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Thursday, June 30, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "In the Eyes of the LORD"

“In the Eyes of the LORD”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
June 26, 2016 :: 1 Kings 15:1-16:34  

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and the story has recently gotten pretty complex, complicated, and fairly weird.

Last week, the story involved a false prophet who turned true and a true prophet who disobeyed God, even though he knew better. It had a miracle of a splitting altar, a shriveled non-retractable hand, and a lion that kills on God’s command and then stands at attention. Exciting stuff, huh? Kind of strange.

This week’s portion of scripture isn’t as strange, but it’s even more complicated.

Because in the first 14 chapters, we’ve gone from one king over one kingdom to two kings over two kingdoms. And now in just two chapters we’re going march through a parade of 8.5 kings over those two kingdoms, and their reigns overlap, two in one, six and half in the other. So it’s a little difficult to keep track of who is doing what when and where.

We’re going to fly through about 45 years of history in just two short chapters.

And not only is it complicated, it’s also a little bit boring. It’s repetitive.

This is the part of the Books of Kings where it begins to feel like a broken record.

Do you know what I mean?

If you don’t, you soon will. The author kind of gets into a rhythm. He tells us who the king is and when he began his reign. He tells us who the king is in the other kingdom when he begins his reign. He tells us how long the king was the king. He gives a fairly short summary of the king’s administration, and then he tells us that the king died.

And then it’s all over again.

And most of it is bad.

Marilynn Kristofits was reading it this week to try to find a verse to use on the front of your bulletin, and she suggested to me the sermon title, “Bad Kings Doing Bad Things.”

That’s pretty good! And it sums up a great bulk of what we’re going to read this morning.

It’s broken record, playing a sad sad song.

But I picked a different title for today’s message based on a phrase that keeps getting repeated over and over and over again in these 2 chapters.

It’s a phrase that’s been used before and will continue again and again and again throughout the rest of the Books of Kings.

But as I studied for this week’s message, I kept hearing a bell go off every time I saw these words: “In the Eyes of the LORD.”

“In the Eyes of Yahweh.”

This is a phrase that keeps getting repeated over and over and over again in the summaries of how the king did, either good or bad.

He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.
Or he did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Those are the two choices. The only two options.

We’ve already heard that any king of God’s kingdom has just one job.

They have many duties, but only one job. To walk with God leading their people to do the same.

Well, these 8.5 kings are faced with that same test.

Thumbs up or thumbs down.

And the question is do they do what is right or what is evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Because it’s Yahweh’s eyes that truly matter.

It’s LORD’s opinion that is truly important.

What God thinks about something or someone is what is paramount.

Yahweh is the standard of right and wrong, of good and bad.

And He cares! He is watching.

Do you remember the sermon a few years ago when I chewed a stick of gum throughout the sermon?  It was on Proverbs 15:13. “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

And we just meditated on those words for half an hour.

“In the eyes of the LORD.”

That’s where it happens.

That’s what truly matters.

Last week was about “The Word of the LORD.”

This week still about that. We’ll see that again some more. But it’s also about the eyes of the LORD.

His appraisal. His assessment. His opinion.

Our story starts today in the southern kingdom of Judah after the death of King Rehoboam. That’s where we left off at the end of chapter 14.

Today, we get the new king of Judah who is the son of King Rehoboam which makes him the grandson of whom? Solomon. And the great-grandson of King David.

He might have even known his great grandfather. We don’t know.

What we do know is that he did not last long as king.

And that his name was Abijah. Chapter 15, verse 1.

“In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat [up in the north], Abijah [or Abijam, another way of saying it] became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother's name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom.

He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.”

Stop there for a second.

Do you see how the pattern has already begun?

When he began, who is king in the other kingdom, what his name is, how long he reigned, and a summary of administration.

Is he thumbs up or thumbs down?

He’s clearly thumbs down. And the short reign would point towards that. Though we’ll see that some bad kings get terribly long reigns.

We know he’s a thumbs down because of verse 3. “He committed all the sins his father [Rehoboam] had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God [sounds like Solomon], as the heart of David his forefather had been.”

So, you might guess that the kingdom is going to be taken away from the family of David.

Right?  Three strikes, you’re out?

Solomon failed. Rehoboam failed. Abijah failed.

You’re out! V.4

“Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

Oh!  Even though these guys in the South were thumbs down, God was still gracious to them. And gave them more sons who would be king and kept Jerusalem strong.

Why?

Because of God’s promises to David.

Remember the David Covenant of 2 Samuel 7?

The promises God make to David.

