1 Kings 13-14

A nameless prophet pronounces judgement, predicts Josiah’s reforms, still 300 years in the future, splits an alter, shriveles a mans hand, restores it, then gets tricked, and killed by a lion.

What the heck is this story?!

This cautionary tale establishes something: dividing Israel does not mean dividing God. Judah still talks with Him and Israel is fooling themselves. The worship set up in Bethel is a horrible farse, no where near the worship at the temple in Jerusalem. 

The prophet from Judah was marked by power. Power for him in obedience, and power against him in disobedience. The lion and donkey standing civily in the road indicates the divine involvement. He did not randomly die. Judah moves in the power of God. It is both good and dangerous. Israel is out of the game. They are just like any other nation in Canaan now, worshiping false gods and following false prophesies. 

Favor with God is not inherited. Yes, some people like myself were fortunate enough to be born into God-fearing families, but that’s not what justifies me. I, as with each person on earth, am personally responsible for how I respond to the power, love and holiness of God. This fact is why I can even hope to know Him. If it was genetic, my non-Jewish family would be without hope. God time and time again demonstrates that His favor rests with those who respond in obedience to Him. Like Rahab the Canaanite, Ruth the Moabite and Uriah the Hittite. 

I admit there have been times when I was an independent little turd, yet still assumed God was on my side. Nope! He let me fall on my face more than once! But His steadfast love endures, folks, and He is faithful to restore us. 

He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Is there an area of your life you assume God will bless, even though it’s not submitted to Him?

-Bethany

1 Kings 11-12

I’m going to be honest. We’d all be better off in Bethany’s academic hands for today’s chapters, since they hold a pretty pivotal event of the Bible. But too bad.

These two chapters cover the divide of the kingdoms, which affects the rest of the Old Testament. They both have different relationships with God and eventually, different fates.

The narrative of Solomon ends with him being swallowed up in sin by his gigantic pile of foreign wives he’s accumulated. My commentary assumes that these marriages were the result of making treaties with many other nations. A business move. Politics. However, God has specifically commanded him against that. Solomon was not to be a typical king. Israel was not to behave like a typical nation. It got me thinking about all the ways I justify sliding into cultural norms that God has set me apart from.

The worst part about sin is that you never think it’s going to impact anyone else. I wonder if it ever occurred to Solomon that practicing polygamy would result in the biggest divide in the Bible.

God still expects obedience of his Word no matter what culture, position or society we’re in. There are no exceptions, no bending of the rules for your particular situation. Solomon had been warned, there were no asterisks.

 “He must not take many wives or his heart will be led astray.” Deut. 17:17

You must not make a treaty of any kind with the people living in the land. They lust after their gods, offering sacrifices to them. They will invite you to join them in their sacrificial meals, and you will go with them. Then you will accept their daughters, who sacrifice to other gods, as wives for your sons. And they will seduce your sons to commit adultery against me by worshiping other gods.” Exodus 34:15-16 

Ask yourself today: what are you trying to bend the rules on? What does God say?

 

-Carly

1 Kings 9-10

Let’s pause and sigh. SIGH. Here it is. The height of Israel’s prosperity. And it’s real high. Everything gold, silver made as common as stones, exotic trees, horses, chariots, spices, jewels, ivory, apes, peacocks!

God appears to Solomon and gives him an incredible promise: It can stay this way. Your heir will forever sit on this throne. I will be with you. “if you will walk before me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances.”

It is then when God (spoiler alert) warns the alternate ending: this house will become a heap of ruins. And yeah, that’s how 2 Kings closes. 

Keeping a king and nation wholly devoted to the Lord proves impossible. Solomon makes a place for God’s name to dwell then begins dwelling on his own name. Fortunately for us, sanctifying and glorifying one race and people group was never the ultimate goal. One day, in the fulfillment of all days, (spoiler alert again) people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be sanctified and glorified as we worship at the throne of the One True King of Kings and Living God!

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We’ve got the audience of those who’ve gone before us: the patriarchs and prophets. Will I heed the warnings of God when He shows me His most excellent ways vs. the destructive course of my sin?

Solomon became entangled by the lure of wealth and success. What sin so easily entangles you?

-Bethany

1 Kings 7-8

If you skimmed through those very long, detail-stuffed chapters, that’s okay. It’s Monday. Here’s a quick summary for you: Solomon enlists some help to finish building the Temple and begins furnishing it. Once it’s completed, he dedicates it to the Lord and makes a peace offering of sacrificing 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats (aren’t you glad we don’t need animal sacrifices to get right with God anymore? Thank you, Jesus!). He throws a 14 day celebration and then everyone heads home joyful and glad. The end. You’re welcome.

What jumped out to me is how this chapter started: “Solomon also built a palace for himself, and it took him thirteen years to complete the construction.” That’s six years longer than it took to build the Temple of the Lord. The symbol of God’s presence. The dwelling place of his name. It’s also noted that his house was bigger and longer. This is the beginning of Solomon’s eyes wandering off from glorifying God to glorifying himself.

I just couldn’t help but think about how relatable that is: the vast difference between what you invest in God versus what you invest in yourself. I know my relationship with God isn’t about what it looks like on paper. He knows my heart and my intentions, but still. I think there’s something to be said about taking inventory of what you invest in yourself in life and what you invest in God. And then making changes.

