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The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
by Dave MillerIn our last lesson we were talking about David and his life, and how he did so well during those early chapters of II Samuel. But after his sin in chapter 11, the rest of the book is downhill. He brought into his life all sorts of grief, heartache and anguish as a direct consequence of his violation of Godís will with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband.
David so desperately wanted to provide God with a permanent worship site. At Mt. Sinai, when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God gave them instructions about the preparation of a tent, a portable worship site, that could be taken down and transported to the next location. They continued to have this particular structure for all of those centuries. But David wanted to build a permanent worship site, the Temple, in the capital city of Jerusalem. God said, "No, you have been a man of war. You have shed lots of blood. I am going to reserve that privilege for your descendent." II Samuel comes to a close giving us a collection of incidents, non-chronologically arranged, in the life of David that further showed the consequences of his sin. One of those was the taking of a census, which he was not supposed to have done. He took a census of the military, no doubt pridefully to examine his might and his attainments. Therefore God punished him. Thatís how II Samuel comes to a close.
Then we move into the book of I Kings. I and II Kings are actually one book in the Hebrew Bible, in the same way that Samuel is one book. Kings is one book, and Chronicles is one book, originally from the pen of the Holy Spirit. When we move into I Kings, we see the successor to David. The first king over Israel was Saul. The second king over Israel was David. Now Davidís son, Solomon, comes to the throne upon the death of David. Other books in the Old Testament that come from Davidís life in II Samuel would be probably about half of the Psalms that we have in the book of Psalms. He was called the sweet singer of Israel. There were a number of poems that could be used for musical or singing purposes and David wrote a great many of those Psalms.
In the first eight or nine chapters of I Kings we have recorded the life of Solomon. We find this young man being very favored by God. In fact, some have called this period of Israelite history the Golden Age of Israel. God spoke to Solomon and said, "You can make a wish and I will fulfill that wish--whatever you might ask". Solomon made the request for a "discerning heart". We call that "wisdom". Solomon was asking God to give him keen insight into the human condition and the human predicament. God was so impressed with that very unselfish request that He said, "Most men would have asked for money or fame and fortune. But because you made this incredible choice of wisdom, I will grant your request. At the same time I will give you all these other things that most people would have asked for." If you donít think that is true, all you have to do is read those early chapters of I Kings and youíll see that Solomon was unrivaled not only in his day but for that matter in our day.
Solomon amassed a tremendous fortune, exerted tremendous influence in the realm of economics, and demonstrated tremendous prestige and influence in the political realm. Solomon distinguished himself in all of those things. I sat down one time and tried to calculate merely the money that came into his possession, and weíre talking millions and billions of dollars. Solomon also excelled in academics. He was an intellectually sophisticated individual. He was an ornithologist. He studied and categorized birds. He was a botanist. He studied plants and identified various species. He was very heavily involved in agricultural attainment. There are several chapters spent here by God, telling us these incredible human accomplishments that Solomon achieved. There are several other books of our Old Testament which Solomon wrote. He wrote the Song of Solomon which talks about the bliss and the beauty and the wholesome holiness of married love. It is a fascinating book of the Old Testament, largely neglected. He wrote most all of the Proverbs listed in our book of Proverbs demonstrating his incredible wisdom.
The queen of Sheba came from some distance to check on this man because she had heard reports about him. When she came and saw his wealth and listened to his wisdom she said, "The half has not been told." She thought she couldnít believe the stories she had heard. But she said, "They havenít even told me half of the truth on this matter." Solomon extended his influence over a significant part of the world and accomplished a great deal because of his commitment to God. One incident, for example, concerned two mothers arguing over who was the mother of a child. He said, "Weíll just cut the child in half, and give each one of you half and thatíll settle this discussion." Of course, the real mother said, "Oh please donít do that. Just go ahead and give the child to this other woman." People marveled at the ability of Solomon to work with human circumstances. He was an incredible man.
Solomon also wrote the twelve chapters of the book of Ecclesiastes. Here is an incredible treatise on the meaning of human existence and life. He begins by using certain expressions that are reiterated over and over in the book. For instance, the expression "under the sun" means life on this planet among human beings engaged in lifeís activities apart from God; human pursuits without spiritual insight from God. He uses the expression "vanity" in the Kings James version, or "futility" or "meaninglessness", depending upon your version. He uses that term again and again to describe human beings who have separated themselves from God and awareness of spiritual reality. Theyíre just going after the physical things of life. Theyíre trying to amass wealth. Theyíre trying to get wisdom or human understanding, educational attainments, whatever humans might pursue. He says, "This is vanity. This is meaningless. It is futility if it doesnít take God into account."
