Pastoral Perspectives

A Time To Look Back

This year the church will be preaching on the book of 1 Kings. The books of Kings conclude a larger history of Israel that began with the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth and 1 & 2 Samuel. When reading these together, one can trace the history of Israel from settlement in the Promised Land to the beginning of kingship and eventual fall of the kingdom. Much of the information in Kings appear to have been taken from three primary sources, namely the book of the acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41), the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel (1 Kings 14:19; 15:31, et al.) and the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah (1Kings 14:29; 15:7, et al.). The Israelites themselves should have been familiar with these sources and the deeds of their kings given the way the author quoted them (aren’t they not written in…). These suggest that 1 & 2 Kings were most probably compiled after the kingdom had fallen and the people exiled and Jewish tradition gives Jeremiah as the one responsible for it and the date of completion somewhere between 561 BC (when Jehoiachin was released from prison in Babylon) to 539 BC (before the edict of Cyrus).

Now why is there a need to retell the history? Well, the Israelites needed to know why they were in exile so that they might not repeat the same error again. Therefore the book serves not to provide another factual historical account but to retell the same history from a prophetic and covenantal perspective. The thrust of Kings is the ultimate failures of the kings in upholding covenantal faithfulness and heeding prophetic warnings. The retold history therefore traces the deeds of selected kings and evaluates them based on their loyalty to God. The sad observation is that besides Hezekiah and Josiah, who were singled out as faithful kings (2 Kings 18:5-6; 23:25) who initiated various religious reforms, the rest were not and many were compared to Jeroboam I of Israel who epitomized rebellion and disregard of God despite prophets warning them of the dire consequences.

Therefore to the Israelites in exile, they should learn the hard and painful lesson to be faithful and loyal to God when they returned back to the land and rebuild their lives. That’s the prophetic perspective. And just as God fulfilled his warnings and destroyed the city, he would likewise fulfil his promise to David and keep his house, throne and kingdom established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). And so hope remained for the people that they would return and the kingdom re-established one day. That’s the covenantal perspective and so Kings ends with a glimpse of the hope when king Jehoiachin of Judah was granted freedom from prison in Babylon and thus ensuring that the kingly line of David was not broken. Jehoiachin was also known as Jechoniah and from him would come forth Jesus, the Son of David (Matthew 1:11-16).

So why did Israel end up in exile? At the heart of Israel’s problem was idolatry and sadly it began with Solomon. Unlike his father David who sought after God’s own heart, Solomon’s heart was with other gods. This was despite God appearing twice to him and granting him wisdom and wealth to judge and govern his kingdom. As a result, his kingdom would be divided after his death (1 Kings 11:4-13) and there would only be greater woes to come thereafter. So the first eleven chapters of 1 Kings record the rise of Solomon, the consolidation of his kingdom and his many great accomplishments, including the building and dedication of the temple, before he began to commit his follies.  We shall look at these eleven chapters for this year.

Now as a brand new year dawn upon us and the nation looking to celebrate her 50th anniversary, I believe we have much to learn from Kings. For a start we may want to follow after the author of Kings and look back at our history, individual and collectively as a church and ask if we have been faithful and loyal to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We may not be bound by the same covenant as Israel was but we are entrusted with the Great Commission to make disciples and the Great Commandment to love one another. If we were to retell our history to explain our present circumstances, what would it be like? Will our story bring glory to God such that it serves to encourage the next generation? If not, will we take heed and initiate reforms like how Hezekiah and Josiah did? We have this whole new year to decide for ourselves and for the church.

Rev Ronnie Ang

January 4, 2015