Maybe this looks like getting up earlier to spend more time with him or giving more of your home to him by signing up for foster care or stretching your finances and increasing your tithing. Or, maybe it’s not about doing more for him, but doing less for yourself.

God didn’t need the Temple. It was a beautiful cultural feature that reminded the Israelites they were no longer nomadic. Their days of wandering the wilderness were over and they were finally in a permanent dwelling place. Similarly, God does not need our money, space or time. But it’s a beautiful act of love and a reminder that our lives are to be poured out to him as living sacrifices.

Take inventory of your life this morning. Is there something you need to give God more of?

 

-Carly

1 Kings 5-6

“The Lord has given me rest on every side.” (5:4)

“There is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.” (5:6)
“And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as He promised him. And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty.” (5:12)

This is a great moment in history. War is over and instead of oppressing each other, Israel and Tyre and working together, employing their God-given talents. There is so much potential of good and for Israel to walk in their purpose: being a blessing to the nations

(As the story continues, be mindful of God’s specific instructions. We often times glorify David and Solomon because David was “a man after God’s own heart” and Solomon was God’s chosen successor, plus the wisest man who ever lived. However, both these kings lives were riddled with mistakes and sin. We need to be careful not to glorify God’s people and use them as a standard or right and wrong. Pay close attention to God’s decrees, not the decree of the kings. Just because Solomon does it, doesn’t mean God condones it, i.e. creating a slave force. Ultimately these two lives are marked by whether or not they humbled themselves and repented or not. David yes, Solomon no.)

The temple is coming along swimmingly. Not only is it beautifully crafted, but they’re not even making noise on site (6:7)! God takes this opportunity to remind Solomon that His favor is, has always and will continue to be, contingent on obedience (6:12-13), not extravagance.

“Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not for sake my people Israel.” 

It doesn’t matter what we do, or sacrifice, for the Lord if we forget to obey Him. In fact, this sentiment is repeated throughout the Bible:

“To obey is better than to sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)

“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

It’s easy to get distracted by the things we think we’re doing “for God”. How can I be better at focusing on Him, loving Him above all else, trusting Him and loving others?

-Bethany

1 Kings 3-4

“When all Israel heard the king’s decision, the people were in awe of the king, for they saw the wisdom God had given him for rendering justice.” 3:28

If you just read through Ecclesiastes with us, you’ll notice these chapters are the prequel. Solomon receives his gift of wisdom from the Lord and we see how he exercises it in this well-known narrative. Even people who are unfamiliar with the Bible are familiar with this story. Two women come to Solomon and he cleverly reveals who’s the real mother of the baby they’re fighting over with a test of character.

Undoubtedly, Solomon’s wisdom is a gift from God bestowed on him to lead the people well. But wisdom can be learned and there’s definitely something we can take in from this.

Solomon doesn’t get caught up in the story being told, but he tests their heart. He didn’t ask for a detailed timeline or cross-examine eye witnesses. He simply exposed their motives. The true mother wasn’t determined to be right, she was determined to do what was best for her baby.

It’s so easy to get swept away in the plot line of something and miss what’s really going on. I remember one time, someone walked up to me out of nowhere and accused me of something really weird. My initial reaction was to get defensive and protect myself, but I (happened to be well fed and rested and) paused. “Are you doing okay? Is something else wrong?” I eventually drew out what was really going on. But honestly, this was a learned behavior. Jesus teaches us this in the New Testament. Any interaction he had with someone was filled with questions. He never got wrapped up in the logistics or dialogue. I’ve had great people in my life that taught me the value of digging beneath the surface in conversation and relationships. I’ve also been on the receiving end of this and felt loved and known by it.

The key is to have the wisdom to stay intentional in conversation, whether you’re problem solving or just listening. Solomon’s act of wisdom here is attainable!

 

-Carly

1 Kings 1-2

If you’ve been with us from the beginning, you’ll be eager to find out this month what happened to David. The book of Kings is the sequel to Samuel and you can watch the Bible Project overview here.

This book covers a HUGE portion of history. It may seem long, but it’s really quite impressive when you consider it covers over 400 years. It gives very brief synopses of some kings and dives deep into the lives of a few key players, kings and prophets. 

It should be noted that the route Solomon took into town, riding on the kings mule (1:38-40), was the same way Jesus rode in to Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). If you ever wondered why people would suddenly go all “Jesus is King” mode in that moment, here is the reason. It was majorly symbolic. The son of David triumphantly riding in to the city. 

You can probably guess I’m sad about the way Joab dies. He crossed the wrong guy. His life, to me, is a testament to how desperately we need the Holy Spirit to know the mind of Christ. Joab’s logic throughout his life seems reasonable to me, and I really want to root for him. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the Holy Spirit and could only go off what he knew of the Law and what seemed right to himself and the people he led. He hid in the tent of the Lord, for crying out loud. However, his thirst for revenge and rebellion against David determined his end. I know it says in 2:32-33 that Solomon decreed the Lord’s curse on him for “killing someone more righteous than he” (Abner?! Agree to disagree), but I know the Lord is just and can speak for Himself and maybe I’m crazy, but I hope to see Joab in heaven someday. 

Anyway, I’m excited to be back in a history book! For more context on knowing when someone’s doing God’s will or not, read the instructions for kings  in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

-Bethany