Day 128: 2 Chronicles 17-19; King Jehoshaphat

King Jehoshaphat was arguably the first of the great kings of Judah.  As we have read throughout the books of 1 and 2 Kings, the spiritual state of Israel goes up and down based on the king that is reigning at the time.  We saw how the actions of Rehoboam and Abijah lead that Southern Kingdom wars and even servitude to other nations, and now with Asa and Jehoshaphat we see the flip side of the coin.  When the people follow God, worship Him, and do not go after other gods, the blessings shower down once again.  We see this very clearly with Jehoshaphat and the wealth and fame that is given him and how the “fear of the Lord” descended on the nations around Judah.

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram
Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

We read today about the many reforms that took place during the time of Jehoshaphat as well.  Interestingly, he does, in some ways, exactly what our Deuteronomy 17 passage about the Kings of Israel says he should do.  I think that this is the first time I have said this since we started reading about the Kings of Israel.  For us, this has been one of the laws that has guided our vision of what the kings shouldn’t be doing when they are walking in the ways of sin… kind of a “see, I told you so” thing from the Law.  However, there is a section in this chapter that also talks about what the king should do, and this is kind of what Jehoshapaht does, with a little extra on the side!

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,  that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

Not only does Jehoshapaht follow the laws of God, he appoints people to take the book of the law with them out to the people of Israel, to teach them the ways of the Lord.  Some of these names might be familiar to you as they were people mentioned in 1 & 2 Kings.  People like Obadiah, Micaiah, and Adonijah were also prophets that were mentioned as folks that talked to the King’s of the Northern Kingdom, particularly Ahab.  While he isn’t named here, this is also the time of Elijah and Elisha, who would be making appearances before Ahab and trying to bring back the ways of the Lord in Israel.

Ahab Killed in Battle Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com/

Ahab Killed in Battle
Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com

Speaking of Ahab, we encounter once again, the deviousness of the Northern Kingdom under king Ahab.  The narrative of Ahab and Jehoshapaht going up against the army of Ramoth-gilead is ultimately the culmination one of the worst kings in the Northern Kingdom.  Why it is that Jehoshapaht decides to go up with Ahab we will not know.  However, what is primarily pointed out here is how the leader and the people of the Kingdom of Israel have indeed fallen away from the way of the Lord.  Again, this is a narrative of contrasts, seeing Jehoshapaht’s desire to seek the way of the Lord in the face of Ahab’s false prophets.

Ultimately, given the context and the audience that is being spoken to here, the writer is pointing out the dangers of taking counsel with sinners.  There are many echoes in this narrative to Psalm 1.  Jehoshapaht is clearly a king that is living for God, but even so he finds himself in a situation where he must stand for his beliefs in the face of one who certainly doesn’t want to hear it.  Yet the King of Judah stands up for his beliefs and seeks the face of God in spite of Ahab’s displeasure, and it winds up saving his life.

PSALM 1

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.



Day 127: 2 Chronicles 12-16; Rehoboam, Abijah, and Asa

The beginning of the reign of Rehoboam was a fairly good beginning.  God was faithful to His servant David and gave to his decedents the throne in Judah.  In this God was being faithful to the covenant He made with David.  We read yesterday that Rehoboam was also relatively faithful and listened to God and because of this, he was able to build up the kingdom of Judah and make it strong and fortified.  However, as we pick up the story today, we see that once Rehoboam was well established, he abandoned God and sought after other gods.  Sadly, I think this also comes from the warnings of Deuteronomy 17 about not building up military, taking many wives, or having a great deal of wealth.  Why?  Because human tendency is to want to do things for ourselves, to trust our own actions rather than trust completely in God.  It would be nice if we could just naturally give everything over to God and let Him handle everything, yet we all know that we would much rather take things into our own hands.  Why?  Who knows… because we see it clearly here, and it is reflected in our lives as well, when we try to do things on our own without God, we will fail and will often be lulled and/or lured into trusting in other things.  This is the basis for the narratives that we are reading today.  That contrast is set up pretty clearly in these five chapters.

So Rehoboam follows God and the reward is abundant blessings, peace, and well fortified cities.  However, as soon as Rehoboam turns from God all that is ruined by the Egyptians.  Apart from the obvious punishment of God that the prophet tells him about, it is not at all coincidental that it is Egypt that is attacking Judah.  Remember how Israel was enslaved to them for so many years?  Remember how they always seemed to want to go back to that when times got rough?  I wonder if that might be somehow metaphorically true here… If God, and the writer of 2 Chronicles, was using Egypt as a way of reminding the people of where they came from and what it would be like to go back in a sense.  Interesting to think about…  Anyways, Rehoboam repents and turns back to God, for a time, and God relents of His anger and defeats Egypt before the people of Judah.

