Tag: 1 Kings

Power is a Corrupting Influence

Judah had some suspect kings, but then Asa rode in to the rescue and brought them back to God. His son, Jehoshaphat also did a good job as a king. But His son, Jehoram quickly turned his back on God and murdered his brothers to consolidate power.

The thing is this: power is dangerous. The people who want it most are likely also the least qualified to actually have it. However, *someone* needs to hold it. So when that person is you, remember to hold a BIBLICAL type of “power”. Bottom-up servant-style power. It’s tough to be a tyrant and run roughshod over the people under your authority if you think of them as your responsibility and always try to serve them.

Power is a corrupting influence. You make a mistake to treat it lightly. It’s like the One True Ring from the Lord of the Rings. And we need to try to be Frodo rather than Sméagol.

If God’s Going To Take Care Of It… Do I Need To Do Anything?


We see a plan between several nations to attack Judah and King Jehoshaphat is very nervous about this, so what does he do? He prays to the Lord for guidance and sends out a command to the whole nation of Judah that they are to fast and seek the Lord. Finally King J calls everyone together at the temple of the Lord and they pray. God gives a word of knowledge to one of the men who declares that the warriors are to prepare and go out and then do… nothing. Nothing but watch the Lord move. And that’s exactly what happens! God causes confusion and division among the enemies of Judah and they kill each other while Judah watches.

So… despite what I said at the beginning — “Yes.” — it would seem that if God’s going to take care of it that I do NOT need to do anything. So that’s great! Because this Netflix ain’t going to binge itself!

Not so fast, my friend! Note that the army still fasted, prayed, sought the Lord, acted on His instructions, and prepared for the battle. We are to prepare in any and every way the Lord has asked us to and THEN watch Him work. It’s not trusting the Lord to lazily go in without and plan and hope He bails you out!

We cannot appreciate how much work goes into a thing we have never done. As a web developer I’ve dealt with MANY clients who trivialized my work and told me that it’s as simple as this or that! Which I always found baffling. If you thought my work was that simple, why did you pay the agency I work for 20, 30, or 40 thousand dollars to do it?

In the same way, if we don’t prepare for the work that God is going to do, we don’t know what it’s worth, and if we don’t know what it’s worth, we cannot fully appreciate what he has done for us.

Put the work in.

Is Affirmation the Same Thing as Friendship?

2 Chronicles 18:1-8 tells the story of a synergy between the two halves of the divided kingdom of Israel. With Judah’s upright and Godly King Jehoshaphat and Israel’s wayward and hapless King Ahab meeting as the latter asks the former to aid him in recovering territory lost to an enemy nation. Jehoshaphat quickly agrees to help his former countryman, but insists that they seek the Lord’s guidance.

Ahab agrees and has a swarm of yes men… er…. “prophets” speak into the situation. And wouldn’t you know it; they all think Ahab is making a solid move and that he should totally do it! But Jehoshaphat’s Spidey senses start tingling and he says, “Now hold up a second, cowboy… are any of your prophets going to actually… you know… ask the LORD about this?”

Ahab’s response is next-level. He says, essentially, yeah… there’s one more guy, but I don’t like him! He’s always got bad news. Of course maybe if Ahab was trying to seek the Lord rather than serve his own interests maybe God wouldn’t constantly be shutting him down?

All that to say this one small, simple thing: it is not difficult to find people who will tell you what you want to hear. In fact, we have made quite a virtue out of “affirmation” these last number of years! But that is NOT always what you need to hear! Sometimes what you need is affirmation, but sometimes what you need to hear is rebuke! If none of your friends is willing to say hard things to you, you need better friends!

Go find a friend who is willing to tell you that you’re off base.

Of be a friends who is willing to tell someone that they’re off base.

God in the Chaos?

After embarrassing the prophets of Baal, the king’s wife — Jezebel — swears out a death sentence against Elijah. And so he fled. God sustained him through the journey and brought him to Mt Sinai. Then we have the famous story of Elijah’s experience of the wind and earthquake and fire, but God was not in any of those. Rather He was in the quiet whisper that followed.

