Acts Devotionals

Idols of Israel

Swaziland is a small country, situated within the borders of South Africa. Everything in the country is about the king. After independence from Britain in 1968, King Sobhuza II dissolved parliament and repealed the constitution. From then, he made all decisions relating to the country’s economy, justice system and education. In his opinion, political parties, voting and governments with checks and balances are alien to the traditions of his country.

Although his son, Mswati who followed him, re-established a constitution, democracy experts say the country has not changed at all and he remains the only living supreme monarchy in our modern age. Sobhuza II had 70 wives, 210 children and over 1,000 grandchildren. Mswati has 15 wives and 36 children. As king, he controls the economy—meaning he owns everything, lives in luxury as does his family whilst his people struggle to survive.

Years ago, we had a young man who was a Swazi citizen. The stories and experiences he related regarding the rule in the country were horrific … but to the citizens … silence is golden. Keep the Swazi idea of kingship in mind!

Remember the people of Israel wanted a king to rule them. This act was a declaration that they no longer wanted God to rule them as His people in their place. (Remember yesterday’s note?) We are working through the following passage, part of Paul’s sermon:

Ac 13:21 “Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.

Our mini theme for “Then the people asked for a king” is …

1) Living under God’s rule with kings. God had told the people through Moses long before Samuel that

Deut 17:16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

Observe the three things God warned kings not to do!

(1) He must not build a military. Horses implied military strength. Associated with this it would mean going to Egypt, the oppressors of old and striking up an alliance with them. Two things are key here. The first is that God was to be the military power behind Israel and the second is that the old oppressor, who held God’s people in such bondage was not to be associated with because of possible idolatry. The king needed to lead his people for God, not in war.

(2) He must not take many wives. In Genesis we read of God’s institution of holy marriage:

Ge 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

To God, marriage was between one man and one woman. A king would not be able to focus on his core business of leading God’s people with more than one family. He would become distracted.

(3) He must not amass huge fortunes. Very few people are able to use money to honor God. Too often wealth distracts from depending upon God. A king would not be able to divide his attention properly between his family, his rule and his wealth. Sadly these three matters affected David to a lesser degree, but Solomon to a greater degree. His unnecessary military machine, his massive wealth and his many wives and concubines were his ultimate downfall. The last two, wives and money dominate the present king of Swaziland’s time.

2) God giving into the demands of Israel. As we have seen, He gave them a king in Saul. He started well and lost focus putting himself before God, disobeying the true King of Israel and losing the kingship to David. David was full of problems. Women and war occupied him. He united the Tribes of Israel into a United Nation but due to blood (war) on his hands God never allowed him to build the Temple. Solomon fell to all three of God’s prohibitions for a king … horses (military), wives (1,000 wives and concubines) and wealth. Both of them (David and Solomon) with all their sin were types of messiahs pointing to God’s true Messiah (Jesus). After Solomon died, the nation split into two …

(i) The Northern Kingdom known as Israel and

(ii) The Southern Kingdom known as Judah. She was far smaller, yet housed Jerusalem, the Temple and the king.

Some of the kings in the Southern Kingdom were good and godly but most were wicked as were those of the Northern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom was taken into the Assyrian Exile and ceased to exist. The Southern Kingdom eventually went into the Babylonian Exile and after 70 years some returned to Jerusalem, rebuilt the City and temple but it never reached its former glory. Then, together with most of the known world, she became a province of the Roman Empire, under the rule of the Caesar of the day. Eventually in 70 AD she was overthrown and the Temple destroyed. This was the end of animal sacrificing.

3) God’s promise to king David.

Ac 13:23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.”

We find the origin of this in:

2 Sam 7:11 “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. … 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”

If we want to blame Adam for our inherit sinful nature, what would we say about the kings of Israel who were to write out the Law and keep it with them, yet fell to the three prohibitions God denied them … Military Power, Women and Wealth? As we reflect upon history we see these to be the main reasons why leaders of nations, businesses and families have fallen. Tomorrow we shall start with God’s promise to David and how He realized it through the Lord Jesus … but for ourselves there are three important lessons to learn, whether we are in politics, business or the head of a family.

(a) Not everyone is able to have power and use it wisely. Being the head, leader or boss demands that your power be used cautiously. Remember that ultimate power is God’s.

(b) Not only men have problems running after women, the opposite is true as well. Many have fallen, done irreparable damage to their business, career, marriage and family. Follow God’s decree … He knows better.

(c) There is nothing wrong with wealth … the problem is our relationship to what we have. If you have wealth and know it is actually God’s and use it for His glory you are safe. Understanding the real owner of what you have is a safe guard to protect you.

Father, we pray for our leaders but we also pray for ourselves. Help us not to make idols of “power, petticoats and pennies”. Amen.

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