Part 9 of the Big Journey is entitled ‘From Solomon to the Coming Saviour’. It’s a 16-page PDF document illustrated in full colour throughout. Click on the link below to download it:
Outline of contents
“Solomon the son of David established himself in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him and made him exceedingly great.” (2 Chronicles 1.1)
“Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy.” (1 Kings 4.20)
Solomon’s accession ushers Israel into a unique period of peace and prosperity. God gives Solomon phenomenal wealth and fame. His empire stretches from the upper Euphrates to Egypt’s border – the extent of the land that God promised Abraham.
Now Solomon builds a permanent Temple where God will live. This is a key moment in God’s plan to rescue creation from Satan’s domination. Under Solomon’s rule, God once again has a paradise – the choicest place on this planet – where He lives among His people. At the Temple’s dedication, Solomon says: “Praise be to the Lord, . . . . Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” (1 Kings 8.56 NIV). In Vaughan Roberts’ words: “It looks now as if all the promises of God have been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come.”
The land of Israel was God’s bridgehead into a world under Satan’s domination. Israel was to be the Kingdom of God in miniature – foreshadowing what God planned for the whole world. Israel was to reveal God to the nations. As Michael D. Williams tells us, “Rather than send his evangelists and witnesses out to the far-flung corners of the earth, as he does in New Testament times, God set a mission station in the midst of the nations for all to see.” Through their feasts and sacrifices, through their Law, through the ordered peace and wellbeing of the nation and the beauty and fruitfulness of their land, Israel would demonstrate to the nations around what God was really like – holy, trustworthy and kind. And through their family and tribal relationships, and their politics, economics and culture, God’s people would demonstrate what mankind was called to be. They were to be, in John Durham’s words, “a display-people, a showcase to the world of how being in covenant with Yahweh changes a people.”
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“All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. . . . . . . . they kept mocking the messengers of God, . . . until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.” (2 Chronicles 36.14,16)
But the battle with Satan isn’t over – he wants to overrun God’s paradise and destroy God’s people. Very quickly, it all goes wrong again. Solomon’s many foreign wives lead him into idolatry.
The kingdom is divided after Solomon’s death – Israel in the north, and Judah to the south. The northern kingdom’s rebellion and wickedness is unremitting. In the end, the nation is finally defeated by the Assyrians in 722BC. Israel becomes just another part of the Assyrian Empire.
Judah’s sin, too (though punctuated by a few good kings) ends in conquest by the Babylonians and expulsion from the land – just as Adam and Eve’s sin led to their expulsion from paradise. In around 586BC, the Babylonians besiege and sack Jerusalem and raze Solomon’s beautiful Temple to the ground.
But in 539BC the Persian Empire replaces the Babylonian Empire as the chief power in the Near East. Cyrus the Persian ruler allows God’s people to go home and rebuild Jerusalem and re-occupy the land. The people finish rebuilding the Temple around 516BC.
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The return, however, isn’t the glorious restoration that God’s people doubtless hoped for. The new Temple seems to have been much less magnificent than Solomon’s splendid building. The Ark of the Covenant – God’s Throne – is missing, never to return. The Bible doesn’t record God filling the new Temple with His presence (as He did in the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple). Judah is still under Persian control. There’s no Davidic king on the throne. And the people still backslide.
But God’s prophets tell us this isn’t the end of the story. Woven throughout their rebukes and warnings to God’s people and to the nations around is a breathtaking message of hope. God’s prophets unveil an astounding vista of future glory. God is going to do a new and wonderful thing for His people! God promises them a new Exodus, a new conquest and a new Promised Land. There’ll be a new Jerusalem and a new Temple and a new King!
How does this happen? The promised King will do it. Daniel calls Him ‘Anointed One’ or ‘Messiah’ (Daniel 9.25-26). Both kings and priests were consecrated by being anointed with oil; this anointed Man will be both a King and a Priest. This Royal Priest will offer a sacrifice for sin that will deal with all sin for all time. He Himself will be that sacrifice. The Messiah is Jesus Christ. Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, prepares us for His coming: “. . . . And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, . . . .” (Malachi 3.1).
God prepares the stage of history for Messiah’s coming. God works in His own people – they meet for prayer and Scripture study at ‘synagogues’ – these may have begun as a permanent institution during the Exile. The Sabbath begins to be widely observed and God’s word is established as the basis for the life of God’s people. Idolatry ceases to be Israel’s besetting sin.
And God prepares for Gospel outreach to the whole world. Willem Vangemeren tells us: “From this time onward we find an increase in proselytes, who join the Jews in the worship of Yahweh, and the beginnings of God-fearers, who want to learn more about the God of Israel.” And something else was happening. God’s people were going out to the Gentiles. They settled in Gentile lands. The synagogues in these lands would one day become launch pads for the proclamation of the Gospel, paving the way for the expansion of the church.
In the centuries before Jesus’s coming, several great empires successively dominated the Promised Land. The Assyrian Empire gave way to the Babylonian, and the Babylonian to the Persian in 539BC when Cyrus took Babylon. The Persian Empire fell, in turn, to the Greek Alexander the Great. Alexander died in 323BC at the age of only 33, and his empire was divided among his generals, two of whom were Ptolemy and Seleucus. For most of the period from 320BC till 198BC, Judea was ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt. Then from 198BC the Seleucid dynasty of Syria took control. A heroic Jewish resistance campaign (the Maccabean revolt) gave the Jews around 80 years of relative independence from 142 BC until the Roman general Pompey took control of Jerusalem in 63BC.
God showed faithful Daniel about these empires – the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman: first as a towering image that king Nebuchadnezzar dreamed, then as a series of terrifying beasts. These visions take us to our own day; our own Western civilisation has its roots in the last of these empires – the Roman Empire.
And these visions take us on into the future. From the final beast that represents Rome a little horn sprouted. This horn seems very likely to picture the coming Antichrist who will make his appearance at the end of this age. But at the end, Daniel sees dominion being given to the Son of Man and to God’s people. Here in visionary form, we see the coming of God’s Kingdom and His victory over the Satanically-inspired world powers.
So God’s Kingdom will come in its final glory at Jesus’s Second Coming. But the final phase of God’s assault on Satan’s kingdom is already under way. It began with Jesus’s first coming. He opened His ministry with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1.15). In the next session, we’ll review Jesus’s birth, life and ministry until He enters Jerusalem, days before His sacrificial death on the Cross.
Part 9 of the Big Journey is available as a 16-page PDF document illustrated in full colour throughout. Click on the PDF icon at the top of this page to download it.