Rehoboam and Jeroboam - Too Much Me and Not Enough We
Kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam – Too Much Me and Not Enough We 1 Kings 12 Pastor Pat Damiani August 20, 2017 On June 16, 1858 Abraham Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech at the Illinois state capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Although Lincoln ended up losing his bid to unseat Senator Stephen A. Douglas, that speech would become, along with the Gettysburg Address, one of the best-known speeches of his political career. The speech gets its title from the best-known part of the speech where Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, paraphrasing the words of Jesus. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend certainly remind us that the words of Jesus and of Lincoln are still true today. Before I go any further, let me say unequivocally that the racism and hate spewed by the white nationalists and supremacists and Nazi groups, is 100% wrong and any attempt to justify those ideas through the use of Scriptures is from the devil himself. The Bible is clear that God created all men in His image and any attempt to disparage anyone on the basis of race is a direct affront to the God who created them. Period. Unfortunately the kind of violence that we saw there that resulted in three deaths and numerous serious injuries, is nothing new. In fact, it seems to be more and more the norm and not just an anomaly. And it reveals that there is a more fundamental divide in our country that goes much deeper than just race issues that threatens to destroy our nation from within. As much as I’m concerned about North Korea and Iran, I’m frankly much more concerned about this internal division because history teaches us that most of the great powers throughout history tend to collapse from within rather than be conquered from without, which is the point that both Jesus and Lincoln made. We’re going to see that clearly in the passage that we’ll be studying together this morning. Before I proceed, I need to share a couple of things that will be helpful as you listen this morning. While most of the message you’ll hear this morning is the message that I completed by Thursday morning, according to my usual schedule, during my time with God on Friday morning, I was convinced that I needed to make some fairly significant changes. So the outline in your bulletin may not line up exactly with the message and you may want to make some of your own notes. Also, for the kids who are following along on your clipboards, there are not a lot of blanks that you’ll be able to fill in by just looking at the screen. Therefore, I’ve given you a few questions to answer that will require you to listen carefully. So parents and kids, I’m going to give you a minute to look over those questions right now to make it easier to listen to the answers. Last week we left off with the account of King Solomon’s final days. And that was certainly a sad story because Solomon, who had started out so well, didn’t finish well at all. So God reveals to Solomon that He is going to take the kingdom away from his heirs and give it to another. But in His grace and mercy, He promises that Solomon’s son will remain king over a small portion of the entire commonwealth of Israel. This morning, we’ll look at the very next chapter – 1 Kings 12 – and in that account of two kings who play an integral part in the division of Israel we’ll see that they both exhibit some of the very same character traits that are leading to a lot of the division in our country today. And the main idea that we’ll take away from that passage is… Division occurs when there is too much me and not enough we [Read 1 Kings 12:1-15] Since Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, we would expect that he would have had hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of sons who would be possible heirs to the throne. But the Bible actually only names one son –Rehoboam, who is the main figure in the first part of this chapter. We’re also introduced here to the other king who will be the primary focus in the last part of the chapter – Jeroboam. Jeroboam was from the tribe of Ephraim and had been in charge of forced labor during the reign of King Solomon. Near the end of 1 Kings 11, we learn that God sent a prophet named Ahijah to Jeroboam to tell him that God was going to make him king over the ten northern tribes. When Solomon found out about that, he tried to have Jeroboam killed, so Jeroboam fled to Egypt. But once Solomon died, he returned to Shechem, where the people had gathered to install Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, as king. Shechem was a city with a rich history. Abraham has worshipped there, Jacob had built an altar there, Joseph was buried there, and that is where Joshua gathered the people to remind them of their pledge to serve and obey God. It was also located strategically in the geographical center of Israel. But the fact that Rehoboam had to travel there rather than remain in his home in Jerusalem, shows that he was already dealing from a position of weakness even before some of the things he will do to further the divide that was already starting to surface. This would probably be a good time for a quick geography lesson so that you can get an idea of where some of the significant places that we’ll run across this morning are located. [Show map] I know this is hard to see, so let me point out a few key locations. · Jerusalem – established by David as the capital of Israel. · Shechem, which I just mentioned · Bethel, which you can see is located at the southern boundary of the northern kingdom of Israel · Dan, which is located near the northern border of Israel, roughly 100 miles north of Bethel This morning we’re going to run across several people and groups who all promote the underlying division because for them there is too much me and not enough we. Let’s begin with the people who are assembled to install Rebloom as king. We learn here that even though Israel had prospered under King Solomon, that prosperity