Back in chapter 11 when Solomon was judged, the LORD said that he would keep a lamp burning in Jerusalem. And here it is.

It’s God’s covenant faithfulness. Which David had also a measure of. V.5 again.

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

#1. DOING WHAT IS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF THE LORD.

That’s what God is looking for from these kings.

And I don’t think it’s far off to say that’s what He wants from us, as well.

What’s that look like? Well, not like Abijah. He didn’t do it. David might have, but Abijah did not. V.6

“There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam throughout Abijah's lifetime [same old war, North and South]. As for the other events of Abijah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. And Abijah rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. And Asa his son succeeded him as king.”

Okay. Anybody know if Asa is thumbs up or thumbs down? In the eyes of the LORD?

He’s thumbs up. In fact, he’s like in the top 3 of the kings of Judah. He’s a lot like David. V.9

“In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother's name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done.

[What did that look like?]

He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life. He brought into the temple of the LORD the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.”

We’ve got a good guy on our hands!

Where is Asa king, again?  He’s in the South. Judah.

And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.

He was David-like. He even restored gold to the temple!

He didn’t quite get rid of all of the false worship in Judah, but he seemed to really try. And his heart was fully committed.

That’s what God is looking for.

Is your heart fully committed to the LORD?

One way you can tell is if you do hard things because they’re the right things.

I think that verse 13 shows us just how committed Asa was.

I mean he kicked his own grandmother out of the palace because she had set up an “repulsive” Asherah pole.

She didn’t get the “family exception” to the rules.

“Sorry, Grandma. You’ve got to go!”

Asa is at least 1 and half thumbs up.

He’s not perfect, but he’s faithful.

He hates idolatry. He loves the one true God.

He did his one job.

Now, he wasn’t always wise. In fact, the book of Chronicles tells us a lot more about his mistakes. He had plenty. Compared to David he wasn’t that great.

But compared to Jeroboam, he was amazing.

“[Asa] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.”

And that’s where it counts.

How about you?

Are you doing hard things because they are the right things?

Are you cleansing yourself of idols?

Remember, in the eyes of the LORD, idols are (v.13) repulsive.

I’m sure you don’t have Asherah poles, but what are you tempted to worship that is not God Himself?

When it takes God’s place, it is repulsive to him. Abhorrent, detestable, repugnant.

We need to be purging ourselves of those kind of idols.

To doing right in the eyes of the Lord.

Now in verse 16, it tells us a little more about Asa’s kingdom. V.16

“There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns [we’ll find out more about him in just a second.] Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah. [This is that same civil war. And Ramah is just 5 miles north of Jerusalem. So the north has really encroached on the territory of the south. But Asa has a plan. V.18]

Asa then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the LORD's temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus.

‘Let there be a treaty between me and you,’ he said, ‘as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you a gift [literally, “a bribe”] of silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.’

Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maacah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali. When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and withdrew to Tirzah.

Then King Asa issued an order to all Judah–no one was exempt–and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using there. With them King Asa built up Geba in Benjamin, and also Mizpah.”

Now, I want to get on to the other kings, but this shows us, I think, that Asa was not perfect. He made the mistake of trusting in Gentile kings and he lost money and territory in the bargain. And the book of Chronicles tells us more about what mistake he made.

But that’s encouraging to me, kind of, because I make mistakes, too. I make errors. And I sin. But I want to be faithful. And I love it that the banner over Asa’s life was a “thumbs-up.” It’s verse 11. “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” v.23

“As for all the other events of Asa's reign, all his achievements, all he did and the cities he built, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? In his old age, however, his feet became diseased. Then Asa rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the city of his father David. And Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king.”

Now, we won’t return to the souther kingdom and their amusingly named king until the very last chapter of 1 Kings.

Instead, we’re going to turn our focus for the next several chapters to the action in the northern kingdom of Israel.

And unfortunately, the kings up there aren’t so very thumbs-up as Asa was.

If you remember, the king of the northern kingdom was named Jeroboam. And he as two thumbs down. He set up false worship in his kingdom. He invented his own way of doing worship with golden calves in the north and the south, Dan and Bethel.

And last week, the prophet had announced his downfall.

And the downfall of his entire line.

Remember that?  Ahijah. The same prophet who had predicted his rise, prophesied of his fall and the death of his entire family.

Well, here is his oldest surviving son and he is the new king. Nadab. V.25

“Nadab son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. [How’d he do?] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of his father and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

#2. DOING EVIL IN THE EYES OF THE LORD.

Two thumbs down.

