God is doing far more than what we are aware of:
Why do you do what you do? If you are a Christian you should be doing ‘all things for the glory of God’ as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 10:31. That should be our bottom line. And we often read in Scripture of God doing something for his “name’s sake” – for the sake of his reputation and his glory. Here are a few of these passages;
1 Samuel 12:22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.
Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 25:11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Ezekiel 20:44 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.”
Revelation 2:3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
I have written previously about these matters, and how we should do things for the honour and glory of God: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/04/29/that-the-world-may-know/
But what is quite interesting – and quite amazing – is that sometimes we read of God doing something for the sake of someone else! Since I am reading through the books of Kings right now, I find this often in regards to King David. Here are the main passages, with the phrases in bold, as well as something I will speak to in a moment about Yahweh ‘leaving a lamp’:
1 Kings 11:9-13 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”
1 Kings 11:30-36 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did. Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name.
1 Kings 15:1-5 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.
2 Kings 8:16-19 In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.
2 Kings 19:32-34 “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
2 Kings 20:4-6 And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.”
Of course David was part of the royal line leading to Messiah, so he had a special role to play. But still, we can almost ask if God might think of us in this regard: that he has such a high view of us and his calling on our lives. Something to think about anyway.
But I want to look further at this notion of God leaving a lamp. To assist me let me bring in a few commentators. John Woodbridge offers some context here, reminding us that God’s promised judgment will not fall in Solomon’s lifetime. He then offers these helpful remarks:
It will be Solomon’s son who will find himself with just “one” tribe. The reason for this is now supplemented with the image of a “lamp” for David. Many years earlier, in the days when Samuel was a lad, our historian had noted that “The lamp of God had not yet gone out” (1 Samuel 3:3). This suggested that in those dark days there was still a glimmer of hope. Later King David had been called “the lamp of Israel,” and the people had feared that this lamp might be snuffed out (2 Samuel 21:17). David himself knew that the Lord his God was the “lamp” who lightened his darkness (2 Samuel 22:29). This image will recur in the subsequent history of the dark days to come (see 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; cf. Psalm 132:17). Hope rested on God’s promise to David, and God himself was committed to keeping this flame alive.
Among other things, this is the good news of remnant theology. Despite widespread apostasy, God always has those for himself who he can use for his purposes. Indeed, an hour ago I again read this about God speaking to Elijah: “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18).
And David Lamb offers more commentary:
All three of these “lamp oracles” can be connected to David’s dynastic promise (2 Sam 7), as they speak of Davidic heirs continuing to reign and refer to David as the servant of YHWH (2 Sam 7:5, 8; 1 Kgs 11:36, 2 Kgs 8:19). In each of these contexts, the lamp oracle explains why an evil ruler (Rehoboam, Abijam, and Jehoram) is allowed to remain in power in Jerusalem.
That too is something to ponder. Often when I see wicked rulers all around me, I wonder why God just does not deal with the lot of them – now! But perhaps he has a lamp amongst us as well. This also is further speculation, but something to consider.
Philip Graham Ryken offers these closing thoughts:
First Kings 11 is one of the saddest passages in the entire Bible. The divided kingdom was a complete catastrophe. The painful consequences of that divinely ordained division lasted for centuries. Eventually the northern tribes were scattered among the nations and lost forever. But God had not forgotten his promises. He never does! Therefore, even as he was judging his people for their sins, he was also working for their salvation….
The flame in David’s lamp would never be extinguished. . . . Whatever punishment Solomon endured as the result of his sin was not God’s final judgment, therefore, but only God’s fatherly discipline. It was corrective judgment to preserve his people, not destroy them. This is an important principle to understand about the way God works in the world. Sometimes God brings his own people under discipline, but when he dies, it is only temporary, never permanent. God graciously puts us under discipline in order to accomplish his good purposes in our lives. According to Hebrews 12:6, this discipline is a sign of God’s loving concern for the life of his beloved children.”
He looks at the promises God had made to David and continues:
All these promises find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the greater Solomon of the kingdom of God. The reason God said that David’s son would have a tribe – and the reason he kept saying this over and over again – was that he had a plan of salvation that depended on the house of David. One day he would send a Savior to be the King of his people forever. In order to keep that promise, God had to preserve the tribe of David until the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. He is the light of the world (John 8:12), whose lamp still burns in the house of God (see Rev. 1:12-13).
Amen to that. That certainly explains things and helps put all our troubles into perspective. What a great God we serve.