After giving us a picture of Jeroboam and Rehoboam’s reigns over Israel and Judah, respectively, the author wants to race us on toward the arrival of Elijah. If you open your Bibles to 1 Kings 15-16 you will notice that these passages give a quick summary of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah. So what we want to do is see what God is trying to show us through the short accounts given about these kings who ruled over his people. What we are going to learn is how to live in dark days. We are going to see what God wants us to remember when we live in times where rulers and people are not doing what God wants.
Abijam of Judah (15:1-8)
We begin with the first two kings of Judah. Abijam becomes king after Rehoboam and, unfortunately, his reign is no different than his father’s reign. He committed all the sins his father had done before him. Further, his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord (15:3). This king and this nation are worthy of hearing the same judgment message that Jeroboam heard in chapter 14. But there is only one reason why that does not happen. In verse 4 we are told that for David’s sake, God raised up a son after him and preserved Jerusalem. The only reason God is sparing Jerusalem and Judah is because God made a promise to David. We are also twice told that there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam, showing that there is no peace or rest. Neither nation is faithful to the Lord. Therefore, neither nation is enjoying resting with God in the promised land.
Asa of Judah (15:9-24)
Asa reigns over Judah after Abijam and his reign is for 41 years. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, like David. He removed the temple prostitution from the land and removed the idols his father made. He also removed his mother from being queen mother because she made an Asherah image. These are wonderful, bold reforms that Asa establishes during his reign. He even stands against the idolatry of his family. These actions tie him to having a heart for the Lord like David. However, he did not remove all the high places where the people worshiped their idols. But his heart was wholly true to the Lord all his days. He brought gifts to the house of the Lord to honor and worship God. While his heart was true to the Lord, an event where Asa is weak in faith is recorded in verses 17-24. The king of Israel invades Judah and captures a city called Ramah, which is only about four miles north of Jerusalem. He captures Ramah and makes it his stronghold against Judah. Imagine a foreign nation capturing a city like Baltimore, just miles away from our capital city, Washington, D.C. This is a significant invasion by Israel. Asa’s response is to take the silver and gold in the temple and bribe the king of Syria to break his treaty with Israel and start attacking Israel. The bribe is successful as Syria attacks Israel, causing the king of Israel to stop fortifying Ramah and dealing with the invasion of Syria. Asa calls for all of Judah to remove all the fortifications at Ramah and retake the city.
Nadab of Israel (15:25-27)
The rest of the account follows the kings of Israel. After Jeroboam’s death, Nadab his son takes the throne over Israel. He reigns only two years and is evil just like his father. Baasha killed him and reigned in his place.
Baasha of Israel (15:28-16:7)
As soon as Baasha is king, he goes about killing all of the house of Jeroboam so that not a single person of the family was left. Remember that this is what was promised against Jeroboam because he had turned his heart from the Lord and cast the Lord behind him (14:10-11). Verse 30 emphasizes that this happened because of the sins of Jeroboam. But Baasha was not any different than the other kings of Israel. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the ways of Jeroboam (15:34). See if the prophecy against Baasha sounds familiar in 16:2. The message of the Lord to Baasha was that the Lord had exalted him from the dust and made him leader over Israel. But you made my people sin, provoking the Lord to anger. So the house of Baasha will be like the house of Jeroboam, completely cut off, dying violent deaths.
Elah of Israel (16:8-14)
After Baasha, Elah reigned over Israel and he only reigned for two years. His servant came in and killed him and reigned in his place. In verse 11 we see that Zimri struck down all of the house of Baasha, not leaving a single male relative or friend. So he fulfilled the word of the Lord that was spoken by the prophet against Baasha, because of the sins they had committed.
Zimri of Israel (16:15-20)
Zimri lasts all of seven days as king. The army learns that Zimri killed Elah. So they make Omri, the commander of their army, their king and go up and kill Zimri. Zimri is judged because of the sins he committed, doing evil in God’s sight, walking in the ways of Jeroboam, and leading Israel to sin (16:19).