Abijah is the next king of Judah and while the text doesn’t tell us whether he did good or evil in the eyes of the Lord, we can certainly see that he is a step up from Rehoboam.  However, there is not peace in the land, which is one of the things promised to the people of God if they follow Him, so we have to imagine that perhaps on a scale of 1 to 10, Rehoboam was a 2 or a 3, Abijah is likely a 3 or a 4.  In any case, the Lord gives him victory over Jeroboam and the Northern Kingdom and Abijah prospers as the King of Judah.

 

The Kings of Judah Photo Credit: www.walkwiththeword.org

The Kings of Judah
Photo Credit: www.walkwiththeword.org

Asa is the son of Abijah and does a complete turn around for the people of Israel.  We read that he tears down idols and high places, alters and the priests of false gods.  Asa does what is good in the eyes of the Lord, seeking after God with his whole heart.  He and the people make a covenant to God with wording similar to that of the Shema, “they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul…”  God blesses Asa and the people greatly, giving them victory over their enemies, including a one million strong Ethiopian army in which they were out numbers by at least 3 to 1.  And there is peace during Asa’s reign… until the end…

Unfortunately, towards the end of Asa’s reign, we see him make several mistakes that he gets called out on.  He looks to the king of a foreign land, Ben-Hadad the king of Syria, for military help rather than seeking after the Lord.  He punishes a prophet for telling him the words that the Lord had said and becomes a very angry king.  In this time, Asa begins to decline and eventually succumbs to a disease.  All in all, it seems as though Asa was on the right track.  However, as the writer of the Chronicles is helping the returned exiles to reconnect with their identity as the people of God, I think he is making the point that you cannot become lazy in this following.  Asa kind of lets himself go towards the end of his life and he gets called out for it.  It is, again, the dual view of what it means to follow the Lord, and what happens when they don’t.  One is clearly good… the other is really the reason why the exiles are having to return in the first place.



Day 126: 2 Chronicles 8-11; From Solomon to Rehoboam

Solomon's Splendor Photo Credit: www.oneyearbibleblog.com

Solomon’s Splendor
Photo Credit: www.oneyearbibleblog.com

It is interesting what a different perspective brings on the latter portion of Solomon‘s life and the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign in Judah.  There isn’t a great deal written about how Solomon took so many wives from other nations and eventually was lured into the worship of false gods.  Much of the negative portion of the life of Solomon is omitted from the Chronicles.  However, as the Hebrew people were of an “Oral Culture,” these stories would have been passed down, and certainly not forgotten.  Yet again we encounter the text from a certain perspective with an author that is trying to make a theological point about the nature and identity of the people of God.  As is true and will be true with all of the kings that we will read about in 2 Chronicles, the point here seems to be that when the people and their leaders follow God, the blessings that follow are unfathomable.

One thing I noticed in the story of Solomon that caught my attention very quickly was a certain number that was talked about when we were reading about Solomon’s wealth.  2 Chronicles 9:13-14 reads, “Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, besides that which the explorers and merchants brought.”  It is this number, the number 666 that shows up in Revelation 13:18 as the mark of the beast and has become synonymous with evil and the source of a great deal of debate about its means.  There are some that believe that this number is pure evil and when we see this particular number showing up in relationship to money take it as a point that it was money that ultimately corrupted Solomon.  If you couple this thought with the verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 that says, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” you can create a halfway cogent notion about the nature and relationship between money and evil.  I suppose, in some ways this is a good lesson that we can take out of this passage, however I don’t think that this was the author’s intent.

