"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).
1 Kings 2:46 "Thus the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon." Solomon's first act as king was characterized by the best side of his nature. In dealing with Adonijah he showed clemency and dignified authority. The deathbed charge David gave Solomon revealed his understanding of the secret of true success by calling his son to absolute loyalty to God. The part of his charge in dealing shrewdly with Joab and Shimei has been severely criticized, but that criticism is unwarranted. David knew those men by long experience and took seriously their danger to the state now in Solomon's hands. He was able to manage them in his lifetime and kept his personal promises to spare their lives, but saw fit to bring them now to Solomon's attention. He left the details of how to deal with them in the hands of Solomon, being assured of his wisdom. David's words concerning the death of each were prophetic rather than vindictive. Events soon proved the accuracy of his insight. Adonijah's request for Abishag, interpreted in the light of Middle Eastern customs, was a movement toward a second rebellion in which Joab and Abiathar were again implicated. Solomon acted in the highest interests of the kingdom by how he dealt with these treacherous impulses. Adonijah and Joab were executed in accord with strict justice, while Abiathar and Shimei were shown mercy. Abiathar was deposed from the priesthood and exiled to his home town; Shimei was kept under observation at Jerusalem under generous conditions, but broke his parole and paid the penalty. The highlighted words that conclude this chapter vindicate these actions of the new king. There are times when, in the interest of establishing a true and just government, the sternest measures are the most kind.
1 Kings 3:12 "Behold, I have done according to your words." This was the answer of God to the request of Solomon, when appearing to him at Gibeon in an unusual conversational dream. He commanded Solomon in that dream to ask for a gift. This appearing of God to the new king was all of grace and at a crucial time. The first paragraph of this chapter reveals at once the strength and weakness of Solomon. He was strong in that he "loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David" (verse 3). The weak side of his nature was manifested in his affinity with Pharaoh and marriage with his daughter. Politically it seemed an astute move, but it was unutterably foolish. The perils of mixed motives and a divided heart are very grave. This appearing of God gave Solomon a great opportunity, and the gift he asked for was a triumph of the highest side of his character. Humbly realizing his inadequacy for the great task of ruling God's people, he asked for an understanding heart to discern between good and evil in governing them (verse 9). God's answer was full of gracious kindness. He let Solomon know how pleased He was that he made this noble request and gave him what he asked, adding to that the things he might have asked for himself, yet showed his wisdom in passing by. Long life, wealth, and victory are good things when they come as the direct gifts of God. Should a man or woman from selfish motives choose them rather than the ability to do God's will, they would prove curses rather than blessings. In the case of Solomon, so long as he sought the highest, these lower things served as means of blessing to his people.
1 Kings 4:25 "So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree." These were the golden days of the monarchy. For awhile the people had rest from war, and the king devoted himself to the careful organization of his kingdom, ruling with the understanding heart God granted him. The system of government as set forth in this chapter is remarkable. Solomon was the chief officer, but he gathered around him a company of fellow officers of state, each responsible for his own department. The highlighted text emphasizes the peace and prosperity that characterized this period. Such a time is always one of peril to a nation because it is under circumstances of adversity, when a strain is put upon life, when its people are most likely to realize and practice their dependence on God. Life is not intended for ease in the sense of anything approaching indolence. Days of prosperity should never be days when service ceases. Life is such a rich gift from God that there is always room for fuller realization, and all enrichment should but create opportunities for more complete development. That was the meaning of the Garden of Eden with its work. That will be the meaning of the Kingdom of God when fully established on earth: not laziness, but strenuous activity in the fullness of strength. Luxury, producing languor, destroys; abundance, inspiring endeavor, makes for permanence.
|Kings Solomon and Hiram with Hiram the Master Craftsman (1 Kings 7)|
1 Kings 6:38 "So he was seven years in building it." Once Solomon had set the kingdom in order, he turned his attention to building the Temple, which was his work by divine appointment. The time was now opportune for the reason he gave King Hiram: "The Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune" (1 Kings 5:4). In this chapter we have a comparatively brief, but very impressive account of the Temple construction project. In all essentials this Temple was patterned after the Tabernacle's central building. It was, however, twice its size and built of solid material, seeing that the nation was now settled in the promised land. The time occupied in its construction was 7 years. Like the Tabernacle, its chief splendor was within, where everything was encased in gold, neither wood nor stone being visible. The magnificence of this small Temple, for small it was by comparison with temples erected to other gods, may be seen from the fact that the amount of gold used was 600 talents. A talent is about 75 pounds, and with gold commonly selling for nearly $1,000 an ounce, only one talent of it would be worth about $1,000,000. These must have been great years for Solomon. With loving devotion, he was carrying out by God's design one of the dearest desires of his father's heart: establishing a lasting witness to the Lord God as the source of Israel's strength and prosperity.
