7 Reasons You Should Preach through 1 & 2 Kings
A faithful God, a faltering people, a future hope. That’s what we called our preaching series in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, attempting to draw attention to key themes in these books.
God is faithful. We see him pass the torch from David to Solomon, grant unmatched wisdom and riches to Solomon, fill the temple with his glorious presence, and patiently extend grace and send prophets to his rebellious people. And rebel they do. God’s faltering people turn to idols and spurn his lordship in no uncertain terms. As a result, the nation spirals downward and ultimately into captivity. And yet, through all of this, glimpses of a future hope remain; sometimes this hope is explicitly stated, and other times it crops up as an incipient longing for a true and better king to come.
Upon further reflection, I admit these three thematic markers could be used for a number of books. However, we see these themes emerge in several specific and unique ways throughout 1 and 2 Kings, which warrants your preaching of these books sooner rather than later.
Here are seven such reasons you should exposit 1 and 2 Kings.
1. You should preach 1 and 2 Kings because no one’s doing it.
That may be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s likely the experience of most of your church members. During our series, I lost count of how many times someone came up to me and said they’d never heard these books preached. In and of itself, that’s not sufficient motivation; we’re not simply trying to get a medal of honor for being the first to plant our flag in uncharted territory. But it’s helpful to realize where some of your church’s weaknesses might lie when it comes to biblical literacy.
2. You should preach 1 and 2 Kings because without them your church won’t understand the context for more than half of the Old Testament.
That’s quite a chunk of Scripture to leave undefined for your flock. Think about it: it’s in 1 Kings 11 that Solomon turns his heart from Yahweh to idols, ultimately resulting in the rival kingships of Jeroboam and Rehoboam and the division of Israel. This historical storyline is covered in 1 and 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles (that’s three books) with several poetic books being written during this same period (three more books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon). Add to this the fact that almost all the prophets (save Obadiah, Jonah, and Nahum) are speaking directly to Israel and Judah in the aftermath of these circumstances (that’s 14 books) and you have 20 of 39 OT books that find their genesis in either 1 or 2 Kings.
3. You should preach 1 and 2 Kings because, without it, your church will have a gaping hole in their biblical theology.
Tracing the storyline from the Garden to the New Jerusalem runs straight through the heart of these books. How will God once again dwell with his people? How can there be a relationship between God and humanity? How can the immortal, eternal, and perfect interact with the temporal and sinful? For just one example, consider the value of meditating on the temple and God’s filing of it in 1 Kings 5–8. Teaching on this will bear much fruit in the life of your church.
4. You should preach 1 and 2 Kings because of the dead body-donkey-lion scene.
Okay, maybe not entirely because of this story, but because of ones like it as well. There are some odd and fascinating accounts in these books, which, if afforded a preaching series, display the riches of Scripture and model the beauties of consecutive expository preaching. As preachers, we have to—actually, we get to—open God’s Word to 1 Kings 13 and read about a man of God who was lied to by a prophet. We then get to explain why it was the deceived man of God who draws God’s judgment (via a lion) while his burro stands stoically by. That’ll preach, if you let it.
Time would fail me to tell of Asa’s diseased feet, Ahab’s pouting over a vegetable garden, Elisha the Bald’s she-bears, or Jezebel’s exceedingly vivid downfall. Preaching these passages to exult God’s character and point people to Christ is refreshing for congregation and pastor alike.
5. You should preach 1 and 2 Kings because of the miraculous ministries of Elijah and Elisha.
There are jugs of oil that don’t run dry and dead people raised to life (1 Kings 17; 2 Kings 4). There’s the parting of water in one chapter and the provision of water in the next (2 Kings 2 and 3). There’s a passage that has both a miraculous conception and a purified poisonous stew (2 Kings 4). Leprosy is healed (2 Kings 5), axe heads float (2 Kings 6), and much, much more!
Through these men, God is verifying his message and showing his power in ways paralleled by very few parts of Scripture. It’s only right to introduce your church to these men and their ministries who point us back to Moses and forward to the greater Prophet who accomplishes the greater resurrection.
6. You should preach 1 and 2 Kings because God’s care for Elijah is pastorally of great benefit.
Elijah is most often remembered for his bold showdown with Ahab and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. But bracketing that chapter you’ll find the man of God needy, vulnerable, and completely reliant on God to give just enough just when he needs it. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah is all alone with his daily bread provided by divinely ordained ravens. In 1 Kings 18, he’s on the run from Jezebel, afraid and discouraged, when God once again tends to him with his still small voice. Most of the people in your church (including their pastor!) would love a 1 Kings 18 relationship with God, dynamic and powerful. But we know from experience that life is much more like the raw reality of 1 Kings 17 and 19. Preaching these chapters and reminding your flock of God’s care for them in Christ will encourage more than a few grateful church members to say, “That’s exactly what I needed.”
7. You should preach 1 and 2 Kings because of the arc from King David to Babylonian Captivity.
These books take us on a journey from Israel’s Golden Age to their destruction by violent and wicked Gentile nations. It starts with a bang and ends with a whimper. This is a great reminder that allegiance follows affection. Loyalty follows love. Solomon’s world-famous and breath-taking reign had the nation on top of the world, but his disordered loves led his heart astray—and the nation along with it. What begins with the whole-hearted devotion of David is quickly overtaken with the standard-setting wickedness of Jeroboam, which is then left in the dust by the record-breaking sin of Ahab. Ahab doesn’t just allow high places; he builds them. He doesn’t just allow Baal; he builds Baal temples and serves him and marries the daughter of a guy named “Baal is alive.” Ahab doesn’t just sin; he allows a sin that’s been ripening for 700 years (the rebuilding of Jericho).
Quite the devolution in just a few years. And, of course, all of this leads to bad king after bad king. God’s people refuse to repent and refuse to repent and refuse to repent—and so Israel is conquered by Assyria and Judah is conquered by Babylon. Blessing followed by sin that results in judgment—this pattern calls all of us to look for a Redeemer.
In 1 and 2 Kings, the reign of every king after David raises the question: Is this the One? Is this the forever king promised in 2 Samuel 7? And one by one, we see that they’re not even close.
And so we wait, reflecting on a faithful God, a faltering people, and a future hope.
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1. Christ Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1&2 Kings by Tony Merida – For the purposes of preaching 1-2 Kings, Merida’s work was perhaps my favorite. I had to discipline myself to turn to him only after I’d formed my own outlines because his structuring of the text was at times so convincing and helpful.
2. 1 Kings by Philip Graham Ryken (Reformed Expository Commentary) – Ryken’s volume explains the text well and offers many pithy and powerful reflections. Reading his work on the book even apart from preaching it would be soul-stirring and of great spiritual benefit.
3. 1–2 Kings by Paul House (New American Commentaries) – The technical commentary to which I found myself drawn the most was House’s in the NAC. For me, the TOTC volume by Wiseman was at times a bit too light and the WBC volumes by DeVries & Hobbs, respectively, were at times a bit too much. House struck a great balance, dealing with major issues while not getting lost in the weeds.