We are now in the book of Kings, and we will stay there until mid-May.
Like Samuel, Kings is two books in our English bibles but just one in the original Hebrew. Also like Samuel, Kings is part of the Covenant King narrative that takes up a huge portion of the Old Testament writings. This narrative was foreshadowed at least as far back as Deuteronomy 17, which predicted Israel would eventually have a king, but it begins in earnest with Judges, continues in Samuel, is concluded in Kings, and then is told all over again in Chronicles.
It is obvious that this narrative is important; the amount of space given to it and the repetition of it tells us that. Equally obvious is that each of these books adds something to this narrative. Judges starts the narrative with the idea that a Covenant King was necessary; it attributes the great moral havoc of the judges period to the fact that there was no Covenant King (see Judges 21:25). Samuel shows the Covenant King (David) being enthroned after the reigns of the final judge (Samuel) and the calamitous first king (Saul).
And Kings…well, Kings gives us what is arguably the most important part of this narrative. It gives us mankind’s response to the Covenant King. It shows us people submitting and/or not submitting to the Covenant King.
The Ideal vs The Man
To understand what Kings is showing us, we have to understand what the Covenant King really is. The Covenant King is not David. It was kind of David at the beginning but it can’t really be David. We know it can’t really be David because David drops out of the narrative by chapter 3; as he so poetically puts it, he goes “the way of all the earth”.
No, the Covenant King really the ideal of David. It was the king who would be as comfortable in worship as in war. It was the king who would love God more than gold. It was the king who would establish and maintain peace, righteousness, and joy in Israel.
That ideal is what God was describing in His 2 Samuel 7 promise. That ideal lived on after David went the way of all the earth. And that ideal is what all the characters of Kings, from the kings to the queens to the usurpers to the priests to the prophets, are responding to in this book.
Failing the Ideal
Unfortunately, most of these characters did not react to this ideal very well. Most of these characters reacted to this ideal quite poorly.
Bad reactions occur before David even exits the scene. His son Adonijah, with the help of army commander Joab and priest Abiathar, tries to claim the throne for himself. Adonijah certainly knew the throne was not his. He certainly knew the still-living Covenant King and the Covenant King ideal required the throne to go to Solomon. But he and his cohorts tried to take it anyway. By doing so, they were in effect rejecting the Covenant King. They were not submitting to the ideal.
The same could be said of Solomon. Though he had a good start, his many wives and great wealth led him away from the Covenant King ideal. Though he was in the position of Covenant King, he began worshipping other gods (1 Kings 11).
Jeroboam and the northern tribes did not submit to the Covenant King ideal, either. Though they had a legitimate gripe with Rehoboam, Solomon’s son who was sitting in the Covenant King’s place, they illegitimately pulled away from the Covenant King ideal and embraced golden calves. From that point on, no northern king and/or dynasty (and there were several) would completely submit to the Covenant King.
The story wasn’t much different in the south. Though there was only ever the Davidic dynasty there, few rulers in that dynasty were like David. Most rejected the Covenant King ideal in one way or another.
Ultimately, the rulers’ and the people’s rejection of the Covenant King resulted in God’s rejection of them. The next big story of the Old Testament, Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities, occurred. Israel fell and the people were exiled because they would not submit to the Covenant King.
The Ideal Still Stands
Ancient history, right? Interesting but irrelevant for us today? Not at all. The fact of the matter is that Kings and its message of submitting and/or not submitting to the Covenant King is as relevant as anything in the Bible. It isn’t history at all. It is current events.
This is because the Covenant King ideal still stands. It stands even stronger than it did during the time of Kings. Jesus, the great Covenant King of whom David was a foreshadow, the true fulfillment of God’s 2 Samuel 7 promise, is now enthroned and ruling. We are facing the same reality the ancient Israelites were facing all those centuries ago, and we have to choose whether or not to submit to that reality.
That choice should be an obvious one for us. The right choice, the wise choice, the choice that ultimately turns out well, is the choice to submit to the Covenant King. It is my hope our time in Kings encourages us to do just that. As this books shows us people refusing to submit to the Covenant King, may we be inspired to submit to Him.