Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Kingdom Divided: Israel Splits between Rehoboam & Jeroboam

During the civil war in the United States 620,000 people died, because a kingdom had been divided. The nation divided politically, over the issue of slavery, and the northern states fought a long bloody war to end slavery forever in the USA. In the end they were victorious, but the cost was more than half a million lives.

Americans can be pretty stubborn right? Even today we see our nation just as divided, if not more divided ideologically than even during the civil war. Jesus said a house divided against itself cannot stand. And we’ll see today, that the splitting of the kingdom of Israel, between Judah and the northern kingdom would be a crippling blow to the nation.

Last week we explored the life of King Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived. But despite all his wisdom, in the end he turned away from the Lord and his many wives led him to worship false gods. In any case, one of Solomon’s sons was named Rehoboam. And he would be the next king after Solomon died.

But we also see this other person, his name is Jeroboam (no relation to Solomon) and he also seeks the throne. In fact God has told Jeroboam that he will be enthroned over 10 tribes of Israel.  He tries during Solomon’s life to claim it from him, but instead has to flee to Egypt. Then after Solomon’s death, we see Jeroboam once again attempting to claim the throne.

Ok, so remember, Rehoboam, with an R, is Solomon’s son and King. Jeroboam, with a J, is this new king who God says will sit on the throne. Alright? Awesome. You can turn in your Bibles to 1st King chapter 12. And it says this:

“Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”

10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”

So we see Jeroboam return from Egypt, and basically stirring up trouble against Rehoboam. He gathers a bunch of people with him and goes to Rehoboam and tells him to be kind to them and treat them well.

Rehoboam asks them to wait three days. He consults two groups of people for advice, the elders, and his buddies from growing up. And he decides to go with the advice of his young friends.

So Rehoboam goes before the people and tells them he will not be lightening any loads for them. In fact he’s going to be even more severe than his father Solomon.

And we’re all doing a face plant right here. All Rehoboam had to do was say alright, I won’t be quite as hard on you as Solomon was. I won’t work you quite as hard. And everything would’ve been OK. But instead Rehoboam allows pride to get in the way, takes some bad advice, and ends up making people even more upset.

This is a good life lesson for us today: There will be critical moments where we can either make things worse, or diffuse the situation. We’ll want to respond with anger and pride, but instead if we take the humble road, and respond kindly, we’ll diffuse a dangerous situation.

Has anyone here been in an argument with someone, and one of you said something, or gave some ground, that allowed the argument to diffuse, and fade away? That’s always a nice moment in a fight, when we come to some sort of resolution. We allow the anger to pass and then healing can start.

And have you ever been in that moment, of a fight, and one of you said the exact wrong thing, and it made the argument ten times worse? And maybe it even led to a total break of a friendship or relationship.

We’ll see that Rehoboam’s harsh reply causes massive consequences for Israel.

It says again in 1st King 12:18-24: “18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

20 When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.”

So Rehoboam rides out to put everyone to work and they rebel instead. The nation splits! The northern tribes gather under Jeroboam and make him King. And the tribe of Judah rallies around Rehoboam, and he is king over Judah. Rehoboam’s response is to plan to go to war.

It continues, “21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered all Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men—to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.

22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to all Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered.”

Rehoboam is ready to reunite the kingdom. But Shemaiah, prophet of God, hears from the Lord and relays a message to the king, to not do that. Remember how during this period of Israel’s history we’ll always see a king who rules, and a prophet who speaks God’s instructions to the kings.

God says, don’t go to war, I’m the one who allowed this to happen. But why did God bring this about? I assume, because of the failures of King David, and the failures of Solomon, and the rebelliousness of the people. So be it, you’re going to be divided then. That’s just my opinion, but it seems right.

So first we see in 1st Kings, the history of Jeroboam’s life explored. The kingdom has divided into Judah, and Samaria. As life continues after the split, Jeroboam sees that as the various Jewish festivals occur, his people in Samaria will have to start going to Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem to do that. So he worries that when his people in Samaria go to Jerusalem to celebrate the festivals, that he will lose control over the people in Samaria.

It says in 1st Kings 12:26-30 “ Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.”

Nightmare! Not good! So Jeroboam doesn’t want his people going to Jerusalem. So he sets up two golden calves for the people to worship God before the golden calves. Bad idea. Doesn’t this guy know history? During the exodus under Moses, the people rebelled and worshipped a golden calf. 

Always remember those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Study history my friends. It’s important. So Samaria is in big trouble now they are worshipping calves and it’s bad.

