Successful Failures

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Text:  1 Kings 16:6-34

Title:  Sucessful Failures

Sermon Theme, Goal, Need:

Theme:  God evaluates success on a scale of faithful living. 

Goal:  to encourage Christians to succeed and live faithfully.

Need:  We are often wrapped up in the success of the world that we recommit the sins of our parents.

Sermon Outline:

  1. Introduction
    1. Sermon series on the prophet Elijah

                                                               i.      Background to the troubles in Israel.

                                                             ii.      The present sin of Israel’s kings.

    1. Need:  Illustrate how we measure success.
  1. Omri’s Success #. Ahab’s Success
  2. Failures in the eyes of God-  “you can read the details in the annals of the kings of Israel.
  3. Israel needs someone who can rescue them from the affluent failure they are caught in and become faithful and successful.
  4. Conclusion:  Christ shows us how to be faithful.

Sermon in Oral Style:

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

          This evening, Pastor Jake and I are going to begin leading you through the last part of the book of 1 Kings and even into the book of 2 Kings.  We are going to be looking at the life and times of one of the best known prophets of God, Elijah.

          I think we will find that Elijah’s ministry as a prophet in Israel is filled with dynamic moments.  Probably one of the most memorable moments in the ministry of Elijah is when he faces off against the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel.  Its also one of the climactic moments in the entire book of 1 Kings. 

If you would read through the entire book you find that this moment in the history of God’s people can be evaluated by what Christ says are the two greatest commandment.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  Especially the “love the Lord your God” part, the kings of Israel are miserable failures.  The showdown on Mount Carmel like the breaking point.  GOD, YAHWEH, the true God of the universe, or Baal, the worthless idol?  Who is the real God in Israel?

Before we get into the life and times of Elijah, this evening I want to bring you on a quick but inspiring tour of the history of God’s people and the book of 1 Kings.  The whole time we should be asking ourselves, “What is the problem in the world?”  And “what is God going to do about it?”

A good place for us to start this tour is back where we left off our last evening series.  Joseph.  Joseph and his 11 brothers are in Egypt.  Over hundreds of years, these 12 brothers’ families grow.  Soon they are 12 tribes.  The Pharaoh tries to keep them in Egypt, but God promises them a land near the Jordan River.  So the 12 brother tribes follow Moses out of Egypt.

Because the 12 brother tribes don’t trust God with all their heart, they wander in the wilderness for 40 years before they finally come back to the promised land.  In the book of Joshua they start by taking over Jericho.  Then they take most of the rest of promised land. 

During their time of settling in the promised land, they have a time where they trust God has their king.  But they fall away often.  They need these Judges to save them from enemy nations who God uses to punish them.

Eventually, the people call for God to put a human king on the throne.  Then you get Saul.  He does evil in God’s sight.  So you get David.  He is a good king who lives a holy life except for the huge mistake of lusting over Bathsheba, committing adultery with her, then killing her husband so he won’t have to break the law when he takes her to marry her. 

The wise guy Solomon is next.  He rules wisely in everything except through his hundreds of wives he begins worshiping other gods.  Even though the 12 brother tribes, this nation of Israel is the wealthiest it has ever been under Solomon, God says that he was a failure.  He didn’t honor God. 

And if things couldn’t worse, after Solomon dies the kingdom is split apart.  The 12 brothers still don’t get along.  Ten brother-tribes to the North create their own capital with their own king.  And the two brother-tribes in the South keep up the line of Solomon and David.

As soon as this split in the kingdom happens, we have to be careful with the words that we use.  The Northern ten tribes are called Israel.  The Southern two tribes are called Judah.  Israel doesn’t mean the whole nation, and most importantly it doesn’t mean the descendants of King David.


You’ll notice that the kings we read about in our passage they are all kings of Israel, the northern ten tribes.  Judah is enjoying the 41 year reign of Asa.  During his rule the ten tribes of Israel are going through chaos with its leaders.  Civil war.  The 7-day reign of Zimri, just long enough to kill every descendant relative or friend of the king before him.

What were you supposed to keep in mind through hearing this history?  What is going on in the world?  Israel is in chaos.  They have forgotten God.  They have broken the two great commandments.

Omri isn’t too impressed so, as commander of the army he sieges the city and kills Zimri.  He is made king and also defeats Tibni who wanted to be king.

The other event of his reign that is noteworthy according to 1 Kings is his purchasing a hill, putting a city on it and calling it Samaria.  That would become the capital city of Israel.

