(26) Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done – 1 Kings 15:11

1 and 2 Kings tell the story of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah while 1 and 2 Chronicles give a parallel account of this period. 1 Chronicles starts with a list of names, genealogies of the people of Israel from Adam through to the time of the exile. It then deals with the lives of David and Solomon before giving an account of the kings of Judah. It does not deal with the northern kingdom of Israel other than when it impinges on life in Judah. They are written from a priestly perspective and so pay much more attention to worship at the temple. It is from 1 Chronicles that we learn the detail of the musicians that David appointed to worship in Jerusalem after he brought the ark of the covenant there.

As we have already seen, in the New Testament, the Old Testament is referred to as “The Law and the Prophets”. The Prophets encompass all the books after the five books of the Law including what we have been calling the History books. The reason for this is that they are not simply recording historical facts – although we have no cause to doubt their accuracy as the evidence for them from archaeology and other sources is very strong – but are recorded from God’s perspective. We tend to think of prophecy as predicting the future, but to be a prophet means to speak on God’s behalf. When Moses told God that he felt inadequate to speak to Pharaoh, God told him that his brother Aaron would be his ‘prophet’, meaning his spokesman (see Exodus 7:1). So, alongside the prophets who spoke words from God in the towns of Israel and Judah in this period, the historians who documented the history of the kings of Judah and Israel wrote from God’s perspective. And for each king they provide a statement which summarises his whole life from God’s perspective.

There were nineteen kings of Judah, plus one queen. Some were good, while others were bad. All the kings were descendants of David, so fulfilling God’s promise to have one of David’s line on the throne. There were nineteen kings of Israel. Some were bad, while others were worse! In Israel there were a number of dynasties as army captains deposed kings and took power for themselves. The two main ones were the dynasties of Omri and Jehu. Ahab was possibly the worst king of Israel. His introduction is that “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30). With his infamous wife Jezebel, a Sidonian princess, he did more than any other king to eradicate true worship of God and bring in full scale worship of the gods of Canaan.

The kings of Judah oscillated between good and bad. Rehoboam’s son Abijah “committed all the sins his father had done before him” (1 Kings 15:3) while Asa, Abijah’s son, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings 15:11). Each generation decided to follow or reject God, led by their king. Jehoshaphat, who was a contemporary of Ahab, was one of the best kings of Judah. He sought God’s guidance in battle and was victorious and he removed false worship from the land of Judah. When he died after a 25 year reign, his son Jehoram, who was married to Jezebel’s daughter, became king. He very quickly showed his true colours by killing all his brothers to secure his hold on the throne and bringing full scale Canaanite worship to Judah. Elijah the prophet wrote him a letter condemning his wickedness and predicting that he would suffer a long and lingering death. He suffered a disease of his bowels which ended after two years when they came out and he died in great pain. The final word on him was that “he passed away, to no one’s regret” (2 Chronicles 21:20). It is hard to imagine a worse epitaph!

The accounts of the kings give us much food for thought as we see the sweep of their lives summed up in a few lines. What will be said of us? Will it be that we did right in the eyes of God and our contemporaries or that we walked in our own ways?

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