Numbers were important to the people of Israel and have a considerable amount of meaning infused in them.  For instance, the number 40 shows up many times throughout Scripture, often involving some sort of a wilderness experience.  40 days and nights of rain for Noah.  40 days was Moses on the Mount Sinai.  40 years in the desert for Israel.  40 Days in the desert for Jesus.  The number 3 shows up often as well and is associated with God.  3 visitors to Abraham.  Father, Son, and Spirit are the Trinity (a notion developed but never expressly stated in the Bible). In this same line of thinking, the number 7 appears quite often as well.  7 is associated as the number of completeness, holiness, and perfection.  Putting some of these symbols together, the number 777 would be the number of God as being complete and perfect in every way.  So when we see the number 666 we see that it is not quite 777, but it is imperfect… lacking in every way.  With that in mind the author here, and perhaps also in John’s revelation are making the point that there is nothing that measures up to the perfection and goodness that is in God alone, and therefore there is nothing on this earth, no blessing or amount of wealth that can be placed in front of, above, or even close to alongside of God.  Following after anything other than God is simply a complete lacking of all that we should be doing.  The writer of 2 Chronicles is making the point that even in the midst of these enormous blessings, Solomon still needs to seek after the one who is bringing them on him.

The United Kingdom of Solomon breaks up, with ...

The United Kingdom of Solomon breaks up, with Jeroboam ruling over the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in green on the map). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So as we read on April 10 and April 11, after Solomon dies, Rehoboam takes over as King and flubs it in a major way, so much so that the Kingdom of Israel is divided into the North and the South, with Rehoboam becoming king of the Southern Kingdom, known as Judah.  Remember too the audience to which the books of the Chronicles are written, the returned exiles of Judah.  Therefore as we continue in this narrative in 2 Chronicles, remember that our readings will focus in on the Southern Kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah, for when the Northern Kingdom goes into exile, they will never return.  Today we read an account of King Rehoboam as he secures the throne of Judah. Clearly the wisdom of his father Solomon is not passed down to him, yet for the time being, at least for today’s reading, it seems as though he is doing a fairly decent job at building up Judah and defending it well.  However, as you know, the story doesn’t stay that way for long…

Remember through this journey, the words that are repeated again and again in 2 Kings, “for the sake of the Lord’s servant David” does Judah and the line of kings continue…



Day 101: 1 Kings 13-15; Jeroboam and Rehoboam

And so the story of the divided kings begins.  Today’s reading is the beginning of the Kings Cycle, the stories of Israel and Judah as they progress down the line of Kings.  There are many notable differences between the stories of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and the stories of Judah, the Southern Kingdom.  Sadly however, there are also marked similarities as well.  It would be really nice to say that the Kingdom of Judah did what was right in the sight of the Lord while the evil Northern Kingdom headed by the usurper to the house of David, only did evil.  Unfortunately, that is only partially true.  As we read through the stories of the Kings of Israel, you will notice that not a single one of them does what is right in God’s eyes.  They are all evil, every single one of them.  While the depth of their evil deeds may vary a bit, not a single one of them is said to have done what is even remotely right in God’s eyes.  Israel is dead-set on a path to destruction, which is prophesied about here in today’s reading.

English: Jeroboam was the first king of the no...

English: Jeroboam was the first king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel after the revolt of the ten northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam that put an end to the United Monarchy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jeroboam’s wife goes to the prophet Ahijah to inquire about the fate of his son, a grim prophecy is made.  Not only will his son die, but his entire family will be cut off from the kingly line of Israel.  Further more, because of the sins of Jeroboam, because he did not walk in the way of the Lord after God gave him the throne which he took away from Solomon, “the Lord will strike Israel as a reed is shaken in the water, and root up Israel out of this good land that he gave to their fathers and scatter them beyond the Euphrates, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the Lord to anger.  And he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin.”  This is a direct prophecy of the coming total destruction of the Northern Kingdom.  This will happen much later, but this is where we see the prophecy is made that the Northern Kingdom will go into Exile… and never return.

The Kings of Israel and Judah Photo Credit: http://kencarlson.org/bible/those-confusing-kings/

The Kings of Israel and Judah
Photo Credit: http://kencarlson.org/bible/those-confusing-kings/

Rehoboam, I would love to say, was exactly the opposite of Jeroboam.  However, that is not the case.  He did evil and his son did evil too, as we read.  Yet Scripture tells us that “Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem,  because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”  I think that this is an amazing show of faithfulness by God to the Covenant He made with David.  The promise was to David’s family forever, that His throne would be established forever; and to this promise God remains faithful.  Really, this has the overtones of Election written into it once again.  Clearly God has chosen this people to be His people… and here it is clear that it is not because of any merit that they had, have, or will have.  These people sin constantly, they are no better than any of those around them, yet God continues to be faithful to them, even when they refuse to obey or follow the Law.

