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A Tale of Two Kings

This is a tale of two kings of Israel/Judah. One began his kingship well, but it ended badly; the other began his kingship bad, but it ended well (relatively speaking). But first, let’s go to the very beginning before there were any kings. During the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, God gave Moses and the children of Israel various commandments, statutes, rules, regulations, worship and offering instructions; as described in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. One of the commandments God declared for the Israelites is found in Deuteronomy 7: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:1-7). The Lord God also gave the Israelites principles for kings to govern by. Of course, there were no kings during this time, only the great judge and leader, Moses. God, knowing the end from the beginning, gave them these rules anyway, as He knew the people would eventually ask for a king to rule over them. These principles governing kings are found in Deuteronomy 17: “When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me, you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, You shall not return that way again. Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.” “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites and it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel” (Deuteronomy 17: 14-20). Sure enough, during the time of the prophet Samuel, the last Judge of Israel, all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel demanding a king to judge them like all the nations around them. This demand displeased Samuel, so he prayed to the Lord. The Lord told Samuel to heed the voice of the people, for they had not rejected him (Samuel), but they had rejected the Lord Himself from ruling the people. The Lord then told Samuel to warn the people about the negative aspects of having a King who will reign over them. Samuel told them: “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:11-18). The people would not be persuaded and told Samuel that they still wanted a king. The Lord God eventually chose Saul to be the first king of Israel in about 1050 BC. Even though Saul began his kingship well, and it ended very badly, this story isn’t about him. After Saul and his sons were killed in battle, David became Israel’s next king in about 1010 BC. David was Israel’s greatest king. He started out good and ended good (with the exception of the Bathsheba, Uriah incident), so this story isn’t about him either. David reigned until about 970 BC. Before his death, he gave instructions to Solomon, his son, regarding being king of Israel. Yes, this is one of the main characters of this story. Here is David’s advice to his young son, who would become king: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, He said, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 2:1-4). Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, became king of Israel (all 12 tribes) in 970 BC. “And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statues of David his father; only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, Ask what I shall give you” (1 Kings 3:3-5). Solomon told the Lord to give him an understanding heart (wisdom) to judge the people, that he might discern between good and evil. This answer pleased the Lord, and God said unto him: “Behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked; both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in my ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days” (1 Kings 3:12-15). God granted Solomon’s request for wisdom. “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding and largeness of heart like the sand and seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:29-30;34). God also added great wealth to Solomon for he was pleased with Solomon’s request for wisdom. “The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was 666 talents of gold, besides that from the traveling merchants, from the income of traders, from all the kings of Arabia, and from the governors of the country. So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (1 Kings 10:14-15;23). Solomon’s first act as king of Israel (and before his dream) was to marry the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt. This was in essence seen as a pact or treaty between the two nations. This act of marrying wives of foreign nations started a habit that would last for the rest of Solomon’s life. This was after hearing his father’s last words to him, which was to keep the charge of the Lord your God, and to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes and commandments, and His judgment, and His testimonies, as is written in the law of Moses. One of these statutes is found in Exodus 34: “Take heed to yourself, beware lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, wherever you go, lest it be a snare in the midst of you; and you go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call you, and you eat of his sacrifice; and you take of their daughters unto your sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make your sons go a whoring after their gods. You shall make you no molten gods.” (Exodus 34:12-12). Solomon initially proved to be a wise and understanding king. His greatest achievement was building the Temple in Jerusalem, which began in 966 B.C. (1 Kings 6:1-9) and was completed seven years later in 959 B.C. The Temple was one of the most magnificent structures of the ancient world. It was built on Mount Moriah in the very spot where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac and where David had built an altar to the Lord. Unfortunately, Solomon did not heed the last words of his earthly father, David; nor did he obey the word of the Lord regarding this matter: “Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites – from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods. Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.” “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidionians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.” “So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:1-13). This was the beginning of the end for the united kingdom of Israel (12 tribes) due to their rapidly approaching fullness of sins against the Lord their God. Solomon ruled Israel for 40 years (as did David and Saul) before his death in 930 B.C. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, assumed kingship after his father’s death. Shortly afterward the people revolted against him and 10 of the 12 tribes formed their own kingdom and called it Israel. Rehoboam ruled the southern nation of Judah (with the tribe of Benjamin). God’s prophecy had come true, as it always does. The sins of Solomon, the wisest man in the Old Testament, would leave a lasting legacy on the future generations of the kings of Israel (and Judah). Most of them would emulate Solomon and multiply themselves with wives, horses, and gold & silver, in direct rebellion against the commandments of the Lord God. Solomon traded the wisdom of God for the foolishness of man (and women). It reminds you of the modern age we are living in now, doesn’t it? It was Solomon himself that said, “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). King Solomon evidently didn’t remember his own words when he blessed the assembly before the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem: May the Lord our God be with us, as He was with our fathers. May He not leave us nor forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, which He commanded our fathers. And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day may require, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD IS God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at this day” (1 Kings 8:57-61). Solomon did not receive the conditional promise of the Lord regarding living a long life. “So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days: (1 Kings 3:14). The Bible doesn’t record his age at death, but he was probably 60 or younger. I assume this because of the following verse in 1 Kings during the time of Solomon’s dream and conversation with God: “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (! Kings 3:7). How could Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible (other than Jesus), be so foolish? And how could he have started out so great as king of Israel and ended his reign so terrible? He made extremely bad choices in his later years. He chose to please his heathen wives instead of the Almighty God of the universe. The choices one makes in this life reverberate in the afterlife for all eternity. Some of these choices, such as the salvation issue, have the utmost consequences, not only in this life but in the one to come. I think Solomon repented in his later years, and once again acknowledged and remembered the Lord God of his youth. Here are the last words of King Solomon that are recorded in the Bible: “Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:6, 13-14). Wise words indeed! In contrast to King Solomon, let’s look at the life of King Manasseh, who was the 13th (unlucky number) generation from Solomon. 2 Kings 2:11 says that Manasseh was 12 years old when he became king of Judah, and he reigned 55 years in Jerusalem. He co-reigned with his father, Hezekiah for 10 years, so he didn’t actually become sole ruler until he was 22 years old. Manasseh spent his formative years under the tutelage of the righteous Hezekiah. King Hezekiah is said to have removed the high places (used to worship foreign gods) and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made (for the children of Israel had started worshipping it). King Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his ‘father’ David had done. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:3, 5-6). Hezekiah’s righteousness was in direct contrast to his father’s (Ahaz) apostasy and idol worshipping ways. How did he break the cycle of evil influence thrust upon him by his father, Ahaz? He chose to! He wisely chose to obey God and His law and commandments instead of obeying the foolish ways of his evil father. Hezekiah probably named his son after Joseph’s firstborn son, Manasseh, which means ”for God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” Manasseh was the complete opposite of his righteous father. Even after witnessing the righteous acts of his father, Manasseh chose evil over good: “And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He also built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the LORD had said, In Jerusalem I will put My name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spirits and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the Lord had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever” (2 Kings 21:2-7). King Manasseh also shed very innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another. He probably encouraged the children of Israel to sacrifice their sons to heathen gods. Some of this innocent blood might have been Isaiah the prophet’s, as it is believed Manasseh might have had him killed. According to Jewish tradition, Isaiah was tied inside a sack, placed within a hollow of a tree trunk, and then sawed in two. For Manasseh’s evil deeds, the LORD sent His prophets, to speak to the king and all of Judah: “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols), therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies, because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day ” (2 Kings 21:11-15). There were several evil kings of Judah before Manasseh (such as his grandfather Ahaz) but none surpassed him in disobeying the Laws of Moses and shedding innocent blood, His acts were so egregious, God’s patience with the kingdom of Judah finally ended (as it did with the kingdom of Israel and the Amorites before that) and He sent His prophets to prophesy Judah’s doom. Will this be the same destiny for America? There are no longer Jewish prophets of the Lord that are sent by Him to deliver His personal messages. We do, however, have His word, the Bible, that speaks of the demise of all the kingdoms of the world that have (or will) ignored His laws and commandments. If past history is an indicator of future consequences, then I think America and its leaders can expect the same result. It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ The average age of empires is 250 years, according to Sir John Bagot Glubb, a specialist on the subject, who wrote a short treatise called “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.” The united (12 tribes) kingdom of Israel lasted for 120 years before God divided it up into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom of Israel survived for 208 years as a kingdom before they were conquered by the Assyrians. Judah lasted for 344 years as a kingdom before they were conquered by the Babylonians. God gave the Amorites over 400 years to repent, as He told Abram when the covenant was made, “But in the fourth generation they (children of Israel) shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). America has been an official nation (not empire) for 246 years now. I wonder sometimes if the iniquity of the Americans is yet complete. If not, it is probably getting close.

