I am working with Celia Kellett at BBC Radio Nottingham on an idea to present most of the books of the Bible, one a week, during 2011 as part of the celebrations of the King James Bible. The plan is to read some verses from the book, to give a one-and-a-half minute summary, to hear a human interest story which relates, and then include a short discussion making the connections.
Here are the key verses and summary for 1 and 2 Kings (‘How are the mighty fallen!’), to be broadcast this Sunday 6th Feb from 8.20 am:
Key verses: 1 Kings 19.10–13
Elijah said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a still, small voice. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
The Books of 1 and 2 Kings cover a huge swathe of history of nearly 500 years, starting with triumph, but ending with disaster. The glorious reign of King David is followed by his son Solomon, famed for his wisdom and wealth. Despite everything God gives Solomon, he drifts away from the faith of his father, and on his death the kingdom splits in two, Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
What follows is a catalogue of corruption, as both north and south drift further from faith. There are some beacons of hope, such as the reforms of King Josiah, but the main focus of resistance is the ministry of the prophets Elijah and Elisha in the north, and Isaiah in the south. They each learn that challenging power with truth calls for personal courage, conviction, and profound trust in God. And after his encounter with God as the ‘still, small voice’, Elijah learns another central truth: that you are never alone. As he despairs of the weight of the task that God has given him, he is reminded that ‘there are 7000 in Israel that have not bowed to false gods.’
The end of the story comes with stark reality. The succession of corrupt rulers comes to an end as first the north then the south are conquered and the people sent into exile. It leaves the question hanging: is there hope for the nation? What will the future hold? And can God be trusted to rescue his people?