After that the passage moves into an evaluation of his reign.  Verse 25  25 But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him. 26 He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.

27 As for the other events of Omri’s reign, what he did and the things he achieved, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 28 Omri rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son succeeded him as king.[1]

          There’s nothing too remarkable here.  Most of us could probably read right over Omri and his life and lose the details in with the rest of the kings of Judah and Israel.

          The amazing thing is, in archaeology, do you know who other nations considered to be the greatest ruler of Israel.  Its Omri.  They have found numerous artifacts that talk about Omri and his advances.  One artifact even has a king gloating over the fact that he defeated one of Israel’s kings, calling him the descendant of Omri.

          According to what archaeology says, the nations considered Omri a great success.  He established peace with the neighboring nations.  Expanded the wealth and the boundaries of Israel.  Trade was good.  Probably so good that Israel imported lots of false religions as well.  Omri is so successful when it comes to what he and his descendants accomplished for Israel that archaeology now calls the time of Omri and his descendants the Omride dynasty.

       The world sees Omri as a success.  But he is just a successful failure.  The eyes of God, are what really see what Omri is all about.  God’s summary of all Omri’s success fit in just a couple of verses 25 But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him. 26 He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.

          God wants his people to be successful.  He enjoys blessing his people.  But even when there is material success, when other gods in the picture, FAILURE is all God sees.  Love God above all or mark it as failure.

          After the death of Omri, the success of the nation of Israel, the northern ten brother tribes, continues.  Ahab keeps the nation growing a prospering.  He continues this Omride dynasty.  But as he builds on his Father’s material successes, he also builds on his father’s absolute spiritual failure.

Verse 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. [2]  

Even worse than the others.  He thinks its child’s play to sin the way his fathers did.  He marries a foreigner.  Takes her gods.  Baal.  He sets up Ashera poles for worship.  Worship the Lord your God and serve him only!! God can’t stand it.  Ahab is a miserable failure as well.  Success riches fame,  He tries to do it with out the true God.  He has forgotten GOD.


The last thing it mentions about him is that under his influence the city of Jericho are rebuilt.  Verse 34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.[3]

When God destroyed the walls as Israel entered the promised land, Joshua said this is Joshua 6:26.  “Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:

“At the cost of his firstborn son

will he lay its foundations;

at the cost of his youngest

will he set up its gates.” [4]

          Hiel probably, under the worship of the gods Ahab had brought in, did what was common in that day.  They would put an infant child, dead or alive into a jar and then placed into the masonry of the walls or the gates.  They would sacrifice the lives of their children to please God’s of stone and metal.  Deplorable!

          Under Ahab, the whole nation turned to EVIL.  They Turned to other God’s and they turned away from the God who had saved them.

          Today we usually relate success to finances.  It has little to do with the success of being a follower of Jesus Christ.  These kings of Israel show that God doesn’t care what sort of things you are accomplishing in your work.  God doesn’t care how respected you are in the community or among your friends.  God doesn’t care about success like that.  These kings are gloriously successful miserable failures.

          When it comes right down to it, who is the real judge of success.  Our neighbors.  Or the God of all things?  Who’s opinion matters at all?  Are you successful in the eyes of God?

          That’s where our passage leaves us.  In the midst of the terrible junk of the successful failures of Israel.  But the end of the chapter is not the end of the story.  What are things like in the days?  Business is God, but God’s kingdom is a failure.

          But the next question:  What is God going to do about it?  When his people fall away, he doesn’t stand by and do nothing.  When the people he has chosen to love decide  not to love him in return, he plans to bring them back.  Elijah is God’s rescuer.  He is the prophet, the messenger of hope.  He’s the one who is going to turn the nation around back to God again.  Elijah is the hope of the nation, bringing them back to true success.

          Just like we have a prophet and rescuer in Jesus Christ, who calls us back to the truth, the people of the Old Testament had someone that would point them back to God, just a glimmer of what Christ would be like.  That prophet is Elijah. 

          Elijah is the rescuer of God’s people, the prophet who shows them how they can live a truly successful life.  In the following weeks we will hear how Elijah promotes true success.

          And as we go from here.  Let’s remember to not be successful failures like the Omride dynasty.  Power, fame, prestige, with no lasting reward.  Let’s be successes, by the grace of Christ.  Let’s love the Lord our God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves.


This is God’s will from his word.  And all God’s people say, AMEN.

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Ki 16:25-28

[2] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Ki 16:30-32

[3] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. 1 Ki 16:34

[4] The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jos 6:26

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