Thursday, June 14, 2012


“When all Israel saw that the king had not listened to them, the people answered him:
What portion do we have in David?  We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.  Israel, return to your tents; David, now look after your own house!
So Israel went to their tents…” (1 Kings 12:16 HCSB)

Charles Dickens begins his book, A Tale of Two Cities with the line, It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.  He could have been describing the nation of Israel as portrayed in 1 Kings 12.  Solomons reign had brought great economic prosperity to the land, but moral poverty as well.  While they were climbing up the financial ladder, they were plunging down the spiritual slide.  We are so concerned in America about the economy, but show little concern about morality.  God has a word for us in this tale of two kingdoms.

First, notice that the text presents a tale of TWO OPTIONS.

Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king.  When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard [about it], for he was still in Egypt where he had fled from King Solomon's presence, Jeroboam stayed in Egypt.   They summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam: Your father made our yoke difficult. You, therefore, lighten your father's harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.’  Rehoboam replied, ‘Go home for three days and then return to me.’ So the people left.  Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon when he was alive, asking, ‘How do you advise me to respond to these people?’   They replied, ‘Today if you will be a servant to these people and serve them, and if you respond to them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever.’  But he rejected the advice of the elders who had advised him and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and served him.   He asked them, ‘What message do you advise that we send back to these people who said to me, “Lighten the yoke your father put on us”?’   Then the young men who had grown up with him told him, ‘This is what you should say to these people who said to you, “Your father made our yoke heavy, but you, make it lighter on us!” This is what you should tell them: “My little finger is thicker than my father's loins!  Although my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with barbed whips.”’”  (12:1-11).

Life is filled with choices.  Many of these options carry little consequence—what color socks will I wear or where will I go on vacation, and such. But, other decisions have great and lasting significance.

Jeroboam had been chased away into Egypt because of his rebellion against Solomon. After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam came to power and Jeroboam decided this was an opportunity for a fresh start. The wise men give Rehoboam counsel to be a servant in order to get servants. Effective leaders have a servant’s heart.

But Rehoboam decides to listen to his peers and responds in arrogance. “I’ll show them who’s boss!” If you have to tell somebody you’re the leader, you probably aren’t!

We have the choice each day between two kinds of counsel—the ways of the world or the wisdom of the Word. Our choice will determine blessing or cursing. Psalm 1 issues this principle, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night.” The choice is yours.  Rehoboam chose foolishly.

This chapter also presents a tale of TWO KINGS.

So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had ordered: ‘Return to me on the third day.’  Then the king answered the people harshly. He rejected the advice the elders had given him  and spoke to them according to the young men's advice: ‘My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with barbed whips.’  The king did not listen to the people, because this turn of events came from the Lord to carry out His word, which the Lord had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat.  When all Israel saw that the king had not listened to them, the people answered him: What portion do we have in David?  We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.  Israel, return to your tents; David, now look after your own house! So Israel went to their tents,  but Rehoboam reigned over the Israelites living in the cities of Judah.  Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam managed to get into the chariot and flee to Jerusalem.   Israel is in rebellion against the house of David until today.

“When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they summoned him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. No one followed the house of David except the tribe of Judah alone.   When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mobilized 180,000 choice warriors from the entire house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin to fight against the house of Israel to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam son of Solomon.   But a revelation from God came to Shemaiah, the man of God:  ‘Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon, king of Judah, to the whole house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people,  This is what the Lord says: You are not to march up and fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Each of you must return home, for I have done this.”’  So they listened to what the Lord said and went back as He had told them.” (12:12-24).

The kingdom is divided.   Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Eventually both of these kingdoms would perish.  Division is one of the most destructive weapons that Satan has in his arsenal. 

Division in your home will destroy it. Thats why Scripture forbids us to be unequally yoked. There is no basis for unity between a believer and unbeliever in marriage. But two believers may also behave selfishly and engage in a tug of war that breaks homes, with children becoming the broken pieces. A church is robbed of power and damages its testimony where there is division.  We might also point out that America is more fragmented, I believe, than since the Civil War era.  The model of a melting pot is no longer true, as every group demands their rights.

There are two options and two kings in this tale of two kingdoms, but also, TWO CALVES.

Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built Penuel.  Jeroboam said to himself, ‘[The way things are going] now, the kingdom might return to the house of David.   If these people regularly go to offer sacrifices in the Lord's temple in Jerusalem, the heart of these people will return to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will murder me and go back to the king of Judah.’

So the king sought advice.  Then he made two golden calves, and he said to the people, ‘Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here is your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’  He set up one in Bethel, and put the other in Dan.  This led to sin; the people walked [in procession] before one of the calves all the way to Dan.  Jeroboam also built shrines on the high places and set up priests from every class of people who were not Levites.   Jeroboam made a festival in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the festival in Judah. He offered sacrifices on the altar; he made this offering in Bethel to sacrifice to the calves he had set up. He also stationed the priests in Bethel for the high places he had set up.  He offered sacrifices on the altar he had set up in Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. He chose this month on his own. He made a festival for the Israelites, offered sacrifices on the altar, and burned incense.”  (12:25-33). 

In the name of expediency, Jeroboam leads the people into spiritual disaster. He was a crafty politician. He gave them what they wanted. A true statesman does what is right, irrespective of the opinion polls.  We have few statesmen today.

Popularity was his preeminent concern and so he could justify his wickedness.  How often people rationalize their sin in order to preserve their status!  Yet they are actually securing their eventual judgment.

It could become the best of times for us if we will exhibit a servant’s heart, bind ourselves together in unity and refuse to compromise for expediency.  But, it will be the worst of times if we act arrogantly toward others, become a source of discord and make our decisions based on self-interest rather than conviction.

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