With King David we’re at the highpoint of God’s partial fulfilment of his promises (remember God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule and blessing). By about the middle of the book of 2 Samuel we find a huge people, settled in (and victorious over) the land of Israel (what used to be Canaan) under the rule of God’s king (David) and God’s law. Things look good.
But if there’s one thing we can be sure of in the Old Testament, thing always go wrong because of sin. We still haven’t found the king who will crush the serpent. Even David, the king after God’s own heart, falls for sin. He commits adultery with Bathsheba (if not worse given his authority) and then he has her husband murdered (2 Samuel 11). Although God in his grace forgives David on his confession (see Psalm 51 and 2 Samuel 12), the rule of David never really recovers.
David is followed by his son Solomon, who starts well by asking God for wisdom and in building the long-planned temple for the people of Israel (1 Kings 3-9). Israel is rich and powerful, so much so that the royalty of other nations come to learn from Solomon (see 1 Kings 10). But sadly Solomon falls for sin just like his father.
He has many wives (not a good start!), from many countries who bring their many gods with them. The problem is that God’s rule, expressed in the 10 Commandments started with two foundational rules:
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”(Exod. 20:3-4 ESV)
Solomon broke both these rules in a big way and he led the people of Israel to do the same thing and so begins the decline of Israel. God had so kindly fulfilled his promises to the people and made them secure and comfortable under his rule. He had really blessed them. But the people couldn’t help themselves. Sin always got in the way.
And that was the ongoing pattern of the kings who followed. Solomon’s son Rehoboam was an immature scoundrel who managed to split the country into two parts with two separate kings – Israel and Judah. Broadly speaking Judah is better than Israel in terms of faithfulness to God, but not by much.
It seems like a pretty steep decline until disaster and judgement for rebelling against God. Of course what they (and we) really need is a king who doesn’t sin and who can do something about the sin of the people. But things will have to get worse before they get better…