1 Kings 15 (NIV)
Abijah King of Judah
The two new kings whom we meet in 1 Kings 15 represent, respectively, the two main kinds of kings we will read about during the age of Judah’s kings. On the one hand, we have the wicked Abijah, who “walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father” (1 Kgs. 15:3). Then, on the other hand, we have Asa, who “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done.…the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days” (1 Kgs. 15:11, 14). These stories are not merely historical trivia—the biblical narrator has much deeper theological principles to teach us.
In Abijah, we read a description of what will become a pattern for Judah’s wicked kings. Abijah walks in the sins of his father, Rehoboam, rather than obeying Yahweh with a whole heart as David had done (1 Kgs. 15:3). Just as Israel’s kings all drag the northern ten tribes down toward their eventual exile at the hands of the Assyrians, so kings like Rehoboam and Abijah pave the way for Judah’s exile into Babylon.
In Asa, however, we find hope that Yahweh can raise up another king after his own heart. It is important to understand, however, that Yahweh provides godly kings to his people not out of obligation but out of grace. The critical line for understanding the theology of the books of Kings comes in 1 Kings 15:4–5: “Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”
Justice would have required Yahweh to wipe out Judah at the first sign of kings like Rehoboam and Abijah, but Yahweh nevertheless remembers the covenant he had promised David, and so he remains faithful to his people for the sake of David, his servant.
Ultimately, this covenant logic takes on more importance as we see Yahweh continue to be faithful to his people, even now. It is not because we deserve God’s kindness that we continue to receive the gracious provision of a godly ruler. Instead, it is that God treats us kindly for the sake of the Son of David, Jesus Christ. No matter what sins we have committed or what idols we surround ourselves with, Jesus Christ stands ready through sheer grace to save his people and to preserve them for the day when he will return to establish his kingdom on this earth.
–Jacob D. Gerber
1 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king of Judah, 2 and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom.
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.
This was the real problem with Abijam’s reign — his lack of a real personal relationship with God. What choice are we making and displaying day by day with the words we speak and the things we do?
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. 5 For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.
6 There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam throughout Abijah’s lifetime.
2 Chronicles 13 (we will read this chapter tomorrow) fills in more interesting details about the reign of Abijah. It tells us how there was war between Jeroboam of Israel and Abijah of Judah, and how Abijah challenged Jeroboam on the basis of righteousness and faithfulness to God. Jeroboam responded with a surprise attack, and victory seemed certain for Israel over Judah — but Abjiah cried out to the Lord, and God won a victory for Judah that day. 2 Chronicles 13:18 says of that war, Thus the children of Israel were subdued at that time; and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord God of their fathers.
7 As for the other events of Abijah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 8 And Abijah rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. And Asa his son succeeded him as king.
Asa King of Judah
9 In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, 10 and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother’s name was Maakah daughter of Abishalom.
11 Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done.
“His father David” is actually Asa’s great-great-grandfather. In Hebrew, “his father” is a term which can be used to mean ancestor, a loose use of the word, according to our Western minds.
12 He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. 13 He even 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 and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 14 Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life. 15 He brought into the temple of the LORD the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.
Finally a good king for Judah! Asa banished prostitutes from worship, removed his idolatrous grandmother from the throne, and burned the idols. He also restored the silver and gold items to the temple. He is off to a good start, doing right in the Lord’s eyes!
16 There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns. 17 Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.
18 Asa then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the LORD’s temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 19 “Let there be a treaty between me and you,” he said, “as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you a gift of silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.”
But here he falters. Asa used this treasure to buy the favor of Ben-Hadad of Syria, so that he would withdraw support from Israel. Apparently, Baasha of Israel could not stand against Judah by himself – he needed the backing of Syria. And evidently Asa did not trust God enough to rely on the Lord’s protection for Judah.
20 Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maakah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali. 21 When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and withdrew to Tirzah. 22 Then King Asa issued an order to all Judah—no one was exempt—and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using there. With them King Asa built up Geba in Benjamin, and also Mizpah.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (New Living Translation)
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
2 Chronicles 16 says that the Lord was not pleased with Asa for relying on the king of Syria for relief, rather than turning to God. So it seems that Asa started well, but did not finish well.
Eugene Peterson wrote a book on discipleship called, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” The title is actually a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche who wrote, “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is . . . that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”
The Bible speaks of “a long obedience in the same direction,” calling it steadfastness, or faithfulness, or perseverance. It means to hang in there, through it all, to the end. As Asa, it seems, did not quite do. We understand, do we not? God grant us all grace to render him a long obedience, and God give us mercy when we do not.
23 As for all the other events of Asa’s reign, all his achievements, all he did and the cities he built, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? In his old age, however, his feet became diseased. 24 Then Asa rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the city of his father David. And Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king.
“When It’s All Been Said and Done” sung HERE by Don Moen.
Nadab King of Israel
25 Nadab son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 26 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the ways of his father and committing the same sin his father had caused Israel to commit.
27 Baasha son of Ahijah from the tribe of Issachar plotted against him, and he struck him down at Gibbethon, a Philistine town, while Nadab and all Israel were besieging it. 28 Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king.
29 As soon as he began to reign, he killed Jeroboam’s whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of the LORD given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. 30 This happened because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel.
This was the end of the dynasty of Jeroboam, the man who made Israel to sin by building idols for them to worship. Had Jeroboam remained obedient to the Lord, God promised him a lasting dynasty like the house of David (1 Kings 11:38). Because of Jeroboam’s sin, though he enjoyed a long reign, his son only reigned two years before assassination of Nadab and the murder of all Jeroboam’s descendants.
“Thus God made use of one wicked man to destroy another” (Clarke).
31 As for the other events of Nadab’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 32 There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns.
Baasha King of Israel
33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king of all Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. 34 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the ways of Jeroboam and committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit.
Who is surprised? He assassinated his way to the throne.