Book of 1 Kings

Archaeologist Jeff Zorn believes these two quarried-out tunnels in the City of David may have once held the remains of the earlies Old Testament kings of ancient Jerusalem.

Here’s a Scripture trivia question: Who was the first person in the Bible to raise the dead, though he himself never died?

And though he’s the most frequently mentioned in Scripture, he didn’t write one word of the Bible.

The answer is Elijah – the rugged prophet who dominates much of 1 Kings.

The books of 1 and 2 Kings open with the story of how God blessed Israel during the days of Solomon, yet how the nation split apart and declined after Solomon’s death.

As you read 1 Kings, notice that chapters 1 through 11 describe the glory of Solomon’s reign, but the remaining chapters tell of the growing failures of the successive kings in both North and South.

Despite occasional lurches toward obedience, the priests, princes, and people of God spiraled downward like water through a drain until bot were wiped away by neighboring empires.

Copper mines found in Israel had been believed to have been built by the ancient Egyptians in the 13th century B.C.E., but actually originated three centuries later, during the reign of the legendary King Solomon.

Throughout the story, Elijah and his fellow prophets – men like Nathan, Ahijah, and Jehu – vainly called their nations to repentance.

God’s people today are still warning, cautioning, and proclaiming His message. At times, like Elijah, we see little outward success. But there’s never reason to be discouraged where God is concerned.

In reading 1 Kings, we learn that even the downward twists and turns of history serve the ultimate purposes of God, and the story of Elijah and his times reminds us that God is still on His throne as king of Israel and as Lord of all.

Key Thought:

The decline of Israel during and after the days of Solomon warns us of the dangers of complacency, but also teaches us to practice the boldness of Elijah.

Key Verse:

“And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself” (1 Kgs 2:3).

Key Action:

We must be as cautious in times of prosperity as in times of peril, lest we relax our guard as Solomon did and allow our spiritual passion to grow lukewarm.

 

Book of 2 Samuel

Career experts frequently tell us to follow our passion, but sometimes that’s the surest way to fail. Our passions can get us into a lot of trouble.

The letters in the inscription are written in ancient Canaanite script. This is the first discovery of the name Eshba’al on an ancient inscription in the country, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Eshba’al Ben Shaul ruled over Israel at the same time as King David. The name Eshba’al also appears in the Bible as a man who was murdered and decapitated by assassins who then sent his head to David in Hebron, the story goes.

It’s much better to follow God’s guidance every step of the way. That’s the lesson of the book of 2 Samuel, which is the story of David as king of Israel.

This book begins with David’s ascension to the throne. It goes on to describe his royal accomplishments and moral failures. At the end of the book we have his final words and deeds.

David was a shepherd who became the ruler of God’s people. His reign was a monarchy under a theocratic umbrella, one that established a line of kings culminating in the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

One of the themes of this book is the Davidic Covenant, which guarantees the perpetual nature of David’s dynasty leading to the Messiah, the Anointed King to come. Woven into the story is the theme of grace.

Despite David’s failures, God forgave him, continued the covenant, and worked it all for good because David was a man after God’s own heart.

Second Samuel is a prolonged warning about the subtle nature of our passions. Every day presents new temptations and dangers, as David encountered with Bathsheba.

We need God’s abiding wisdom, protection, and companionship. As we acknowledge His kingship over our lives, we have the promise that His hand will uphold us and that He will guide us every step along the way.

The 3,000-year-old jar was restored by researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority. The fact that the name was inscribed on jars suggests Eshba’al was an important person, possibly the owner of an agricultural estate.

Key Thought:

We must follow God’s guidance rather than our own passions, at every step.

Key Verses:

“And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant:

Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue forever before thee: for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed forever” (2 Sam 7:28-29).

Key Action:

Acknowledge God’s kingship in every area of life.

 

 

Book of 1 Samuel

Thomas Carlyle famously said: “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”

Many people dislike history, considering it nothing but cold facts, impersonal dates, and lists of events. But the lives of those who shaped history give us some of the richest stories in the world.

The Eshnunna Law Code dating to c. 1900 B.C.

