By Marcus Herbert
20 September 2015 at Bedfordview AM
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Elijah. A man like us. A call like ours.
We’ve launched a new series on Elijah, who you can read about in Kings 1 and 2. Elijah was a normal person just like the rest of us and had a call just like we do. The Church is called to be God’s voice in this world. His name in Hebrew means “My God is Yahweh”. At one of Israel’s darkest hours, he comes to declare exactly what his name means, calling Israel back to their true God from idolatry.
There are many things we can learn from this man’s life that show us what God’s call is and how we can live it out. But the biblical narrative never leaves out the humanity and weaknesses of this prophet, which is also a great encouragement for us.
There is one book of Kings in the Hebrew Bible. Together they are a rich historical look at the kings of Israel and Judah from Saul to Zedekiah. Kings is history written for a distinct purpose and for a distinct people. Jeremiah is the strongest candidate for the author but authorship is open to question. The readers were supposed to read the history in these books and be moved by it. By focussing on the characters of the kings the book shows first-hand the purpose of God despite immense human failure. Most probably it was written to the exiles in Babylon to show them that God had not totally abandoned them.
Foremost on the minds of the original Hebrew readers would have been two promises from God: (1) that Jerusalem would be His dwelling place; (2) that David’s rule would last forever. In a place of exile the book seeks to restore faith to the nation by reminding the reader that God is faithful. Authors call it a theodicy – literature that seeks to justify God’s actions. In this case it shows that the exile was a result of Israel’s repeated disobedience.
The reader needs to note the history of the two kingdoms of Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Israel is made up of ten tribes and Judah of just two. Both Judah and Israel have 20 kings. Judah survives 140 years longer because of the good kings that reigned there.
Kings introduces us to some larger than life characters. Many of the kings are terribly wicked and some are wonderfully good. The book also introduces Elijah and Elisha to us. Elijah is on the stage of the rest of the Bible as a figure who represents the coming of the kingdom of God in victorious opposition to ruling wickedness. Ahab and Jezebel feature as figures of weakness and wickedness personified.
There are many lessons to learn in Kings for the individual and the church. Let the Holy Spirit show you these things.