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Kings in Contrast

January 02, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: 1 Kings 14–18, Psalm 2, Proverbs 2.

Tonight’s reading in 1 Kings, Psalms, and Proverbs had some surprising overlaps. The material in 1 Kings covered a series of kings whose courses were largely away from worshipping Yahweh and toward worshipping other gods. With only one exception, in fact, every single king listed in these five chapters rejected the God of Israel in favor of the gods of the nations which the Hebrews had driven out of Canaan. That exception, Asa, stands in sharp contrast to the litany of rebellious kings who preceded and followed him as being a man who followed God with his whole heart. Others, it seems, included Yahweh in their list of gods to worship, but never reverenced him as supreme and only. This list of wicked kings of both Israel and Judah climaxes with the appearance of Elijah, the righteous prophet who confronts the most wicked king in the list, and who ultimately demonstrates Yahweh’s superiority over the other gods the Hebrews worshipped.

Proverbs 2 continues Solomon’s exhortation to seek wisdom wholeheartedly, and his corresponding encouragement that Yahweh gives wisdom to those who seek it. But Solomon did not stop with the idea that knowledge and understanding are good —though this he certainly affirms. Rather, he continued on to emphasize that God’s knowledge and discernment go hand in hand with his integrity and justice. Those who seek this wisdom walk in righteousness and justice and equity. A person of wisdom is kept safe from both evildoers and from doing evil him- or herself. That Solomon’s own line, beginning with his own son and continuing on down through every king but Asa in these chapters in 1 Kings, went so far astray indicates how little these words were heeded.

The picture painted by Psalm 2 stands in impossibly sharp contrast to these depraved kings. The Anointed One of the psalm is a messianic figure: those who take refuge in him find shelter, but those who rebel against him are broken under his rule. There is a king in view here who laughs at the rebellion of the rulers of every nation (Israel included), who scorns the folly of plotting against the Most High God. The king that Yahweh calls his Son will receive those same nations as his inheritance. He will be the king above all other kings. He will be both wrathful against rebellion and merciful to those who “take refuge in him” (v. 11–12).

So we have set before us the history of wicked men rebelling against the very God who gave them their thrones, and a call to that same line of the kings to humbly seek wisdom from that God, and a poetic picture of the true king against whom any rebellion is folly. And running through all of these are both the wrath of God against the folly and sin of those rebelling against him, and his mercy. Yahweh saves his people from following other gods in that magnificent confrontation on the mountain, Elijah on one side and the priests of Baal on the other. He is the source of wisdom, and the one who keeps his people from walking in folly or wickedness. And he is the righteous king who gives his people peace and security. Not because he does not do justice or cares little about sin, but precisely because he does justice and cares about sin. That Anointed One, that Son of the Most High, is Jesus Christ, who died in order that everything would be put under his feet. Every wicked king in 1 Kings points to the need for Jesus. He is the fulfillment of the wisdom promised in Proverbs 2. He is the Anointed One, the Son of Yahweh, who reigns the nations in righteousness. Hallelujah.