God used the biographical method in giving us the story of Old Testament history, and 1 Samuel is a prime example.

It tells Israel’s story through the lives of three leaders: Samuel, Saul, and David.

Each life is a lesson for the rest of us, and the themes of I Samuel are for Christians in every station of life.

  • The first part of the book is devoted to the story of Samuel, the boyh who said, “Speak; for thy servant heareth,” (1 Sam 3:10), and the man who became the last of the judges of Israel.
  • The middle part of the book is about Saul, Israel’s first king, who started with great promise and ended with tragic sorrow.
  • The last part of the book centers on David, the youngest son in a shepherding family who became a man after God’s own heart.

As we read this book, it’s helpful to remember we’re all biographers. Each of us is writing the record of our own lives, and one day soon the story will be complete.

Popularity and image will fade away; but those after God’s own heart will leave a legacy of leadership that will endure until the Lord returns.

Key Thought:

The stories of Samuel, Saul, and David remind us that popularity and image will fade away; but those after s own heart will leave a legacy of leadership.

In this ivory plaque from Megiddo a harpist plays before the throne of the King, just as David played the harp to soothe Saul’s anxiety.

Key Verse:

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22).

Key Action:

Don’t judge by first impressions, for God doesn’t look at people as we do; we look at the external appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).

Book of Ruth

What makes a good movie or novel?  What about tragedy, death, loyalty, vivid characters, abiding love, and a happy ending?

That’s the book of Ruth, the Bible’s classic love story, a timeless and true tale of ruin and redemption.

The opening line of Ruth is a snapshot of Israel during the time of the judges:

“Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehemjudah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons” (Ruth 1:1).

This famine drove an Israelite family from Bethlehem to the nation of Moab, where the men of the family died.

The surviving widow, Naomi, and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, returned bitterly to Bethlehem where God, in His providence, brought a loving man into their life – a wealthy landowner named Boaz, who redeemed and married Ruth.

The artifact, a bulla, or piece of clay for sealing a document, may prove existence of Bethlehem dating back to the First Temple Period.

From start to finish, Ruth’s story is about redemption.  The Hebrew words for “redeem” and “redemption” occur over twenty times in this book.

Boaz became a picture of the redemption offered by Christ. By her acceptance of Naomi’s God, Ruth became a picture of what Paul would teach centuries later: it’s not by physical descent from Abraham that one is redeemed, but by faith of Abraham.

Ruth shows us the importance of both human and divine love.

This four-chapter book teaches us to trust God who redeems the hardships of our past and who also provides for the needs of the present moment.

We can entrust the future results of our day-to-day decisions to Him, who is our Kinsman-Redeemer.

Key Thought:

Boaz, God provided Ruth a kinsman-redeemer who exchanged her bitterness for blessing and foreshadowed the redemptive work of the coming Kinsman-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Key Verse:

“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Key Action:

Trust in the God who redeems the hardships of our past, blesses us now, and provides for our future.

Book of Judges

Hatzor-House of Pillars

Have you ever heard the phrase: “Christianity is just one generation from extinction”?

When we read Judges, we see how easily the heritage of faith can be fumbled from one generation to the next.

Judges 2 says that after the Israelites conquered and possessed the land, everyone went to his own area and the people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua.

But after Joshua’s generation passed away, “…and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel” (Judg 2:10). 

There resulted a series of sin cycles – judgment, cries for help, and deliverance.

The people would fall into sin, fall prey to their enemies, and cry out to God; and God in His mercy would send a judge or a deliverer like Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, or Deborah.

Their influence would last awhile, then the whole process would repeat itself. This repetitive pattern in Judges conveys a powerful lesson:

Chambered gate from the Israelite period.

To the very utmost of our ability we must focus our energy on raising our children in the and instruction of the Lord, teaching them the truths of scripture and giving them testimonies of faith.

Key Thought:

When generations arise without a knowledge of God and His commands, they fall into a downward spiral of sin, defeat, judgment, and despair.

Key Verse:

 “Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them” (Judg 2:16).

Key Action:

We must break the cycle of apathy, sin, ruin, defeat, and despair

with the power of lasting repentance and revival.