The third expression that he uses thatís reiterated over and over is the expression "a chasing after the wind". What he means by that is that most human beings are busy living life, pursuing their own interests, their own appetites, fanning their fleshly passions, thinking, "I want this. I want that." They think that what will make them happy is to fulfill their fleshly desires. Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, pronounces such pursuits as a mere "chasing after the wind". You might just as well go outside and try to grab a handful of air. Itís that wasteful. Itís that futile to approach life in that fashion.
As we read through the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon listed one tremendous pursuit or accomplishment after another. He talked about academic attainment. We noticed in I Kings how he had gone into several disciplines, several fields of study. He talked about the accumulation of wealth. He talked about things like pursuing sexual desire. Look how much our country, our own nation, is crazed with interest in sexual activity. Itís in movies at the cinema. Itís on television now. Our society is eaten up with a preoccupation with illicit sexual activity. Solomon talked about that. He talked about great feats of labor, great attainments of work. One thing after another that humans in life go after that he himself went after. He said, "I did not deny myself anything. Whatever my eyes wanted thatís what I went after, whatever I desired."
He even stressed the concept of youthfulness that is so pertinent to our society today. Turn to Ecclesiastes 11 and read the last four or five verses on into chapter 12, where in the first eight or ten verses he described the onset of age and what it does to the body. It makes our eyes start failing. We canít see as good as we used to. We canít hear as good as we used to. Weíre a little bit shaky in our framework, our body parts. He described all this in detail. His point was that so many people are grasping after youthfulness. Doesnít that describe our society? Think of all of the cosmetics and the exercise programs that are advertised constantly on television in which people are trying to sustain their youthful vigor as long as possible. For some people that is their lifeís goal. Thatís what they are focused on. Thatís what life means to them. There is no expense which they spare, no amount of time, to try to hang on to youth. Solomon said youíre wasting your time. You cannot stop old age from coming on. Itís inevitable. In chapter 12:1 of Ecclesiastes he said, "You need to remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before old age sets in, and you are not able to devote your bodily ability to living for God like you were when you were young."
As he brings that twelve chapter treatise to a close, in chapter 12:13 and 14, here is his conclusion. In essence he is saying throughout this book, "I have seen it all. I have had it all. I have done it all. Thereís no one on this planet that has received or accumulated or attained more than me." He said, "Let me tell you the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commands. This is the whole of man." The King James version actually inserts the word "duty". "This is the whole duty of man." But it really needs to be removed. Itís not in the original. Solomon was saying this is manís all. That is, this is what human existence is about. This is why people are on this planet taking up space, breathing Godís air. People have been placed on this planet by divine design for the singular purpose of living life to please God--living life in view of what the Bible says. There is no other purpose in life, and all other pursuits that we might be involved in--the accumulation of food and clothing for our families, employment, and so forth--all of these are to be undertaken in view of God. If youíre just living life and doing the material physical things that you do just to benefit self, and there is no higher purpose, then life is truly meaningless. It is a mere chasing after the wind. But if these pursuits are authorized by God, and they are undertaken in view of Godís will and accomplishing His purposes in pointing other people to Jesus Christ, then life is very meaningful and we understand then why we were placed on this planet. That is the meaning of life: Living life in compliance with the will of the God of the universe.
Back in I Kings in the first ten or eleven chapters we see the reign and the life of Solomon. He brought the nation of Israel probably to its highest point, its climax. After the dark ages of the period of judges there was the monarchy, with Saul, David and now Solomon. The nation had reached its peak. The nation of Israel had reached its highest level of attainment, physically, materially as well as spiritually. But in chapter twelve of I Kings things take a turn. Solomon surely should have learned from the mistakes of his father. But chapter 11 informs us that he made marital decisions that caused him to be influenced adversely religiously. He was getting up in years. Heíd accomplished many wonderful things. But he made these choices in terms of marriage and the women he selected that affected his heart. He violated Godís will in having multiple marriages (Deuteronomy 17:17). The king was not to multiply to himself many marriages. He allowed these women to influence him religiously in the wrong direction. God spoke to Solomon in I Kings 11 and He said, "Because of what you have done, the nation will be torn apart, torn asunder. I will await this occurrence. I will allow this occurrence to take place, not in your lifetime, but in the lifetime of your son." Lest you think that Solomon did not have to reap what he had sown, read the rest of I Kings 11. He, himself, experienced heartache and calamity and difficulties that haunted him for the rest of his reign and for the rest of his life.