My takeaway is this: God is always God. Even in the chaos and noise. Never stop trusting in Him and holding fast to the Rock of our salvation. BUT if you want to hear from God, to get direction from God, to be led by God… don’t sit in the madness and wait for Him to shout over all the distractions and turmoil and bedlam. Find a moment of silence to seek the Lord and listen purposefully to Him without the distractions competing DIRECTLY for your attention. Consider this story about the mother of John & Charles Wesley, via Sharon Glasgow:

When Susanna was young, she promised the Lord that for every hour she spent in entertainment, she would give to Him in prayer and in the Word.  Taking care of the house and raising so many kids made this commitment nearly impossible to fulfill. She had no time for entertainment or long hours in prayer!  She worked the gardens, milked the cow, schooled the children and managed the entire house herself.  So, she decided to instead give the Lord two hours a day in prayer!

She struggled to find a secret place to get away with Him.  So she advised her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, that meant she was in prayer and couldn’t be disturbed.  She was devoted to her walk with Christ, praying for her children and knowledge in the Word no matter how hard life was.

If she can do it. You can do it, too. Let’s be intentional about finding time for God!

Does God Help Those Who Help Themselves?

We are told that Asa is a good king of Judah and that he did not do evil in the sight of the Lord. BUT… when the kingdom of Israel starts closing in on his territory, he quickly seeks aid from a foreign nation — Aram — even paying them from the royal treasury. His plan is successful and Judah is back in a good position.

Well, not long afterward a messenger is sent by the Lord to tell Asa that he should have called on God to help rather than some foreign nation! Then Jonah would have security against rebel-Israel AS WELL AS defeating the armies of Aram. God was not in this move.

Contrast this with the actions of his son, Jehoshaphat. He sent out TEACHERS with GOD’S WORD throughout the land of Judah. And they taught the people the ways of God. And this led to FEAR among the surrounding nations, who all gave gifts to Judah in an attempt to remain on their good side! Without uttering a threat or raising a sword, peace and prosperity came to Judah.

So then what do we make of the old adage that “God helps those who help themselves”? It might surprise you to know the phrase started in Ancient Greece and referred to the ‘gods’. I also think it makes a mockery of our faith, if I’m being brutally honest. It essentially communicates that God doesn’t really do anything other than take credit for YOUR hard work. No, I think the trust is that hard work yields positive results. But trusting in the Lord yields the BEST results.

So trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but rather seek the kingdom of God FIRST and all things shall be added.

Who Are You Gonna Believe?

There is a brief but interesting story that takes place between two unnamed men in today’s reading. One is simply referred to as the “man of God” and the other is only known as the “old prophet”.

The Man of God goes to Jeroboam, the now-apostate king of Israel, and tells him that his kingdom will be taken from him and that his family line will be destroyed for his rabid unfaithfulness to the Lord who put him in that position! Jeroboam tries to win this man over with hospitality but the Man of God insists that the Lord told him 1) not to eat or drink anything in the land of Jeroboam and 2) to go home a different way than he came. And so, without eating or drinking at Jeroboam’s table the Man of God leaves to go home on a different path than the one that brought him.

Meanwhile the Old Prophet (who lived in the territory of Jeroboam) saddles up a donkey and rides to catch up with the Man of God. He does so successfully and invites the man over to his house to eat. The man tells the prophet no, because God said so and the Old Prophet replies that God told him it was okay. So the Man of God went and ate.

That’s it!? That’s all it takes?! God came to you and gave you a specific job and clear instructions, but ONE GUY says ‘God told me it’s alright’ and you abandon the direction God has given you and do the OPPOSITE? —— That’s what happened to the Man of God. He ended up being killed by a lion and buried in the Old Prophet’s grave.

If you have a word from the Lord, you’d better believe it! Weigh it against Scripture and seek the Lord with each step. I would go so far as to say that when the Old Prophet comes to you with something else, take it seriously and seek the Lord. Is it from Him, or is it a distraction? Has something changed (Abraham and Isaac, Genesis 22) or has nothing changed (Paul, Acts 21)?

The Lord will never lead you astray. Seek Him and you’ll bee in good shape!

