I think one of the quintessential songs that captures the positivity of the 1990s is ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ by D:Ream. If you’ve not heard it before, I implore you to do so in the strongest terms, it’s a tubthumping tune of raw optimism.
And as we start the book of 1 Kings, the same raw optimism can be felt. Rival challengers fall by the wayside, David passes on his kingdom to Solomon who is bestowed with riches and wisdom, an alliance is made with the powerful Egyptians, and preparations to build the glorious Temple of God are underway. Things are looking good for Israel.
Looking at the uncertainty and gloom facing our world today, the optimistic 90s seems like an age away. How quickly things fall apart. The same is true in 1 Kings. The high points of the early parts of the book quickly fall away as Solomon turned from a love of God, to a love of women. Despite Israel’s desire and pleading with God for a king, within just a couple of generations the kingdom of Israel is divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Things getting better, this is not.
In amongst the chaos and turmoil of the kings of Israel turning further from God, in chapter 17, onto the scene comes the prophet Elijah. The mighty, spirit-filled prophet steps into the narrative and right off the bat Elijah is calling out the corruption of King Ahab and mocks the prophets of Baal for Baal’s silence. ‘Maybe he is busy on the toilet’ (1 Kgs 18:27 paraphrased) Elijah quips as the Lord demonstrates He is the one true God.
There are two threads running through the book of 1 Kings: the unfaithfulness of the kings and the faithfulness of Elijah. As the kings pursue worldly power and forget the Lord their God, only destruction follows. The kingdoms split and are conquered; in turning from God, they are turned over to powerful foes. Elijah’s faithfulness stands out, however. Though his trust in God doesn’t result in earthly gain, Elijah realises that something the kings don’t- that listening and following God is a pursuit far greater than the things of this world.
As we see a world descending into political chaos and power grabs, let us be like Elijah, with a faithful ear turned towards God. Let us be like the heavenly prophet rather than those who sought worldly profit.