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David's Dynasty

Date: Jan. 18, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

1 Kings 14:21-15:24

Key Verse: 1 Kings 15:4

“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.”

Dynasties have always intrigued me – I’ve stayed up many long nights reading about Chinese dynasties, Korean dynasties, even European dynasties. A dynasty is a line of succession, usually of a family, of rulers over a country. I find it quite fascinating how families successively govern kingdoms, the glory and splendor of kings, emperors and empresses, and sometimes even the power struggles between dynasties. What also fascinates me are their impacts on history, and the effects we experience in our lives today. The Zhou dynasty in China lasted around 789 years, and was the longest dynasty in Chinese history. Great philosophers, like Confucius and Lao Tzu, were born in this period.  The Tang Dynasty lasted around 289 years, and is regarded as one of the high points of Chinese civilization.  In Chicago, people here in Chinatown refer to themselves as “People of Tang.”  In Korea, one dynasty called the Joseon Dynasty lasted for 505 years, and in that dynasty King Sejong the Great oversaw the creation of the Korean alphabet.  In Great Britain, Prince William and Princess Kate are having another baby.   They do impact the world though, and show how much people are interested in the lives of royalty. They are of the House of Windsor, founded in 1917, and the reigning monarch is Queen Elizabeth II.

At the head of every dynasty is a ruler, but there is a king above every ruler in the world and in history. God is the king of kings and lord of lord, and he determines who reigns and how long they will be in power. We will see this as we look into King David’s dynasty, and see how God not only establishes rulers for his people, but also controls kings from other nations. King David was the ruler over Israel in around 1000 BC, and he was a special ruler for two reasons. First, he was the ruler of God’s chosen people. Out of all the nations in the world at that time, the one true God of all the universe only revealed himself to Israel. Second, David was given a very special promise. God said to him, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever (2 Sam 7:16).” There are some dynasties ruling today that have ruled for thousands of years, but no dynasty will last forever. Most dynasties from history have already ended.

Why do kingdoms fall? The great empires no longer exist. Kingdoms and dynasties usually fall by a shift of power. The Egyptian empire was once the mightiest nation on earth. Later the Assyrian empire rose up and conquered Egypt. Then Babylon rose up and conquered Assyria. Medo-Persia conquered Babylon, Greece conquered Persia, and the mighty Roman Empire conquered Greece. Later, the Roman Empire was conquered by a number of German tribes, and history continues. The power to conquer and maintain an empire comes from God, who decides who will rule according to his plan. This promise to King David was extraordinary. David even responded, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far (2 Sam 7:18)?” God gives and takes as he pleases. David’s descendants would anger God, but despite all that, God was patient and faithful to his promise.

King Solomon, David’s son and first successor, brought Israel to the height of its glory. He is known as the wisest king to ever rule, and his reputation and glory spread far and wide. In his great power and wealth, he denied himself nothing, and married 700 wives and 300 concubines. He loved many foreign women. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God. God became angry with Solomon, and declared, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates (1 Kings 11:11).”   As angry as God was, he remembered his promise to David so he did not do this to Solomon, but to Solomon’s son. And for David’s sake, he would leave only one out of the 12 tribes of Israel to his family. Here we can see God’s grace, because he certainly had the right to take the entire kingdom away.

The kingdom of Israel split into two during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, and that’s where our passage today begins. Look at v.21, “Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite.” The kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms – it split into Israel to the north, which was given to Jeroboam, and Judah in the south. Judah is where the House of David would continue to rule. The passage mentions twice (in v.21 and 31) that Rehoboam’s mother was an Ammonite. The Ammonites were enemies of God’s people. They did not worship the God of Israel, but worshipped Molek, an idol that required child sacrifice. The mention of Rehoboam’s mother gives us insight into two things – one, that Solomon disobeyed God by taking an Ammonite as his wife, and two, that she was a big influence in Rehoboam’s life and what he would do to Judah.

Look at v.22, “Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done.”   It’s interesting that the author says “Judah” did evil in the eyes of the Lord, not Rehoboam. Now you can see the impact of his sin. It wasn’t only Rehoboam’s sin, but he had caused the entire kingdom given to him to fall into grievous sin. They set up high places to worship pagan gods, and sacred stones and Asherah poles all over the country. The Bible says, “on every high hill and under every spreading tree,” were one of these poles. There were even male prostitutes to serve these pagan gods. Judah had plunged into greater depravity than Israel. Israel made a couple of golden calves to worship, but their worship was kind of a substitute for true worship. Judah, now, was full blown worshipping like the Canaanites.

