When I was in high school, our English teachers always assigned us books to read over the summer. They worried that our brains would atrophy over the course of three months if they didn’t assign us some rigorous reading, so they would pick three or four books for us to read at the beach or at the poolside or at home on the couch. You couldn’t get away with reading the Cliff Notes or watching the movie, either. When we returned to school in the fall, they would test us on these books and would ask questions that you could only answer if you’d read each and every page. Teachers have always been good at out-smarting their students.
At the end of the spring semester, we waited with anticipation and dread as our English teachers would hand out the “Summer Reading List.” Sometimes the list would include grueling, non-beach-friendly tomes like books like Plutarch’s Lives. Always there was a Shakespeare play like Romeo and Juliet or Othello. And often we had classics like The Sound and the Fury or fun stories like The Once and Future King. (Is it strange that I remember so many of these summer reading books?)
As much as we moaned and groaned about having to read real literature during the summer (whine, whine), I actually looked forward to getting that Summer Reading List every year. I’m a geek who loves books, and I enjoy reading books that people I respect tell me are good. So, I read every dang word of Plutarch’s Lives and am glad I did. Well, I’m glad now that I did. At the time, I did my share of whining.
If you are a geek who loves good books, or if you are looking for some good summer reading, I’d like to invite you over the next two months to open up the Old Testament and read 1 Kings and 2 Kings. This two-volume history tells us the story of what happened in Israel after the death of King David. We hear about people like Solomon, Elijah, Ahab and Jezebel, Elisha, the Queen of Sheba and all sorts of other colorful characters. There’s war and intrigue, faithfulness and betrayal, righteousness and evil. We get to see Elijah in a showdown on Mount Carmel. There is compassion and healing as well as selfishness and idolatry. In other words, there are some great stories captured in these two books.
These stories will be our focus in worship over the next two months. It’s been awhile since we’ve gathered around the Old Testament in worship, so we’re going to let the books of Kings be our foundation for most of the summer. Starting this Sunday with 1 Kings 8, we will follow the kings, queens and prophets of Israel and see how God worked with them or in spite of them. And hopefully their stories will inspire us to be more faithful in our own life with God.
There won’t be a test at the end of the summer, but if you take the time to read this ancient book I think you will be glad you did.