Although Israel was initially meant to be a “theocracy”, that is a nation with the Lord as their supreme ruler, the people desired a king like those of their neighbors. The prophet Samuel was disheartened and discouraged by the people’s request, but the Lord reassured him that this change was to take place. Israel’s first king, Saul, was a disaster. He had all the “stuff” the people desired, but lacked the spiritual relationship with the Lord needed to adequately guide the people (1 Sam. 8: 4-9, 22; 9:1-2; 10:17-24; 15:1-26). In addition to his personal shortcomings, Saul did not have a prophetic connection to the kingship either. He was a descendant of Benjamin (1 Sam. 9:1, 21), not Judah (Gen. 49:10), and therefore in a technical sense did not qualify. His successor, David the son of Jesse, did. And from that point on, every king who ruled from Jerusalem was a descendant of Judah and David (Rt. 4:18-22; 1 Sam. 16:1; Mt. 1:1-6). The role of the king in ancient Israel was an important one. He was to be a model of what it meant to be faithful to God’s commands by insuring that the people obeyed the Mosaic Covenant stipulations. Sadly, many failed.
As you read through the books of Kings and Chronicles it becomes very apparent as to what qualities determine whether a ruler was a good king or a bad king. Reading the history of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) can be quite depressing! King after king is noted as “doing what is evil in the eyes of the Lord” and the final result is Israel’s demise at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 B. C (2 Ki. 17:1-18). The Southern Kingdom (Judah) fared slightly better with 8 kings distinctly following the ways of the Lord. Asa (1 Ki. 15:9-25; 17:19), Uzziah (2 Chr. 26:1-22), Hezekiah (2 Ki. 16:20; 18:1-20:21), Jehoshaphat (2 Chr.17:1-21:1) and Josiah (2 Ki. 22:1-23:30; 2 Chr. 34:1-35:27) are perhaps the most well-known of those godly kings. What did they do that made them stand out? They had a passion for purity. Each one removed pagan influences and worship from among the people. They personally adhered to God’s commands and expected the same from the people. God’s Word was at the center of their decision making and deeds. They were not perfect, but they reflected the same heart for God as their ancestor David and thus when they died, they were buried with him (1 Ki. 15:5, 11, 24; 2 Ki. 15:34; 22:50; 2 Ki. 8:24; 9:28; 2 Chr. 24:2; 31:20). However the influence of bad kings also brought about the same end for Judah. The Southern Kingdom fell in 586 B. C. to the Babylonians (2 Ki. 25:1-27).
Some scholars take note that the Book of Proverbs is written in such a way that it could be called a leadership manual for kings (Prov. 1:1-7; 31:1-9). Many of the directives and instructions certainly address issues that would be important to a king: fair weights (Prov. 11:1; 16:11; 20:10), choosing allies wisely (Prov. 18:24), God-honoring conduct (Prov. 20:11), crime (Prov. 6:30-31; 18:5), speech (Prov. 15:1-2, 4, 14, 17, 23, 28), government (Prov. 20:7; 29:2, 4, 12, 14) and the benefits of wisdom (Prov. 8:12-21) to name a few. But those principles are not meant solely for those in high places. Anyone can benefit from putting them into practice and using them as a guideline for living is helpful to everyone. Finances (Prov. 11:18; 15:27), relationships (Prov. 1:10-16), family (Prov. 4:1-4; 12:4; 14:26; 17:25), and foolishness (Prov. 12:11, 15-16, 23; 17:24) are still issues we face throughout our lives, so the principles found in Proverbs are timeless and just as useful for us today as when they were first written. With 31 chapters Proverbs makes a great devotional to read through in a month- try it! And then ask yourself the question, “Am I a good king or a bad king?” (Rom. 12:9-21; Eph. 5:16-17; Col. 3:1-10; 1 Tim. 6:11; 1 Pet. 1:13-15; 1 Jn. 2:3-5)
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 6/4/2017