This stirred up the jealous anger of God more than anyone before them. In the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign, God would send Shishak the king of Egypt to discipline them (2 Chron 12:2). Actually at this point in time, Egypt was declining in power and trying to regain some of its old glory. Shishak came with a campaign of 1200 chariots, 60,000 horsemen, and innumerable troops, trying to conquer cities. God was about to abandon Judah, but when the leaders of Israel and the king heard about this, they humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is just.” They acknowledged their sin, and their just punishment. When God saw that they humbled themselves, he held back the full wrath of Shishak’s from destroying them. Instead, he made them slaves to Egypt, so that they might learn the difference between serving God and serving other kings. This would be a harsh reminder of the hard times the Israelites had in Egypt hundreds of years ago, but this was God’s discipline. Now think about that: there is a difference between serving God, and serving other kings. Serving God, without a doubt, is much better.

Shishak attacked Jerusalem, but did not destroy it. Instead, he carried off the treasures of the temple and the royal palace, and all the gold shields Solomon had made. Rehoboam had made bronze shields to replace them. It was very costly to disobey the Lord, and the kingdom was declining. The size of the kingdom was reduced to less than a tenth of what it was, and the gold was now replaced with bronze.

After Rehoboam died, his son Abijah became the king of Judah. He is the great-grandson of King David. His mother’s name was Maakah, daughter of Abishalom. Not much is known about her now, but we will find out more about her when we get to Asa, Abijah’s son. He only reigned in Judah for 3 years. Look at v.3, “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.” Just as Rehoboam his father did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and provoked him to jealous anger, Abijah also displeased God. There was one notable achievement he made during his reign though, and that was subduing Jeroboam of the rival kingdom of Israel. 2 Chron 13 records this confrontation. Listen to what Abijah tells Jeroboam and all Israel, “But didn’t you drive out the priests of the Lord…As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord…We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him. God is with us; he is our leader...People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed (2 Chron 13:8-12).” These are strong words, and they seem like King Abijah and Judah were doing a good thing. What did Abijah do wrong?

First, let’s see how the battle played out. King Jeroboam brought 800,000 troops to confront King Abijah. King Abijah only had 400,000 troops. Those were some bold words. He was outnumbered 2:1. Jeroboam tried a sneaky maneuver, and divided his troops so that he could ambush King Abijah on two sides. When Judah saw the ambush they cried out to the Lord and the priest blew their trumpets. God came to the rescue, and delivered Judah. Judah was victorious because they relied on the Lord, and they inflicted 500,000 casualties on Israel. The tables had turned, and Judah had the advantage 4:3. King Jeroboam never recovered from that fight, and the Lord struck him down and he died.

So the question again is, what did Abijah do wrong? He trusted in God and brought about a great victory, and all of Judah was witness to what happened. The answer can be found in what Abijah did not do. The kings are judged primarily on how they lead God’s people to worship him, which is also influenced by how they themselves worship God. The kings were the rulers of the people of God, they had the highest authority and powers granted to them to direct God’s people in doing right, so it seems Abijah, like Rehoboam, tolerated the worship of idols. It’s not clear whether Abijah worshipped the idols himself, but as a king how can he say he is fully devoted and committed to God, but he lets idolatry continue in God’s kingdom.

Three successive generations now have led Judah to do evil in the eyes of the Lord: Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijah. What was their just punishment? If you look back at Ch. 14, in v.9-10, God says this to Jeroboam, the current king of Israel: “You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me. Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel – slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone.” Jeroboam was just the first generation in Israel to commit this sin. Rehoboam and Abijah have made Judah commit worse idolatry, going into all-out paganism.

God should have cut off David’s house at Rehoboam or Abijah, but they continue. Why? It’s because of God’s grace, and his promise to David. Can we all please read 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.” Solomon sinned. Rehoboam sinned. Abijah sinned – but what did God say? He said, “Nevertheless, for David’s sake.” On account of his promise to David, and in honor of his word, “Your house and your kingdom will endure before me,” God continued to raise sons for David. This is God’s grace. This is God’s mercy. This is God’s compassion – that he would deal with and discipline all of David’s sons, whether good or bad, to make good on his promise to David.

