It’s a story of power, corruption, and at times, unimaginable evil—of a rise to greatness and a fall to destruction, of man's depravity and God's longsuffering and grace.
1st Kings begins with Israel at its peak. The nation is united, powerful, and under the leadership of David, aligned with the heart and purposes of God. 2nd Kings ends with darkness, sorrow, and despair. Despite continual warnings, God’s chosen people repeatedly turn against Him and suffer the consequences. Their temple, where God and man communed, is destroyed, their beloved city desolated, and the lives of many uprooted.
But that’s not where the story ends. Though Israel’s dynasties point to man’s complete moral failure, they also point to Jesus, the servant-King who would lead God’s people in righteousness and bridge the gap between He and man.
Here are ten gospel-unfolding truths revealed in 1st and 2nd Kings:
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1. God warns us of impending judgement.
You may have heard people compare and contrast the “God of the Old Testament” with the one revealed in the Gospels. The former, they say, seems angry and bent on justice, whereas Jesus appears loving and full of grace. But the books of 1st and 2nd Kings contradict this. In fact, these two books, sandwiched between Israel’s liberation from slavery and mankind’s liberation from sin, reveal a longsuffering love that extends beyond comprehension.
The chronology begins with David, God’s chosen king, lying on his deathbed. In his final words to his son, he lays out the most important characteristic for successful kingship—obedience to God and all His ways. If David and the succeeding rulers did that, their dynasty would last forever.
Solomon and most of the kings that followed failed and the nation soon plunged into idolatry and ever-increasing wickedness. As ruler and righteous Judge, God had every right—and good reason—to punish them for their sin, to wipe out all mankind and be done with them for good. He didn’t. Instead, like the patient, loving, and merciful Father He is, He sent His prophets to warn the Israelites, should they persist in their rebellion, judgment was coming. If the people didn’t repent, they’d be exiled from their beloved homeland.
The people refused to listen and after centuries of pleading, God’s patience wore out.
One day, the same will hold true for many of us. Like He did through the prophets of old, God is calling out to each of us, inviting us to choose life. “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15) Responding to His invitation leads to eternal life; rejecting His offer leads to spiritual death.
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2. Sin hurts others.
Throughout Scripture, God tells His people to follow two simple and clear commands—love Him and love others. Sin is a direct affront to these two decrees and the very heart of God. Where God is continually pointing us to life and wholeness, sin pulls us toward death—of dreams, unity, hope, relationships, and ultimately, our very lives.
We see evidence for this throughout Israel’s history, from the innocent children who died in the fire of Molech, to all who, eventually, watched their homeland crumble to rubbish around them.
We may never have worshiped idols or participated in infanticide, but we’ve all rebelled against a holy God. We’ve all chosen our ways above His, and others have been hurt in the process.
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3. God judges sin.
This isn’t a concept we enjoy discussing, at least, not when it comes to us. Yet, we all long for justice. When evil seems to win, we need to know that ultimately, good will prevail and wrongs will be made right. We long to see victims vindicated and murderers, abusers, and tyrants punished.
Though we may rail against this when it comes to our own sin, 1 and 2 Kings reminds us that God, as our righteous ruler, does indeed judge and punish sin. During this dark period in Israel’s history, the nations wickedness was prevalent and persistent. Though God had warned them again and again through His prophets, the people rebelled against His commands, rejected the covenant He made with them when He liberated them from Egypt, worshiped idols, and even sacrificed their own children in the fire. (1 King 17:7-17)
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4. God forgives.
In the story of Manasseh, an evil king who engaged in sorcery and murdered many innocent people, we see that no sin is too great for the grace of God, and it’s never too late to ask for forgiveness. After ignoring numerous warnings, Manasseh was taken prisoner and led to Babylon in chains. There, in his distress, he cried out to God for mercy, and “God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom.” (2 Chron. 33:10-13)
No matter what we’ve done, God is just as moved today by honest prayers of repentance. He offers the repentant the same promise He made to the ancient Israelites so long ago. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18)
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5. Only God can save.
Throughout 1st and 2nd Kings, we see the nation attempting to find salvation through their own strength and wisdom: If only they aligned themselves with the right nation or prayed to the right idols or maybe recited the right incantations, then all would go well, their economy would flourish, and they’d stand strong against the conquering nations.
