July 2, 2014 Broadcast

The Divided Kingdom

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Israel was a powerful nation under King Solomon. Unfortunately, despite his great wisdom, he made choices during his reign that would split the nation apart after his death. In this lesson, Dr. R.C. Sproul explains the devastating consequences of Solomon's sinfulness and shows how even in this early period of Israel’s history, we can find hints of the coming Messiah.

From the series: Dust to Glory

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Everlasting Reign

  2. devotional

    Hezekiah's Foolsih Decision

  3. devotional

    God Chooses Israel's King

The Everlasting Reign

Hezekiah and the other righteous kings of Israel and Judah were imperfect men, and they could not guarantee the monarchy in Israel would be established forever. Their failure to trust God perfectly (2 Kings 20:12–19), along with the idolatry of the more wicked kings, reveals the Lord’s justice in giving His people to Babylon and removing the glory David’s throne once enjoyed (chap. 24–25).

Yet those who understood God’s promises knew the monarchy would not suffer defeat forever. Faithful children of Israel like Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, and Anna understood in the first century that there was to be a day when the Davidic monarchy would be restored and a new king would sit at God’s right hand (Luke 1:46–56, 67–80; 2:22–38). This king, of course, is Christ Jesus who ascended into heaven after His resurrection to take His place on David’s throne (Acts 2:29–33). Paul describes the reign of our great King in 1 Corinthians 15.

Christ’s resurrection is the starting point for this reign (v. 20), for without conquering death Jesus could not sit on David’s throne. Describing the Savior’s resurrection as a first fruits of the dead, Paul transforms Jewish expectations of the resurrection within a thoroughly biblical framework. Based on passages like Daniel 12:1–2, first-century Jews expected all people to be resurrected at once, but that is not how God has worked out His plan. He has graciously sent His Son at the right time, raising Him as a pledge that His people will inherit life everlasting in resurrected bodies at the last day. Just as the Jewish offering of the first fruits confirmed the harvest to come (Lev. 23:9–14), so too does the resurrection of Jesus confirm the resurrection of all the dead (1 Cor. 15:21–23).

King Jesus, the last monarch to sit on David’s throne, has begun His reign — an invisible reign until all His enemies are put under His feet (vv. 24–28). His return will then make His reign visible as His people rejoice. Isaac Watts captures something of this joy in his hymn “Jesus Shall Reign”: “Blessings abound where’er he reigns; the pris’ner leaps to lose his chains, the weary find eternal rest, and all the sons of want are blest.” May we look forward with great eagerness to that final day when our Savior’s gracious rule will be visible to all people.

Hezekiah's Foolsih Decision

We saw yesterday that the king of Israel was, no less than the ordinary citizen, subject to the law of God (Deut. 17:18–20). As a representative of the people, the king actually had the higher duty of living as an example of covenant fidelity before all Israel, as one whom the Israelites could imitate.

There were few moments in the history of the old covenant monarchy, however, when the chosen king fulfilled this duty. More often than not, the kings of both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah led the people in serving foreign gods (for example, 1 Kings 15:1–8; 2 Kings 1) and other grave violations of the Mosaic law. Still, the record is not one of total failure, for rulers like Hezekiah and Josiah in Judah were faithful to the Lord (2 Kings 18:1–8; 22:1–2).

These kings were righteous, but even they could not keep God’s covenant flawlessly. Second Kings 20 records the occasion when Merodach-baladan, the king of Babylon, sent envoys to Hezekiah, who put on a show of all his treasures and his armory (vv. 12–13). Clearly this was a mistake, for Isaiah the prophet rebuked him, proclaiming that the empire that came to check out Hezekiah’s resources would be the same empire to exile his sons (vv. 14–19). Isaiah regarded this error as so troubling that he recorded it in his own book of prophecy (chap. 39).

Deuteronomy 17:16 explains why Hezekiah erred. The king of God’s people was not to go to Egypt to acquire many horses, which were a significant part of ancient Near Eastern armies. This was really a warning against military alliances with foreign powers to bolster Israel’s forces, and Hezekiah knew this warning. Matthew Henry says the Babylonian king “found himself obliged to Hezekiah . . . for the weakening of the Assyrian forces, and had reason to think he could not have a more powerful and valuable ally.” Hezekiah had successfully resisted Sennacherib of Assyria (2 Kings 18:13–19:37), and Babylon came knocking at his door to see if Judah might be of help against their common enemy — the Assyrian empire. In showcasing his military and economic strength, Hezekiah implied an alliance was possible.

If good kings like Hezekiah failed, what hope did Israel have for the monarchy? Only the hope that God would put His Messiah on David’s throne (Ps. 110).

God Chooses Israel's King

No discussion of Israel’s monarchy would be complete without a look at David, the most significant king of Israel during the old covenant period. David is a prominent figure throughout Scripture and his importance is developed in the Old Testament and into the New.

While Saul was the first king of Israel, his reign was but a brief intermission in God’s design to set a faithful king over His people. Illustrating the old adage, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it,” the Lord responded to the pleas of the Israelites to give them a king like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:1–10:8). Saul later turned out to be a failure (15:10–11a) and the Lord rejected him, but this should not be a surprise, for our Creator’s order to Samuel that he “obey their voice and make them a king” (8:22) is begrudging compared to His “I have provided for myself a king” in 1 Samuel 16:1. With David, God was not “giving in” to Israel’s request, giving them exactly what they wanted as a judgment on sin (see Rom. 1:24–25); rather, He appointed David to bless His people.

The qualities the Lord prized when appointing David to lead His people are not necessarily the characteristics most people think of when they are looking for leaders. We might choose to elect officials based on their foreign policy experience, educational background, past political offices, and other such criteria. Yet while these things are not unimportant, their merit was only secondary when the Lord placed David and his descendants on the throne of Israel. As He told Samuel, the important qualities for a good ruler lie within the heart (1 Sam. 16:7) — that constituent part of the human spirit that is the seat of the intellect, moral judgments, piety, and feelings. When the Lord chose David, He wanted a man who understood his need to be a man “after [God’s] own heart” (13:14).

The Lord found this man in David, who was the least of his brothers and a humble shepherd who did not otherwise aspire to greatness (16:8–13). This David was a man after God’s own heart not because he was perfect, but because he was sensitive to the Holy Spirit and knew to repent when he had sinned (2 Sam. 24:10–25; Ps. 51). May the Lord make each of us a man or woman after His own heart.

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