1 Kings 7:1 "But Solomon took thirteen years to build his own house." It's impossible to escape the contrast between these words and the previous ones, for they run together without any chapter division by our chronicler. That is not to suggest the Temple was built hurriedly in 7 years since the details given leave no doubt that it was done thoroughly, but this remark does show the place that Solomon's own personal comfort and luxurious tastes had come to occupy in his life. His house took almost twice as long to build. It is often by such simple, stark facts that we gain insight into a person's heart. However strong our zeal may be for God and however accurately we may carry out our spiritual responsibilities, if the proportion of time and possessions devoted to our own ease and comfort is greater than the proportion devoted to God's service, our master passion is surely selfish rather than godly. In the case of our Lord's Great Commission, this is even a more searching test. Solomon did fulfill his obligation as far as the Temple was concerned, even though the love of self played so large a part in his life's activities. We who love the Lord today, however, have never fulfilled our obligation while any region of the earth remains unevangelized, or any human soul is yet without the knowledge of Christ/Messiah.
1 Kings 8:10 "The cloud filled the house of the Lord." This shining of the glory of the Lord in the Temple Solomon built was a radiant manifestation of God's grace. Careful consideration of the whole account of the Temple's existence reveals that in permitting it, God was accommodating His methods to meet human frailty, as He had done in the appointment of the priesthood and the establishment of a king. When David brought up his idea of building a Temple, God pointed out to him that such a building was not by His request or command (2 Samuel 7:5-7). Nevertheless, God had permitted the building and now filled the house with His glory. The one unchanged link between the Tabernacle and the Temple was the Ark of the Covenant. When that sacred symbol of the divine presence found a resting place in the Temple, the glory cloud filled the building. Over all human failures grace triumphs; this shining forth of the divine glory in the new Temple was proof of that great truth. The human attitude making that possible was the loyalty of the king and his people to the Lord, expressed in their desire to give the Ark its proper place at the heart of the city. When a heart is loyal to Him, God acts in grace, even when the methods of expression are not in themselves of the highest. That explains many of the manifestations of divine glory in church history amid systems and methods that were not in close harmony with the simplicity that is in Christ.
1 Kings 9:2 "The Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon." This second special appearance of the Lord to Solomon was very significant because it came at a critical time. Solomon had finished all the work prompted by his desires, both godly and self-centered. He had completed the House of God and his own house. It was the hour when the accomplishment of work means the relaxation of effort. That is always a perilous hour, and the greater the work done, the graver the peril. A life that has been full of activity demands some new interest when that activity ceases, and will find it: either high or low, noble or ignoble. The Lord came at this point in Solomon's life and informed him that He heard and honored Solomon's lengthy prayer at the Temple dedication, but for all to remain well, important conditions needed to be fulfilled day by day. Thus was the king called to a new sense of responsibility for his own life and the administration of his kingdom. Alas, the sequel is a very sad one. The conditions were not kept, either by the king or people, which eventually led to the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the people from the land. This teaches God's people of all time to heed all those tender and strong methods by which our Lord is always seeking to deliver us from failure. When one task is accomplished, He never leaves as a prey to the perils that follow. For us in Christ, He is always at hand and available, no longer needing to come in special ways. Our duty is to listen to His Word and continue faithfully in His will.
1 Kings 10:1 "The fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord." It is well to pay attention to these words, for they reveal the main reason for the visit of the queen of Sheba. She came from over 1,000 miles away because reports reached her that accounted for Solomon's wisdom and greatness by his relationship to God. It was not the story of his magnificence that attracted this Arabian queen, but his fame "concerning the name of the Lord." Her visit revealed to her what the rule of God really meant. Arriving, as she did, in the time of the nation's peace and prosperity and getting answers to all the hard questions on her heart, she was at a loss for words in expressing how far this visit exceeded her greatest expectations. She did, however, beautifully express to Solomon what she now knew by experience to be the secret behind his kingdom: "How blessed are your people, how blessed are these your officials who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, He made you king to maintain justice and righteousness" (1 Kings 10:8-9). These were great days in Solomon's reign. True fame for the servant of God is when people are attracted through him, not to him (or her), but to the God whom he (or she) represents. It is an evil hour when, concerning the servants of God, people are attracted by them rather than directed through them to God.