had come at a cost. In order to accomplish great tasks like the building of the temple and Solomon’s palace, Solomon had subjected some of his own people to forced labor. And now the people want some relief from that. After watching Solomon drift away from God during his later years, what the nation really needed was for Rehoboam to lead the nation back to a place where they worshiped, served and obeyed God. But instead of asking Rehoboam to do that, the people wanted the government to address their own selfish concerns. I’m not saying that the people didn’t have legitimate right to ask for some relief, but what I am saying is that it is sad that their priority was to try and get something for themselves rather than focus on turning back to God which was what the nation actually needed most. In many ways, things haven’t really changed a lot in 3,000 years. No doubt, we’ve taken that selfishness to a whole new level here in the United States as well as in most other countries around the world. We certainly saw that last weekend when every group involved in the protests and violence was concerned only for what they wanted and their rights without any thought whatsoever about how that might impact others or what is good for our nation as a whole. That demonstrates that even though our country was founded by godly men who made God, and not self, their highest priority, that is no longer true for the large majority of people in our country. So instead of humbling ourselves and turning back to God and putting our faith in Him as a nation, we have done exactly what the people did in Rehoboam’s day. We have placed our faith in government and largely asked them to provide our own selfish desires. But because we have so many competing desires, our nation has become increasingly polarized and divided with divergent individuals and groups all trying to cling to their “rights”. So instead of having civil conversations with others and genuinely listening to each other, we have devolved into shouting matches and violent confrontations like what we saw this last weekend. Next, let’s look at Rehoboam. At first. he seems to be wise. He asks the people to give him three days to make a decision. But he also was caught up in this idea of too much me and not enough we. The first mistake he made was that He didn’t seek to find out what God wanted. I think there is pretty good evidence that is because he had already decided what he wanted to do that would be best for him. But he at least made the pretense of seeking counsel from others before announcing that decision. First, he consulted with the same elders who had served his father Solomon. But when they didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear, he just fired his entire cabinet and found some new advisors, ones who would be his ”yes” men. So instead of doing what the king was supposed to do and being a servant leader for the people of Israel, Rehoboam doubled down on the harshness that had been imposed by his father and basically said to them, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”. He threatened that where Solomon had used whips, he would use scorpions, which were lashes that had metal points attached so that each blow would wound like a scorpion’s sting. Again, this is exactly what is going on here in our country today. With a few exceptions, our political leaders have forgotten that their role is to serve the people. They have become power hungry and for the most part make their decisions based on what is best for their re-election chances rather than what is good for the people. They surround them with advisors who will tell them what they want to hear. And though they may do it in much more subtle ways than Rehoboam, they constantly threaten to “bring the hammer down” on people in order to try and “get them in line”. And that behavior is not limited to any one person, political party or viewpoint. Let’s continue and see the destruction that Rehoboam’s folly caused. [Read 1 Kings 12:16-24] Rehoboam is forced to return to Jerusalem for his own safety. Once that occurred, the ten northern tribes made Jeroboam their king, thus fulfilling God’s earlier promise. Rehoboam is understandably angry so he assembles an army of 180,000 men for the purpose of trying to take back the rest of the kingdom from Jeroboam. But for a change, Rehoboam actually listens to God when God tells him not to fight against his own relatives in the northern kingdom. This is the one and only time we see Rehoboam listening to or obeying God, but by now the damage has already been done. From this point forward, the commonwealth of Israel would remain divided. In fact, Rehoboam’s decision to obey God and not go to war would merely serve to postpose the ongoing battles that would occur between the two kingdoms for the next several centuries. This is a good time to pause to define some terms that we’re going to be using throughout the rest of our journey through the Old Testament: · The term “Israel” can be used in two different ways, so I’ll do my best to make sure I try to distinguish between the two. o Originally it referred to all 12 tribes. I’ll often refer to that as the “commonwealth of Israel”. Pretty much without exception, that is how the term “Israel” is used in the Bible all the way up to this chapter. o After the kingdom is split into two separate kingdoms as we have seen here in 1 Kings 12, the term Israel is almost always used to refer to the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom. · Judah was originally one of the sons of Jacob who became the father of the tribe that bears his name. But after the kingdom is split, it is used to refer to the southern kingdom. Over the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed that God promised Solomon that his son would rule over one tribe. However, we learn here that the southern kingdom actually consists of two tribes – Judah and Benjamin. And to further complicate matters, those of you who have been reading through Joshua may have also noticed, like Loren did this week, that the land allotted to