This is also God’s promise fulfilled in the second commandment, which reads, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex 20:4-6).” It’s interesting too, this commandment is in reference to idolatry. You see God’s word carried out absolutely here. He punishes the children to the third and fourth generation – but look at his lopsided grace: He shows love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. And that’s what he’s doing with David’s descendants – showing them love to the thousandth generation.

Look again at 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.” Why would God make Jerusalem strong? Because Jerusalem was the capital of God’s kingdom! It would be a light, a witness to the whole world about how to properly worship God. God gave no other nation this privilege. Back in 1 Kings 14:21, Jerusalem is called “the city the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name.” Jerusalem would be a testimony to the world about God, so God’s plan was to fortify it.

And fortify he did. Abijah only reigned 3 years. After his death, his son Asa became king, and he would reign in Jerusalem 41 years. Look at v.11, “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done.” Here is a good king. In contrast to Abijah, who was not like David, Asa was like him. Now Abijah had defeated Jeroboam and Israel’s army, so there was about 10 years of peace. What did Asa do during that time of peace? He did not go on vacation, nor did he lounge about. Instead, he removed the foreign altars and high places, he smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. Is that not what a king ought to do? He’s doing his job. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest. (2 Chron 14:2-6) Here is a wise king. Though it was peace time, he knew trouble may come again, so he bolstered his defenses. May this be an encouragement to you, that in your time of rest you may purify yourself, or strengthen the armor of God on you.

God also increased the size of his army, in at most 3 years. Abijah had 400,000 fighting men, but Asa had an army of 580,000. And indeed, trouble did come. Zerah the Cushite came out and marched against Judah. Cush was a kingdom just to the south of Egypt. This might have been another attempt at Egypt to gain some kind of glory – but this also seems like a test from the Lord. Zerah the Cushite came with thousands upon thousands (in some translations a thousand thousand, or a million) troops, and 300 chariots, and came as far as Mareshah, about 35 miles form Jerusalem. Judah was clearly outnumbered again. Asa went out to meet them, and took up battle positions. Look at what he says in 2 Chron 14:11, “Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.” Do not let mere mortals prevail against you! What happened next? The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah, and Judah pursued them another 30 or so miles and struck them down as they fled. They won a great victory that day and carried off a large amount of plunder.

Not long after, a prophet came to Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you…But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded (2 Chron 15:2,7)” Asa took courage at these words, and issued a reform for all of Judah and Benjamin. He assembled the nation together and addressed them, in the fifteenth year of his reign. They sacrificed 700 head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder. They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. They took an oath, saying, all who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was round by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side. King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it and burned it in the Kidron Valley. Some grandmothers are pretty powerful, this one happened to be a queen mother. But Asa honored God, and she worshipped an idol, so he had no choice but to depose her.

All seemed well, but sin again showed up. About a year later, Baasha, the king of Israel at this time, started to fortify Ramah. Many people were defecting to Judah from Israel, perhaps because they wanted to seek the one true God. Baasha wanted to fortify Ramah to prevent people from going back and forth, and also to create a stronghold against Jerusalem. It was only a few miles to the north. Asa saw this, and what did he do next? Did he call on the Lord? He did not. Instead, he took treasures from the Lord’s temple, and his own palace, and bribed Ben-Hadad, the ruler of Damascus. He said, “Let there be a treaty between me and you, as there was between my father and your father.” He bribed Ben-Hadad to break his treaty with Israel, and then to attack his cities, so that Baasha king of Israel would withdraw. That’s exactly what happened. Ben-Hadad began to attack the northern cities of Israel, and Baasha withdrew.

This did not please the Lord. God sent a prophet to tell him, “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped your hand…you have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war (2 Chron 16:9). This time, King Asa did not rely on the Lord. Why? We can only speculate. Perhaps he became proud after many victories. Perhaps he was fearful of Israel. Or maybe since it did not seem like an imposing threat, he would handle it himself. He also relied on a treaty his father had with Ben-Hadad, so perhaps there was the father’s influence there as well. In any case, he stopped relying on the Lord, and it seemed to have a downward effect. He issued a forced labor for all of Judah to come to Ramah, which Baasha had abandoned, and take those stones, and go and build up Geba and Mizpah. Unlike the time of peace, Asa had oppressed the people. At the end of his reign, in the last 2 years, God struck him with a foot disease, but we are told that even then, he did not look to the Lord, but relied on physicians to help him. Nevertheless, King Asa was considered a good and righteous king, for his commitment to the Lord. He worshipped the Lord wholeheartedly, he turned Judah back from idolatry, and he never went into it himself. This sin he committed, perhaps pride or unbelief, I believe is forgiven – but it is written here to show us that we are all sinners, even the best of us, in need of the grace and mercy of God.