On Leadership & Submission

I find this beginning of the “Divided Kingdom” era fascinating. Rehoboam is the rightful heir to the throne, but God decides to remove the kingdom from him because of the sins of his father, Solomon1. So God makes a promise to Jeroboam2 that if he honours the Lord in the same way David did, he will rule over Israel forever. Of course God knew exactly how it would turn out, so He never really had to worry about making good on that promise. And here’s where the story gets interesting…

On the issue of taxation, Rehoboam ignores the council of faithful older men who advised him to reduce the burden on the people to endear loyalty, instead taking the advice of young people who encourage him to flex his authority and tax them all the more! This leads to a deadly revolt on the part of the people, who end up promoting Jeroboam to king. And so, all of Israel — with the exception of Judah and Benjamin — side with Jeroboam and have nothing to do with Rehoboam and his iron fist.

There is a lesson to be learned here about leadership! If you are in a position of leadership there are two ways you can think about it. One way — the way Rehoboam chose — is the top-down “authority” type of leadership. “What I say goes, because I am in charge!” And that certainly is an avenue open to you, of course we see the consequences of that action in the deadly revolt… The other type of leadership — the way demonstrated by Jesus — is a bottom-up “servant” type of leadership. “We’re moving in this direction because I have sought the Lord and it is what is best for all of us.”

And that would be a great take-away, but there’s more to the story!

After this, Jeroboam — now in charge of most of Israel (the territory of 10 tribes) — decided that people would want to go back to Jerusalem (Rehoboam’s territory) to worship God. So what solution does this bright bulb come up with? Rather than building a temple to Yahweh, the God who GAVE HIM THIS KINGSHIP, he instead chose to bring back the golden calves of Aaron and say that THESE are the gos who brought Israel out of Egypt! Upon seeing this, the Levites abandoned their land and moved to Judah. And those among the populace who wanted to be failed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob also defected to Judah. That’s right, their priority for God led them into a situation that was less good for them physically and financially, but was infinitely better spiritually.

And herein lies the second take-away for the day; our primary loyalty should be with God. We ought not to act in a way that is self-serving, but instead should be focused on our first (that is, our PRIMARY) love—Jesus. Even if it means submission to an authoritarian leadership. Now, of course we should want the leadership over us (our Governments, our bosses, our pastors(!)) to be Godly and bottom-up, servant-style. I get that. But our leadership preference and physical/financial comfort should NEVER be prioritized above our spiritual health and position.

Let’s be good leaders, seeking good leaders. But let’s also keep our priorities in order!

  1. This would be a fascinating issue to study on another day. If Solomon was the transgressor, why was no punishment visited upon him… for David’s sake? ↩︎
  2. Did the names REALLY need to be so similar? He could’t have chosen a Jim instead? ↩︎

The Unrighteous Righteous

Throughout Kings we have seen David described as righteous over and over again. We are told that he obeyed all the laws and regulations of the Lord and — if you’re like me — the justice side of your brain is hollering, “WHAT!?”

Is this the same David who married foreign women? The same David who forced himself on a vulnerable married woman? Who tried to cover that affair up? Who had the husband killed so he could marry his baby-mama? The one who was too cowardly or distant to discipline his own children? The one who refused to hold his own men accountable? The one who tasked his son to exact revenge on his behalf? That guy? That guy obeyed ALL THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS? Are we sure we’re talking about the same fellow?

Then we read about Solomon marrying 700 women of royal birth. Remember these were treaties signed with foreign nations! So not only was Solomon amassing women who will turn his heart away, but these women are also of royal birth and represent treaties with a great many nations and/or city-states. And, of course, if you are going to maintain good relationships with those peoples with whom you have a treaty, you are going to honour their heritage for fear of upsetting this new ally. You can see something similar today in the way our political leaders in the west will attend a Catholic Mass on Christmas, a Hindu Temple for Diwali, and a Muslim Mosque for Ramadan.

It is clear that both of these men have broken the laws and regulations. So then, why is Solomon found guilty where David is found innocent? Make it make sense!!

The difference was the same then as it is today. We need to pause the ‘JUSTICE!’ part of our brain and examine the ‘grace’ part. In order to bring a better understanding, let’s look to the Apostle Paul. This passage from Romans is talking about Abraham, but it could just as easily refer to David or anyone else who came before Jesus, but trusted in the Lord:

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:20-22 (NIV)

Today I was again reminded that David was a man “after God’s heart”. This doesn’t mean that David was PATTERNED after God’s heart, but rather that he was CHASING after God’s heart. His eyes were on the Lord, even if his hands and feet and eyes and… other things… were places they should not have been. And that — to quote Robert Frost — has made all the difference.

