1 Kings Reflections

These are notes collected from studying with Matt Lantz and Matt Roefer. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Ch. 1 – David Raising Children

Another thing I’ve been thinking about with David…he doesn’t seem a great example of raising kids in the Lord (all the tougher when polygamy is your starting point!)…I was thinking especially of 1 Kings 1:6 – “His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?'”…

We see this other places: David privately disapproves of a matter with his children, but doesn’t seem to do anything about it. And the results are rape, rivalries, murder, etc. He just seemed overly hands off with them…but this is my vantage point from the little we read of the matters. I do get that you can do your best to raise kids and they still turn out rotten (sadly and soberly, I say this) — consider Isaiah 1:2. But it is a mark of an elder that they’ve raised children in the faith, and I only see that in Solomon, not in the others (again, polygamy wasn’t really helping his cause in the first place!)

Ch. 4 – Solomon’s Songs

I’m touched by 1 K 4:32 ~ Solomon wrote 1,005 songs. YET, only 1 song is called:
“Solomon’s SONG OF SONGS” (Song of Songs 1:1). Of all the topics his songs covered, romance with the King gets the preeminence. Similarly, of all the topics God covers in the Bible, romance/love of Christ gets the cake (see Rev. 2:4-5)

I was also struck that he wrote about these songs/proverbs yet, how many of them do we have in the Bible? Probably a lot we’ve never read.

Ch. 3-11 – Solomon’s Wisdom and Fall

I was moved by Solomon’s prayer for wisdom in chapter 3, and his seeming humbleness before the Lord. Yet I’m reading chapter 11 today and seeing how much Solomon was tripped up by sexual sin, and how then God severely punished him for this. Yet, in His mercy He still has a remnant and shows His kindness for future generations and does not immediately show his wrath.

This was a reminder for me though of how 1) sexual sin has lasting consequences 2) the generational nature of so many sins (including sexual). Even in this though, God referred to David as being much more righteous quite a few times, and Solomon not living up to the same standard as his father David. Of course, God was disappointed by David after Bathsheba and I think what separates this is two fold. First of all, David’s repentant heart (Psalms 51), and secondly has egregious the sin was of Solomon (100’s of wives and concubines) with no regard or desire for change.

Ch. 8 – Solomon’s Prayer

I was really touched by Solomon’s prayer in 1 K 8. Some standouts:

  • v. 16 – “I chose no city…But I chose David.” I continue to be moved that God is not so interested in strategy and methods (choosing a city, if you will), but is chiefly concerned with people. Jesus chose 12 leaders. Not a lot is said on HOW they were to lead, but just that these were the guys to lead. Then, God reveals to his chosen leaders (like David) how to proceed with his plans (like building a temple).
  • vv. 33-34 – sin hidden in our heart brings defeat from the enemy.
  • v. 46 – “there is no one who does not sin”…compare this with v. 32…I think v. 46 speaks of absolute righteousness while v. 32 is relative righteousness

Ch. 13 – A Prophet to Remember

Consider 1 K 13!!

The prophet goes to those in rebellion because God calls him. He:

  • Speaks prophetically that a king named Josiah would come to purge the idolatry (before Josiah was even born!!!)
  • Says the altar would break as a sign (which it did shortly after)

The king stretches out his hand only to have it shrivel. Then:

  • The prophet prays for it and it’s restored
  • The prophet later gets eaten up by a lion out of disobedience, and the lion just stood there as a sort of testimony in itself

Such raw and amazing power displayed!!

But the backdrop was a new level of rebellion and idolatry by people called by Gods name.I think we will see more power displays by the Lord in our day, but they will counter the extreme rebellion and idolatry we will also see. As Satan becomes more overt, so does God. And vise-versa.

Ch. 14 – No Health-Wealth Gospel!

In 1 K 14: A blind prophet prophesies judgment on Israel, but says a child who will die of sickness is the one being blessed (because he will be spared from the judgment to come). I think this chapter on its own completely contradicts the health-wealth-prosperity view of God.

Ch. 15 – David’s Only Sin

1 K 15:5 – the only sin of David was Uriah the Hittite.

This is a challenging verse in light of other things we read about David. I read it as, “of the light God gave him, he was faithful to all of it, except with Uriah” …meaning: God didn’t reveal the other matters of sin to him, but what He did reveal David did.

I do think such considerations can really help us give grace toward people who had blind spots but otherwise really loved the Lord. Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, for instance, with slaves, who nevertheless were used for great revival and repentance in the church.

