Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

1 Kings is the first half of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, which are themselves the second half of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings, which used to be called 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 3 Kings and 4 Kings, so much so that 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel are still sometimes called 1 Kings and 2 Kings respectively, while 1 Kings and 2 Kings often get referred to as 3 Kings and 4 Kings. The whole original book was called Kings, and it’s thought it comprised two-fifths of an even longer book containing Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges as well.

I’m sure the tale of all these books would itself have made a good book by Dr Seuss.

Anyhew, 1 Kings itself is, would you believe, a book of two halves.

Come back!

The first half (we’ll call it Kings 1.0 just to be funky) is about King David’s son – Solomon – becoming and being King. Remember the pattern we saw in David’s life?

The King With The Sin

Good God.
Good King.
Good God and good King.

Good King sings.
Good God gives good King who sings good things.

Good King who sings takes in prim feminine.
Good King who sings takes in prim feminine's ring.
Good King who sings has fling with prim feminine in ring.
Good King who sings slings prim feminine's ring and kills him.
Good King thinks good King wins.
Good God thinks good King's fling stinks.
Good God thinks good King is crim.
Good God disciplines.

Crim King and prim feminine have little king.
Little king's limbs fall limp.
Little king's sibling's limbs fall limp.
Crim King’s sins sink in.
Crim King’s good things shrink.
Crim King bins his sins.
Crim King becomes good King.
Good God wins.

Well, I realise that you probably don't want to ever wade through reading anything like that ever again, but I'm afraid that in 1 Kings events take a similar pattern for his son Solomon:

The King With The Sin’s Other Little King

Good God.
Good King.
Good King's little king.
Good King's little king is dim.
Good King's limbs fall limp.
Good King is binned.
Little king becomes dim King.
Good God and dim King.

Good God makes dim King think.
Dim King becomes King who thinks.
Good God gives King who thinks good things.
King who thinks gives rings.
King who thinks has flings.
King who thinks gives flings' gods things.
Good God thinks flings' gods stink.
Good God thinks King who thinks and gives flings' gods things is crim.
Good God disciplines.

King who thinks’ limbs fall limp.
King who thinks’ kindy's things shrink.
Good God wins.


Anyway, in English.

One night, while he’s still a boy, King Solomon has a dream.

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."

- 1 Kings 3:5 (NIV)

WOO-HOO! Solomon’s answer?

"Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

- 1 Kings 3:7-9 (NIV)

So Solomon becomes the wisest person ever, and builds the huge temple to God that his father King David had planned out. But the temple, as I read it, is only a physical symbol of Solomon’s putting God ahead of everything else in his life. Inside his heart, there is other stuff of greater importance to Solomon than God, namely marrying a thousand different women. I ask you – that doesn’t sound wise by any man’s thinking...

And while that sounds like a ridiculous situation (maybe the local amphitheatre ran a sitcom entitled A-Thousand-And-One’s Company), the challenge that Solomon faced – and lost – is a familiar one:

His wives’ opinions on God differed to his own.

We don’t know how much Solomon was swayed, but it was enough to prove that something – maybe just good manners – were of a higher priority to him than God was. I think we’ve all been in situations where we didn’t like to offend people, not just in marriages, but with friends, employers, even total strangers.

They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.

- 1 Kings 11:2-4 (NIV)

So Solomon’s power wanes, and he dies, after which his son Rehoboam loses ten-twelfths of the Kingdom, including the name Israel. Whilst it’s made clear that these events are God’s doing, as the second half of this book begins, mankind’s free will appears to be becoming more powerful...

When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered the whole house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand fighting men—to make war against the house of Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.

But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: "Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to the whole house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 'This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.' " So they obeyed the word of the LORD and went home again, as the LORD had ordered.

- 1 Kings 12:21-24 (NIV)

The depressing second half of the book recounts the rise and fall of the next kings of both Israel, and Rehoboam’s remnant Judah, as well as introducing the prophet Elijah. They sound like dark days – mankind wreaking havoc as God persists in his attempts to get people to just, very basically, do what he tells them to do. This appears to be an entirely different plan to the one he later sets in motion via Jesus. This last excerpt sounds like a world where doing the right thing is very hard to even aim for:

By the word of the LORD one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, "Strike me with your weapon," but the man refused.

So the prophet said, "Because you have not obeyed the LORD, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you." And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.

The prophet found another man and said, "Strike me, please." So the man struck him and wounded him. Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, "Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, 'Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.' While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared."

"That is your sentence," the king of Israel said. "You have pronounced it yourself."

Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. He said to the king, "This is what the LORD says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.' "

- 1 Kings 20:35-42


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