II Chronicles 12 is another view of the difficulty that Israel/Judah experienced due to the splitting of the kingdoms and the leadership that led to a downward spiral of moral decay and ultimate destruction.
Verse 1 is especially sad: "When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him."
I could spend all the rest of this blog post applying this one verse. Think about how we got here. The people wanted a King. They were wanting to be like the rest of the world. God really wasn't good enough for them.
God grants us our desires at times, even if He knows the likely result. Indeed, allowing the King was a part of the plan. But it doesn't excuse most who desired it for all the wrong reasons and out of a sinful heart.
In our freedom.... we ARE free to choose. But we cannot choose the results of our choosing.
The people in the wilderness complained about the manna and God gave them the meat- but the results were deadly.
Divorce was rampant and Moses allowed the certificate of divorce- but Jesus made it clear that it was man's hard heart and not God's wishes. (Matthew 19:8)
The people cried for a King. And the result has not been good.
In this particular case, the rulers are strong. My guess is that Rehoboam fits all that they would desire. I bet he is tall, strong, articulate, and persuasive. Many walk around and speak of what a great leader he is.
Worst of all... he knows the religious jargon. He is in the midst of God's people and he can talk His way through situations with references to the religion. He is a man's man.
But He is not God's man. Take away that living connection with the God of the Universe and a strong man will be a big problem. There is NOTHING to check his ego. There is no reason to do anything except what he wants to do. There is no pressure to compassion.
Finally, there appears to be great success. My guess is that all the economic indicators are that this guy is wonderful! He is ruthless enough to keep the peace. He is rigid enough to collect the taxes. He is cunning enough to massage the political winds of good times.
But NEVER forget the verse: Galatians 6: 7,8
7 zDo not be deceived: God is not mocked, for awhatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For bthe one who sows to his own flesh cwill from the flesh reap corruption, but dthe one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
THE JUDGEMENT COMES
It took five years for the judgement to show up. But God never forgets to keep His word and His heart is full of justice. We should always be careful to announce success in a decision in which the Lord is ignored... we measure in days and God measures in decades. We judge the stats.... God judges the heart.
Here comes Egypt.. one of a number of nations that God uses in Scripture to bear the sword of His wrath. God is not the author of evil, but He does channel it and use it for His good purposes. His integrity is never compromised and evil will be destroyed. The key is to understand that it all happens on His clock and not ours.
And He makes sure that the rulers hear it straight from His prophet: "Thus says the Lord, 'You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of (the Egyptian King).' Is there ANY more chilling phrase to come out of the mouth of the Creator. What does it mean to be abandoned by God?
The Biblical term we never want expressed is "Ichabod" meaning the glory of God has departed. His loving, sustaining spirit has been driven out by unrepentant sin.
PUNISHMENT MIXED WITH GRACE
In full view of the wrath, these men of pride are torn and fall to their knees in humble repentance.
They say in humility: "The Lord is righteous" and then God makes a change.
"They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them (His original intent), but I will grant them SOME deliverance (emphasis mine)." "Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him."
Very interesting- the punishment is reduced, it is restrained- and we read that they are plundered but left intact. It was still a hard punishment, but survivable.
DISCIPLINE IS GRACE
This year, I have been in a position to dish out punishment. To say it is not easy is a gross understatement.
I spend a lot of time thinking through Proverbs 21:11:
When oa scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
and reviewing Hebrews 12:
f“My son, gdo not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.6 For hthe Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. iGod is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, jin which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject tokthe Father of spirits land live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, mthat we may share his holiness. 11 nFor the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields othe peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Because discipline produces pain- you can imagine some of the feedback I get.
But if it is not total destruction.... punishment IS grace.
It reminds us about sin. It helps us see the cross. It instructs us and others.
If we receive it in humility.. if we are repentant. And it is God's patience.
The end of the chapter?
Rehoboam reigns for 17 years. The Bible report? "And he did evil, for He did not set his heart to seek the Lord."
And then he died.
Now comes the real consequence.
Where are we? How do we act? What do we love? What do we do when we fail? Who do we admire?
Our only hope is Jesus Christ.
What have we done with Him?