It’s not often I get assigned topics in foreign countries but I’m in Ataco, El Salvador and the young congregation here is reading through the Bible together this year. So I landed in the middle of the Kings of the Divided Kingdom and got the title: “5 Good Kings and 33 Bad kings in 208 years.” Several on the campaign asked that I post my notes - so here you go:
I doubt any (many) of you know these names: Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Ahizah, Athaliah, Shallum. That just a few of the evil kings of Israel. The names of the evil kings of Israel or Judah are not exactly household names. In fact, if you think really hard you can probably only come up with the name of only one evil king - but we’ll come back to that later. But these you’ve probably heard of: Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Hezikiah, Josiah.
Good kings. If we were judging we’d use all sorts of algorithms to determine: was the country at peace or war? did it expand the territories? how about personal wealth - did it increase or decrease? But God uses one metric and only one metric: “he did what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” Only ONE thing made them a good king! They feared the Lord! And the same was true for the measure of an evil king: “ he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” By the way that is the same for your life.
Seven lessons from that period:
God is always right! Before we go forward let’s go back to when it began: Here is what God said would happen if they got a king: “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:11-18). And over the next several hundred years that is exactly what happened!
Staying in 1 Samuel 8. We see the importance of training your children right - and the long term effect of one event! There’s a story behind the story. But first, answer a question. Was Samuel a good man? Of course, he was God’s prophet for 70 or so years, he heard the voice of God as a child, he was a child of promise, he anointed the first two kings of Israel. BUT Samuel’s sons for whatever reason did not follow their father’s ways. Verses 1-5 reveals the back story: The people wanted a king because of the actions of Samuel’s sons. “When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.” There is a story behind the story. Every time a mother lost a son to war in Israel, every time a dad lost a daughter to servitude - some of that tragedy rested at the feet of Samuel who it appears was more interested in his country than his family and in losing his family he lost his country. Parents, especially those of you who preach and are parents - it is hard to win the war against the world if you lost it at home.
God is always right - I know that was #1 so: God is always right - PART B. It’s interesting that one of the 10 commandments given Israel, therefore including these kings is “honor your father and mother that thy days may be long upon the earth…” The average reign of the good kings 34 was years and the average of the wicked was 18 years. Every good king reigned more than 20 years - only one evil king did. Evil is it’s on worst enemy. There is every reason in the world that living a godly life should be a better life.
2 Chronicles 14:1-3 “Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land had rest for ten years. And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim…” Almost every time when a good king comes into power or is struck with the greatness of God the first thing they will do is get rid of idolatry. God’s first commands to Israel dealt with their relationships with Him - have no other gods, do not make any graven images or take My name lightly. It is the first command for us too: love God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength. None of us have little graven images we bow down to or offer incense to BUT an idol is anything we put in front of God - sports, houses, career, education, even family can become an idol. It is amazing that any of the kings would be evil by leading the people into idol worship, but it is just as amazing that we sometimes put things in front of God. It is the first command AND THE most often broken command.
The power of influence is strong: When a good king was in charge the whole country did better - BUT even more interesting - the lands around them often did better! 2 Chronicles 17:10 “And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat” They prosper, they start fearing the Lord. Church, OUR communities ought to be better places because of our influence around them!! Christian, our friends ought to be better people because of our influence on them. ARE YOU THE KIND OF PERSON WHO IT IS JUST EASIER DOING RIGHT AROUND?
God’s needs people of influence in positions of leadership: When there was a good king the whole country did well. Listen young people and parents training them: You are needed to be good for the sake of the land. We need good, solid, honest, politicians, teachers, coaches, lawyers, etc. We desperately need parents who train their children to lead in a godly manner. If we do not we relegate those places to evil leaders and we take steps backward. There is NOTHING wrong with aspiring to lead and be in a place of influence IF you intend on using that influence for the sake of right. Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
You can live right even if the king is bad… While Asa was reigning in Judah, there was another kind of king in Israel - Ahab. One person called him the worst king in all of Jewish history! - it was in those days that you had Elijah. What kind of influence did Elijah have? A Long and Lasting one. When Christ came (Mt 16 - who do people say I am? Elijah!) BUT it wasn’t just Elijah - 1 Kings 19 - v 4 And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” v 14 “ He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” v 18 “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Elijah was never alone - nor or you (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).