Visiting the graveyard, looking at tombstones
2 Chronicles 12: God was not important to him.
Here’s a story of the man who, because of pure stubbornness, split Israel into two Kingdoms. Under his grandfather, David (a man after God’s own heart), Israel became a united and successful nation. Under his father, Solomon (a man who asked God for wisdom), great things were accomplished and prosperity came to the land. Under Rehoboam (a man who thinks God is unimportant) there is civil war, invasion from Egypt, and spiritual decline. As his obituary is written this phrase stands out: “God was not important to him.” Such a charge states volumes. In fact, when the final story of any life is told, how a person responded to God is the most important fact about them. It remains true today. How I respond to God matters and honestly, God won’t be ignored. In every life, God has the last word.
Take Away: What will be the Lord’s last word on my life?
Leaving everything to follow
2 Chronicles 11: The Levites left their pastures and properties and moved to Judah and Jerusalem.
His subjects have requested that Rehoboam back off a bit and give them some breathing room but he foolishly promises more of the same. The result is that he loses half his Kingdom. From now on we’ll have twin kingdoms: Israel and Judah. Right off Israel enthrones an evil man who shuts down the worship of Jehovah God. However, not everyone in Israel is on his side and several relocate to Judah, not because they like Rehoboam all that much but because they want to worship the Lord. One group, in particular, is mentioned. Traditionally the Levites have served God, first in the Tabernacle and then at the Temple. Now, the Levites living in the new nation of Israel have a decision to make. Will they abandon their calling or will they abandon their property? Many, we’re told, decide for God. They leave home that they can be true to their calling and serve God in Jerusalem. I’m impressed by their decision as I’m impressed by stories of people who leave home to live in some distant place in response to the call of missions. The most many of us can say about following the Lord is that we’ve been inconvenienced at times. Here’s a group of people who abandoned everything to be faithful to God’s call on their lives. People who make that kind of decision are worthy of our admiration. The Lord’s impressed by it too. As Jesus says in Luke 18, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
Take Away: Thank the Lord for people who are willing to live out their faith even in the face of real personal sacrifice.
You can draw more flies with sugar….
2 Chronicles 10: Be considerate of their needs…they’ll end up doing anything for you.
Solomon’s accomplishments are impressive…and expensive! All of that building takes a lot out of the nation. When Solomon’s laid to rest and his son Rehoboam ascends to the throne his subjects come to him with a reasonable request: “give us a break!” For a generation they’ve faithfully served his father, focusing their efforts on accomplishing his grand projects. Now, they want to put their efforts into building their own lives, capitalizing on the prosperity Solomon brought to them. Rehoboam goes to his father’s advisors and asks for their opinion and they agree with the people. These folks were committed to Solomon, but Rehoboam is starting new. If he’ll back off and show compassion his father’s people will become his people. These advisors wisely add that, in the long run, he’ll get more accomplished by getting the people on his side than he’d ever get done by using his sovereign authority and just ordering them to work. I know that Rehoboam foolishly listens to the advisors of his own generation and manages to split the country but, for the moment, I’m taken with the wisdom of the first advice he receives. I think there are times when a leader sees a bigger picture than others do. At times like that, he or she may have to prod people to move in the right direction. However, most of the time a leader who conducts himself or herself as a servant who cares for people and has compassion on them is going to accomplish more. A leader who appreciates what people do, who has their best interests at heart, and who is willing to listen to what they say is going to almost always get more done.
Take Away: People follow leaders who they believe have their best interests at heart.
Trading bronze for gold
1Kings 14: King Rehoboam replaced them with bronze shields.
Solomon’s son Rehoboam sits on the throne of Judah, sovereign of what’s left of his father’s great kingdom. While it’s true that rival Israel is worse off than Judah, both of these kingdoms are unraveling. Up in Jerusalem, idol worship is taking root and a mixture of Jehovah and idol worship is common. When Egyptian forces raid Jerusalem and carry off the gold shields that Solomon made, Rehoboam simply replaces them with bronze shields. They’re not as beautiful as the gold ones, but they’ll have to do. Rehoboam orders that these substitute shields are to only be used for special occasions and kept in storage the rest of the time. I think this substitution of bronze shields for gold ones reflects what’s happening in the life of the people of Judah. Under David and Solomon they had the “gold” as they worshiped the God who had brought them to this land in the first place. Now, though, they settle for a cheap substitute. Those shields aren’t the real deal but they look a lot like the gold ones. How often do we substitute bronze for gold in our own lives? We could have the real deal, but we settle for a mere replica instead. Many years in the future Jesus will tell us that God is looking for people who want to worship “in truth.” I’ve already decided that I have no time or patience for just going through the motions. I want to know God, to live in him, and to experience him. I won’t settle for “bronze” when “gold” is available.
