Monday, March 26, 2012

My Biggest Struggle- Final Look at I Kings 12

My study of I Kings 12 has been an interesting process. Funny how God works the medicine of the Bible.   Quite often I spend a lot of time thinking how the passage applies to the church, or culture, or nations, or how it might impact my theology, or points of application I can craft for others...... but before long... the spiritual message finally finds the target, like a holy laser guided smart bomb.. right to my cold, hard heart.

This passage was a sneak attack.

My first post was about the popularly titled "Rehoboam's Folly" where the King of the South disregarded the counsel of the elders and chose to follow the pride and power of his peers.

The 2nd post was an interesting observation of God's providence. How He sovereignly controls all things in spite of sin and rebellion. His allowances may be perplexing, but our view is incomplete. 

We read the response and reactions of the people to Rehoboam's choice- pure rebellion.

19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.20 And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God:23 "Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people,24 'Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.'" So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

Very interesting response and allowance by God. Ten tribes rebel, leaving only Judah and Benjamin behind. Rehoboam amasses an army to restore unity. A Biblical times 'civil war' where Rehoboam is 'Lincoln'. But GOD says 'NO" and an amazing statement- "this thing is from ME"
SO we have unintended consequences. The Kingdom in the North has resources. But the Kingdom in the South has the place of worship. The North has gold... but the south has Jerusalem.
25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel.26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah."28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt."29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one.t31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites.32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made.33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.
This is a wicked thing that Jeroboam does. Rehoboam chose poorly. But, for his own survival, Jeroboam institutes false worship and this is a sin with long, devastating consequences.

I always think HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? Didn't these people remember the golden calf the first time at Sinai? But I am also reminded time and time again. People are like sheep...they just follow. And we have very short memories. And just as the old adage goes- those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

It is a dangerous to ever treat God as an expedient. If we arbitrarily move boundaries or institute new practices or procedures based on practical preferences... we are in grave danger of kindling the Lord's anger or departure.

How does this passage portray my biggest struggle?

Jeroboam pulls this off is because the people readily succumb to worship by convenience instead of worship by spirit and truth.

And I see myself right in their midst.

When Jeroboam says 'you have gone up to Jerusalem long enough' the UP is literal. It was a long, hard climb. Jeroboam provided a way out of what was a hardship. And our love of leisure and comfort makes it so easy for the same substitutions to take place in our lives.

Keith Green used to sing, "Jesus rose from the dead, and you can't even get out of bed."

Indeed, in my life, there is little evidence of any sacrifice of leisure and comfort in my practice of worship. Do I strain in my giving? Do I make an effort to always be there on time and prepared? DO I participate? Do I let the slightest discomfort distract and interrupt my focus? Where is my focus?

SO much of what passes for good worship today is 'I was entertained'. I like the music, the message was entertaining (and short) and I was able to get in and out without too many inconveniences.

The passage is very reflective of what we do. Jeroboam served the people's needs for his political agenda. There was no consulting of the Scripture's to see if the thing prescribed was authorized by God.

AND... is this possible?.... worship became a SIN! It became man centered...not God centered. It became ritual and routine with NO spirit and truth.

Sadly, this is my biggest struggle... another Sunday... going through the motions. I can try to blame the service itself...but I know the problem- my heart loves leisure and luxury and I want 'worship' to cater to me.

I come expecting to get. Worship is supposed to be me coming to give.

If I really understand the nature of God and it I really have embraced the gospel- I should be able to worship in a tin roofed hut, 100 degrees, with off key music, and straight reading of scripture and my heart should LEAP at the opportunity to praise and thank my King.

Lord, please help me.. I need a real heart change here. The routine/ritual is hurting our relationship.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When God Looks Twisted- I Kings 12

I Kings 12 is a pivotal point in the history of Israel and puts the covenant promises of God is seeming jeopardy. In 931 BC, just a grandson away from David, the given land of inheritance is split into 2 separate kingdoms. Ten tribes side with Jeroboam in the North and only little Benjamin stays with Rehoboam and Judah in the south.

