As we established last time, the book of Kings is about submitting to the Covenant King or, as is mostly the case in the book, not submitting to the Covenant King. It is the third and (somewhat) final part of the Covenant King narrative that started in Judges and Samuel, and its message is arguably the most important part of that narrative.
This final, important message is mostly demonstrated by the kings of the book’s title. It is the kings of the divided nation of Israel who show us this submitting or not-submitting to the Covenant King idea. They largely do this by either following in the ways of David, the proto-covenant king, or by not following in the ways of David.
As you may have noticed, though, these kings are not the only characters in the books. There are large portions of the book which focus on prophets as well. There is Elijah, of course, and his protégé Elisha, both of whom take several chapters. There is also Micaiah, Jehu, Ahijah, and several unnamed prophets as well as a few false prophets. And these prophets contribute to this message of submitting/not submitting to the Covenant King as well.
The Prophet Who Couldn’t See
Elijah is the most notable prophet in the book. Though he did not write a book of his own, his deeds were so characteristic of the Faith Story that he is later mentioned in Malachi as well as The Gospels, Romans, and James.
As such a notable prophet, Elijah contributes to the message of submitting to the Covenant King in multiple ways. I think his biggest contribution, though, comes from his biggest failure. This failure is recorded in 1 Kings 19. After he called down fire on Mount Carmel and publicly proved that our God is the one true God, he was chased by Queen Jezebel all the way to Mount Horeb. There, God reveals Himself to Elijah not as a great and powerful wind, an earthquake, or a fire, but rather as a “gentle whisper”. God also told Elijah that he was not the only faithful person left on the planet as he supposed himself to be.
This incident is showing us that Elijah was not seeing the Covenant Kingdom correctly. He incorrectly saw the Covenant Kingdom as a matter of power. He had to have his vision corrected by God telling him the Covenant Kingdom was really a matter of persuasion, persuasion which is less forceful and grand than power but which works better over the long run.
Like Elijah, we often don’t see the Covenant Kingdom correctly. This in turn means we don’t respond to it correctly; you can’t respond correctly to something you don’t see. It further means we need God’s “vision correction”. We need His help seeing what the Covenant Kingdom is, how it is being expressed around us, and how we can both enter it ourselves and share it with others.
The Prophet Who Found Peace
Elisha is also a notable prophet. Though not as widely-recognized as Elijah, his deeds were at least equal to if not greater than Elijah’s. And while he likewise contributes many things to the Covenant Kingdom, the one I noticed most during this reading was his ability to live into and enjoy the Covenant Kingdom when no one else was.
We see this ability in 2 Kings 3. There, the wicked King Joram convinced the righteous King Jehoshaphat to join him in battle against the Moabites. They end up wandering around the desert for a week, probably as a sign of God’s displeasure, and eventually run out of water. At this point we learn that Elisha is with this company. To me, this seemed incredibly strange. I would think Elisha would stay far away from this group of vagabonds. But he is not only there in the midst of them, but he is also responding to the Covenant King despite them. He is living into the Covenant Kingdom even though they are not, and actually brings the Covenant Kingdom to them by telling them how to receive water from God.
All the prophets did this in one way or another, and their ability to do that inspires me. It is very similar to something I heard in a devotional song this week. The song is an African song called “Ukuthula”. In English, it says, “Peace in this world of sin the blood of Jesus brings.”
That is what Elisha demonstrates. He was in a “world of sin” through no choice of his own, but he still found peace by focusing on the Covenant King.
The Prophet Who Got Off the Path
While Elijah and Elisha submitted to the Covenant King, there was one unnamed prophet who did not. This prophet’s story is told in 1 Kings 13. In that chapter, he travels from Judah to Israel to rebuke Jeroboam for building calf idols. As part of this mission, he is told by God not to eat or drink anything in Israel. He keeps this command for the first part of this mission, but when an Israelite prophet invites the unnamed prophet to his house for a meal with the lie that God has told him it is okay, he goes. During this meal, the unnamed prophet realizes the Israelite prophet has lied to him. As he heads back to Judah, he is attacked by a lion and killed.
This story probably seems incredibly harsh to us today, but the Scripture Storyline book helped me understand it. Todd Chipman has this to say about the unnamed prophet:
I believe that is exactly what this unnamed prophet (“the man of God”) did. He knew what God’s will and word were, but when he heard something that was more convenient to his current situation, he went with that instead. It is regrettable that the punishment for this was so harsh; I’m sure God regrets that as much as we do. But that is what happens when people trade the Covenant King for human direction and human desire.
The Prophets and Us
The prophets come at the Covenant King from a completely different angle than the kings did. But they still came at the Covenant King. The big question of their lives was still, “Will I submit to the Covenant King or not?”
And that is the big question of our lives today as well. I don’t know if it is the kings who help you answer that question or the prophets, but I do know we all answer it in one way or another. My prayer is that we are encouraged by both the kings and the prophets to answer it the correct way.