God actually has said this a couple times about David and almost seems to view him as flawless except for the Bathsheba/Uriah episode. We know he had more sin than this. We have a merciful God and He can use us in our sin, and again, he looks at the heart.

Ch. 18 – Elijah

Elijah is quite the character/prophet- what a guy! As he approaches the wicked king Ahab his faith and courageous is inspiring. He is not worried about death, he just stays true to what the Lord has given him to speak.

I think in chapter 18:21 as he is then speaking to the people about either following the Lord or Baal he speaks amazingly directly and really speaks to them frankly about counting the cost. He says, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow Him.”

But the people said nothing…

Sometimes we have to lay it out like this and then give people the choice. This might even be a good scripture to share with others…

Ch. 22 – The Only Truth-Teller

May we be more like Micaiah, Lord (1 Kings 22)–speaking the truth from the Lord regardless of consequence!

1 Kings Summary

People are prone to evil. Kings don’t alter that; on the contrary—they solidify it even more. Gods method, instead, was/is to raise up faithful prophets to speak hard truths while they are vastly outnumbered by false prophets who tickle itching ears. May God give us the courage and insight to be in the minority of true prophets in our generation—even at the cost of our life and that of our family.

Consider the lines of Jason Upton’s, “Panic Room,” which seemingly addresses this very type of thing:

Our prophets are nicer

And kinder and sweeter,

We’ve partnered in their great reward.

They bless us with peace

In exchange for a token,

What more could we ever ask for?

Jason Upton’s, “Panic Room”

Recast: Reconciling Matthew’s and Luke’s Birth Narratives

Different Events Covered

Luke and Matthew clearly have different emphases and themes in their birth narratives (and gospels), and thus cover different events.  For instance, Luke mentions:

  • the Roman census,
  • the events of John the Baptist’s birth,
  • Joseph and Mary residing in Nazareth before Jesus was born,
  • and other things that Matthew ignores. 

On the other hand, Matthew describes:

  • the visit of the wise men,
  • the slaughter of the infants,
  • the journey to Egypt,
  • and other events bypassed by Luke. 

On the surface, it may seem difficult to understand and reconcile these differences, but closer inspection will show the differences to complement each other and enlighten our understanding of the Lord and His word.

Luke’s Themes & Emphases

First, it is important to recognize the emphases of each writer. 

Luke seems to want to promote Christianity as a religion that produces obedient citizens faithful to true Judaism, and favorable to the Roman government[1].  An example of this is seen when he says that John’s parents, “were…walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,” (Luke 1:6), even though he later writes that John’s father was disobedient to the angel’s words (Luke 1:20).  This shows that Luke wrote with generalizations and theological emphases (e.g. Zacharias was obedient) while still maintaining truthfulness (e.g. Zacharias sinned).

Furthermore, Luke emphasizes:

  • Joseph and Mary as dutiful to fulfill the king’s census (Luke 2:4),
  • dutiful to follow the law (Luke 2:39a), and
  • dutiful to return to their hometown (Luke 2:39b).

While he ignores:

  • men worshiping Jesus and disobeying the king (Matt. 2:12),
  • Herod’s cruel massacre of infants (which is decidedly unfavorable to the Roman government, and thus strays from Luke’s emphasis, see Matt. 2:16), and
  • Mary and Joseph secretly escaping to Egypt in defiance of King Herod (Matt. 2:13). 

Luke also highlights Jesus as coming from Galilee and returning to begin his ministry there. Later on, however, Luke writes, “He [Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem,” (9:51). From that point, so thoroughly does Luke focus on Jerusalem that he (alone) ignores the Galilee episodes of Jesus’ resurrection. It seems that Luke has in mind a focus on Jesus bringing His movement to the center of Judaism (Jerusalem herself), where, he later writes, the church began (Acts 1-2). All of this continues to emphasize Luke’s theme of the Jesus movement encouraging obedient and faithful Judaism (see Resurrection Harmonization for more on how this relates to Jesus’ resurrection).

This selective storytelling merely reflects emphasis—not deception or contradiction—in the same way that any person who recounts a story focuses on certain details with certain audiences, while bypassing other details.  

On top of this, Luke writes Jesus’ birth account with an interesting focus on other certain patterns (Fitzmyer 1970, 28A:313–14).  One of these patterns is the departure and return of characters after Luke introduces them.

For instance:

  • Zacharias returned (1:23),
  • the angel returned (1:38),
  • Mary returned (1:56),
  • the shepherds returned (2:20), and
  • Joseph, Mary, and Jesus “returned to Galilee,” (2:39),
  • etc. 