It isn’t until King Asa, Rehoboam’s grandson that things get put relatively back on track.  Scripture says that “the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days” dispite the things that he didn’t do to right the path of Judah.  This is another part of the Kings Cycle that we will see.  With Israel it is all bad all the time.  However, with Judah things go up and down, back and forth.  Unfortunately the trend is still downward.  Yet God remains faithful, often times only for the sake of the Covenant He made with David…

Spiritual State and the Kings of IsraelPhoto Credit: http://www.flester.com/blog/2008/03/14/the-kings-of-israel-and-judah

Spiritual State and the Kings of Israel
Photo Credit: http://www.flester.com/blog/2008/03/14/the-kings-of-israel-and-judah



Day 100: 1 Kings 10-12 Solomon's Downfall and the Divided Kingdom

Today marks 100 days into this journey through the Bible.  I can honestly say that I have never made it this far in a “1 year Bible reading plan” before.  It is usually about the middle to end of March that I would start falling away.  Warm weather is here (perhaps not this year, but sometimes) and the desire to be outside or the busyness of school work always seemed to take over.  That is, as I know, an excuse, but I am excited to say that we are at 100 days and still going strong!

Today is also a day of transition in the continuing narrative of God’s people.  Solomon, as we have seen over the past few days, was made king over Israel in his father’s footsteps and grated abundant wisdom.  Under his rule, all of Israel continues to prosper  growing from the successes of his father David and increases in wealth and influence.  We read that all of the nations of the world wanted to be in the presence of Solomon because of his great wisdom.  One person in particular, the Queen of Sheba, comes to visit Solomon and verify for herself exactly who Solomon is and if the stories about his were true.  She comes with great with, which she gives to Solomon after finding out about him, approximately 1/6 of his total income for that year.  We read that Solomon’s total income in one year was 666 talents (a rather ominous number).  To put this in perspective, roughly according to the price of gold today, Solomon himself was making over 1 Billion dollars a year!!  This was apart from what “came from the explorers and from the business of the merchants, and from all the kings of the west and from the governors of the land.”  One year.  Solomon was easily generating more income than many of the big companies in America right now.  Talk about prosperity.

Visit from the Queen of ShebaPhoto Credit: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/poynter/paintings/16.html

Visit from the Queen of Sheba
Photo Credit: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/poynter/paintings/16.html

Yet all is not champagne and rose pedals for Solomon… or perhaps it is, and that actually is the problem.  A couple times now we’ve talked about Solomon’s infringement on the rules for the kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17.  The king was not to collect large amounts of money or have many wives.  Solomon is clearly doing exactly the opposite, having  700 wives and another 300 concubines.  And we read that what happens is exactly what the Law said would happen, Solomon’s heart turns from the Lord and he begins to worship the gods of this wives: Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites.  This angers the Lord, and rightly so I think.  God Himself appeared to Solomon not once (which should be more than enough), but TWICE, and yet Solomon still turns away.  Because of this, the Lord says, the Kingdom will be ripped away from Solomon… well Solomon’s son… but not the whole Kingdom either.  As I listen to God’s judgment on Solomon I kind of feel like its the punishment of an unresolved parent.  “You’re grounded.  For a day.  And you can still have your friends over.”  Yet this isn’t what God is saying at all.  The judgment happens this way “for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen,” God states.  This shows an incredible amount of faithfulness on the part of God to the covenant He has made with David and his house, one that extends forever.

And this is indeed what happens.  Solomon’s son Rehoboam rises to the throne after the death of Solomon and quickly makes a mistake.  Clearly the wisdom of Solomon is not a genetically passed down trait and the ability to recognize such wisdom is not one that Rehoboam excels at.  As we had seen, Jeroboam has been given the kingship of the Northern Kingdom, what we will now know as “Israel” where as Rehoboam rules over the Southern Kingdom, what we will now know as “Judah.”

The Kingdom DividedPhoto Credit: http://biblemapper.com/gallery1_files/DividedKingdom_1_mark.jpg

The Kingdom Divided
Photo Credit: http://biblemapper.com/gallery1_files/DividedKingdom_1_mark.jpg

As we enter into this time of transition, remember the words of the Lord to Jeroboam as he is given kingship over the Israel.  God says through the prophet Ahijah, “…and if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.”  Jeroboam has been given a promise from God that his rule will be blessed if he follows God and as soon as he has the throne he turns from God, not trusting in Him.  He builds 2 Golden Calves and places them in the Kingdom of Israel so that his people won’t go to Jerusalem to worship God where they should be worshiping.  This turn proves to be the beginning of the end for Israel.  No king from this point on ever turns their face back to God.