Is God in control? What do we make of His providence? What do we make of His allowances?

When the dust of circumstances cloud His face, what do we do?

If I am honest, I have to admit to experiencing sometimes sadness and sometimes frustration when the paths of His providence take unexpected turns that seem to detour from His level paths and straight plans.

It has been so perplexing and somewhat depressing when I see the deep divisions that exist in the daily ministrations of men. Just in the study of this passage- the wide and differing applications of meaning and arguments over details are enough to throw it all down and scream in disgust.

But then the dust settles......

To me, the biggest point in all of the narratives of Kings and schemes is this:

God's providence is never foiled by man's free folly. In fact, His sovereign rule totally blows me away. What a KING! No matter how hard we fight or how far we run or how much we doubt or how much we fall or how much we yield- God's will and God's way are fulfilled. AND HE does it without compromising anything of His perfect nature.

Some glory in God's predestined providence. Others swim in His beautiful freedom. And yet, both bask in truth. Is God in control? YES Is man free? YES Is man trapped? YES Is God bound by His Nature? YES  Is He free? YES IS HE HOLY? YES IS HE LOVE? YES

God's ALLOWANCES never excuse sin. The only variable is time. It is not WILL HE but it is WHEN HE executes justice.

Let's look at this narrative as an example of these incomprehensible points.

It begins with the sad tragedy of Solomon. How hard to finish well. 

I Kings 11 Now wKing Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, x“You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in loveHe had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and yhis heart was not wholly true to the Lord his Godzas was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after aAshtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after bMilcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for cChemosh the abomination of Moab, and for dMolech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because ehis heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, fwho had appeared to him twice 10 and ghad commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, hI will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, iI will not tear away all the kingdom, but jI will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem kthat I have chosen.
26 qJeroboam the son of Nebat, ran Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow, also slifted up his hand against the king.
28 The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.  29 And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet uAhijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country. 30 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, vand tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, wI am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes 32 (but xhe shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, ythe city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33 because they have1 forsaken me zand worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did. 34 Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. 35 aBut I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son xI will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have ba lamp before me in Jerusalem, ythe city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, cI will be with you and dwill build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. 39 And I will afflict the offspring of David because of this, but not forever.’” 40 Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, to eShishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.
42 And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43 And Solomon gslept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And hRehoboam his son reigned in his place.
I am going to skip over the foolish ignoring of advice by Rehoboam- that was my last post

I Kings 12:12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, o“Come to me again the third day.” 13 And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, m“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 scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for pit was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which qthe Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

16 And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. rTo your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over sthe people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah. 18 Then King Rehoboam senttAdoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 uSo Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but vthe tribe of Judah only.21 wWhen Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to xShemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the yrest of the people, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, zfor this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

I know I pasted a lot of Scripture here- but do you see the perplexity of providence? We fight in the foreground and God still rules in the background. AMAZING!

2 Chronicles 12:15 
There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

So what do we make of all this? In war, the battle is chaotic but we serve at the pleasure of the King and He is trustworthy EVEN when things seem convoluted. When we get sad and want to despair... trust that God is moving to the day of victory.

How this narrative struck me:

1) Some of God's promises are conditional... "if you" but failed conditions do not undo His providential plan.

2) Sin is judged. If you think you have escaped the consequences, you have no clue how committed God is to justice. Who do you want to pay for your sins? This is why I plead the blood of the Lamb.

3) We can mis-judge because we don't see the whole. We are wrong and God is right. We are blind and He sees. And WHO do I want to trust? Blind ME or the God of the Universe?

I have to be honest- there is too much here to even attempt to put into words. I am speechless.

And the crazy thing here is that this is not the meat of what God wanted me to lean from this story. My next post will reveal my biggest struggle.......and still in I Kings 12.