the tribe of Simeon was actually within the boundaries of Judah. While I can’t give you a definitive answer about how this all fits together, what I do know is that both Benjamin and Simeon were very small tribes compared to Judah. And from the time Joshua gave them their allotment of land until the events in this chapter, it appears that most of the tribe of Simeon had migrated north and they no longer had any significant presence in the south. To a large degree, the same had happened with tribe of Benjamin which sits right between the two kingdoms. What is most significant, however, is that the line of David, who is from the tribe of Judah, is preserved so that God’s promise to David of a Messiah who would come from his line could eventually be fulfilled when Jesus, the Lion of Judah, comes to earth hundreds of years later. Before we finish the chapter, I must point out, however, that there is some reason for hope in all this. The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea are all going to prophesy of a time in the future when God will pour out His grace once again and reunite Judah and Israel and bring them into the land He has prepared for them. While nowhere in Scripture do we find a similar promise that could in any way be applied to the United States, our hope is in the fact that God has promised in His Word that if His people humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways He will forgive their sin and heal their land. I’ll return to that idea later. While all this is going on in Judah, Jeroboam is also trying to shore up his own political base in the northern kingdom. [Read 1 Kings 12:25-33] Like Rehoboam, Jeroboam adds to the existing divisions because for him there is also too much me and not enough we. Just because the commonwealth of Israel had been split in two didn’t mean that the northern tribes were exempt from their covenant obligations to God. One of those obligations was that all able-bodied men were to travel to Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom, three times a year to worship God in the temple. Since Jeroboam was worried that would eventually undermine his political authority, he creates a religion of his own making that would serve his political interests rather than God. In doing so, Jeroboam exhibits a complete lack of faith in God, who had promised him that his throne over the northern 10 tribes would be secure. Jeroboam doesn’t even pretend to do what Rehoboam had done and seek the counsel of others. Verse 28 literally reads “So the king took counsel of himself…” So not only did Jeroboam not consult God, he figured he didn’t need to get advice from anyone else either. The first thing he did was to make two golden calves, just as Aaron had done over 500 years earlier, while Moses was on the mountain getting the law from God. He puts one in Dan, at the far northern end of the kingdom and another in Bethel, at the far southern end. And then he repeats the exact same words that Aaron had spoken: “Behold your gods, O Israel…” But for many of the people in Israel, that would still require a long trip to go worship so he also set up high places throughout the land to make worship more convenient. And probably because the Levites refused to serve as priests of this man-made religion, Jeroboam appointed his own priests and even carried out the functions reserved for the high priest himself. Finally, he delayed the date of the Feast of Tabernacles, a date prescribed by God, for one month, from the 15th day of the seventh month to the 15th day of the eighth month. Again, I see some direct parallels in our culture today. There are a lot of people, even many who claim to be Christians, who have created their own religion for the sake of convenience and for the purpose of serving their own selfish desires. Like Jeroboam, we certainly see our politicians using religion to gain and protect their power. But it’s not just the politicians. Even within the church, we see a whole movement to make church more palatable to those outside the church and more convenient for those within. We’ve talked before about the churches that are careful to never mention sin or hell or do anything to make people feel guilty or offend anyone. And we’ve also made it so much easier for people to “get their religion” in a convenient way. Technology now makes it possible to listen to your favorite preacher without ever having to leave the comfort of your house or your car or attend church while sitting in front of the computer screen in your pajamas. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for the technology that allows our church and others to make good Biblical teaching available to both Christians and not-yet Christians. I’m thankful that people who are genuinely sick or disabled can watch our services via the internet. I’m thankful that I can listen to podcasts while I’m driving that encourage me with the Word of God or help me learn how to be a better pastor and leader. But at the same time, there is a lot of evidence that even the most committed Christians are opting for convenience in their worship. One large church here in Arizona surveyed their young families and discovered that on average they only attended church an average of 1.6 times per month. Churchwide, only 20% of their members attended 3 times a month and only 4% attended at least 48 times in a year. When I hear statistics like that I’m very thankful for so many of you who are so much more committed than that. We could speculate about the reasons for these kinds of trends, but I’m convinced that there are two primary causes: 1. All the technology that can be used for good has also made it easy for Christians to tailor a spiritual life that is to their own liking. They can listen or watch their favorite preachers – the ones who might not confront their sin or challenge them to obey Jesus. And they are free from the accountability that comes from frequently gathering together and interacting as a body. That is an attractive kind of religion to a culture that, as we have talked about this morning, tends