Now what did these 5 kings have in common? What did King David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah and Asa have in common? They were all sinners – all of them. David's sin is mentioned in v.5, “except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” Solomon's heart turned to idols. Rehoboam and Abijah plunged Judah further into idolatry that resembled Canaanite worship. Even Asa fell into unbelief toward the end of his reign. Likewise, we are all sinners. All of the problems in the world are caused by sin: pride, greed, lust, envy, idol worship, even lack of worship. And what is the punishment for sin? It is death – we all die, death is the wages of sin. And not just physical death, but eternal death is the ultimate punishment – to be cut off from this world, and cut off from a holy, righteous and just God. God must punish sin, otherwise, he will not be a righteous or just God. Even the best of men are guilty of sin. We all sin, all sinners will be cut off from a holy and righteous God, and cast into the darkness of eternal death. Who can save us? Who can save us from death?

Ah, but look, there is hope! Dear brothers and sisters, look again at 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.” Nevertheless, God did not let his people descend into darkness. Nevertheless, God gave King David a lamp. In our sins, we can do nothing, and we cannot save ourselves. Nevertheless, God alone saves us. Though outnumbered 2 to 1, Abijah was delivered from Jeroboam, and though Asa's thousands were facing Zerah the Cushite's millions, God routed them. It was nothing they did, except to call on the Lord, but it was God alone who saved them. So it is also God alone who saves us. God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into this world, born as a descendant of King David. Jesus lived a perfect life – he fulfilled all God's commands, he did not sin, and he sacrificed himself for our sins. He took on the full punishment for our sins, so that we would be saved from the judgment of God. That's how God saves us – through Jesus Christ. He rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven – where he is crowned our King. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Son of David. God kept his promise to David, and now David's lamp shines forever in heaven. The light of the world is Jesus.

Notice now what pleased God. All of the kings of Judah were sinners, but they were judged by what they worshipped, or what they allowed to be worshipped. King Rehoboam led Judah into idolatry. King Abijah continued this trend. Even though Abijah had done good by faith against Jeroboam, he still tolerated and allowed idol worship in the Land. Here in Kings, Rehoboam and Abijah were not commended at all. But King David and King Asa were commended for their righteousness, even though their sins were mentioned. Why would their sins be mentioned? It was to show that their sins were still repulsive to God, and perhaps even a warning to let us know that God always hates sin. Yet, their sins were forgiven – which is also an encouragement to us. Our sins may be forgiven. Despite their sins, God was faithful, he was gracious and merciful. So all of the kings were sinners, but what was the difference between the two groups – the group that did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and the group that was seen as righteous? The difference was in their faith and commitment to God. King David and Asa worshipped God only. King David was a man after God's own heart. King Asa expelled and destroyed idol worship, leading Judah back to true worship. Let us purify our hearts, and make sure that we do not love anything more than God, and make sure we do not mix the worship of God with worshipping things of this world. Let us not tolerate anything that hinders our worship of God, and worship him only. May the then restore our love, our joy, our peace, our hope, and our resting in him.

So believe, believe now, and put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and God will save you from death. He will give you rest. You don't have to be perfect, because Jesus is perfect. Trust in Him, that Jesus has fulfilled all of God's commandments, for you, on your behalf. Trust in Christ, that all your sins are forgiven, and he will give you strength to live life to the full – in peace, love and true fellowship with God. You will be born again into the kingdom of God. Only God can save us, through Jesus Christ, that is why we only worship God, the eternal king of kings. The dynasty of David has returned. Actually, it began over 2,000 years ago. The eternal king is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of David. He reigns, both now, in the future, and forever. No other dynasty on earth will ever last this long, no other dynasty on earth will last forever. King David's dynasty lasted 400 years, then there was no king for around another 600 years, but after that, from David's descendants the eternal king has emerged. God kept his promise, and has established David's dynasty forever through his Son Jesus Christ. The kingdom of God is here, and our King will come again to take us to be with him forever.

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Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

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