December 22, 2016
Pastor John Hering
It’s been the talk of liberals and conservatives every time there is an election. One side will accuse the other side of dividing the nation. According to the Pew Research center, more than 4 in 10 Democrats and Republicans say the other party’s policies are so misguided that they pose a threat to the nation.
Since the decline of morals—and I mean a clear understanding of what is right and wrong—we have also seen a decline in the family unit, the work force and even neighborhoods and communities. Against this we hear the shouts of “United We Stand!” and in the most recent Apple TV commercial we see Frankenstein with red and green lightbulbs on his neck probes with the caption, “Open Your Heart To Everyone!”
Is this the key to unity? Is it true that the only why we can stand strong in our families, churches, and communities is when we walk in unity and guard against division and strife? Will that really work?
This week our reading in God’s Word in The Story was chapter 14 “A Kingdom Torn in Two.” As we consider the life and times of Israel after the death of King Solomon, may the Holy Spirit led us to a proper understanding:
United We Stand; Divided We Fall
The 1st three kings God set up in Israel served God’s purpose to unite the Nation. Saul began campaigns against those wicked pagan nations. King David was God’s instrument to further his holy judgment on neighboring nations which threatened God’s plan of salvation and King Solomon rode the coat-tails of his father having a nation at peace and expanding their political and social status. However, when King Solomon died he left behind a wake of spiritual destruction. Having incorporated the heathen religious practices of his wives, Israel’s spiritual condition had once again spired out of control. “
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.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 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”
1 Kings 12:28-30
This was the condition when Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became king. But, all was not well.
Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: “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.” Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.”
1 Kings 12:1-5
The people had been warned what would happen when they had a king—he would overtax them and over work them. That happened. Now the people wanted Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, to lighten up. Rehoboam first seeks advice from the wise, older men.
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. 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.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him.”
1 Kings 12:6-8
Rehoboam’s dad was famous for giving very wise advice in the Book of Proverbs. Evidently Rehoboam didn’t read much of what his dad had written. For instance,
For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.
And as with so many young people who think they know the world, and life’s issues much better than their old ancestors, young King Rehoboam turns to his friends for advice! “
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 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’?”
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. 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.’”
Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.”
The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men.
1 Kings 12:8-14
If you had been there what sort of advice would you have given to King Rehoboam? No doubt you would have told him to listen to the wise words of those who were following God’s Word. Now there would be some serious consequences to his poor choices!
So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijahthe Shilonite.
1 Kings 12:15
That says it all, doesn’t it?
This turn of events teaches us important lessons about standing united.
1st: It is never God’s perfect will for people to fall into idolatry and have their nation divided up. It was God’s will for his chosen people to live under his constant blessing.
2nd: Nations are great NOT because of their politics or their weapons, but because the people are on their knees in true humility and repentance. When God finds people on their knees, he finds people who have real strength. Just ask Gideon and the men who knelt to get their drink of water!
3rd: It was the Lord’s will to bless them. But, it was also his warning that they would face God’s anger if they rebelled against the Lord and chased after other false gods.
So, unity was destroyed for the Children of Israel:
When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So the Israelites went home.
But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.
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. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
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.
1 Kings 12:16-20
You see the results of a divided nation. Chaos, murder and almost civil war. Do you know how it goes from here? If you studied the list of kings who ruled the divided kingdoms of Israel to the north and Judah to the south you would end up with 8 of 20 kings in Judah were good and in Israel? None! And today the 10 northern tribes of Israel are also called the 10 lost tribes of Israel—carried off by the Assyrian armies never to be heard from again.
At this point, according to this word of God, you would agree that unity is so very important for the healthy success of nation, family and church. The Psalmist would agree with you,
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
I’m not sure my cultural background gets the joy of having oil on my head and clothes, or a mountain of dew, but I get it. God’s anointing is his blessing through the gospel ministry, and God’s dew waters the fields in order to produce physical blessings for our daily needs. But, the point I get. If was want and expect God’s blessings, his presence, his grace, mercy, love, peace and forgiveness, then let’s walk closely to the oil of salvation and the living water of his holy Word.
What does this look like?
At Home: Husbands and wives sitting down and reading God’s Word together and talking about it. Parents and children sharing God’s Word together to learn the important Bible lessons of God’s plan of salvation.
At Church: It means parents are not saying to their children on Saturday night, “We better go to church” or “We should go to church” or “We get to go to church.” But, “We need to go to church!” because that is where our souls get real rest and where the Lord will keep us in the unity of faith in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.
In our day-to-day lives: It means working hard to maintain peace, because division is a tool of Satan to distract us from the most important thing being the most important thing. We have to be ready to tell people that God is Good, and get us full forgiveness of all our sins when Jesus came to die on the cross. And because of Jesus we have Divine Peace!
United in God’s Word We Stand, Divided from God’s Word We Fall!
It looked as if disaster was about to destroy God’s people:
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. But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God:
“Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to all Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘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.
1 Kings 12:21-24
Do you see what God used to stop this disaster of disunity among his people? It wasn’t a political party. It wasn’t a clever Apple TV commercial, no, it was his Word.
When people leave God’s Word and chase after the false gods of this world, our God is patient, but his patience does run out. So also with us.
That same Word of God is at our finger-tips. Let it never be said that it was our generation that left the Lord. Rather let it be said of us that we were blessed with unity, for we heard the word of God and as a fruit of our faith, we obeyed it.
With hearts of thanksgiving because our relationship with our Father in heaven was restored through the blood of Jesus, we stand united! Let it be said of us that even though the devil tried to divide us, he failed. We stand united in Christ Jesus! Amen!