To which God responds, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15a)
1st and 2nd Kings points to our need for a Savior, and that Savior is Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
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6. We can break generational sins.
King David’s dynasty began with obedience and a heart centered on God, but by the end of his son’s reign, Solomon had begun to turn God’s people back toward idolatry. A series of evil kings, separated by a handful of good ones followed. By the time a young ruler named Josiah came around, God’s temple had been severely neglected, maybe even closed, and His law forgotten.
Based on Josiah’s history as the son and grandson of two evil, idolatrous kings, one would expect Israel’s spiritual decline to continue. Eight years into his reign, at the age of sixteen, “Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David.” (2 Chronicles 34:3) Then in the twelfth year, he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem of its idolatry.
Countering the legacy his father and grandfather had left, he instituted sweeping reforms that, ultimately, led to the discovery of God’s law. Pledging to follow God wholeheartedly, Josiah broke the generational sin he’d been born into and showed his people what it meant to truly follow God. By living for Christ, we can do the same.
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7. Obedience takes courage.
After Josiah’s father, the evil king Amon, was assassinated, “the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against King Ammon, and they made his son Josiah the next king.” (2 Chron. 33:25) This seems to indicate the Ancient Israelites approved of Amon and his behavior and hoped Josiah would follow in his father’s footsteps.
By this time, idol worship had dominated the land for 57 years—an entire lifetime for many in Josiah’s kingdom. In other words, these men and women had been raised in idolatry, a practice they had already shown they were ready to kill for.
In fear, Josiah could’ve ignored the issue or shown partial obedience, perhaps focusing on Jerusalem or the Temple. He could’ve sent others to purge the land, but he didn’t do any of those things. Instead, he, himself, traveled throughout Israel, making sure idols, altars, and Asherah poles were demolished. (2 Chron. 33:3-7)
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8. God will fight our battles.
In 873 B.C., the son of a righteous, God-fearing king came to power and committed himself to seeking God. (2 Chron. 19:3, 1 Kings 15:24) This king, named Jehoshaphat, reigned for 25 years and Scripture tells us God was with him because he sought God and walked in His ways. When under attack, God came to the king’s defense.
When Jehoshaphat first learned that “a vast army” was coming against him, he became alarmed and immediately sought God’s help, proclaiming God’s power and goodness in front of an assembly. (2 Chron. 20:5-13) God’s response: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not have to fight in this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…” (2 Chron. 20:17)
King Jehoshophat and his people immediately began worshipping God. “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” (2 Chron. 20:22-24)
When we seek God with praise-filled hearts and surrender our plans and fears to Him, He’ll fight our battles, too.
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9. Our obedience can have lasting impact.
1 and 2 Kings is a saga of evil kings rising to power, turning the hearts of their people to idols, and suffering the consequences. It’s also a tale of wise, godly kings who sought the God of their ancestors, turned hearts back to Him, and enjoyed the blessings of obedience.
When trouble hit, King Jehoshaphat chose to turn to God, and in so doing, showed all his people what a living, thriving faith looked like. His actions motivated the entire assembly to praise God—before victory had been won. Then, confident God would prevail, they placed the battle in his hands and witnessed God’s power revealed.
Then there was King Hezekiah, son of an idolatrous and evil king who sacrificed his own son in the fire, but after he died, Hezekiah rose to power, and began to undo the mess his father had created. (2 Kings 16:3) “He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.” He “trusted in the Lord” and “held fast to Him.” (2 Kings 18:1-6) Under his reign, the people experienced revival.
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10. The example we set matters.
Throughout Kings, we how easily man’s heart turns from God. Enticed by the customs all around them, the people of Israel and Judah soon slipped into idolatry, a practice that became extensive and destructive.
We also see others, like Josiah, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, who demonstrated what an intimate relationship with God looks like, igniting a longing for the divine in others. Evil was purged from the land, armies were defeated, and revival initiated.
Because of their obedience, lives were changed for all of eternity and their legacy memorialized in the pages of Scripture.
The people of Israel were watching these kings—how they lived their lives and their faith. People are watching us, as well. May we, daily, set an example in how we live and act so that our every word and deed points others to our powerful, victorious Savior.
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
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