning as found in Ecclesiastes.

1 Kings 8

Solomon’s tragic faults do not mean he has no genuine desire to honour God.  Nor do they mean God does not accept his imperfect and often, misguided worship, just as He does ours, and through the same Mediator, the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  In this chapter, Solomon gathers the elders of Israel in Jerusalem to formally dedicate the Temple.  This event does have a wonderful unifying effect on the nation.  The Tabernacle and its contents, along with the Ark of the Covenant are brought up to Mount Zion out of the older part of Jerusalem, known at that time as the City of David.  By the New Testament era, all of Jerusalem will be generally referred to as Zion in much the same way that modern cities become known by certain distinguishing landmarks or functions.  Bethlehem will then become known as the city of David.

The most important point in this chapter is that, in spite of all the human problems and failures involved in the process, the Temple sits where God has chosen for His Name to dwell.  His glory, which filled the pillar of smoke and fire through the sea and the wilderness, and into the Promised Land, enters and fills the Temple, signifying that this is the place in which God now intends to conduct His work with humanity, and Israel is the nation through whom that work will be conducted.  One day, in God’s time, He will bring forth the Saviour out of Israel, out of this very city.  Therefore, let Israel seek God in this House.  Let her worship Him according to the liturgies and litanies given by Him.  When her people stray, let them return in penitent prayer.  When enemies rise against them, let them seek His mighty protection.  Let them live together as one family and one people with Him as their God, and priest, and King, of which the human occupants of such offices are but symbols and servants, just as this House and its sacrifices are also.  He will hear from Heaven, and forgive their sins.  He will bring in the full Day of the Lord, of which this House and all its servants are but symbols and shadows, for one day the True King of Zion will fill the earth with His glory.


June 6

1 Kings 9, Acts 14:19-28
1 Kings 10,  2 Cor. 4

Commentary,

1 Kings 9

The promises God made with Saul and David are now renewed with Solomon.  Surely Solomon’s mind retains clear knowledge of the failures of the previous kings, and desires to do better.  Equally surely, the enormity of the task must cause great fear to rise in his heart.  He, too, is a mere man, a sinner.  How can he hope to be the kind of king and leader Israel needs at this critical point in her history?  Let all who dare to take up the mantle, whether in the Church or state,  tremble as Solomon must have trembled.  Let them read, let them agonise with Solomon in His prayer in chapter 8:28-53.  It would not be too much to ask of such candidates to pray this prayer day and night, and to feel it in their very souls before accepting any nomination or office.

There is no conflict between verse 22 and 1 Kings 5:13-16.  While many respected commentators believe the Israelites were paid employees and only the conquered Gentiles served in forced servitude, 1 Kings 12:11 shows that a large number of Israelites were forced into slavery nearly as brutal as that endured by their ancestors in Egypt.  They were pressed into work gangs, and forced to labour under pain of the whip.  According to 1 Kings 12:4, Solomon had made their yoke heavy and their service grievous, but they would devote themselves to the unity of Israel anyway.  All they asked was fair treatment from Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the new king.

1 Kings 10

Sheba is thought to have occupied the area of modern Yemen.  Situated near the rising empires of Babylon and Persia, the queen recognises Israel’s potential to be a powerful foe or an equally powerful ally.   Her visit is probably intended to see just how powerful Israel is, and, if possible curry the nation’s favour by offering tribute in the guise of royal gifts.  Solomon, by now controls most of the east-west trade routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe.  He uses the wealth from tolls and taxes on the merchandise moving through his land to increase his holdings of horses and chariots, which Egypt is glad to supply. 


June 7

1 Kings 11:1-25,  Acts 15
1 Kings 11:26-43

Commentary,

1 Kings 11

This chapter chronicles the sad decline and death of Solomon.  Known, at first, for his wisdom, and desire to be a good king (1 Kings 3), we find in this chapter the words, “and Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord” (6). The king’s decline is due to his desire to accommodate his 1,000 wives.  Verse 1 says he loved many “strange” women, meaning he married women who were not Jews.  Beginning with the daughter of Pharaoh, they included women from the neighbouring Canaanite tribes, and other nations.  The pagan kings and peoples of the area viewed such marriages as the normal way peace treaties, alliances, and trade agreements were sealed. But God told the Hebrews not to form such alliances, and certainly His plan of marriage as one man and one woman was known to all Israel since the time of Moses.  Therefore, the marriages were doubly wrong and doubly against the clear command of God.

