Good Lessons from Bad Kingdoms
Ever wonder why we read about the failed kings of Israel and Judah? Are there good lessons from bad kingdoms? Yes, indeed! Read on and see.
[Note: This blog post is based on last week’s reading: 1 Kings]
The Sad Record of Failed Kingdoms
The history of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah does not provide support for currently popular theories of social evolution or the basic goodness of mankind. Rather, the books of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings display the perversity of human beings as demonstrated in the lives of so many kings. There were no perfect kings (yet), and the best of them had obvious flaws. Sadly, the records of many kings show only corruption and evil which extended from their personal lives into their leadership policies and decisions.
Frequently, the danger of affluent complacency, that God had warned about when Israel was still wandering in the wilderness and preparing to enter the Promised Land, later came to fruition (Deuteronomy 8:11-20). The years of Solomon’s reign brought peace, prosperity and international recognition, but Solomon did not end well and the son who succeeded him brought permanent division to the kingdom. They forgot God’s warnings.
Biblical Qualifications for Kingship
Furthermore, none of Israel’s and few of Judah’s kings during the divided kingdom period show any evidence of heeding Moses’ criteria for a king. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, there are several qualifications for a king:
The king must be chosen by God.
He must be an Israelite.
His personal integrity must be seen in that he renounces trust in military power (horses), does not succumb to a life of sinful pleasure (multiple wives), avoids trade with Egypt, and does not seek excessive wealth.
He must have a copy of the law, read it daily, and obey it carefully so as to fear God and to maintain humility.
The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, went through a process of anointing by the prophet Samuel thereby showing that God chose them. (David honored Saul calling him “God’s anointed”). This practice was rarely mentioned in the case of subsequent kings. Solomon accumulated wives, concubines, and wealth. He set a bad example for all who followed him.
Good News in the Bad
All this bad news about kingly failure pointed to (and still points to), the need for a King who is perfectly righteous if there is ever to be kingdom in which righteousness dwells. The good news is He has come and His name is Jesus Christ. He surprised everyone because He did not immediately assume the throne many wanted Him to have. Instead, He humbly went about preaching: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 ESV). In the culmination of His ministry He laid down His life for His sheep making atonement for them by His own blood.
Was that the end? No! Death could not hold Him. He rose triumphantly proving His victory, revealed Himself to hundreds of His disciples, and ascended into heaven in glory.
The kingdom of God is at hand! God has revealed the King He has chosen and it is His Son—the God-Man and Son of David. He is our King, our High Priest, and our Prophet. Jesus the Son of God sits at His Father’s right hand and makes intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). He has promised to come again and take us to Himself to share in His glory (John 14:1-7; 17:24).
So why read about the failed kings of Israel and Judah? Are there good lessons from bad kingdoms? Yes! Because the glory of the King of kings shines brighter against the darkness of human kingdoms—those recorded in the Bible and all the other kingdoms of this world right down to the present.
Now we wait “for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13 ESV). As we wait, let the gloominess of every miserable reign drive us to pray “Thy kingdom come” with greater fervor than ever. His kingdom is at hand! His kingdom is forever! [Luke 1:32].
This week’s reading: Ecclesiastes, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians