Look at the school report cards for some of the kids in the church. Let’s review them publicly! We might feel the same way at the end of time when the books are opened and our lives are in review. “Oh no, don’t look at that! Oh no, skip that bit!” etc
How do you feel at report card time? (Open Question)
We continue our run through the Scriptures – one book a month and today we come to 1 Kings. Together, Samuel and Kings relate the whole history of the monarchy, from its rise under the ministry of Samuel, to its fall at the hands of the Babylonians.
The book of 1 Kings is really like a giant ‘school’ report card. It’s God’s report card on how the kings of Israel and Judah were doing. And – spoiler alert – they weren’t doing very well, so the report cards are pretty bad and as you might expect, like any father looking at a bad report card, God wasn’t too happy about it.
It’s interesting that in this report card, the kings which get the most attention are not those who were in power the longest or were the most politically powerful or who won lifetime achievement awards. Attention goes to those who were most involved in covenant renewal (or deviation) [paraphrase]. This tells us something about what God thinks is really important in life and what things are not so important in life.
As such, the two most prominent characters in the book are King Solomon and the prophet Elijah.
Solomon was King David’s son, born to Bathsheba. Solomon is a good example of someone who started out with great scores with God, but finished with bad grades.
2 – Solomon is made king
3 – Solomon asks God for wisdom and God is pleased with his request
4 – Solomon establishes his government wisely
5 – Solomon prepares to build the temple
6 – Solomon builds the temple
7 – Solomon build his palace and the temple furnishings
8 – The climax of Solomon’s reign: the ark brought into the temple and we have the dedication of the temple. Solomon’s prayer of dedication! Wow! What a man of God!
9 – God appears to Solomon and commends him for his faithfulness and good heart.
10 – The queen of Shiba visits and she sees (as we do) Solomon in all his glory (kingdom, riches, wisdom – he’s got it all)
11 – The fall. 1 Kings 11:1-4
King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.
See Deut. 17:17
[The king] must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
The result of his waywardness is the tearing away of the kingdom – the beginning of a terrible decline in covenantal faithfulness and factional fighting which would affect people for generations to come. All because Solomon couldn’t keep his eyes (or hands) off other women. There is a timeless lesson here for all God’s people.
We should note that it wasn’t the sin of the flesh itself that lost Solomon the kingdom. That is terrible and has consequences but is forgivable. His father David had made similar errors. For Solomon, it was that his heart turned from being fully devoted to God. Where David’s heart remained fully devoted to God, Solomon turned and began to follow other Gods and traditions.
And so there is political rebellion against Solomon and, true to God’s word, the kingdom which had once looked so powerful and unshakable, was taken away from him. And so the kingdom is divided into the northern Kingdom (Israel) and the southern kingdom (Judah). See 1 Kings 12:25-33
A long line of kings then follows.
Before we get to Elijah, I’d like to quickly review the list of kings who followed Solomon and look at their ‘report cards’. I find these Biblical report cards very interesting because they give us a brief but poignant insight into what really matters in a person’s life.
Sadly for most of the Israelite kings, the report cards say,“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those who came before him”. So there seemed to be not only unfaithfulness from generation to generation but an escalation of sin – or, a deterioration of covenantal faithfulness to God.
There were a couple of good kings and their report cards said, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did [so and so]”. It’s interesting to note that the good kings only came from Judah – none of the Israelite kings were considered “good”.
But there’s one king in the middle of all these kings that I find especially interesting. It was King Abijah. His report card says that“He committed all the sins that his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God.” It’s not that he had completely rejected God. On the contrary, it seems that in some ways, he was devoted to God. But only “in some ways” and not in all his ways. There’s a real lesson here for Christians today. It’s clearly not enough for us to be devoted to God ‘in some ways’ or ‘most of the time’. If our hearts are not “fully devoted to God” then we risk being rejected as “sinful people”.
Elijah was a good and faithful prophet of God who lived and served in the 9C BC. All of his [Elijah’s] activities – everything recorded on his scorecard – concerned the clash between Yahweh – the God of Israel (and the Father of Jesus), and Baal – the false God of the region of Tyre (although there were different Baals (lords) from many different regions).
Israeli king Ahab took on Baal worship after he married a Tyrian princess named Jezebel and it was she who was responsible for “the systematic extermination of Yahweh worship” and the establishment of Baal worship in Israel. For this, Jezebel’s disastrous report card stretches through the ages as an enemy of God from this period in 9C BC to the end of time in the book of Revelation.
Things come to a head in 1 Kings 18 when Elijah, as God’s representative, challenges the prophets of Baal to what might in modern terms be called a ‘Spiritual Smackdown Battle Royale’ in the famous showdown on Mt Carmel.
Review of the showdown.
The extraordinary power of God should not surprise us but we should be completely in awe of it.
What is surprising is two things that follow this amazing display of God’s supremacy.
The first is that after this, Jezebel not only fails to repent, she threatens Elijah with death and Elijah, rather than being emboldened by the demonstration of the power of God he has just witnessed, gets scared and runs away!
This leads to God asking him “What are you doing here?”
This simple question goes deep when you try to answer it in the context of what has been happening. It necessarily links to questions like ‘Don’t you trust me?’, ‘Why do you doubt?’ and ‘Do you really love me?’
How often does God ask this question of our lives: “What are you doing here?” The question is a good reminder of our need to trust God with whatever He calls us to do.
This question does not look good on our report cards.
The second surprising thing is that Baal worship survived. This is an extraordinarily sad part of fallen human nature: reluctance to turn from sinful ways despite the overwhelming cost of not doing so; or, [and] reluctance to turn to God despite the overwhelming blessings in doing so.
Pride can be huge and change can be hard.
– We see it here after the demonstration of God’s power on My Carmel.
– We see it in John 9 when Jesus heals the man born blind and the pharisees just can’t believe it.
– We see it today in the refusal of many to acknowledge the physical penalty of wayward living (which we looked at two weeks ago) and in the refusal of some to acknowledge the powerful works of God today. I’ve shared healings with people but, despite having no ‘answer’ to that, they refuse to acknowledge God.
Pride can be huge and change can be hard.
I’d like to finish today with the word of encouragement that God spoke to Elijah after he had fled. Because there are times in our lives when it feels like we’re the only ones following God.
We are blessed to have this fellowship, this family, but at times it can feel very lonely living the Christian life when everyone around us is living very differently.
(15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael,and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet)
I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19
What will your report card say?
Will it say “He started out attending church but in the end did evil in the sight of the Lord?”
Will it say “She loved God, but not with all of her heart.”
Or will it say, “He/She did what was right in the eyes of God, truly believed in Christ and lived a righteous life.”?