Solomon’s wives to keep their pagan religions, and practice them in the palace.  Solomon even builds altars and shrines, called, high places, for them (7, 8).  The tenor of the passage seems to indicate that Solomon joined their worship and admired their religions and their accompanying views of truth and knowledge.  Thus, verse 4 says “his wives turned away his heart after other gods,” and verse 5 says Solomon “went after” them.

Verses 9-13 tell of God’s anger with Solomon.  He says he will rend the kingdom from Solomon, and give it to his servant.  Only the tribe of Judah will be left to Solomon’s heirs (13).

The Lord allows enemies to rise against Solomon.  In verses 14-22, Hadad the Edomite is “stirred up an adversary unto Solomon.  Rezon is also stirred up (23).  He takes Damascus and Syria, and “was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon” (23-25).  Jeroboam (26-40) is told by Ahijah that God will make him ruler of ten tribes of Israel (31).

Thus, Solomon’s poor policies, personal greed, and religious apostasy have taken Israel from a united and prosperous people at peace, to a divided, impoverished people harried by enemies on several fronts.  Verses 41-43 close Solomon’s record:  “And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.”

June 8

1 Kings 12, Acts 16:1-13
1 Kings 13, 2 Cor. 6

Commentary,

1 Kings 12

The leaders of Israel gather in Shechem, about 30 miles north of Jerusalem.  Israel, in this chapter, refers to the ten northern tribes.  The official purpose of the gathering is to formally recognise the kingship of Rehoboam.  He is Solomon’s son, and, according to custom, and the promise of God that David’s descendants would inherit the throne, he is the heir apparent.

Not all in Israel support Rehoboam.  Since Solomon ruled for forty years, many of the older people still remember David, and the benefits of his policies.  Surely many also remember the harm done to them under Solomon, and wonder what kind of king Rehoboam will be.  Will he continue the destructive policies of his father, which have brought sorrow and poverty to the nation?  Or will his rule follow the policies of David, which brought peace and prosperity?
Someone sends for Jeroboam (3), who has been living in Egypt, and who serves as a leader in the delegation to Shechem.  Jeroboam is the one who actually speaks to Rehoboam and presents him with the promise, “make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us lighter, and we will serve thee” (4).  

Rehoboam takes time to consult with advisors before answering (6-11).  Why does he need to consult them?  Though he has but few books of Holy Scripture, do they not give enough guidance to the king?  Even with only the books of Solomon does he not have enough counsel to teach him how to rule well and wisely to the glory of God and well-being of the people?  Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were written for this purpose.  He should not need to consult others to help him decide how he will rule.  The fact that he does not give a straight answer, but asks three days for consultation, shows him to lack the moral courage and Biblical faith needed to lead the people of God.

Verses 12 records an historical cross roads of immense importance.  If Rehoboam states his intention to rule well, the Hebrew people will remain politically, culturally, and religiously united.  We can only surmise the good such an Israel could accomplish for the world.  If he vows to continue Solomon’s policies, the northern tribes appear ready to secede from to rest of the tribes and form a new nation, with disastrous consequences.  His decision is recorded in verses 13 and 14.

Very naturally, the northern tribes leave, and Israel becomes two, weak nations, rather than one strong one (18).  Their departure is made clear when Rehoboam sends Adoram to them to collect the heavy taxes needed to sustain the extravagant spending of the Jerusalem government.  Rather than pay the “tribute,”  the Israelites stone him to death, and Rehoboam makes a speedy retreat to Jerusalem.  The northern tribes are now known as Israel.  Benjamin is absorbed by Judah in the south.  They are known as Judah and their land is known as Judea.