Thus, Luke writes: “So when they [Joseph and Mary] had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee,” (2:39), while ignoring the visit of the wise men, and Joseph and Mary’s exodus to Egypt (both of which seemingly happened before their return to Galilee in Matthew’s gospel). This matches Luke’s departure-return motif, and does not contradict these events recorded in Matthew. For instance, as I propose, it would be completely consistent for Joseph and Mary to be visited by the wise men and flee to Egypt after they fulfilled the law, but before they went to Galilee, without Luke mentioning it. 

In fact, a similar phenomenon takes place when Luke recounts Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, and explains that Paul went to Damascus after he saw the Lord (v. 19), and then went to Jerusalem (v. 26), while ignoring the fact that Paul went to Arabia in between his visit to Damascus and Jerusalem (cf. Gal. 1:17).  Luke would have known this detail as Paul’s traveling companion[2], and Paul would have known this detail when he endorsed Luke’s writing as the words of Scripture[3].  However, it simply did not fit the emphasis of his writing through the Holy Spirit to include Paul’s fleeing to Arabia, just as it did not fit the theme of his writing to include Joseph and Mary’s fleeing to Egypt in Luke 2:38.  

Matthew’s Themes & Emphases

In contrast, Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the Messiah spoken of in the O.T. Scriptures who saves the Jews (first), and the Gentiles (later)[4]. Thus:

  • The visit of the wise men showed that Jesus fulfilled Micah 5:2 (see Matt. 2:6), Numbers 24:17-19 (Morris n.d.), and Psalm 72:10-15 (McDowell 1999, 174).
  • The slaughter of the infants fulfilled Jeremiah 31:15 (see Matt. 2:18).
  • The journey to Egypt fulfilled Hosea 11:1 (see Matt. 2:15).
  • Their return to Nazareth fulfilled O.T. prophecy (see Matt. 2:23).
  • And Jesus beginning in Jerusalem (the “capital” of Judaism) and moving to Galilee (“of the Gentiles” – Matt. 4:15) by divine decree showed that God ordained Jesus’ ministry to be for the Jews (first) and Gentiles (later)[5]

In contrast, the Roman census, John the Baptist’s birth, and Joseph and Mary living in Nazareth before the birth of Jesus do not show O.T. fulfillment or help establish the Jew-then-Gentile salvation themes of Matthew, and thus are not included.

Therefore, it should be apparent that the writers had different agendas and different styles in their narratives, which explains their seeming discordance.  However, comparing the two accounts reveals a fuller picture of the events of Jesus’ birth, and shows no contradiction.

Matthew, Luke, and Isaiah

Now, in harmonizing the two accounts by themselves, there are a few details we simply cannot know for sure.  However, there is one more witness to the birth narrative that can help us more precisely match Matthew with Luke.  That witness is Isaiah the prophet who amazingly prophesied of God coming in a virgin birth 700 years before Jesus was ever born, as seen in Isaiah 7-9.  Though some elements in the prophecy address immediate events of Isaiah’s time, it is clear that he ultimately spoke of events that could only be fulfilled in Christ’s birth.  For instance, he writes: “Unto us a child is born…His name will be called…Mighty God, Everlasting Father,” (Isaiah 9:6).  No one except God Incarnate can fit this description.  Further, even the people living in Isaiah’s time who fulfilled the events were, “for signs and wonders,” (Is. 8:18) that speak to Christ, so that the writer of Hebrews could quote events clearly written about Isaiah and his companions in Isaiah 8:18 as applying directly to Christ (see Heb. 2:13). 

When these facts are understood of Isaiah 7-9, it is even more stunning to realize that details of Isaiah’s prophecy accurately show successive events recorded in Christ’s birth, and, even more, the events described would not make sense without having both Matthew and Luke’s accounts to provide all the details.  In this way, Isaiah truly serves as a third witness in bridging the accounts together (albeit in a more veiled form that requires care and sensitivity to understand). 

