Refection 29th May: 1 Kings 3: 3-14

Well, as said in the intro, today, is the first Sunday of what the church calls ordinary time or the season after Pentecost. This season will take us up until the beginning of December when Advent starts again.

 

We have spent the last 6 months journeying from Advent to Christmas, through Epiphany, Lent and the season of Easter that culminated with Pentecost last week. During this time we have focused on the gospels and the stories of Jesus. His birth and early life and ministry. During Lent we then turned towards some of the stories leading up to his crucifixion and at Easter of course on his death and resurrection. Since then we have been focusing on some of the post resurrection stories.

 

And so for the last few years in this church typically at this time we delve into the Hebrew Scriptures. This year the lectionary readings are from 1 and 2 Samuel but we did that 3 years ago and so I decided that instead of doing that again we would continue the story and read from the books of Kings.

 

The books of Samuel as you may know or remember tell the story of how Israel moved from a tribal existence in which small communities were governed by the so called judges to becoming a centralised state with centralised power and wealth.

 

Without a doubt David is the central character of these books. While he was Israel’s second king. He was the king they were waiting for. The one who really transformed Israel into the full-scale monarchy it became.

 

David is an extraordinarily complicated character. None the less he became and remained the hope of the people of Israel throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and beyond. Perhaps it as Brueggemann puts it, “in this passionate man, Israel discerned something more than David. The narrative articulates a purpose larger than David, a purpose and a passion more faithful than even the considerable passion of David.”

 

The books of Kings on the other hand tell the story of how Israel moved from been a centralised state to a divided Kingdom and then ultimately into exile.

 

It begins with an aging David and a bitter and violent struggle over who will be his successor. Solomon with the help of his mother Bathsheba, ultimately wins.  And so on David’s death, which we read about today Solomon becomes king.

 

As we read it starts pretty well with this beautiful prayer for wisdom, something Solomon becomes famous for. But it gets very messy, very soon and then just gets messier and messier. Solomon, like David, and all of us, is a complex character.

 

In Deuteronomy, Moses gave the people many, many laws. Included in these laws are limitations on royal authority. Knowing that when the people entered the land and settled in it that they would request a king like the nations around them God attempted to place restrictions on their power saying,

 

“you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. But he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, nor shall he acquire excessive silver and gold. He shall read the law all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his people  so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children.”

 

The kings did not do this and the results are disastrous. Time and time again God raises up prophets who attempt to change the direction that Israel is headed. They are ultimately unsuccessful in doing this none the less their work matters. It offers hope and relief to ordinary people despite the disastrous decisions of their leadership. It shows us how God continues to work on the ground in people’s lives no matter what is happening at the top. And their speech matters. It offers a critique of unlimited power and wealth that echoes throughout the ages.

 

And so we are going to delve into all this over the coming months. It is not an easy story but I think it is a story for our time.

 

We will not have time to read all of Kings (though I encourage you to read in your own time) and so I wanted to start with a little overview of the book so that we are clear on the context of the stories that we are reading. And so I am going to show a clip from the Bible Project whose summaries of the books of the Bible I think are really well done.

 

It goes for 8 minutes and so will take up the rest of today’s sermon time (which you all know I am quite particular about) but it is quite engaging I think and will really help us as we read the rest of the story.

 

Books of 1 and 2 Kings Summary | Watch an Overview Video (bibleproject.com)

 

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Reflection 9th June: 1 Kings 17

Today is the third week of our series on Kings. Today we are reading from chapter 17 so we have skipped over a fair bit