Godly character, not worldly achievements, is the true measure of a person and the only one that counts in the end. The Lord’s evaluation of the early kings of Judah and Israel illustrates this universal principle.
As we continue in the book of 1 Kings, we are going to come across a lot of names. And that is what happens when we study history, right? Passing that history class was tough because you had to remember all those names.
But let me encourage you with this: remembering all the names of these kings is not the primary issue here. What God has to say about them is what’s important. You see, this is more than history.
As each king walks out onto the stage of human history under a divine spotlight, we are going to read either the oft-repeated statement “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” or, every once in a while, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”
Now beginning in chapter 14, we pick up the account of Jeroboam, king of the northern kingdom of Israel. And we read in verse 1, “At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick.” So, this rebellious king sends his wife in disguise to the prophet of God to find out whether or not their son will recover. But at the sound of her approaching footsteps, the prophet identifies her and gives her the bad news: their son will not survive his illness.
However, the prophet makes an interesting comment here in verse 13, indicating that the child’s death actually is a blessing for him because he will be spared a lot of turmoil and bloodshed and grief. The prophet says:
For he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.
Of everybody in Jeroboam’s family, only this boy evidently had a heart for God.
The prophet then informs Jeroboam’s wife that God will raise up another king who will put an end to Jeroboam’s dynasty. Indeed, as verse 16 says, judgment on all of Israel eventually will come because of “the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin.”
Jeroboam’s son dies soon after this. And after a twenty-two-year reign, Jeroboam dies, and his son Nadab succeeds him.
At verse 21, the narrative shifts back to Judah’s king, Rehoboam. Remember, the nation is divided into two kingdoms—the northern kingdom, referred to as Israel; and the southern kingdom, referred to as Judah, which holds the city of Jerusalem.
For seventeen years, while Rehoboam reigned as king in Jerusalem, verse 22 says, “Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
Rehoboam’s wicked reign experiences an invasion by Egypt, which takes a significant toll on Judah, including, according to verse 26, the loss of the “treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house.” Eventually, Rehoboam dies, and his son Abijam takes the throne in Jerusalem.
Sadly, as chapter 15 opens, we are told here in verse 3, “[Abijam] walked in all the sins that his father did before him.” He reigns only three years, and his son Asa follows him to the throne.
Maybe you’re thinking, I’ll never remember all these guys. There are just too many names. Well, I don’t blame you for thinking that. But now we come to someone who is really worth remembering.
Let me tell you, the biography of Asa is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all this pollution. Listen to what verse 11 says: “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done.” How great is that?
We are told here that he removes all the religious prostitutes and the idols from the land. He even banishes his grandmother, the wicked queen mother, who had led the people in worshiping a false goddess.
The parallel account found in 2 Chronicles 14 gives even more details on Asa’s reign. Verse 4 informs us that Asa “commanded Judah to seek the Lord … and to keep the law.” He also fortified Judah’s cities (verses 5-8) and defeated a million-man Ethiopian army because he cried out to the Lord in faith (verses 9-13). Finally, Asa leads his people to rededicate their lives to the Lord (15:9-15).
Unfortunately, we read in 2 Chronicles chapter 16 that later in his life Asa relies on an alliance with the Syrian king Ben-hadad rather than trust the Lord when confronting the aggression of the northern kingdom. And even though the northern opponents are sent scampering back home, Asa is rebuked for his alliance by Hanani, God’s prophet.
Hanani delivers this classic verse to King Asa, which is worth memorizing.
The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. (verse 9)
Despite the fact that Asa failed in certain areas, just like we all do, he remained faithful to God, and the kingdom of Judah was blessed to have this godly king for forty-one years.
Verse 26 tells us that Jeroboam’s son Nadab “walked in the way of his father, and in his sin.” After just two years as king, Nadab is assassinated by a man named Baasha, who then proceeds to kill “all the house of Jeroboam” (verse 29). By the way, this fulfills the prophecy back in 1 Kings 14:10 that the Lord would “cut off from Jeroboam every male,” ending his royal dynasty.
Because Baasha too walks in the way of Jeroboam, the Lord promises here in 1 Kings 16:3 to “utterly sweep away … his house” as he had Jeroboam’s. Baasha reigns for twenty-four years and is succeeded by his son Elah. After just two years, Elah’s servant Zimri kills him and then all his household in fulfillment of the Lord’s word.
So, Zimri is now king, but he reigns only for a grand total of seven days before Omri, the commander of Israel’s army, chases him into his palace, where he is left without any possible escape. And Zimri sets his palace on fire and dies himself in the flames.
If this sounds like a horror movie, it was.
General Omri now becomes the king of Israel, but he too is an evil man; verse 26 tells us again, “He walked in all the way of Jeroboam.”
Now Omri is known in Scripture for building the city of Samaria, which becomes the capital of Israel. So, while the kingdom of Judah is headquartered in Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Israel is now headquartered in Samaria.
Omri is also known for being the father of Ahab, one of the most wicked kings in the history of Israel. Note how Ahab is described:
[Ahab] took for his wife Jezebel . . . And Ahab . . . did more to provoke the Lord . . . to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. (verses 31, 33)
How is that for a resume? He succeeded in making God angrier than any other king was able to do.
Now after all this information, it’s understandable if you’re feeling a little dizzy. You may not remember the names of these kings, but I want you to remember this key principle: no matter who they were or what they did, what mattered most was whether or not they walked with God.
What does your resume look like? Let me tell you, no matter what you do in life, no matter what your title is, no matter what kingdom you rule over, when the dust of history settles, the only question that matters is this: Did you walk with God? Oh beloved, walk with God today!