Israel now faces a theological crisis.  God has chosen Jerusalem as the place where His Name abides.  The High Priest reside in Jerusalem.  The sacrifices are offered in Jerusalem.  Passover is observed in Jerusalem.  The Temple is in Jerusalem.  How can the Israelites maintain their faith  in the new and independent Israel?  They must either build their own “temple,” or make regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem to worship there.The Israelites seem quite willing to do this, for their quarrel is with Rehoboam, not the Judean people.  Jeroboam is unwilling for this to happen.

Jeroboam foresees a possible political crisis.  Crowned king of Israel in verse 20, he fears such pilgrimages will draw the Israelites back into Judah (20).  This would leave him without a kingdom, and in danger of execution.  But everyone knows the Temple is God’s house, and the sacrifices must be offered there.  They will not worship Him in a new temple in Israel.  But, Jeroboam, much more concerned about his own security than the good of his people or the clear teaching of Scripture has golden calves  made (28).  One is placed in Bethel; the other is placed in Dan (29).  The king presents them to the people with the words, “behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (28).  He makes priests of the lowest (least moral and religious) people who are not of the house of Levi (31), and establishes a feast in Israel during the time of Passover in Jerusalem (32).  But this feast is not a celebration of God’s grace.  It is a pagan festival like those of the Canaanite people, filled with idolatry and immorality.  Thus, idolatry and immorality are at the foundation of the new Israelite nation, and   will continue to be the heart of its faith until its demise.

1 Kings 13

Jeroboam has an opportunity as great as that of Rehobaom, and his decision is equally a turning point in history.  God promises him, “if thou wilt harken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statues and my commandments, as David did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee” (1 Kings 11:38).  At the time of this promise, Solomon had led the Jewish people into gross idolatry and coldness toward God.  They kept the ceremonial rules, offering the correct sacrifices, keeping the fasts and feast, but they did them without heart, and they also worshiped pagan idols.  Therefore, God reveals to Jeroboam that He is going to take most of Israel away from the Davidic kings, and give it to Jeroboam.  If Jeroboam will lead his kingdom to love and worship God, God will bless it, and Jeroboam’s line of kings will be as great as David’s line could have been if they had loved and followed God.  We can only imagine the benefit such a Godly nation would have been to the world, and how different world history might have been if Jeroboam had simply obeyed God.  Sadly, he did not.  Chapter 12 records his idolatry in terms that make it seem worse than that of Solomon (12:26-33).

Rehoboam, son of Solomon and king of the southern tribes, now known as Judah, in true despotic form, decides to keep the northern tribes in his kingdom by force of arms (12:21).  Only the word of God through the prophet Shemaiah prevents whole scale war between the two nations and people of God.  How sad their condition has become.

Instead of sending the army of Judah and Benjamin to fight the Israelites, God sends a prophet to call them to repentance.  The man of God’s message is simple: a child will be born in Judah whose name will be Josiah.  As king, he will lead Judah into Israel and will destroy the high places of idolatry.  He gives a sign, the altar of the golden calf in Bethel miraculously splits apart and ashes fall out of it.  It is very likely that the calf cult is a derivative of the pagan cult of Moloch, in which children are offered as sacrifices to a statue of a bull.  That cult was prevalent in Canaan before the coming of the Hebrews, and was one of the chief reasons for God’s judgement of the Canaanites.

At this point, Jeroboam has an opportunity to repent.  True repentance will avert the coming catastrophe, and restore Israel to the promises of God in 1 Kings 11 :38.  Instead of repenting, Jeroboam commands the prophet to be arrested, saying, “Lay hold on him”(4).  At that instant Jeroboam’s hand “dried up.”  We may not know exactly what “dried up” means, but we know, as does Jeroboam, that his hand becomes incapacitated, and that his affliction comes directly from God for his sin.  That, and the rending of the golden calf altar, cause Jeroboam to ask the prophet to pray for the restoration of his hand.  The prophet prays, the hand is restored, and the king invites the prophet to his house for food, drink, and a reward.  The prophet refuses, saying the Lord has forbidden his to do so, and he leaves Bethel.

