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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 9/8/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

1 KINGS 16:23-34

23In the thirty-first year of King Asa of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel; he reigned for twelve years, six of them in Tirzah.

24He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver; he fortified the hill, and called the city that he built, Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill.

25Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; he did more evil than all who were before him. 26For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and in the sins that he caused Israel to commit, provoking the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols. 27Now the rest of the acts of Omri that he did, and the power that he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 28Omri slept with his ancestors, and was buried in Samaria; his son Ahab succeeded him.

29In the thirty-eighth year of King Asa of Judah, Ahab son of Omri began to reign over Israel; Ahab son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.

31And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, he took as his wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. 32He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33Ahab also made a sacred pole. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua son of Nun.

These narratives depict the Fall of the Davidic Dynasty. Most dynasties or empires  have an arc to their history. "The Rise and Fall of the _____ Empire" is the most common way of putting it. The dynasty that began with David rose quickly over two generations -- David's and Solomon's -- but the fall of the dynasty was slow, destructive, and filled with grievous sins.


The initial step in the dynasty's demise consisted of the splitting of Israel into a northern kingdom (usually called 'Israel') and a southern kingdom (usually called 'Judah'). The conflict among the tribes actually goes way back to the patriarch Jacob. Discord and disunity among the tribes were an ongoing struggle for the children of Israel. David's own son, Absalom, tried to split the kingdom. And Solomon's servant, Jeroboam, rebelled initially against Solomon and then later against Solomon's son, Rehoboam. Jeroboam succeeded in leading ten tribes against Rehoboam and David's dynasty. This became the northern "Israel." The two remaining tribes stayed committed to Rehoboam -- Judah and the smaller Benjamin, collectively known as "Judah."


The split and the destruction of Israel and then later of Judah were always tied to the kings' and peoples' disloyalty to YHWH. Disloyalty in the form of worshiping foreign gods (like Baal), political alliances with foreign powers, breaking of covenantal requirements, and the lack of hesed (love) for YHWH.


Unlike other empires of the Ancient Near East, the fate of Israel/Judah was entirely based on their walk with YHWH. The whole point of trusting in YHWH for Israel/Judah was to show that YHWH, the True Living God, was able to protect them and make them into a great nation. No other nation had this type of relationship with the Living God. 


However, Israel failed miserably in their relationship with YHWH. Hence, they failed miserably as a nation. They failed miserably in life.


The miserableness seems to come in degrees, given how two kings of Israel, Omri and Omri's son, Ahab, handled themselves. The text notes that Omri "did more evil than all who were before him" (v. 25). Not to be outdone, Omri's son, Ahab, is described as doing "evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him" (v. 30). The son beat out his father in doing evil! Surely nothing to brag about. But in a climate where doing evil was the norm, it's only reasonable that evil would grow worse. Evil as a power is active and progressive. Like bacteria, the nature of evil unchecked is to grow and spread. 


The only antidote to this spread is another kind of spread -- the spread of God's power and goodness. Here, too, a progression can be experienced. A deepening of goodness can occur. The power of good, let's call it the power of the Spirit, can take over and create a new climate -- for life and not death. When Elijah and Elisha come along, an intense spiritual battle will occur as the power of evil gets confronted with the power of good.


Let's pray: Father God, we pray for unity and concord among your people. Remove the discord and disunity in your church in these last days. We also pray for covenantal faithfulness in Christ. That we would live as true believers of the Risen Lord. We recognize the power of evil in our day, that it is spreading and threatening the lives of people around us and around the world. In the face of this reality, we ask you to increase our love for You and that you would anoint us with your power, presence, and holiness. In Jesus' name, amen.