Take Away: The Lord’s best is simply “the best” – nothing else even comes close.
How far is too far?
1Kings 12: It’s too much trouble for you to go to Jerusalem to worship.
Jeroboam is now king of Israel with Rehoboam left with only the loyal tribe of Judah. Jeroboam immediately realizes that Rehoboam holds one powerful trump card. He has the Temple. Even though the people have made him king, his subjects will still go to Jerusalem to worship. Once they’re in Jerusalem they’ll be reminded of David and Solomon. When that happens, they’ll remember that Rehoboam sits on the throne of these two great men. He solves this problem by turning his back on God and the Temple. How does he convince these worshipers of Jehovah to abandon worship at the Temple built in his Name? He does so by telling them that it’s too much trouble to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. By keeping them away from the Temple he keeps them out of Judah, and by doing that, he keeps them away from Rehoboam’s influence. Of course it’s a blatant sin. The people, though, go along with his suggestion. I understand the temptation because, like them, I like convenience. I like having a remote control for my TV, a microwave oven, a garage door opener. I even like having my church less than a mile from my house. Still, there are some things that are worth inconvenience. I’ll drive extra distance to see the doctor in whom I have confidence and I will go out of my way to spend some time with my grandchildren. Am I willing to be inconvenienced to worship God? Do I want a worship experience that isn’t too much trouble, or do I want to really connect with God Almighty? What value do I place on having a genuine worship experience? Thanks, but no thanks, Jeroboam. I think I’ll just go on making that trip to Jerusalem!
Take Away: If we have to choose between convenience and God, well, the choice is obvious.
It’s not my fault, God made me do it
1Kings 12: God was behind all this…
I’m a firm believer in the God-given gift of free will. As someone said, “In his Sovereignty, God granted human beings the freedom to choose.” There are plenty of scriptures that speak to this concept but this isn’t one of them! Just to set the story: Solomon sins against God and because of that the Lord says he’ll rip the larger portion of Israel from his descendants’ rule. Then, when his son Rehoboam assumes the throne he foolishly follows the wrong advice and that brings about a split in the nation. At that point we come to the statement that “God was behind all this.” This leaves me playing defense on the topic of free will. Does God cause Rehoboam to do something stupid to bring about the split between Judah and Israel? And, if that’s the case, is Rehoboam responsible for what God causes him to do? Does God suspend free will in this specific circumstance? I don’t have a sweeping answer to these questions, but I don’t think God over-ruled himself on the topic of free will. Maybe this can work if I think in terms of “influence” rather than direct cause. For instance, God knows Rehoboam’s heart — that he’s a stubborn, selfish man. The Lord knows that Rehoboam’s friends are like him. It doesn’t take God’s pulling strings like a puppeteer to get Rehoboam to go along with the bad advice he receives. A slight suggestion is all it takes to accomplish that. Once I start thinking in terms of “influence” I more easily see how this works in both negative and positive ways. If my desire is to please the Lord in all I do, it won’t take much of a nudge from God to get me moving in the right direction. I’m not claiming that I’ve resolved all the “free-will verses God’s sovereignty” issues here, but I think it is a step in the right direction.
Take Away: I’ve been granted free will. Will I or won’t I use that gift to allow the Lord to positively influence me in the decisions of my life?
1Kings 12: If you will be a servant to this people…they’ll end up doing anything for you.
Solomon gets all the credit for his impressive and massive construction projects, but he probably never did an ounce of actual labor. The common people did the hard work. Now that Solomon’s son Rehoboam is assuming the throne the people ask for relief. I know how this turns out, but I can’t help but note the wisdom of his father’s senior advisors in this. They recommend that Rehoboam be a servant to the people; that he respond with compassionate consideration, showing them respect. The result, they say, will be that he’ll get his own way. That is, they’ll work themselves to death for him. Centuries before Jesus tells his disciples that the greatest should be servant of all, these advisors tell Rehoboam the same thing. This principle applies across the spectrum. It works at national leadership levels, in business, and, yes, in the church as well. Rehoboam doesn’t get it and ends up with a rebellion on his hands. The same thing happens in other applications as well. The best leaders are servant-leaders.
Take Away: Good leaders understand the servant-leadership concept and practice it.