I Kings finds Israel at the height of its power and fame. God’s promises fulfilled, a famous wise king, and a united country centered around a great Temple. Then it all fell apart. Hear the story of what happened, and what we can learn so it doesn’t happen to us.
I Kings contains some of the highest highs and lowest lows in the Bible
Who wrote it? Not sure, but many think it was Ezra or Jeremiah.
I Kings, in the first 16 chapters, has one central character: Solomon, King David’s son. His reign was the height of Israel’s power and influence. What God promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) was initially fulfilled under Solomon.
The King was also known as the world’s wisest man. I Kings 3:3 Solomon loved the Lord…and asked for wisdom. What a wise request!
Many of us known the story of the most famous demonstration of his wisdom…the story of the two prostitutes and their sons. Also, see Proverbs 8:11.
Perhaps most important of all–the Temple! Can’t overstate its importance. This was where God dwelt–in the Holy of Holies. It symbolized the nation. There was no more sacred place than the Temple, no building that had more deep meaning to the Israelite.
I Kings 10 This is when the Queen of Sheba came to visit. A 1,400-mile trip. She wanted to see what the all the fuss was about. Brought lots of people, and animals, in her entourage, and gave him a great many gifts. She also pounded him with questions.
See Jesus’ reference to the Queen of Sheba in Matthew 12:42.
Not only all that, but Solomon was an incredible writer. He wrote most of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon are attributed to him.
So this was the nation of Israel at its peak! For the average Israelite, this SEEMED the culmination of their history and all of God’s promises.
Of course, that couldn’t last, and the undermining of all the nation’s future difficulties would also begin with Solomon. Solomon had problems, lust and power probably being the big two, and they had devastating effects on the nation, on Israel, and on his life.
We first get a glimpse of this almost matter-of-fact statement in ch. 3:1. Solomon brought in a foreign wife. Doesn’t say anything more, and it was against God’s law to marry an unbeliever. We can’t be sure.
But then ch. 11 gives us the big picture. He made a political mistakes and many moral ones.Instead of respecting the tribal boundaries within the country, he divided it into administrative districts. Solomon exacted heavy taxes to keep his own political machine going, and people got resentful because the region of Judah was exempt.
That just made the internal divisions between the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) even worse.
I Kings 11:9–huge moment of change! God begins to judge Solomon
I Kings 12: Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam, rebelled against Solomon. A prophet told him that he would rule over 10 tribes. But God would reserve Judah for the descendants of King David, because He had promised that David would always have a ruler on the throne. Jeroboam fled to Egypt until Solomon died.
Then Solomon’s son Rehoboam came to power, and didn’t share his father’s wisdom.
Rebellion! So the Kingdom split into two–the northern kingdom–Israel–and the southern kingdom–Judah.
If you read the gospels, sometimes you might wonder what the Jews had against the Samaritans. Why did they sometimes travel around the country rather than walk through it? Why did they look down on them?
Two big reasons, but the first one started right here! Jerusalem is close to the southern border of the northern kingdom. That worried Jeroboam. So he created a false worship system!
So began the years of the divided kingdom! Some of Judah’s kings were good, some bad. All of Israel’s kings were bad! 20 kings from nine different families ruled Israel in Northern Kingdom during its 200 years. 20 kings from ONE family ruled over the Southern Kingdom during its 350 years.
Israel was supposed to be a model for the nations. Their moment didn’t last long.
What does this story show us?
The culmination of all our hopes, and even of God’s promises, are not found here on earth. God’s promise of land, of great prosperity, of great influence, and even His presence among His people, which SEEMED to be fulfilled with Solomon, were not completely fulfilled until Jesus. Our promises from God, our dreams, our hopes–they are all found in Jesus. To the degree that our eyes are not on Him, and to the degree that we’re not putting Him in the center, that’s how far off our vision is! We’re only “all set” when we’re with Jesus! Let’s never confuse any part of this life with eternity!
But Solomon gives us another warning. All that God has genuinely blessed us with can be ruined by sin. Look at what happened to Israel!
The land, the fulfillment of God’s promises, power, influence, great art, the Temple where God’s presence was, wealth beyond measure, and a united people with a central place of worship. Then…lust and power come into the picture. Probably very slowly. But eventually, because his heart got turned, Solomon became an idolator!
I Corinthians 10:12.
There’s a famous quote that has an undeniable truth: We do not drift toward holiness! (D.A. Carson) We have to make a consistent effort to lean into holiness, to grow into it.
A story of how I was able to write a few books when I had a full-time job, a part-time job, and accompanied the Brockport College Choir in my spare time. I developed a SYSTEM that made it easy to be a writer, and to write. I created a space and a way of writing that I could slip into at a moment’s notice. It made it as easy as possible to write!
How about you? Have you created a system that keeps you spiritually strong? That keeps you close to the Lord? That keeps you close to His people? We should all have a system that says,
Or have you drifted in another direction?
Have you said, “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian”? That’s true, but we can’t “love one another as Jesus has loved us” unless we’re in contact with other believers. And the Word specifically tells us not to forsake our gathering together.
Have “reasons” like busyness gotten in the way of our praying, or reading God’s word, or even entering into spiritually unhealthy relationships?
This Memorial Day, we remember those who died that we can be free. We express our gratitude for them. We honor them in our words and sometimes in our deeds.
Jesus died so we can be free. Let’s honor Him by taking a look at the systems of our lives, and seeing if they encourage or discourage spiritual growth. Let’s honor Him by making whatever changes we need to make so that in every area of our lives, His sacrifice won’t be in vain.