From a sermon series on 1 Kings by See Huang Lim, a missionary at IBF.
In this sermon series on the book of 1 Kings, we will soon reach a turning point and enter the fascinating story of prophet Elijah.
Today’s is the last passage about evil kings, and it revolves around King Baasha. King Baasha rose to the throne by murdering the previous king. His actions set a pattern for the next few kings; they, in turn, became king of Israel through assassination. Today’s passage is bleak, but I believe it will not leave us hopeless.
There are 3 ideas I want to reflect on: 1) God may allow evil to happen for a reason; 2) God himself does not do evil; 3) Sin drains life, but following God’s way gives life.[Read 1 Kings 15:25-16:7]
God may allow evil to happen
Why did all this bloodshed happen? The writer of 1 Kings says that it was to fulfill God’s warning.
See 15:29: “He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of the Lord given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. This happened because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel.”
We encountered this prophet Ahijah earlier, in chapter 14. Just as Ahijah warned, Jeroboam’s reign and lineage would be cut off. From here, we see that God fulfills his word and sometimes God even uses evil men like Baasha to remove other evil men from power.
Though there is evil in this world, it is never beyond God’s control. God himself does not cause evil, but he may allow it to happen.
In fact, God may make use of human evil and turn it into something good, for his purposes. A good example of this from the Bible is the story of Joseph in Genesis. Out of jealousy, Joseph’s half-brothers sold him as a slave to Egyptians. But God protected Joseph in Egypt and later placed him in a powerful position, which enabled Joseph to help his countrymen during a time of famine. When Joseph looked back on his life, he was not bitter but instead thankful to God.
This is what Joseph said, in Genesis 45:4: “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” Verse 8: “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Isn’t it amazing that Joseph could say, “Yes, God let me be sold as a slave and I’m thankful it happened!” Of course, we should remember that it took more than 20 years for this story to unfold.
For you and me, we may not be dealing with an evil king. Maybe some people have an evil boss, though! Or maybe it is not “evil” that we are facing but a severe disappointment. Like an application we made that wasn’t approved. Or someone has let us down.
I hope the words of Paul in Romans 8 will encourage us when we feel down. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
We may not see the good today. Maybe it will take 20 years for our story to unfold, before we find out why our life turned out this way. Or maybe we will never know.
In my own life, there have been bad things that happened in my childhood. I may never know why.
I grew up in a broken family. My mother was depressed, and as a result, she became physically and verbally abusive towards my brother and me. My own father was absent because he was always working. While many people recall their childhood with fondness, I remember much pain and bitterness. Many people who come from my kind of family grow up to have serious problems, such as mental illness. I could have turned out like that, but God intervened in my life.
Yet, by God’s grace I was led to a Christian Fellowship club at high school where I came to know the Lord. My life changed after coming to know God. I know the depths from which He rescued me. I experienced salvation and freedom from a life of hatred and bitterness. While God didn’t remove all my problems magically, He brought good out of the darkness in my childhood.
Suffering and pain isn’t good; but, by God’s grace, good can be born from suffering.
God himself does not do evil
Now, let me return to King Baasha.
Earlier I said that God used an evil man like Baasha to get rid of another evil man, king Nadab. Does that mean God approves of Baasha himself? No.
In fact, God holds Baasha responsible for his actions, as we see in chapter 16. God’s judgment against Baasha says, in verse 2-3, “I lifted you up from the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, but you walked in the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to provoke me to anger by their sins. So I am about to consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat.”
Baasha was an instrument of God’s judgment on the previous king, and yet Baasha himself was judged for his actions.
Now, you may be thinking, “Why does God want to judge Baasha for something God made Baasha do?” Here, we run into a mysterious reality that the Bible presents: As humans, we are able to make choices and we will be judged for those choices; at the same time, God is control of all things.
This strange paradox reminds me of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Jesus already knew that Judas would betray him. And yet, Jesus allowed it to happen, while at the same time, Jesus warned Judas of the consequence.
So how should we view sin? The words of James are helpful here. James 1:13-15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
In other words, God does not commit evil, but he may permit people to commit it. Rather, what God actively does is this: He is constantly working to bring good back into our world, to restore, to redeem it.
Sin drains life, but following God’s way brings life
It is not God’s hobby to destroy kings and punish people. God was not happy to destroy the reign of Jeroboam, Nadab, or Baasha. Ezekiel 18:23 says: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
What brings pleasure to God then? Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Peter writes 2 Peter 3:9 that God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
The books of 1 and 2 Kings deal with many evil characters who don’t repent. They all seem the same, they never change. That’s why their story gets boring after awhile.
In contrast, within every good story, the main characters undergo some kind of change. Let’s take Star Wars as an example. I know in this church there are a few fans of Star Wars. Let’s look at the villain called Darth Vader. What made him an interesting character? One reason is that he showed a change of heart. He showed the audience that there was something deeper and more complex inside him. He was more than just a villain.
I believe that when people watched those scenes, in which Darth Vader began to change, their hearts lifted with a sense of hope. People watching a movie don’t think about this consciously, but actually, they want to see change. They feel uplifted when they see people being redeemed. Their emotional reaction is an expression of something that God has put in our hearts. It is an inner compass that tells us what is good and life-giving – and also what is bad and life-draining.
That’s why my wife has been complaining to me recently about 1 Kings. “Can you please skip these chapters about the evil kings? Why don’t we read about something more interesting and beneficial?” she said.
Which leads me to my final point: Sin is not beneficial. Instead, it drains life from us. Like how reading about these kings is draining and dull. Aren’t you also tired of reading about men who simply repeat the sins of their ancestors?
We know that something in our life is not quite right, when we feel drained and empty. We all want to be filled, am I right?
I think that’s why Jesus words were so striking, because they promised to give life. For example, in John 10:10, he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” In John 4:13, Jesus said to the woman who had five husbands, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
If sin drains life, then God’s way – shown to us by Jesus – brings life.
In conclusion, today’s story about Baasha isn’t the most uplifting story. But it does remind us that living our own way ultimately deprives us of true life. And we must look at this story alongside the overall story of the Bible, which is that God wants to restore us to life, through the way shown by Jesus Christ.