to be focused more on me than we. 2. Going to church is just too inconvenient. People allow everything from staying out late on Saturday night to their favorite NFL team playing on Sunday morning as an excuse to stay home. My goal is not to embarrass anyone here, but last week I was talking with some guests who apologized for being late because in order to get here they had to drive around a wash that was still flowing from the rain the night before and it took them 30 minutes to get here. I wonder how many times some of us have decided not to come to church for far less significant reasons. We’ve all heard the old adage that “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And my fear is that as a nation we are following the exact same course that Israel took 3,000 years ago that led to a division that remains to this day. Like Israel, as a country we have way too much me and not enough we. And yet, there is reason for hope. Knowing that Israel will be reunited one day gives me hope that the same is possible here in our country. As Loren pointed out to me earlier this week, God promised that He would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there were even 10 righteous men there. And while the numbers seem to be continually decreasing, we certainly have many more genuine disciples of Jesus than that left in this country. But what gives me the most hope of all is a promise that God gave that I’m going to share with you in just a moment. So as we close today, I want to make this very practical. None of us here can heal the divisions in our country on our own, But if we’ll all do these two things that I’m going to share with you this morning, I am convinced we can make a huge difference. The first one is something for you to do individually and the second is something we’re going to do as a body that you can also do on your own throughout the week. TWO THINGS I CAN DO TO HEAL DIVISIONS 1. Give up my “rights” for the sake of the gospel Ultimately the only thing that can possibly bring healing to our land is the gospel of Jesus. Jesus came to this earth to remove the barriers that separate us. As Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesian church: For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14 ESV) That means that the gospel is more important than my “rights”. So if exercising my rights is going to be a stumbling block that is going to negatively impact someone’s ability to hear and receive the gospel, then I need to be willing to give up whatever right that may be. I’m just going to share, without comment, some passages that confirm that idea: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV) So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19 ESV) …I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV) Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. (1 Corinthians 8:13 ESV) I could share a whole lot more, but I think you get the idea. This week, there has been a lot of debate about whether or not people have the right to remove Confederate statues and monuments or whether others have the right to keep them there. Unfortunately, it seems like no matter which side of that argument people are on, they are making it a lot more about me than about we. One of my friends named Tom Terry, put it this way: Someday there will be no confederate statue standing. Someday the Constitution and our great monuments will turn to dust. Someday all of the things that we fight for, no matter what political side we’re on, will be a long forgotten. In that day there will be one people, one Lord, and one kingdom. Isn't that the kingdom we should be looking for? 2. Pray for my country In both the Old and New Testament we are commanded to pray for our country and our leaders. And in a moment, we’re going to do just that. My guess is that this is something we don’t do particularly well. And here are a couple questions that you might want to ask to help you evaluate how well you’re obeying these commands: 1) Do I pray for all political leaders or just those I agree with? On my prayer list, I have the names of those in positions of authority in our nation, state and city from both parties. Some of those people that I’m praying for oppose everything I believe in. But I still pray for them because that is what God commands me to do. And I don’t do that reluctantly or begrudgingly. 2) Do I spend as much time praying for our country and our leaders as I do promoting them or criticizing them? I’m convinced that if as a country we would spend as much time praying for our leaders as we do collectively on Facebook either promoting or criticizing them, we would do more to heal the divisions in this country than almost anything else we could do. We’re going to close this morning by putting this last principle into practice and pray for our country. And as our guide we’re going to use a verse that I’ve alluded to earlier. After Solomon completed the temple and dedicated it to the Lord, God warned Solomon that in the future His people would rebel against Him and that there would be consequences for that rebellion. But He also made this often-quoted promise to Solomon: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV) I’d like to ask for all of us to gather here at the front of the stage and pray together, using this verse as our guide. Feel free to pray as you are led and then I’ll close out time once everyone has had a chance to pray. Discussion Questions for Bible Roundtable 1. What can we learn from Rehoboam about the importance of seeking wise counsel from God and from others? How can the counsel of others either help us or hinder us? 2. What are some ways that we can make our religion “convenient” or self-centered without even recognizing that we’ve done that? What are some practical steps we can take to guard against that? 3. What are some examples of some “rights” that we could hang on to that could hinder our ability to share the gospel with others. 4. As we pray for our leaders, what are some appropriate things to pray? What are some things that are not appropriate to pray?