And he went down. Like a rock. V.27

“Baasha son of Ahijah of the house of Issachar plotted against him, and he struck him down at Gibbethon, a Philistine town, while Nadab and all Israel were besieging it. Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king.

As soon as he began to reign, he killed Jeroboam's whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of the LORD given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite–because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger.”

Sad isn’t it? And interesting.

Abijah’s line continues because of David. Nadab’s line ends because of Jeroboam.

Because they did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

In a word, idolatry.

Those are the sins that Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit.

And notice how God feels about it?  He is provoked.

His anger is stoked.

You know we don’t like to think of God having feelings. Caring about things.

But the Bible says that the LORD is a person. He cares about things.

He cares about the right things! But He cares about them deeply.

Including His glory. He is not happy if His glory goes to an idol.

It provokes Him. Rightly! Justly. Perfectly. But dangerously.

In the eyes of the LORD, idolatry is not just repulsive, it’s angering. It’s provoking. It arouses God’s wrath.

And Nadab and his family felt that wrath. V.31.

“As for the other events of Nadab's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns.

In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king of all Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. [How did Baasha do? Any better? V.34] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

He wasn’t related to Jeroboam! He had killed Jeroboam’s family! But he didn’t kill Jeroboam’s worship system.

So it’s all over again.

See what I mean about a broken record playing a sad song on skip? Chapter 16, verse 1.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu son of Hanani against Baasha [a new prophet]: ‘I lifted you up from the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, but you walked in the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to provoke me to anger by their sins.

So I am about to consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.’

[And that’s about it.] As for the other events of Baasha's reign, what he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?  Baasha rested with his fathers and was buried in Tirzah. And Elah his son succeeded him as king. Moreover, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Jehu son of Hanani to Baasha and his house, because of all the evil he had done in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger by the things he did, and becoming like the house of Jeroboam–and also because he destroyed it.”

He had been sinning even as he was accomplishing the will of the LORD.

Do you see how this a broken record?

New king, old sins, dies. New king, old sins, dies.  Lather, Rinse. Repeat.

And I think that God is saying something in that.

I think that He’s saying that idolatry and sin is basically boring.

Sin promises all kind of exciting stuff, but it never really delivers.

The really exciting, awesome parts of this book happen when godliness is popping.

We’ll see that in a few weeks with the prophet Elijah.

But this stuff with bad kings doing bad things? It’s boring. Idolatry never lives up to its promises.

The end of that road is always death.

Same old, same old death.

V.8 “In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel, and he reigned in Tirzah two years. Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the man in charge of the palace at Tirzah.

Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded him as king. As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha's whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu–because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.

“Worthless idols.”

That’s interesting. Isn’t it?

In the eyes of the LORD, idols are not just repulsive and provoking, they are also worthless.

Banal. Empty. Vain. Meaningless.

Is that how we see idols?

Idols present themselves as valuable.

If you worship me, I’ll give you this. And more of this!

Right?

What your idols?

Popularity? Money? Possessions? Productivity? Entertainment? Achievement? Pleasure?

Or the things that give you those things?

What do they promise you?

They promise the world, but they don’t deliver. They are worthless.

Zero.  Less than nothing.

...In the eyes of the LORD.

V.14  “As for the other events of Elah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned in Tirzah seven days. [Seven days. That’s all he made it. He assassinated the king to become the king and it lasted for a whole week.] The army was encamped near Gibbethon, a Philistine town.

When the Israelites in the camp heard that Zimri had plotted against the king and murdered him, they proclaimed Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that very day there in the camp.

Then Omri and all the Israelites with him withdrew from Gibbethon and laid siege to Tirzah. When Zimri [the king] saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him [suicide]. So he died, because of the sins he had committed, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD and walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in the sin he had committed and had caused Israel to commit.

As for the other events of Zimri's reign, and the rebellion he carried out, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

Then the people of Israel were split into two factions; half supported Tibni son of Ginath for king, and the other half supported Omri. [That’s why I said “8.5" kings today. Because for a while there were 2 rival kings in the north.] But Omri's followers proved stronger than those of Tibni son of Ginath. So Tibni died and Omri became king.

[What kind of king was he? Well, actually a pretty successful one. V.23]

In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. [But he set up a new capital.]

He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill.

But Omri did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him.

He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.”

Omri was two thumbs down.

He was actually 3 thumbs down.

Nadab was two thumbs down.
Baasha was two thumbs down.
Elah was two thumbs down.
Zimri was two thumbs down.
Tibni if he was truly a king was two thumbs down.

