Devotion: 1 Kings 16:21-28Life can feel chaotic at times. To be sure that feeling of chaos is relative to our experience and circumstance. Since my kids have gone back to school my wife and I have been juggling schedules and playing the three-kid-shuffle between soccer practice, Awana and family time. This has led to a growing sense of chaos crouching at the door and it is only our ability to communicate and coordinate (with the Lord's guidance!) that has maintained order. That feeling of chaos can be overwhelming, but it is nothing compared with many in the world today.
We live in peace and order. While we may disagree about the extent or the forward duration of that peace and order, an honest assessment sees people in our nation with the liberty to live life, pursue goals, gain skills and form families. I believe many people in Syria today would be envious of our liberty, peace and order as they continue in the chaos of civil war and totalitarianism.
Order is God's work in the world. The creation accounts depict God as establishing order in the midst of the dark depths of chaos. Our God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, including the Mosaic Law and culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ to save sinners, to establish His order in a world lost in the chaos of sinful rebellion. In my personal readings of Scripture over the last several months I have been struck by the way God continues to order the chaos and the way human sin continues to usher in more chaos.
Our passage this week is a story of chaos and disarray. Peace and order are nowhere to be found. In the course of a week the Kingdom of Israel saw a violent coup led by Zimri kill the king while a war was being fought against Philistines. Zimri then barricaded himself in the royal palace in Tirzah while General Omri laid seige. Zimri, facing defeat, decided to commit suicide by burning down the king's palace with him inside. In the course of a week, the king was dead and his would-be usurper was also dead. This created a power/leadership vacuum and two parties seek to fill the same space:
"Then the people of Israel were divided into two parts. Half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king, and half followed Omri. But the people who followed Omri overcame the people who followed Tibni the son of Ginath. So Tibni died, and Omri became king. In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri began to reign over Israel, and he reigned for twelve years; six years he reigned in Tirzah. He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver, and he fortified the hill and called the name of the city that he built Samaria, after the name of Shemer, the owner of the hill. " -1 Kings 16:21-24 ESVWe live in a two-party system, but we have enjoyed peaceful transfers of power for well over a century (the American Civil War in the mid-19th century being the only exception). In Israel, the death of a king led to a war. The biblical account nonchalantly describes these events and that should give us pause before using hyperbolic language to describe our lives as chaotic. The outbreak of civil war between the forces of General Omri and Tibni receives a very terse account as if such a thing was not only normal, but expected. The disarray and chaos of the situation is depicted as normal. Again, our thoughts on our lives being chaotic is usually relative. Given the tumult of Israel's history up to that point, kings dying and people fighting for power was just another day. Contrast this with the long reign of King Asa of Judah, who, while imperfect in his devotion to the Lord, was much more faithful than the kings of Israel during his 41-year reign.
The end result of this fight was Omri's victory and ascendance. Omri moves the political capitol to Samaria, which he purchased honestly from Shemer (this will be contrasted with his son Ahab and Naboth's vineyard later). Omri's reign was 12 years and it was marked with the same problems as those who went before him:
"Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in the sins that he made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols. Now the rest of the acts of Omri that he did, and the might that he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? And Omri slept with his fathers and was buried in Samaria, and Ahab his son reigned in his place. " -1 Kings 16:25-28 ESVOmri failed at restoring order because he continued in the sin of idolatry. That legacy would be passed to his son Ahab. We will speak more about Ahab in the coming weeks.
We need to be cautious in two ways as people of faith. First, we need to be cautious in seeing and describing our lives in overly-dramatic ways, asserting more chaos than is really present. Second, we need to be cautious about allowing the chaos of idolatry to invade our lives. We are called to true worship of the one true God. To give worship to false idols is to invite real chaos and, as we have seen, that does not end well for anyone.
News for You:
- We are still on the hunt for Small Group Leaders for our Fall series in Romans. If you are interested, e-mail Pastor Bill.
- Sunday School will kick off our next series in the Westminster Confession of Faith beginning September 16 at 9 a.m. Sunday School Remix will resume September 18 at 1 p.m. in the library at CPC.