Two sad event follow.  First is the death of the prophet.  We wonder why he is killed instead of the other prophet who deceives him (18).  But God has not revealed that to us.  We do know that the wages of sin is death, and the fact that we may have followed deceivers is no excuse.  We also know that the prophet dies only in the flesh, and that his soul is now in Heaven, which is far better than life on earth.

Second, Jeroboam continues his idolatry.  The dried hand, broken altar, and death of the disobedient prophet, do not move him.  Instead he seems to move more deeply into his sin.  Thus, chapter 13 ends with the sobering words;

“And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.”

June 9

1 Kings 14, Acts 16:14-40
1 Kings 15, 2 Cor. 7

Commentary,

1 Kings 14


June 10

1 Kings 16, Acts 17:1-15
1 Kings 17, 2 Cor. 8


June 11, St. Barnabas

The man known as Barnabas was really named Joses.  The Apostle called him Barnabas, son of encouragement, after he sold land near Jerusalem, and gave the money to the Apostles to help the poor and spread the Gospel (Acts 4:36, 37).  As the Church began to grow, new congregations began to form outside of Israel.  This required the Apostles to go to the new congregations and instruct them in the faith and practice given to them by Christ.  In one notable case, the Apostles sent another man, “full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith” (Acts 11:24).  That man was Barnabas.  The place was Antioch.

Barnabas seems to have spent much time in Antioch.  There was much work to do there, teaching the people how to worship as Christians instead of Jews or pagans, and teaching the Scriptures, and the sayings and ministry of Christ.  At some point, he went to Tarsus to bring Saul (later known as Paul) to Antioch.

Paul undoubtedly learned much from Barnabas, and soon began to preach and teach in the Antioch congregations.  The Church sent Paul to Jerusalem with Barnabas to take an offering to the Apostles (Acts 11:29, 30), and the two men seem to have been in Jerusalem during the events in Acts 12.

Upon their return to Antioch, the Holy Spirit commanded Barnabas and Paul to be separated (ordained, supplied, and sent) for an evangelistic mission that would take them to Cyprus and the southeastern coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Eventually, Paul became the more prominent of the two, later leading missions that would take him deeper into Asia, Rome, and, possibly, even into Spain and Britannia.

 Barnabas was obviously a great influence on Paul, but he also made missionary journeys.  We know he and John Mark went on missions together.  Thus, Barnabas was also a great influence on John Mark, who under the direction of the Apostle Peter, wrote the Gospel of Mark.  An ancient tradition says Barnabas was martyred on the island of Cyprus, giving his life, as he gave his money and possessions, in the service of Christ.

June 12

1 Kings 18, Acts 17:16-34
1 Kings 19, 2 Cor. 9

Commentary,

1 Kings 18

Israel is suffering a severe drought (1 Kings 17:1), so Ahab, king of Israel, and Obadiah, governor of Ahab’s house, set out in search of grass to feed the horses and mules (5, 6).  The animals pull the chariots and supply wagons of the army, thus, they are key elements in the nations’ defense.  Many have died of hunger and thirst already, and the king wants to find food so he doesn’t lose them all.  Obadiah meets the prophet Elijah, who tells him to tell Ahab he is here (7).  Obadiah fears Ahab will kill him for bringing such a message to him, and attempts to talk Elijah out of it.  The conversation ends with Elijah’s promise to, “surely shew myself unto him today” (15).

Ahab asks Elijah, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” (17).  1 Kings chapters 14-16 record the troubles brought upon Israel and Judah because of the personal sins and foolish policies of their kings.  Yet, because Elijah tells Ahab God is going to punish Israel with drought, Ahab accuses Elijah of troubling Israel.  Rare is the politician who admits his failures and welcomes the word of God.  Plentiful are those who accuse the Church of troubling them.

