Judah and Israel’s Kings
Open Your Bible
1 Kings 14:21-31, 1 Kings 15:1-34, 1 Kings 16:1-34, 2 Samuel 7:14-17, Isaiah 41:28-29
BY Guest Writer
At this point in our reading, the nation of Israel is divided into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms and their kings are in political turmoil as they face mounting instability, warfare, revolts, and murder. The kingdoms are also in spiritual crisis. King after king “did what was evil in the LORD’s sight” (1 Kings 15:26). They endorsed detestable idol worship, which emboldened the people to set up poles and stones and high places for pagan gods and to engage in shrine prostitution, along with other evil practices. Verse after verse, we read of people who have forsaken the one true God in exchange for worthless, false gods.
As I read of one evil king after another, I find myself hoping that maybe, just maybe, the next one might be faithful. With that in mind, I find myself cheering as I finally read about Asa, King of Judah, a king who finally “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” He abolished shrine prostitution, removed idols, and directed his people back to the Lord’s laws and commands. Asa ruled for 41 years and promoted flourishing and peace for most of his reign.
Asa’s life is a picture of the good, gracious provision of God. His father, Abijam, was not faithful to the Lord, “but for the sake of David, the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up his son after him and preserving Jerusalem” (v.4). In the midst of Abijah’s disobedience, God provided a righteous son who would lead his people. King Asa was a lamp shining God’s light and truth. Finally, a hero in this story!
Eh. Not so fast. In 2 Chronicles 16 we read that toward the end of Asa’s reign, as the northern kingdom was threatening Judah, he faltered and trusted in his own power and plans instead of relying on the Lord. Despite shining like a lamp of righteousness for a time, Asa would not even seek help from the Lord as he suffered at the end of his days. While Israel and Judah’s kings floundered in the face of their commitment to the Lord, He remained true to them, keeping this promise to David:
“My faithful love will never leave him as it did when I removed it from Saul,
whom I removed from before you. Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever,
and your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 17:15–16).
The life of King Asa gives us a glimmer of the deliverance that we long for, as well as the realization that it’s futile to trust in kings, or anyone, really—even ourselves. But we sure do try, looking to friends and parents, pastors and employers and political leaders—only to be disappointed, because they stumble and fall and fail too. Though our hope is misplaced, it isn’t pointless; God plants this hope and hunger in us to point us to the King of kings, the ultimate hero, Jesus, who never falters. He is not only a lamp for Jerusalem, but the light of the world (John 8:12).
Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.