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Monday, January 10, 2011

Faith-Breaking & Keeping-Faith: 1 & 2 Kings Intro

[This was my introduction for the new series we're doing at Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA), Midland Texas] What in the world would possess me to do such a foolhardy thing??? My mother-in-law recently related that her pastor was taking off on a series through Genesis & my heart sank. What labor, what endurance, what hardship to not only prepare the series, but the burden it will bring on the people. Well, here I stand before you announcing that we’re going to launch off in a series on 1 & 2 Kings. What in the world would possess me to do such a foolhardy thing??? Well, today I hope to show you, & to even stir up a bit of excitement.


1st-The Place of 1 & 2 Kings: In Luke 24.44 (“the Law of Moses & the Prophets & the Psalms”) Jesus mentions three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures. These are the scrolls-collections in which the writings were bundled. The “Law of Moses” was the scroll with Genesis through Deuteronomy. The 3rd scroll was called “The Psalms” because that was the first writing, but it included Daniel, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ruth & the Wisdom literature. The middle scroll was called “The Prophets”. This scroll included Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah & many of the other “prophets”. Jesus & the Hebrew Scripture collections places 1 & 2 Kings in the Prophets. What does that mean? Primarily, 1 & 2 Kings is an interpretive, people-defining, God-focused, Christ-shaped retelling of historical events. Very much like the Gospel accounts, these events, episodes, scenes & actions are true, historical happenings, but they are being packaged (through editorial economizing, reflective recitations, etc) in such a way as to draw the hearer/reader toward a goal or set of goals. Very much as the Gospel according to John had it’s goal (20.31...), so 1 & 2 Kings flow toward an overarching aim, an ambition that is meant to win the hearts & minds of the Church of God. Just as Isaiah’s ambition, etc. Thus “The Prophets”.

2nd-Pulling it Together: One way we know that there is a goal/goals is the intentional editorial economizing here. Allow me to put it in context. This biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer covers roughly 40 years of his short life, & uses approximately 135,500 words (over 500 pages!). 1 & 2 Kings covers around 400 years & uses, economically, something like 50,000 words! Loads & loads of important, normal & abnormal things are totally avoided, & those items that fit into the goal-stream are recorded. Just think of America’s short history, & how many books have been written about each era, each president, adventurers, wars, etc. Together they could fill up the whole Midland Public Library. & think about weeding through all that to pull together a short 100 page book! As my friend & Old Testament seminary professor, Dr. Ralph Davis, put it, “the writer of (1-2) Kings must be very selective, which implies that what he does include must be of vital importance. It also means the writer has no intention of providing us an exhaustive history but maybe with a prophecy--a God-authorized version of how we should view that history” (The Wisdom & the Folly, 9-10).

3rd-The goal? Look for repeated themes & refrains…… “did evil in the sight of the LORD according to (Jeroboam, the nations, etc)” used 32 times. // “His heart was (or was not) wholly true to the LORD” “He did (or did not) do what was right in the sight of the LORD” “He trusted in….he held fast to the LORD” used 16 times. Covenant faithfulness is the key to these 2 books, in 2 ways. (1) The kings’ faithfulness, (2) but also God’s own faithfulness to His covenant He made with David in 2 Samuel 7. “For the sake of My servant David” is used 7 times at crucial moments, as the reason why God will not wipe out or allow the line of David’s dynasty to end (1 Kgs 11 used 4 times; 2 Kgs 8.19-Why God did not destroy Judah under wicked king Jehoram; 2 Kgs 19.34-Why Assyria will not take Jerusalem; 2 Kgs 20.6-Why God would add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life). & then the editor leaves the story at 2 Kings 25.27-30 to emphasize this point.

What value is there in our slugging & sloshing through 1 & 2 Kings?

1st-Learn to read the Bible through Jesus (Luke 24). “& beginning at Moses and all the Prophets (thus 1 & 2 Kings), He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (v.27)…“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses & the Prophets (which includes 1 & 2 Kings) & the Psalms concerning Me” (44). // Now, we won’t find Jesus lurking behind every palm tree or hiding in every scene. But we will see how all of 1 & 2 Kings draws us to Jesus & at times proclaims Him.

2nd-Learn to read this prophetic history as what it is: prophecy. That God-authorized version of our history. The Descriptive is not necessarily Prescriptive. We are not being ordered to have 700 wives & 300 concubines just because Solomon didn’t want to control his libido! & yet, because it is prophetic, there will be lots to instruct us. & guide us in this “long obedience in the same direction.”

3rd-We will draw nearer to God, seeing Him in action, being faithful in the face of horrendous human infidelity & faith-breaking! & we will grow in fidelity ourselves. The Catechism (#3) ties both of these together, “what do the Scriptures (1 & 2 Kings) principally teach? [1 & 2 Kings] principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, & what duty God requires of man.”

In conclusion, what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3.15-17 applies to the adventure we are about to take on….“that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures (including 1 & 2 Kings), which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture (yes, even 1 & 2 Kings!) is given by inspiration of God, & is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Mike

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