All of the kings of Northern Israel disregard God's commands, after the pattern of their first king, Jeroboam. The lack of Bible literacy creates a vacuum in which idolatry thrives. God raises up prophets to confront Israel's kings, yet they refuse to listen.
The historian contrasts Israel's king, Ahab, with Judah's king, Jehoshaphat. After mentioning that Ahab has done evil in the eyes of the LORD, the chronicler describes the wife that Ahab has taken, "As though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat . . . he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him" (1 Kings 16:31). Whereas Jeroboam's sin was the false worship of Yahweh--he declared that the calves he made "brought you up from the land of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28)--Ahab's idolatry abandons even syncretistic worship of Yahweh to worship the gods of the nations around him-Baal and Asherah. The divine commentary declares, "Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him" (16:30). Ahab tunes out God's prophets and rejects God's Word.
Judah's fourth king differs greatly from Ahab. He understands the importance of Bible literacy:
Now the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel . . . . And his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah . . . he sent his leaders . . . and with them he sent Levites . . . so they taught in Judah, and had the book of the Law of the LORD with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people. (2 Chron. 17:3-4,6,8-9). Consequently, "the fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah" (17:10), and Judah experienced great prosperity (17:11).
The contrasts between Jehoshaphat king of Judah and Ahab king of Israel reveal a number of truths about idolatry and Bible literacy:
Those who align themselves through marriage with idolators soon worship their gods. God raises up prophets to preach repentance. Captivity is certain for those who refuse to heed the voice of His prophets.
The lack of Bible literacy creates a vacuum where idolatry thrives, but spiritual vitality (humility and the fear of God) accompanies Bible literacy. Spiritual health is certain for those who fear Him and heed His commands.
What does Asa do that reveals his lack of faith in the God of Israel?
How are the kings of Israel and their reigns described? How does their leadership impact the spiritual lives of the people over whom they reign?
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