1 Kings 11:9 "The Lord was angry with Solomon." What a tragic sentence that is! The reasons for it is this chapter's account of Solomon's degeneracy and doom. His commercial enterprises led him into alliances with surrounding nations and, following Middle Eastern customs at the time but disobeying Mosaic law regarding kings, he multiplied wives for himself. As Moses warned, that turned his heart away and he built temples for the false gods of those women that he eventually bowed before in his old age. Solomon reigned as long as David did, 40 years, but did not live as long because he failed to take God seriously when He said, "If you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as you father David walked, then I will lengthen your days" (1 Kings 3:14). It is a tragedy that the man who had build the Temple, and in priestly dignity had presided over its dedication, crying to God for His abiding presence, would allow himself to be seduced by the lower side of his nature and forsake his first loyalty to God. The anger of the Lord against Solomon was not merely passive, for we are told He raised up 3 specific adversaries against him: Hadad (verse 14), Rezon (verse 23), and Jeroboam (verse 26). All this was divine judgment, yet it was the natural outworking of the evil heart that came to possess Solomon and then the people through their king's bad example. King Solomon's life was full of promise, but it ended in failure and gloom because his heart turned from loyalty to God in response to the seductions of his sensual nature.
1 Kings 12:14 "My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions." In this and the following 4 chapters, we have the appalling story of the breakup and degradation of the nation. It covers a period of about 60 years, from the disruption after the death of Solomon to the corruption under Ahab and the coming of Elijah. The seeds of strife had long been growing. The occasion of the actual division arose with the accession of Solomon's son Rehoboam and the rebellion of Jeroboam. Both men were unworthy, as the folly of the one and the pragmatic idolatry of the other prove. Jeroboam led a protest movement against the burdens that had been imposed upon the people under the reign of Solomon. Rehoboam was proud and despotic so he answered the people with the highlighted words. They were foolish and empty. He had no right and no power to rule as a despot. The terrible division of the kingdom was the result. This story demonstrates remarkably that despotic power is not hereditary. Solomon had gained such power by the sad end of his reign. Rehoboam's desire was to increase its grip and severity. He could not do so. People will strangely submit to tyranny for a long time if a particular tyrant has managed to gain a personal influence over them, but there are limits. Stooping humanity has the persistent habit of lifting itself up after a time. Then despots are swept aside and revolutions result. Such revolutions are often wrong in their methods, but in their assertion of the greatness of humanity, they all contribute to the onward march of God.
1 Kings 13:26 "It is the man of God who was disobedient to the Word of the Lord." This story of the "man of God from Judah" and the "old prophet in Bethel" is a very strange one. The prophet gained influence over the man of God by his claim to speak in the name of the Lord, even though they were instructions contrary to what the man received from God Himself. That, of course, was not a sufficient excuse for the man's disobedience, and swift judgment fell upon him. The prophet retrieved the man's body and gave him a prominent burial as further testimony to the man's prophecy that Jeroboam's idolatrous worship center would be utterly destroyed. He identified the body with the highlighted words, revealing it is possible to be called and sent by God, and yet be disobedient. Moreover, the disobedience may be in some relatively minor detail. The man courageously delivered God's message to King Jeroboam, yet faltered in obeying the less-difficult parts of his instructions. We learn here that no command of God may be disregarded by His messengers, even when an apparent angel suggests a change of method. Perhaps the clearest statement of that truth in Scripture is this: "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). When direct assaults of evil fail to seduce the servants of God, the enemies of our soul will try a different tactic, "for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising that his servants disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). That very subtle form of spiritual attack will be effective unless we are on our guard. God never contradicts Himself in His dealings with His servants. Let us be true to His commands, always refusing to be deflected from the path of obedience, even by someone we think is on our side.
1 Kings 14:30 "There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually." The supreme tragedy of the situation was that neither the northern kingdom of Israel nor the southern one of Judah was right. In the north, a false system of worship had been set up as a cynical political expedient, and the people were being swiftly corrupted there. In the south, the people were "doing evil in the sight of the Lord" and provoking "Him to jealousy...with the sins they committed" (verse 22). Thus the whole nation was steeped in idolatry and completely failing in their divine mission to testify to the surrounding nations of God's power and purity. Unenlightened peoples—unenlightened through this very failure—became a scourge in the hands of God to bring judgment on His people. This is seen by the invasion and humiliating depletion of Temple treasures by Pharaoh Shishak. Moreover, the long civil war highlighted above was another method of divine retribution. When the nation failed to employ itself in fulfilling its divine purpose, it expended itself instead toward its own destruction. To fail to fulfill God's purpose is not only to be useless, but also to retard that purpose. Therefore the chosen instrument must itself pass under the destructive power of God.