We then come to I Kings 12. Solomonís son sits down upon the throne of the nation and takes over the monarchy. His name is Rehoboam. He is not on the throne very long before Godís prediction made to his father, Solomon, comes to pass. Rehoboam listened to the advice of some of the younger generation, rather than the seasoned advice of the older generation. He, therefore, implemented certain political decisions that created a politically unstable atmosphere. In fact the people of the nation, the various tribal groups, became so disenchanted that they were restless with their current king. That set up a scenario in which conditions were ripe for rebellion.
There was a man named Jeroboam who was in exile in Egypt for a number of years where he had been forced to flee from Solomon. He heard that Solomon was dead. He returned from Egypt and began working among the tribal groups to capitalize on this restless situation. Jeroboam managed to convince ten of the twelve tribes of Israel to side with him against the rightful king, Rehoboam. This split the nation in two just as God predicted would be the case when He spoke to Solomon.
Jeroboam took charge of ten of the twelve tribes, the ten northern tribes of Palestine. Theyíre known from this point forward as Israel, or Samaria, depending upon the context. This refers to the ten northern tribes in the land of Canaan. As you read through the rest of I and II Kings, you find out that this northern kingdom lasted for just over two centuries. They had a string of nineteen kings during this two hundred plus year period of history. But the inspired writer of the book of Kings pronounced upon every single one of those northern kings this statement, "He did evil in the sight of the Lord." Every one of those nineteen kings were said to be wicked men who departed from Godís ways, involved themselves idolatry, and led the nation under them to greater heights of wickedness than their predecessor.
God finally had His fill of the northern kingdom. He sent them prophets. He sent them first Amos and then Hosea. These two prophets went to the northern kingdom and pronounced judgments against them, admonished them to repent and to get right with God. But they would not listen. That two hundred year history came to an end with God sending the Assyrian monarch, Shalmaneser, down into northern Palestine. The world power of the day was the Assyrian empire. God had sent Assyria a prophet, too. He sent Jonah to the capital city of the Assyrian empire, which was Nineveh. Jonah preached against that city and urged them to straighten up and, believe it or not, they did. They lasted another couple of hundred years before their own empire collapsedódescribed by Nahum.
Shalmaneser besieged Samaria but he died before he completed his military incursion against the northern kingdom. He was succeeded in Assyrian history by a usurper to the Assyrian throne, Sargon. He finished what Shalmaneser started. He toppled resistance when he proceeded with invasion of the northern kingdom, and brought the entire ten northern tribes under submission and Assyrian subjugation. He left a few colonists in the northern kingdom to mix with some imported peoples from other places. The mixed race that resulted was known as the Samaritans, which we find in the New Testament on a number of occasions. For example, in John 4 Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well.
All the rest of the northern kingdom of Godís people were carried off into Assyrian captivity. For all practical purposes thatís all the Old Testament has to say about ten-twelfths of Godís people. Isnít that tragic? These people had an opportunity to live life in the promised land in accordance with Godís will. He said, "If you will, Iíll perpetuate your existence in this land indefinitely into the future." But they rebelled against God. They refused to listen to the prophets. The kings did what Samuel predicted the kings would do, all the way back in I Samuel 8. The people went along with their evil kings and God finally said, "Thatís it. I am going to bring to a close my dealings with the ten northern tribes of Israel." Thatís tragic!
The southern kingdom from this point forward is known as Judah. It consisted of the two southern most tribes of Judah and Benjamin. In our next lesson we will discuss very briefly the outcome of this group of people. They came off somewhat better than the northern kingdom and lasted somewhat longer. God worked with them for a longer period of time. He sent a number of prophets that are listed in our Old Testament books. Weíll go over those various prophets as quickly as possible in order to show you how this Bible history fits into the close of the Old Testament. Keep in mind that throughout the period of the Old Testament God is continuing to work out His ultimate intention to bring Jesus Christ into the world. Weíll study that in the next lesson.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve