WARS AND REVIVAL 1 Kings 15–16
“Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done” (1 Kings 15:11).Corrupt leadership brings strife and suffering. Relief is found only in a return to the Lord.
The following chart shows the years these chapters cover and the reigns of the kings.
|Years||In Judah||In Israel|
|885||Omri/Tibni (Civil war)|
Definition of Key Terms
“Father” in the Old Testament need not mean “male parent.” In these books that deal with the monarchy, one ruler is often called the “father” of another. This may mean ancestor, as in 1 Kings 15:11 where David is called the “father” of his great-grandson, Asa. In some ancient literature “father” may simply mean “predecessor”; one who earlier occupied the same throne, even though there is no ancestral relationship. In addition, “my father” is frequently used as a term of respect for a mentor, as in 2 Kings 2:12.
The sinful direction set by Abijah of Judah (15:1–8) was reversed by his successor, godly King Asa (vv. 9–24). In Israel, Baasha wiped out the family of Jeroboam (vv. 25–31). His family was wiped out in turn by Zimri (v. 33–16:14), throwing the nation into civil war (vv. 15–20). Stability was reestablished by Omri (vv. 21–28), who was succeeded by his wicked but gifted son, Ahab (vv. 29–34).
Understanding the Text
“For David’s sake” 1 Kings 15:1–8.
Abijah, the son of Rehoboam, was one of Judah’s forgettable kings. He ruled only three years, did evil, and died. The text makes it clear that he was tolerated as king only for the sake of David, who “had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” Typically only persons who do great evil or great good are remembered. The text reminds us that the blessings of those who do good overflow to bless future generations as well as their own. “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life” 1 Kings 15:9–24. The impact of Asa on Judah is seen most clearly by comparing what was happening in neighboring Israel. While Judah enjoyed relative peace and revival under Asa for some 40 years, Israel had a series of wicked rulers. During these years two of Israel’s kings and their entire families were assassinated, and the land experienced a bloody civil war. There truly is great gain in godliness (cf. 1 Tim. 6:6). Acts of Asa which show his commitment are listed. He expelled cult prostitutes, got rid of idols, and deposed the queen mother, his grandmother, because she worshiped a pagan goddess (1 Kings 15:11–13). Asa had many other achievements. Verse 23 says he constructed new cities in Judah, suggesting that he may have extended her borders. But all these are relegated to “the book of the annals of the kings of Judah.” The truly significant accomplishments of Asa were religious. It was what he did for God that counts. When the stories of our lives are written, our accomplishments too will pale compared to what we have done in service to our Lord. “I am about to consume Baasha” 1 Kings 15:25–16:7. One of the best ways to learn is from other people’s mistakes. But this also seems to be the most difficult way for most of us to gain understanding. God rejected Jeroboam’s line because of their commitment to evil, and announced that every male member of the family would be killed. Baasha was the instrument God used to carry out this judgment. Yet when Baasha had assassinated Nadab, Jeroboam’s son, Baasha himself then “walked in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin”! Baasha had learned nothing from the destruction of Jeroboam’s family. So, as the Prophet Jehu announced, Baasha and his house met the same fate. My wife frequently detects Baasha’s attitude in the teens she teaches in her high school English classes. A mention of a driver who recently killed two young people when driving drunk here in Florida brought only a smirk from most in her class until she challenged them to think what he faces as he goes to prison. And to realize that, once, he too had probably smirked at the idea that he might get into trouble driving drunk. “It can’t happen to me” is the arrogant thought of those who simply will not learn from the mistakes of others. As Baasha discovered, it can happen to me. He failed to learn from Jeroboam’s and Nadab’s mistakes. And it cost him his life. “Omri became king” 1 Kings 16:21–28. The Bible says little about Omri other than to note that he established Samaria as the capital of the Northern Kingdom. Secular sources say more. The Moabite stone, a monument found in 1898, tells us that Omri conquered Moab and imposed tribute. He rebuilt Israel’s military strength, and from archeological finds we know he built at Samaria a large, attractive, and skillfully defensed city. A century later Assyrian annals still referred to Israel as the “land of Omri.” Again, all these accomplishments are dismissed in the biblical text. What is important about this king is that he too did evil. He formed an alliance with Phoenicia which was sealed by the marriage of his son, Ahab, to the Phoenician princess, Jezebel. This marriage led to the active promotion in Israel of a most virulent and wicked form of Baal worship. Again we’re reminded. Our impact on the material universe will fade away. But our impact on the spiritual universe, for good or evil, remains forever.
The Stone Curtain(1 Kings 15)
It’s probably impossible for us not to classify people. “We” live in the suburbs. “They” live in the city. “We” are educated, well-dressed, and work hard. “They” are ignorant, sloppy, and lazy. “We” believe in God. “They” are pagans. “We” live good moral lives. “They” behave shamefully. While such differences do exist, I suspect that the vast gap implied in “we”/ “they” thinking does not. After all, “we” and “they” are both human beings. God loves “us” and He even loves “them.” Perhaps that’s one reason why I find Asa such an attractive person. And why something that Baasha, king of Israel, did is so funny. According to 2 Chronicles 15–16, Asa wasn’t satisfied when revival came to Judah. He reached across the border to “them,” the enemy, and invited all true Israelites to come up to Jerusalem and join in the celebration of the annual religious festivals called for in Moses’ Law. Perhaps surprisingly, “they” came! In fact, too many came! So many that Baasha, king of Israel, got worried. He quickly sent a force of soldiers up to Ramah, which controlled a mountain pass between the two nations, and began a fortification intended to “prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa.” It wasn’t an “iron curtain.” But it surely was a “stone curtain,” constructed with the same intent as the Berlin wall. When Asa’s “we” reached out with an invitation to come to God, too many of Baasha’s “they” did just that! So Asa bribed the Arameans (Syrians) to attack Israel. And when the Israelite troops withdrew from Ramah, Asa’s people carted away the fortifications stone by stone. What a lesson for us. The stone curtain people still erect between “us” and “them” doesn’t protect God’s folk. It protects Satan’s territory! If we cart away the stones that wall us off from others, and share the good news of Jesus, we’ll find hundreds of “them” eager to become “us” today.
Don’t let “us”/“them” thinking cut you off from those who need Jesus.