But Omri (v.25) “sinned more than all those before him.”

What’s fascinating to me is that by most worldly markers, Omri was a good leader.

He built a thriving kingdom. We know this because of history. The history of the kingdoms around Israel tell us that Omri was really successful at building a booming kingdom.

He was kind of like David. He fought and won wars. He built a new capital. He established good relationships with his neighbors.

For many decades after he died, they called Israel the land of Omri.

It’s in the history books!

But in the eyes of the LORD, Omri was a failure.

Isn’t that a cautionary tale?

That we could have the world by the tail, but miss what is most important.

What did Jesus say?

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

It doesn’t matter what the world thinks.
It doesn’t matter what your reputation is.
What matters is what God thinks.
Omri was very successful and did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

And that’s the verdict of his life that stands.

More evil than anyone before him, provoking the LORD, to anger by his worthless idols. V.27

“As for the other events of Omri's reign, what he did and the things he achieved, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Omri rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son succeeded him as king.”

One last king to introduce today. He’ll actually be the king from here to the end of the first book.

And he’s the worst so far. V.29

“In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.

Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.

In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.”

This guy is the worst so far.

He’s like 4 thumbs down!

Doing evil in the eyes of the LORD. More evil than anyone before him.

It’s like it was a contest.

Oh, that’s nothing. Get out of the way. See how bad I can be!

Outdoing each other with evil.

Not just a golden calf or two like Jeroboam. That’s nothing! Child’s play.

Let’s get some fertility gods in here.

Let’s get some Baal worship going down.

Let’s marry a Baal priestess princess!

You thought those other idols were repulsive?

I’ll get one of those Asherah poles, too.

And I’ll authorize a guy to rebuild Jericho.

Never mind that God said that you shouldn’t do it.

And if you did, you’d lose your sons.

“The Word of the LORD.”

Ooooh.

“Ahab...did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

And you know that there will be consequences.

It may not be immediate.

I’m sure that he felt like he was getting away with it.

That’s what we do when we’re sinning and running.

But God cares.

He is watching.

And He is not neutral.

He is provoked. His anger is stoked.

These repulsive, worthless idols have provoked Him to anger.

And He will do something about it.

What is the application of all this?

God cares how we live.

God is looking at our hearts.

God wants our whole hearts.

He wants us to have a heart for His heart. Like David.

God wants us to put away our idols and worship Him alone.

He wants us to see idols the way He sees them: repulsive and worthless and boring and destructive. And angering.

And He wants us to see that He is in control of history.

This may all look like it’s out sliding downward out of control, but He’s actually managing every step of the descent.

He’s maintaining a lamp in Judah because of David but taking Israel down because of Jeroboam.

And what’s most important is what’s going on IN HIS EYES.

It’s a broken record for a reason.

Because we need to hear the lesson of this sad song.

Which way are you going?

Doing right? Or doing evil?

What do you need to repent of?

Where do you need to make a 180 degree turn?

You know we’ve said this again and again, but when the kings are at their best, they remind us of Jesus.

Asa reminds us of Jesus.
Jesus was perfect!
He did what was right in the eyes of His father 100% of the time.

Praise God!

But when these kings are at their worst, and we’re starting to get to the bottom of the bucket, they remind us why we need Jesus.

Because, left to ourselves, we do evil in the eyes of the LORD.

And we need a Savior to come and rescue us.

These two broken record chapters show us our desperate need for King Jesus to save us.

And praise the Lord; that’s what He came to do.

***

Group Discussion Questions

1. Review. It’s been a while since we met to discuss the messages in this series on the Books of Kings. What have you been learning the last several weeks? What has really stood out to you?

2. Read 1 Kings 15:1-24. Why is the phrase “in the eyes of the LORD” so important in this book? Why should it be important to you and me today?

3. Which kings are examples of doing what is right in the eyes of the LORD?  What did they do that was so good? What can we learn from their examples?

4. Skim your eyes over 1 Kings 15:25-1 Kings 16:34. Which kings are examples of doing evil in the eyes of the LORD? What did they do that was so bad? What can we learn (negatively) from their examples?

5. What did you pick up from these two chapters about how God thinks and feels about idols? What are modern day idols that people struggle with? What are idols you are tempted to worship? Why? What does it look like, in practical terms, to purge these idols from our lives today?

6. What do we learn about Jesus from 1 Kings 15 and 16? How is He prefigured?

7. What is your biggest takeaway from this “broken record stuck on a sad, sad song” this week? How can we pray for each other?


***

Messages in this Series:
01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom

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