Thoughts on 1 Kings, Day 12 Lent 2013

Today's massive reading plan covers all of 1 Kings and the beginning of 2nd Kings. The main characters that stick out in my mind are the monarchs Solomon and Ahab and the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

The historian connects violation of the Mosaic covenant with all sorts of national problems. Idolatry, greed, lust, and pride are all downfalls of each king. Solomon was guilty of all these things. Even though he built a temple for the God of Israel, he was inclusive of his wive's beliefs and built shrines for them as well. When one acquires 700 wives, this generosity can dilute the worship to the true God, to his anger. But Solomon does not bear the judgmental aspects of his sin, rather his son does. The nation divides under his son. There is one tid-bit I found very interesting. As I mentioned yesterday, David's kingdom seemed to be multi-ethnic and inclusive. Solomon decides to enslave all the non-Israelites in the kingdom.
1 Kings 9:20 There were still people left from the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (these peoples were not Israelites). 21 Solomon conscripted the descendants of all these peoples remaining in the land—whom the Israelites could not exterminate—to serve as slave labor, as it is to this day.
Slavery is the norm for humanity, it's too bad God's people weren't better instructed by God on human rights. Solomon is supposed to be the wisest human in all history, but he treats fellow humans this way? Then again, he did marry 700 times. That's a foolish blind spot right there.

According to 1 Kings 11:41, there is another record, since lost to history with more information on Solomon's reign, which lasted 40 years, like his father. His son comes up, the nation rejects him because of taxes and his deaf ear. A new guy anointed by a prophet of God is anointed for the northern tribes. But he doesn't want the people to go to the temple every year for Passover, so he builds some new local shrines, casts some idols, and tells the people, you can meet God up here now and we know what he looks like too! So God rejects this guy as well. The Northern kingdom is ruled by one usurper after another.

Sometimes the Northern and Southern kingdoms get along and sometimes they don't. King Ahab gets plenty of ink, partly because of wickedness, partly because he serves as a foil to Elijah, and partly because he repents to the pleasure of God. He's married to a real treat named Jezebel. Her style is full-on narcissistic. When Ahab is upset because a neighbor won't sell him his field, Jezebel takes things into her own hands and has the neighbor killed; problem solved. 1 Kings 21. On top of this, Ahab supports a priestly guild to Baal. Elijah challenges Ahab, Jez, the priests to a face-off, to settle who the real God is. Which god can light the fire on his own for his sacrifice? 1 Kings 18. God wins, Baal loses, and Baal's priests get massacred. This does not convince Jez, who tries to kill Elijah. He goes into hiding and God feeds him and meets him in a quiet way, instead lightning and thunder.

Meanwhile, God helps the Northern kingdom defeat it's enemies in the battlefield, not because of their goodness but because of His. God threatens Ahab for his wicked behavior and Ahab repents, so God has mercy on him, and transfers the curse to his son. 1 Kings 21:25-29 (Again, I don't get that.)

In 2 Kings, Elijah's successor, Elisha, takes the stage. While Elijah is great, he doesn't die, he gets a chariot ride to heaven (2 Kings 2), it's Elisha who does some miraculous stuff. He heals a towns well of poisonous water. He tells a debtor widow that her oil jar won't run out until she runs out of containers to pour it into to sell and pay off her debts. He brings a boy back to life. He prevents some poisonous gourds from killing off  his guild of prophets. He feeds a multitude from one guy's supply. He heals a gentile general of leprosy. Wait a minute, this sounds familiar, like the miracles of Jesus.

In Matthew 11:14 Jesus declares that John the Baptist is the Elijah who was to come. The last prophet, Malachi, 400 years previously, foretold that Elijah the prophet would come before the great and awesome day when the Lord comes. Malachi 4:4. Whoa. This is getting fun. Just as the prophet Elisha who followed Elijah in Kings did all sorts of great miracles, so did Jesus do greater things than his cousin John. John's father, Zechariah is informed, as an old man, that his wife will conceive and have a great ministry, quoting from the last verse of Malachi, Luke 1:16-17, He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Jewish custom, even today, is to leave an open chair for Elijah at Passover, waiting for his return. Even John doubted Jesus, so he sent his guys to ask Jesus if he was Messiah ro not, in Matthew 11. Jesus answers with the evidence, stuff that sounds like Elisha's stuff, but more.
2-10 John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”  Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: The blind see, The lame walk, Lepers are cleansed, The deaf hear, The dead are raised, The wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. “Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”  When John’s disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. “What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. What then? A prophet? That’s right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you’ll ever hear. He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, ‘I’m sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.’
I get excited when I see Jesus very clearly in the First Covenant.
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