The Gospel and the Kings

I Kings 8:56 “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant.

1 and 2 Kings continue the story of God’s faithfulness to His covenant with His children, particularly as it involves the promises around the Promised Land. Though Israel’s history is full of stories of their failure to obey God, God was faithful to give them rest and keep His promises.

The Gospel Transformation Study Bible points this out in its Introduction to 1 and 2 Kings:

“The clear contrast between God’s covenant keeping and Israel’s covenant breaking, particularly among Israel’s kings, is perhaps the most important theme in the book of Kings. For this stark contrast highlights the gracious and undeserved nature of God’s faithfulness to his people. The biblical term for this reality is “steadfast love” (see Ex. 34: 6– 7; 1 Kings 3: 6; 8: 23), sometimes translated as mercy, loyalty, faithfulness, or graciousness. Behind the variety of terms used to express this idea in the Bible is one central idea: God does not treat his people as their sins deserve.

But how is this gracious behavior of the Lord possible? We know that God is flawlessly faithful to his covenant promises, yet part of those promises include the promise to curse covenant breakers: “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deut. 27: 26; cf. 27: 15– 26; 28: 15– 19). How can God be both merciful to his people but also faithful to curse covenant breakers, especially since all of God’s people have broken the covenant? The book of Kings hints at the answer with the small but important expression ‘for the sake of my servant David’ (cf. 1 Kings 11: 11– 13, 32, 34; 2 Kings 8: 19; 19: 34; Isa. 37: 35).

Because the Lord made a covenant with David to establish an eternal kingdom through his offspring (cf. 2 Sam. 7: 9– 16; 1 Kings 3: 6; 9: 4– 5; 11: 4, 34; 14: 8; 15: 3), the nation of Israel was repeatedly treated in gracious mercy, in ways it did not deserve. Ultimately, however, the sins of Israel increased to such a point that the covenant curses of destruction and exile were required by the Lord’s faithfulness to his own covenant obligations (cf. 2 Kings 17 and 25), but even these disciplinary measures were sovereignly administered in such a way as not to undo the Davidic promise that would remain Israel’s hope.

As Christians, we are reminded through 1 and 2 Kings of God’s faithfulness to us as his covenant people in spite of our own transgressions and covenant infidelity. We must understand that God’s grace and mercy to us is rooted in the same hope expressed by the book of Kings, that God does not treat us as our sins deserve because of the faithfulness of another David, Jesus Christ, the root and offspring (or Seed) of David (Matt. 1: 1, 17; 9: 27; 12: 23; 15: 22; 20: 30– 31; 21: 9; John 7: 42; Rom. 1: 3; 2 Tim. 2: 8; Rev. 22: 16). But Jesus is not just any son (offspring) of David. He is the true and better David. Not only did his obedience merit our righteousness before God, but he also bore the consequences of our covenant breaking. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5: 21; cf. Rom. 8: 1). In Christ, we are guaranteed that God’s steadfast love will never run out, because the necessary curse for covenant disobedience has been endured by another on our behalf. Now, we rest in God’s faithfulness, for he has kept all of his covenant promises, and ‘all the promises of God find their Yes in him’ (2 Cor. 1: 20).” 1

The destruction and exile of 2 Kings 17 could be the real life example of the adultery and slavery that the story of Hosea and Gomer pictured. At first, we might view Israel’s exile as God breaking covenant with them, but when we zoom out in time, we see from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that, no, God has not given up on His covenant at all. But He does have a long view of His pursuit of His people that the story of Hosea and Gomer reflect.

1 and 2 Kings give us better perspective on the problem Judges showed us. In Judges, there was no king, and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. But lest we think the solution was the system of earthly kings, we see that injustices and disobedience continued on, often perpetrated by the king himself.  From Judges to Kings to Jesus, the only answer for these people that could affect real change was King Jesus, not King Saul or David or Solomon.

by Wendy Alsup
1 ESV Bibles by Crossway (2013-09-30). ESV Gospel Transformation Bible (Kindle Locations 70642-70678). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

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