Elijah quickly affirms what Ahab really knows, that it is he and the other kings of the line of Jeroboam who trouble Israel by their wickedness and idolatry (18).  Elijah proposes a show down between God and the non-god Ahab and Israel have been worshiping.  Meet on Mount Carmel, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, offer a sacrifice, and let the real God light the fire  supernaturally  Then let everyone worship and serve the God who lights the fire.

On Carmel, the priests of Baal spend the day of praying, beating, and cutting themselves in their useless attempt to convince their god to light the fire.  Elijah douses the wood with water and steps away from the altar.  The fire of the Lord falls upon the sacrifice, consuming it, the wood, the stone altar, and the water (38).

It is not surprising that the witnesses fall to the ground in a sudden wave of faith, crying, “The Lord , He is the God” (39).  But the prophets of Baal are not among the penitent.  They remain stubbornly devoted to their non-god, and will continue to attempt to lead Israel back into their religion.  For their wickedness, which includes countless human sacrifices, they are killed (40).  Because of the people turning back to God, the drought is ended (41-45) and Ahab gallops his chariot south to the Vally of Jezreel (45) to get home before the rains start. The prophet Elijah outruns the chariot (46).

There is a clear message to all people in all times here.  If God is God, then follow Him fully.  Love Him completely.  Obey His commands.  Bask in His love.  Be not double-minded or half-hearted about Him.  Following God half-way will get you half-way to Heaven, and half-way to Heaven is right in the pit of hell. If God is not God, then quit the faith completely.  But fully and honestly do one or the other.

1 Kings 19

Jezebel is Ahab’s wife and the daughter of a Phoenician king.  She is a pagan who imported her religion into Israel and became a patron of its prophets and temples.  Her true character will be shown in chapter 21, where she uses her position as queen to commit murder in order to take a vineyard owned by Nabot.  In chapter 19, she is angry at the death of the prophets of Baal, which she probably brought with her to Israel.  She vows to kill Elijah by the following day (2).

Elijah, whose faith was so strong on Carmel, now runs in fear.  He leaves Israel to go to Beer-sheba, deep in Judean territory, more than a hundred miles away from Mount Carmel (3).  Leaving his servant in Beer-sheba, the prophet goes into the wilderness and begs God to take his life (4).  God provides food for the prophet, and leads him to Mount Horeb, also known as Sinai, where God gave the Law to Israel.

Elijah is crushed.  After the show of God’s power on Carmel, he expected all Israel, including the king and queen, to fully turn to God.  He expected to see idolatry abandoned,  He expected to see people live in faith and obedience to God, and to enjoy the peace, freedom and national blessings that naturally come to a righteous and Godly nation.  But they did not fully turn to God.  Their momentary revival at Carmel quickly faded away, and they returned to their sin, just as most of the world did after the resurrection of Christ.  Elijah knows they will kill him if  they can, and thinks he is the only person left who  serves God.  He doesn’t want to live in a pagan world, or see his own people sink further into moral and social disintegration.

The wind, earthquake, and fire are tremendous upheavals with drastic results (11, 12), like the miracle on Carmel.  But, God is saying, He does not usually work that way in the human heart.  It is the still small voice that moves people.  The ordinary means of Scripture, prayer, and Church  are what the Holy Spirit uses to bring us to God and reveal His will.  We, too, often expect, and seek great and miraculous signs and wonders to convince the world, and ourselves, that God is real, increase our faith, and strengthen us in our daily walk with God.  Instead, God speaks in the still, small voice of the Bible.

God spends no time leading Elijah out of his self pity (13, 14).  Instead He sends the prophet to anoint Hazael king of Syria, Jehu king of Israel, and Elisha prophet to follow Elijah.  The message about them is chilling.  Hazael will invade Israel after murdering Benhadad to become king of Syria (2 Kings 8:15 and 10:32).  Jehu will slay the house of Ahab, which happens in 2 Kings 10:10 -11.  

