Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1 Kings 12-13 Three Unwise Men

1 Kings 12:12-15 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 and said, "My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions." 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 Ahijah the Shilonite.

1 Kings 12:26-30 Jeroboam thought to himself, "The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 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." 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, O 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 went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.

1 Kings 13:1-3 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. He cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord: "O 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 now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.'" 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."

1 Kings 12-13 tell the tragic story of three unwise men: Rehoboam, Jeroboam and an unnamed prophet from Judah.
  • Rehoboam: Rehoboam succeeded his father Solomon as king. But when the northern tribes came to ask him to "lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us and we will serve you" (a reference probably to forced labour and taxes), Rehoboam, instead of listening to Solomon's advisers, chose to listen to his own peers. He made the burdens on the northern tribes more onerous and this triggered off the rebellion of the ten northern tribes under Jeroboam. Rehoboam lost ten of his 12 tribes in this rebellion which would keep the nation divided into the northern kingdom of 10 tribes collectively called "Israel" and the southern 2 tribes of Judah and Benjamin, collectively called "Judah". Rehoboam was unwise to reject the experience of the age for the excitement of youth. The result was tragic.
  • Jeroboam: Jeroboam, the second unwise man, set up a rival kingdom in the north out of the ten tribes that rebelled against the house of David. In order to keep people from going down south to Jerusalem to worship at the temple, he made two golden calves which he set up in Bethel and Dan as rival worship centers for ten northern tribes to offer their sacrifices: "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam told them to worship at Bethel and Dan because it was more convenient. And  "this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there" (1 Kings 12:30). Jeroboam's act introduced idolatrous worship in Israel. His name became associated with idolatry in Israel's history as the "sin of the house of Jeroboam" (1 Kings 13:34). The sin of Jeroboam is that of customizing God--a kind of "makeover" God to meet the needs of the worshipers. Today, I see a similar danger of a customised God that is becoming very much like us -- modern, user-friendly and always politically correct. He is always tolerant, always nice and never get angry with sin. He will smile at us even when we are defiant and disobedient to Him, just like some of us parents -- permissive and indulgent.
  • Prophet from Judah: This prophet did everything right until he was deceived by the older prophet who lied to him and caused him to go into his house to eat and drink, which he was told by the Lord never to do. Perhaps he was hungry and thirsty after travelling so many miles to the north and now returning by a different route to Judah. So, when the older prophet claimed he also had "a word of the LORD" (1 Kings 13:18) that now superseded God's earlier command to him not to eat and drink, the prophet from Judah believed him. This lack of discernment due to his own pressing needs (hunger and thirst) was the reason for this prophet's tragic end. The lesson is that our discernment can be compromised when we have pressing needs. It's easy to "hear" the word we want to hear and ignore what is already been given--or written in the Scripture. We cannot allow the "latest" revelation to nullify God's written revelation. God is consistent and never fickle-minded.
Today's lesson focuses on the failures of three men. But it is also a warning to us how to avoid those pitfalls: (1) consult and listen to those with experience; (2) preach Christ faithfully; (3) be discerning when someone tells you he has the "latest" revelation that now supersedes everything else you have learned before.

Father, grant us wisdom to learn from others' experience, to preach Christ  faithfully and to abide by Your Word. Amen.

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