As we now return to a study in the books of the Kings, known as 1 & 2 Kings, I’d like to point out some distinctions and observations useful for our upcoming series of sermons.
- Time of Writing, Author, and Purpose
1 & 2 Kings was written likely around 550 B.C. in the middle of the Babylonian exile that resulted from the apostasy from Yahweh which began in 850 B.C. with Solomon until the the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The human author is unknown, but he lived likely in the exile with the rest and had sources with him to write. Whoever the author was he or they compiled the matter in the book of Kings from sources named in 1 Kings 11:41; 14:19, 29 and they have a unified perspective (evidencing the Spirit’s work) on the events with a specific purpose in mind, namely to detail the cost of apostasy to the exiles so that upon their return they would not merely return to a land, but to Yahweh himself who alone is God.
- Major Themes
Apostasy, Universal Sin, the Word of God, and Hope in Christ
- Apostasy leads to division and deportation
The exiles needed to know what caused their plight, namely leaving Yahweh. This lead to their division as a people and their deportation.
- The kings largely represent the people and are like the people’s hearts
People get the kings they want largely speaking. There are a few exceptions, but this is the case throughout. It was usually an evil king with evil people. Sometimes it was a good king with an evil people. But most of the time it was unified evil.
- God keeps his promises revealed by his prophets against the kings
In the midst of this, the safest place to be is with God’s Word. God upholds his prophets and speaks his Word through them with authority and fulfillment. God’s Word continually brought is an evidence of God’s love to sinners.
- Hope in Christ
There is always a line to Christ in God’s Word, and it appears in the books of Kings. Jehoiachin released from prison in 2 Kings 25:27-30 is one example, as we see God showing him mercy in the end. So the exiles can hope for the same if they repent and turn to God as their king. Mercy is found in Christ alone to whom Jehoiachin points. Besides, is Yahweh not still taking care of them in exile?
- Distinctions from Chronicles & Purpose
Chronicles only covers Judah’s kings and includes many details about them, and is written after the exile.However, Kings covers both Israel and Judah (the entirety of the kingdom) and tells the account from a vantage point of what would be helpful for the exiles to know and is written during the exile. At times one reads “the rest of the acts” are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? (this may be another book altogether), but the point is that Kings is not including everything, or aiming to, but has a unified aim to tell things to the exiles to prepare them to return to both Land and to Yahweh of the Land and all the earth where they are.
- The Goal: Get and appreciate God’s grace—really!
The real goal is that we learn that the exiles needed to return to Yahweh before they returned to the Land. Their hearts had to come to the point of confession like Daniel prays in Daniel 9. And the books of Kings is meant to facilitate this and give them hope that they are still cared for by God in a foreign land, and they will be returned to the Land of Promise. So he is with them in exile and he is with them in return. He never leaves them, even though they and their leaders have left God. The book is meant to inspire faithfulness in times of consequential unfaithfulness. We love because really we first were loved. This book shows how God loved the exiles in spite of their apostasy and prepared their hearts for return fortifying them from further apostasy. God loves and tangibly cares for his people in the midst of even exile. Add to this that a motivating factor is to see the demonstration of God’s grace throughout and the cost of despising that grace. Be wise when it comes to grace, it is not ever meant to be abused, and will not be without consequence; yet God never stops caring. He cares enough to show his people what grace is all about; its about living in obedience to him.