June 13

1 Kings 20:1-21, Acts 18:1-17
1 Kings 20:22-, 2 Cor. 10

Commentary,

1 Kings 20

Benhadad, with thirty-two other kings invades Israel and besieges its capitol, Samaria (1).  The messengers of verse 2 demand Ahab’s surrender, and his wives and treasures.  This is a very insulting message, which the elders of Israel counsel him to reject (8).  Benhadad responds with reference to the vast army he commands, which is as numerous as the dust of Samaria (10).  Ahab still refuses to surrender, and the overconfident Syrian king, drinking heavily, orders the army to “array against the city.”

A prophet, possibly Micaiah (22:15), comes to Ahab.  Though the king has been wickedly sinful, God will have mercy on Israel, and the army of the Syrians will be delivered into Ahab’s hand (13).  The young and inexperienced princes of Israel, not mentally or materially equipped to meet the enemy in battle, will prevail (20, 21).  This is an act of God which will enable Ahab will know He is God (13).  Ahab, a slow learner, makes a treaty with Benhadad, who restores Israelite territory he has taken in battle (33,34).

The smitten prophet (35-43, is intended to show what Ahab should have done to the invading Syrians.  The word of the Lord to the neighbour was, “Smite me.” For refusing to obey, the   neighbour is devoured by a lion.  For allowing Benhadad to live and form a covenant with Israel, Ahab and Israel will be devoured by Syria (42).

June 14

1 Kings 21, Acts 18:18-28
1 Kings 22:1-28, 2 Cor. 11

Commentary,

1 Kings 21
Ahab and his queen have a summer palace in Jezreel, away from the royal court in Samaria.  Naboth owns a vineyard on land that has been his family’s allotment since the time of Israel’s entrance into Canaan.  It seems to be a place of beauty, and it borders the king’s residence.  The king wants it, but Naboth will not sell, so Jezebeel forms a plot to frame Naboth for a crime he does not commit.  The penalty is death, after which the queen tells Ahab to take the vineyard (15).

Ahab seems pleased at this abuse of power, which is nothing more than murder disguised as justice: a common device often used by people in power to remove inconvenient people and achieve evil ends.  As he goes to the vineyard to gloat over his prize, he meets Elijah again.  “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” says the man of the world to the man of God (20).  Odd how the world looks at the word and people of God as enemies, as though God has arrayed Himself against them when it is really they who have arrayed themselves against Him.  When the truth is spoken in love, it is received as hates speech.  When righteousness is encouraged, it is denounced as evil.  When truth is heard, it is denounced as a lie (Rom. 1:25).  But the man of the world cannot escape the hand of God, and the prophecy of Elijah is literally fulfilled, though God does hold off the destruction of Ahab’s line until after his death (29).  Apparently the king has a brief moment of repentance (27), which God in His mercy honours, but goes back to his sin so completely the Bible says there was none like him in his wickedness (25, 26).

1 Kings 22:1-28 

Israel is at peace.  Benhadad, king of Syria is an ally, and there have been no hostilities between the two kingdoms for three years (1).  Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, pays a visit to Ahab, who takes advantage of the situation to enlist Judah’s help in another war with Syria (2).  Foolishly, Jehoshaphat agrees (4), and  Ahab sends for prophets to learn whether God will enable them to defeat Syria (6).  The news is good.  All of the prophets foresee great victory for the united Hebrew army, except one.  Micaiah, hated by Ahab for honestly speaking to the king, after taunting Ahab with false words (15), tells him he will die in the battle (20).  Ahab repays the prophet’s honesty with prison and bread and water, described as the bread and water of affliction (27).  Ahab does not live to release Micaiah.  A Syrian shoots an arrow “at a venture,”  not really aiming at any one person, but hitting Ahab in a joint that allows his armour to move.  The king of Israel is mortally wounded (34).  He dies that evening, and the dogs lick his blood.

Ahaziah, son of Ahab, becomes king and reigns for two years.  He is as immoral and idolatrous as his father.

Jehoshaphat dies after twenty-five years on the throne of Judah.  His reign was characterised by the wickedness and idolatry we have now come to expect from the civil authourities in Israel and Judah.  His son, Jehoram, is on the throne of Judah.  Thus sadly ends the First Book of the Kings.   

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