Omri of Israel (16:21-28)
Things are not getting any better for Israel and their kings. Omri becomes king and he reigns for 12 years. He moves the capital to Samaria. He also did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. In fact, he did more evil than all who were before him (16:25). He followed in the footsteps of Jeroboam, making Israel sin, and provoking the Lord with the idolatrous practices.
Ahab of Israel (16:29-34)
This brings us to where the author wants us to be and to spend some time. The king that comes after Omri is his son, Ahab. Ahab reigns for 22 years and he also does what is evil in the sight of the Lord. He does more evil than all who were before him. This is quite a statement because his father had done more evil than all who were before him. Further, he only considered it trivial to commit the sins that Jeroboam had committed. He even married Jezebel from the Sidonians. He went and worshiped and served Baal. He even built an alarm for Baal in the house of Baal which he also built in Samaria. He also made an Asherah idol. He did more to prove the Lord than all the kings who were before him. Verse 34 truly exemplifies the condition of Israel at this point. During Ahab’s reign, a man named Hiel built Jericho. He laid the foundations at it caused his firstborn son to die. He set up the gates of the city and it caused his youngest son to die. But here are the key words for this text and for these two chapters. Look at verse 34: “…according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”
What is this referring to? If you turn back to Joshua 6:26 you will see that when Jericho is captured and destroyed by Joshua and his armies, he declared a curse on the city. The curse he proclaimed was that anyone who tries to rebuild this city, when they lay the foundations they will lose their firstborn and when they finish the gates they will lose their youngest child. This man lost two children because he disregarded the word of the Lord. In fact, what we observe throughout these chapters are kings who are completely disregarding the word of the Lord. They do not care what God has said. They continue blazing forward with their plans and it is to their own demise.
Now I want us to see something very important that God is teaching. Joshua had pronounced that curse more than 400 years earlier. Imagine if someone made a pronouncement back in the 1600s about a city. It would be easy to ignore because the declaration was so long ago. It would be considered an old wives’ tale or a legend. No one would believe that something said more than 400 years ago would have any relevance. But it did. What Joshua said came to pass because it was the word of the Lord. It did not matter how much time went by, God’s word still held true. Think about how this key truth played out in these two chapters. Jeroboam was told that his whole house would be wiped out because of his sins. Years later it came true. Baasha was told that his whole house would be wiped out because of his sins. Years later it came true. Everyone who is following in the steps of Jeroboam is being wiped out. Here are the two things I want us to see.
First, just because everyone rejects and dismisses the word of the Lord does not mean God’s word will fail. Just because no one believes it does not make it false. Just because no one follows it does not mean that what it says will not happen. We live in a very interesting time in our culture where we think that if we do not believe something then that means it is not true or will not happen. We think our decision to believe has power over reality and truth. It does not. Whether you believe in gravity or not, gravity is true. You can defy it all you want but it will always win. Whether you believe in God and his word or not, he is true and his words are true. You can defy him all you want, but he will always win. The prophet Isaiah said this:
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10–11 NIV)
It is impossible for your grass to not green up and grow when it rains. In the same way, it is just as impossible for God’s word to fail and not accomplish its purpose. It does not matter if everyone rejects the Lord, his words are still true.
Second, it does not matter how much time passes by, his words will still be accomplished and his promises will still happen. Hundreds of years went by since Joshua declared his curse. Surely it would be safe now to build Jericho, right? Wrong. Time does not affect God’s word or God’s promises. This is what Peter meant in 2 Peter 3.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8–9 NIV)
Time does not alter God’s promises. Time does not affect the truth of God’s promises. Time does not mean God’s promises are not happening. Time means that God has a purpose and is waiting for the appropriate time in his wisdom. When living in dark days it is easy to think that because there has been so much time and because no one believes that God’s promises are going to fail. They will not and cannot. These two chapters show that God’s word never fails. It is not altered by time or by unbelief.