Here is what Isaiah lays out in chronological order, as well as the fulfillment recorded in Matthew and/or Luke (let the reader notice that if you removed either Matthew or Luke’s birth narrative, you would have an incomplete witness to Isaiah’s prophecy):

Isaiah’s Prophecy Matthew and/or Luke’s Narrative
God will initiate a virgin birth (7:12-14). The Holy Spirit came on Mary; God brought Jesus into the world (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:35).
The child’s name would be revealed by the Lord, and confirmed by two separate witnesses (8:1-2). Mary was the first witness to Jesus’ name (Luke 1:31). Joseph was the second witness (Matt. 1:21).
God is prophesied as a salvation to some, but a stumbling block to others within Israel, who will break many (8:14-15). Anna prophesied that Jesus will bring the rise and fall of many in Israel (Luke 2:34).
“Mediums and wizards,” will bring shame on Israel, while Israel curses God their king (8:19-21). By contrast, God sends wise men through a star (like sorcerers and mediums) to be the ones who recognize Jesus as King and worship Him—the very thing Israel should have been doing with God all along (Matt. 2:1-12)!
The earth will be troubled and dark for rejecting God as king (8:21). Herod brought great slaughter on infants (Matt. 2:16-18).
After the boy is born, but before he can say, “Mother,” and, “Father,” a pompous king will wreak havoc over Israel (8:4-8). Herod slaughtered the infants while Christ was under 2 years old (Matt. 2:16-18).
The child, who is a, “light,” and “God,” will enter Galilee (9:1-7). After fleeing to Egypt, Joseph and Mary introduce Jesus to Galilee for the first time, and thus, God the “light” entered Galilee (Matt. 2:22; Luke 2:38b).

As you can see, the prophecies lay out in great detail elements surrounding Jesus’ birth, so that Matthew and Luke’s testimonies are needed together to show how Isaiah prophetically spoke of these events 700 years before they happened.  

Sequence of Birth Events

Finally, now that we have considered all 3 sources (Isaiah, Matthew, and Luke), here is the general flow of the birth narrative as I understand it, shown in the subject headings of the harmony:

  1. John the Baptist’s Birth Foretold; John is Conceived – Luke 1:5-25
  2. Jesus’ Birth Foretold to Mary; Jesus is Conceived – Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:26-38
  3. Unborn Jesus and John Are “Introduced” – Luke 1:39-56
  4. John the Baptist is Born – Luke 1:57-80
  5. Jesus’ Birth Foretold to Joseph – Matt. 1:19-25
  6. Joseph and Mary Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem – Luke 2:1-5
  7. Jesus’ Birth – Luke 2:6-20
  8. Jesus’ Circumcision and Naming – Matt. 1:25; Luke 2:21
  9. Jesus Presented to the Lord in Jerusalem – Luke 2:22-39
  10. Wise Men Seek Jesus – Matt. 2:1-12
  11. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Flee to Egypt – Matt. 2:13-15
  12. Herod Slaughters the Infants – Matt. 2:16-18
  13. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Return to Nazareth of Galilee – Matt. 2:19-23; Luke 2:39  

Further Reading

References

  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A. 1970. The Gospel According to Luke I-IX. Vol. 28A. Anchor Bible. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
  • McDowell, Josh. 1999. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Evidence I & II Fully Updated in One Volume To Answer The Questions Challenging Christians in the 21st Century. Revised, Updated edition. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson Inc.
  • Morris, Henry M. n.d. “When They Saw the Star.” Institute for Creation Research. Accessed March 23, 2019. https://www.icr.org/home/resources/resources_tracts_whentheysawthestar/.

[1] This especially fits the backdrop of Luke writing Luke-Acts while Paul (his leader and companion) awaits sentence in Rome (Acts 28:16ff.). Paul’s alleged crimes were: (1) encouraging disobedience to the Jewish law (cf. Acts 21:28; 25:8), and (2) encouraging civil unrest and rebellion to Caesar (cf. Acts 24:5; 25:8). Thus, in part, Luke seems to be writing his gospel and Acts to help clear the name of Paul and the Christian movement taking place. See further confirmation of Luke’s emphasis in Resurrection Harmonization.

[2] See the, “we,” passages of Acts that begin with Acts 16:16. The author (Luke) shows that he was Paul’s traveling companion, at least for these particular journeys. Further, Paul quotes gospel sayings in his letters that match Luke’s gospel better than the others (1 Cor. 11:23-26 = Luke 22:19-22 // 1 Tim. 5:18 = Luke 10:7), which again shows special familiarity between Paul and Luke.

[3] In 1 Tim. 5:18, Paul says that the statement, “A laborer is worthy of his wages,” is part of Scripture.  This phrase can only be found in 1 place in the entire Bible: Luke 10:7.  Thus, Paul recognizes Luke’s writings of the Gospel of Luke and (by extension) Acts as Scripture.

[4] See more on Matthew’s theme of Gentile salvation inResurrection Harmonization.

[5] See more on this theme of Matthew’s inResurrection Harmonization .