There Is No Hope in Men–Thank God (Part 1)

  • Steve Hatter
Capitol building
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.”   (Proverbs 21:1–2) 

It is election season 2020 in America. Both the tensions and the stakes are high going into the first Tuesday in November. As Christians, we want leaders who reflect biblical values and who will protect our religious freedoms. Yet, as we consider responsibly voting, we may be tempted to discouragement, or even despair, in our ongoing crisis-upon-crisis national circumstances. We see exceedingly weak vessels vying to office, and we wonder what they will do to us?

However, biblical theology is the antidote to despair because we can see God consistently and faithfully at work through the arc of Scripture carrying out His salvation plan for mankind. The Old Testament Book of Kings provides a reassuring narrative that God is always in control and on schedule employing His amazing grace, despite the vagaries of good and bad human leaders. In this two-part blog, I want to show you how Yahweh worked in and through the raised-up kings of Israel to advance His highest plans, while also working providentially in the details of each man’s individual life, blessing and punishing according to their heart and deeds. This is how God always works, and it is amazing.

Kings narrated the tragedy of Israel’s post-Davidic monarchies. Yahweh judged the kings’ comprehensive sin—covering forty dynasties over a four-hundred-year period—by ultimately removing Israel and Judah from the Land (2 Kings:17, 24). Notably, the Kings account was as much a story of God’s prophets as recounting individual rulers and reigns. Yahweh’s elect confronted the royals with inspired prophetic evaluation. Through this agency, Yahweh advanced His larger plans for mankind’s salvation while also judging the hearts and specific choices of men in the historical moment. Most of the monarchs earned wrath, proving human kingship alone would always fall short as the means for Yahweh to fulfill His salvific promises. However, as Israel descended to spiritual nadir, Yahweh’s grace remained on display through prophetic revelations pointing to the need for Christ, who would be the promised human king, but also divine.

Part One will reveal the prophetic evaluation of Israel/Judah by first examining Solomon’s spiritual drift (1 Kings:11). Part Two, coming next week, will consider a representatively wicked king, Jeroboam, in contrast to one of the few good kings, Josiah (1 Kings 12–13; 2 Kings 22–23). We’ll end with a look at the parenthetic commentary found in 2 Kings 17:7–23. This commentary is the author’s—most likely the prophet Jeremiah—summary theological evaluation of the time of the kings.

Solomon—Wisdom, Wealth, Wives, and Military Might

Yahweh blessed Solomon with the throne of Israel, superior wisdom, historic achievement, and unprecedented wealth. Solomon had reason to think he was the prophetic king fulfilling the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam:7). Solomon saw himself as “the son of David, who would build a house for Yahweh’s name” (7:13). Solomon trusted Yahweh’s “steadfast love would not depart from him” (7:15–16). Therefore, he confidently accomplished much, including the spiritually vital project to build the Temple in Jerusalem and transport the ark of the covenant into its completed splendor (1 Kings 5, 6, 8).

However, First Kings 2, 3, 6, and 9 contained clear conditions regarding Yahweh’s approval of kings. Upon completing the Temple, God appeared to Solomon reiterating His expectations: walk in integrity and uprightness as David had modeled, and obey His commandments, keeping all statutes and ordinances (9:4). Heart-motivated total obedience was the necessary qualification for the Davidic Covenant fulfilling king. Failure to obey, or a turning to other gods, would bring calamity. Yahweh would cut Israel off from the Land and cast them out of His sight (9:7).

Solomon failed. Deuteronomy 17:14–20 provided Yahweh’s kingship boundaries that Solomon did not respect: the king was never to multiply horses for himself, cause the people to return to Egypt, multiply wives, or increase his wealth beyond God’s purposeful blessing. Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter for political advantage. Solomon pursued 700 marriages and 300 concubines, inviting many complications in accommodating their gods and entangling family connections. Solomon greatly increased wealth through political intrigue and taxation policies that led to many horses and military might. Yahweh’s judgment was certain: “I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant” (1 Kings 11:11).

Solomon received a sobering declaration, to be sure. We serve a mighty God who is righteous to judge. Yet, this same God is the God of grace who began His salvation plan for you and me long before Solomon’s failure. Next week we’ll look at a really bad king, in contrast to a pretty good king. In the meantime, resist the temptation to stress over the coming election. God IS in control.