The Lord spoke to Manasseh, and to his people, but they would not hearken. “So the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns [nettles], and bound him with bronze chains, and carried him to Babylon [Assyria had at this time captured the capital city of the Babylonians]. And when he was in affliction, he sought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD He was God” (2 Chronicles 33:10-13).

King Manasseh had to learn the hard way, but at least the Lord let him live long enough for him to repent and believe in the Lord God. Until death, no one is beyond God’s forgiveness. Take, for example, the thief on the cross at the crucifixion of Jesus, per Luke 23:43. If the Lord can forgive the thief on the cross or Manasseh, do you think He is unable to forgive you?

Manasseh tried to make up for his evil acts for the rest of his life. “He took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed there peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only” (2 Chronicles 33:15-17).

The reign of Manasseh as sole king of Judah lasted for 45 years. Can you imagine living under the rule of an evil king for that long? It’s hard enough to live under the evil rule of the Biden administration and the Democrats for only 4 years (I pray). “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2). Manasseh started out bad as king of Judah, but at least he ended his reign well. It took an act of God, but he eventually turned his life around and made the right choice for the Lord.

It doesn’t matter how good or bad you begin life, it is only the finish that counts. By finishing well, I’m not referring to acquiring success, wealth, power, fame, or religion. I’m talking about doing the will of God according to His word. The will of God is this: to believe in the one He sent, the LORD Jesus Christ. “And the world is passing away and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:11-12).

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Randy Nettles nettlesr@suddenlink.net

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