This is the same way that God sees us today. This is how our faith is credited to us as righteousness. The righteousness that we could not hope to earn by our works. And so this righteousness is a gift of grace through faith that justifies us in the eyes of the God who will be our ultimate judge.

Justified. Just-as-if-I’d never sinned at all.

Stream of Consciousness or Connected Thoughts?

Sometimes when we read the Bible is seems like we get whiplash! We’re following along in the flow when all of a sudden we are ambushed from out of nowhere by something we never expected and seemingly totally unrelated. A lot of teachers seem content to say, “Well, I guess the author just wanted to make two radically unconnected points and so just sort of did!” To be perfectly blunt, I find this supremely unsatisfying. Sometimes the connective tissue between multiple thoughts is easy, but other times you need to dig a little deeper. And honestly, digging deeper and unifying seemingly unconnected thoughts brings a better, deeper understanding to the Word of God.

Psalm 127 is a simple but effective illustration of this. It is short enough that I have included its entire text for reference.

If the Lord does not build a house, then those who build it work in vain. If the Lord does not guard a city, then the watchman stands guard in vain. It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he provides for those whom he loves even when they sleep. Yes, sons are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Sons born during one’s youth are like arrows in a warrior’s hand. How blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them. They will not be put to shame when they confront enemies at the city gate.

Psalm 127 (NET)

Solomon starts off talking about how if we want anything we are working on to be of lasting value or really matter the Lord needs to be a part of it. Is is truly He who provide, which is why our efforts to do it ourselves is vanity, emptiness, worthless. Then he affirms this assessment twice.

YES, he provides even when we sleep. This statement serve to underscore that God is the one who does things and anything we think we have manufactured for ourselves is an illusion. The product of His common grace at best1 and the product of God’s active hand at worst2!

YES, sons are a gift from the Lord, like arrows that will protect him from shame…. What?! How does this further the case that God provides? Since when are children like weapons of war? And how are they print us from being shamed in court?? Perhaps my framing has helped you to already see how these things are connected. Children themselves are a gift from God. And once we have moved past the prime of our lives, they will be in the prime of theirs and they will take care of us in the same way we took care of them. And because the children are a gift from God, even their care of us is from Him. Because that’s how He designed families!

  1. “Best” meaning the most charitable possible interpretation that gives the human the greatest possible amount of credit. ↩︎
  2. “Worst” meaning the least charitable possible interpretation that gives the human the least possible amount of credit. ↩︎

The Consequences of Compromise

Compromise has amassed quite a following for itself. We tend to see it as an almost-ideal solution to thorny problems. And often that is true. Often compromise is a great solution, but not always. We should not always default to compromising, instead assessing the situation and determining what course of action is most warranted.

A trivial example: some years ago my brother and his roommate were planning to make themselves some chocolate milk using a mix. They both poured glasses of milk and grabbed the chocolate sauce. But my brother’s roommate quickly realized that there wasn’t enough sauce for both of them to have a chocolate milk so it took it for himself. My brother said, “why not split it?” and his roommate replied, “Is it better for both of us to have bad chocolate milk, or one of us to have good chocolate milk?” My brother relented, seeing the truth in his logic. I would say that the Christian thing to do would have been to sacrifice my own pleasure and give the good one to my roommate, but in this case, my brother’s roommate was not a Christian.

In today’s reading we see a similar situation unfold; starting and ending with bad compromises. Numbers 33:55-56 reads:

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.

Numbers 33:55-56 (NIV)

Yet Solomon decides that rather than drive those who remain OUT of the land, they will instead be used as cheap labour. Cheap labour to build the temple of the Lord, no less! Again, God offers a warning that Solomon takes no heed of. And then at the end of today’s reading we see this:

Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem.

2 Kings 10:26 (NIV)

Which looks eerily similar to this:

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.”

Deuteronomy 17:16 (NIV)

How long do you think you can disregard the commands, decrees, regulations, and warnings of the Lord before it finally does you in? How long before spiritual disaster, calamity, or even death come to you? This, dear friends, is playing with fire and it’s a bad idea. Don’t test the Lord. That is a fool’s game.