1 Kings 16
The Downward Spiral
This chapter, which runs on from chapter15:32, covers the reigns of Baasha (908 BC), Elah (886 BC), Zimri (885BC), Tibni (885 BC), Omri (885 BC), and Ahab (885-874 BC), Kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Two things indicate something of the intention of the author in providing this account of the history of God’s people. One is the unequal treatment given to the various kings. For example, Omri, who was of some international significance, receives less attention in terms of length than say Ahab. Also the reference to “The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel” is the author’s signal that if you want to know more you can find it in another source. His purpose appears to be to demonstrate that God had every reason to judge his people, first, by the Assyrians and then finally, by the Babylonians. They were a sinning and God defying people who did not live by God’s gracious covenant and therefore forfeited his kindness.
These were the children of Abraham who were called to be a light to the nations. They proved themselves to be thoroughly unfaithful to their calling.
In the New Testament Paul tells the Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome that Israel was in a sense no better than the Gentiles though granted wonderful privileges (Chapters 2 and 3). They were all “under sin” (3:9). He will show in chapter 7 that though there were those who loved God’s Law yet “Sin” held them captive. Only in Christ and by the Spirit is there no longer any condemnation(Ch. 8).
The mention in 1 Kings 16:1 of the prophet Jehu son of Hanani is a reminder that there were two foci of power and influence at this time: king and prophet. In their ideal expression they were a blessing from God; the King to represent and govern, the prophet to inspire, exhort, and correct. There could be bad kings as we are shown, and false prophets as will appear. Wonderfully, in the economy of God, He has sent the One who is the True King not only of the people of God but of the universe, and the Great Prophet, the Word made flesh, who teaches his people by His word and Spirit.
This chapter and those that follow are powerful examples of the power of Sin with a capital “S”. There lies in the human heart, both in the Gentile world and in those called to be the people of God a power which leads away from God. That is why people need to be born again and even then the “flesh” desires contrary to the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Only when our redemption is finalised with the return of Christ will that old enemy be finally and totally eliminated.
Finally,“The note concerning the rebuilding of Jericho may do more than tell us that the words of Joshua were fulfilled after many centuries (Jos. 6:26). It might mean that the two sons of Hiel died as human sacrifices at the beginning and completion of the work. If so, it further emphasizes Israel’s entanglement with idolatrous practices during Ahab’s reign.” (J.J. Bimson)
Who is truly Wise and Intelligent?
John Dickson and Simon Smart writing on this passage of James say, “The logic of the Christian life is clear in this passage. Doing good does not make us wise, any more than the fruit determines the species of a tree. Deeds ‘come from wisdom’, James says. They reveal who has truly received the wisdom of Christ”.
This expresses the same thought as the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:33, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
There is a meekness or humility to true wisdom. It is the opposite of the attitudes and behaviours depicted in verses 14 and 16 which have their origins in the realms described in verse 15. Sadly these things come to us very naturally. By contrast, the wisdom from Christ is to human living what oil is to operating machines; it makes operations smooth and reduces friction.
For those aware of any lack of this wisdom the answer lies in chapter 1, verse 5 – we are to ask God for it. And what in fact are we asking for? As Dickson and Smart say, we are asking for the capacity to understand how to live in God’s world. This knowledge comes from God’s word but it is in fact the work of the Spirit of God giving a new heart and a right spirit (Hebrews 8:10).
The Book of Common Prayer has a prayer for the 19th Sunday After Trinity that calls us to pray: “O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
Such a prayer reminds us how Jesus said that without him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
So, let us pray daily for that “wisdom” that has its origins in God and displays itself in every department of daily life.