There’s wisdom for us today here. Know history. Understand who God is. Understand what the Bible teaches us about the world around us. Many Christians I know in the world today are totally deceived by the ideals of the world. I will talk to them, and they parrot the ideologies of the world, word for word, spoon fed to them by the news media and our culture. And you see them lining up on the side of Satan, and supporting evil ideologies and political viewpoints. And it’s very sad. They’ve been deceived, and they are actually supporting evil, thinking that they being a good Christian by supporting those things. Turn off the television, don’t trust the news media, do your own research. Most importantly pray for discernment, and know your Bible in and out. All of it.

So God sees that Jeroboam is doing bad stuff. So he sends a man of God, to speak to Jeroboam. It says in 1st Kings 13:1-6 “By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. 2 By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: “Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’” 3 That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is the sign the Lord has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.”

4 When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. 5 Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord.

6 Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.”

God will always warn us when we’re headed the wrong direction. He’ll send a friend to us. Or he’ll speak to us through the Bible, or through prayer, and he’ll warn us. Watch for that, as you make decisions. And obey the Lord. We see that at first, Jeroboam listens to the man of God, and repents. But it doesn’t last long.

It says in 1st King 13:33-34 33 “Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. 34 This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth.”

So Jeroboam really does poorly and so his leadership as king of Samaria is a disaster. Turn in your Bibles to 1st King chapters 14, and go down to verse 21. Here we see the author turning to Rehoboam’s leadership. It says he became king at the age of 41, and ruled for 17 years. And he does just as bad as Jeroboam did in the north.

It says in 1st Kings 14:22-24 “Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than those who were before them had done. 23 They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24 There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”

As a result you’ll see that Egypt would invade Judah and cause much destruction. In the next few chapters we see various kings indicated for Israel in the north and Judah in the south, and what they did when they were king. It’s history. That’s what a lot of the Bible is, is ancient history. Real stuff.

Israel has all bad kings. They don’t have any good kings during this time. But Judah does have at least some good kings over this time period. King Asa of Judah does well. Meanwhile Israel goes from bad to worse, they have kings Elah and Zimri who are both evil terrible kings. And then they get the worst one yet, named King Ahab. The name may sound familiar. An important biblical figure. We see King Ahab, as leader of Israel, and he takes a foreign wife, who worships Baal. Baal is basically Satan. Just a very evil false god. So at the conclusion of our message today, we see King Ahab and his wife Jezebel being the leaders over Israel. They turn much of Israel against God and toward the worship of Baal and the Asherahs sadly. But God isn’t done yet. He’s about to raise up prophets who will do mighty things in His name.

So in conclusion today, there is a final message for us today in the sad saga of the splitting of Israel. Remember, to be a peacemaker, like Jesus calls us to be. Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker. He mended disagreements. He was at peace with people as much as he could. But he also divided people. Because the truth does divide people. And we all have a choice to make. We have an ultimate choice to make in our lives. God honors our free will choice. Choice is sacred, a gift from God.

Will we choose the way of peace, the way of love, the way of holiness and serve the Lord God Almighty? Or will we choose the easy path, of sin, pleasure, selfishness, and death?

It’s really amazing to me, how many choose the road of sin. It’s easy. Sin is appealing. The flesh is always crying out for pleasure. That’s the wide road to destruction. Many walk on it.

Sure, you can fool me. Your pastor. You can say the right things to me, to keep in the dark. But ultimately that doesn’t really matter. I’m not going to be judging you on the last day. God will be your judge. And he sees everything we do in secret. Doesn’t really matter if people can fool me, or fool their friends, or the church, in the end they can’t fool God.

So instead choose life. Sin is waiting at the door, and it desires to master you. To control you. But instead you must be master over sin. In Christ you can be master over sin. You can live in holiness. It’s the battle we all face.

The people of Israel often chose sin, and evil, and it caused great destruction. We see the same thing happening in our country today, in the United States, many choose death and sin, and the result is chaos.

The choice stands before us. We are in the valley of decision. Will we choose life? Or will we choose sin? It’s hard. I know it is. Sometimes in my battle, I make the wrong choice. But I always turn again to the Lord, and continue on the right path.

I believe in you. You can walk the right path in Christ. Despite all Israel did to dishonor God and sin against God, God continued to reach out to them, and many were saved, though most of them chose destruction. Be one of those who follow the narrow path my friends. Because the clock is ticking. The battle is real. But in Christ we can do all things. Resist sin, cling to Jesus.