1 Kings 15:14 "Nevertheless, Asa's heart was loyal to the Lord all his days." King Rehoboam of Judah was succeeded by his son Abijam/Abijah, who for 3 years continued in the evil ways of his father, but his life was cut short. With the accession and long reign (41 years) of his son Asa, there was a measure of halt in the nation's downward spiral. The partial reform under his influence preserved Judah from the speedy spread of corruption that was taking place in Israel to the north. The highlighted statement of the chronicler is a revelation that Asa's purpose and intention were right. His will and power were not equal to his intentions, however, so his reforms were not complete. He went a long way when he removed his mother, Maacah, from her royal position and destroyed the abominable image she erected, "but the high places were not taken away" (verse 14). This is the record of a faulty life, but one in which the deepest thing (desire) was right, so Asa's influence proved to be far more a blessing than a curse. While it is necessarily true that the highest life will fulfill its desire by carrying out the high purpose, it is encouraging to discover that God accepts, values, and makes use of those whose desire to do His will, even though they don't fully manage to do so.
1 Kings 17:1 "Now Elijah the Tishbite." This sudden introduction of Elijah illustrates the startling and dramatic way he broke in on the national life of Israel. He came like a bolt from the blue or more like a steady blaze of light amid great darkness. We don't know about Elijah's nationality or family background because the issue is not who he was, but what he was. His coming was the initiation of a new method in the divine government: prophetic authority. There had been prophets before, but with the appearance of Elijah, the office was elevated to supreme national importance. From this point onward, the prophet was superior to the king. A few kings would arise whose hearts would be set on national spiritual reform, but their work would be directed by the prophets of God, through whom the divine will would now be made known. The first recorded words of Elijah declare his authority: "As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word" (1 Kings 17:1). He announced the fact that he spoke as the messenger of the living, enthroned Lord. In the simplest ways God protected His messenger and provided for all his needs in the difficult days of judgment to come. God continues to break in upon human affairs and assert Himself through His appointed messengers who accurately deliver His recorded Word. Men and women may refuse the message and persecute the messenger, but it is the Word of the Lord by which they live or die, according to their response to it.
1 Kings 18:18 "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied, "but you and your father's family have." Ahab, the corrupt king of Israel, met Elijah for the first time under severe circumstances. The drought Elijah prophesied had gone on for 3 long years. During that period Elijah had been preserved by God, away from the court of the king. Then, by the direct command of God, Elijah appeared to Ahab. The king greeted him in a surly manner, saying, "Is it you, you troubler of Israel?" (verse 17). That is a tacit confession that the terrible drought was not from natural causes, but a direct judgment from God. His question seethed with resentment and anger. Elijah turned the king's nasty greeting on its head, replying immediately and directly with the highlighted words. Apart from the national sins resulting from Ahab's corrupt practices, there would have been no judgment. The troubler of a nation is never the man or woman who, in loyalty to righteousness, brings God's Word to bear on its practices. It is rather he or she whose influential policies lead the nation into corruption. Those who stand for God and protest against sin are always troublers to those who are doing the evil, but that is a very different thing from troubling the nation. The destroyers of a nation are wicked officials, and those who trouble them are rendering the highest service to the nation, even if they are persecuted and their message, for the time being, is generally refused.
|Jezebel's Wrath: The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back|
1 Kings 21:19 "Have you murdered and also taken possession?" Ahab allowed the selfish and corrupt coveting of his evil heart to go along with his wife's plot to murder the man who had what the king wanted. Now that Naboth, the godly vineyard owner, had been slandered and stoned to death, Ahab confidently strutted onto the desired land to take possession of it. But men do not so easily possess the things they obtain by unrighteous methods. Right there, in the midst of the coveted garden, Elijah confronted him. The last recorded time they saw each other was when God vindicated Elijah against Ahab and Jezebel's false prophets, and then ended the drought with a tremendous rainstorm. One can easily imagine the mixture of terror, guilt, and anger in the voice of the king as he exclaimed, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" (verse 20). Thus God perpetually confronts the evildoer and spoils for him the gain of his wrongdoing. Elijah rose to the full dignity of his prophetic office. There was neither fear nor faltering in the doom he pronounced on both Ahab and Jezebel. Wicked men and women may outwit others by deceit, slander, theft, and even murder, but the last word is always with God. He cannot be outwitted or deceived. The highlighted question that Elijah asked rings with holy satire, for there is a taking that never results in possessing. Ahab never possessed Naboth's vineyard. He temporarily held it, but that very fact became to him a torment. However fine its vintage, for him the grapes were sour and poisonous. Nothing is ever possessed except that which comes by righteousness and truth as the gift of God. The meek, not the overlords of injustice, will inherit the earth. That which is gained by fraud is never truly possessed.
|Micaiah tells the truth, but Ahab doesn't like that.|