I haven't done the best job of blogging lately but hope to do a little better. Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching in our Sunday morning services while Pastor Wayne was out of town. It had been almost two years since I preached on a Sunday so it was nice to have this opportunity. Since our church is in the middle of doing "The Story" as a congregation I decided to stick with it and we looked at the divided kingdom in Chapter 14 of the study.
I began by summarizing 1 Kings 12:1-15 where there is a division between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, has succeeded him as King of Israel. Jeroboam along with some others approach him to see if he would rule lighter than Solomon had. Rehoboam sends them away three days while he ponders his decision. He seeks the advice of the elders that had advised Solomon and they tell him that if he will serve the people that they will in turn serve him and follow him forever. He is not fond of that advice and turns to his friends who advise him to rule even tougher than Solomon did. He follows the poor advice of his friends and it does not turn out too well. There are a couple of quick lessons to learn here. First of all, be wise about who you seek counsel from. Even your close friends can lead you astray if they are not following God like they should. Second, we all need the wisdom counsel of older and wiser people in our lives.
We then read 1 Kings 12:16-20 where the kingdom divides into two. The Northern Kingdom of Israel makes Jeroboam their king, while the Southern Kingdom of Judah keeps Rehoboam as their king. A nation and kingdom that had once thrived, was now falling apart. This division begins an 80 year period of war, then 80 year period of peace, then a 50 year period of war, then they went spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon. While God's plan in the Upper Story will still be accomplished as He is bringing us back into fellowship with Him, this is heartbreaking to see. This nation should have never had any issue in disobedience but they did. We see this today however if our eyes are open to it. We see division all around us. There are broken marriages and families that are divided. There are churches that are dead because they are divided and falling apart. Sadly the church has been one of the most divided groups throughout history. We also do not have to look too far as we see our own nation divided. It breaks my heart though as we are often divided on issues that Scripture clearly gives us the standard to follow.
The main point I wanted everyone to consider is this: Division between people never begins at the point of contention, it begins previously in the hearts of the people involved. The division did not begin at the point of contention between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, it began previously as they made decisions to not follow God. Their hearts were divided and were following their own desires, or in other words they were worshiping idols. They were more concerned about following the idols in their own hearts instead of following God. One thing to consider is the fact that we all know how Satan loves division. Satan loves to find a way to get into families and churches and cause division between people. However sometimes I think we may give Satan too much credit. Sometimes the division can occur simply because of our own doing without the help of Satan. In David Nasser's A Call To Die he says "Satan doesn't give much merit to many of us because we aren't a threat to his purposes." That should really make us think. If we are not suffering from Satan's attacks then it is probably because we are not following God in a manner that poses a threat to Satan.
I laid out five affects of division that occurred in Israel, and occurs in our lives as well when we do not deal with division:
1) Division Lowers Your Standards
In 1 Kings 14:25-27 the king of Egypt takes away the gold shields from the temple, but Rehoboam just replaces them bronze shields. Bronze is definitely not as nice as gold but he replaces them this way because he had lowered his standards. We lower our standards as well when their is division. This lowering of standards is not in the manner of gold, but in our standard of what is morally right and wrong. We allow sin to creep into our lives where we would not have previously. The sin comes easier and easier and further isolates us from God. We even do this as Christians in the ways we give and serve. We begin to do things that are just "good enough" to get by on. I often tell the students that "Good" is the enemy of "Great". We will sometimes serve and give in ways that are good, but not great in the manner that God has called us.
2) Division Leads Others To Sin
In 1 Kings 15:3 and 15:26 we see where a king follows in the footsteps of their father and live in sin. Scripture tells us more than 20 times that Jeroboam himself led Israel to sin. When your heart is divided, you lead others to sin. These men followed their fathers. This is why it is so important that dads are leading their family to God. All dads are leading their family to something, but the question is whether or not they are leading them to God. Everyone no matter who you are, where you are, or what stage of life you are in have a great influence over the spiritual condition of others whether good or bad.
3) Division Leads To More Division
As if one division in Israel wasn't enough, we read in 1 Kings 16:21 that the Northern kingdom of Israel is now divided itself. This wasn't a short division of a few weeks. Instead it lasted four years. If division and sin is not dealt with, it will continue to grow.
4) Division Affects Others
We read in 1 Kings 14:15-16 that division and sin not only affected those who committed them, but affected the entire nation. Many people in Israel were suffering, and would suffer even more as a result of this division. What eventually takes place is that Israel is captured by Babylon and suffers in captivity for 70 years. Persistent rebellion against God often brings long-lasting consequences and sometimes to succeeding generations. The books of 1 and 2 Kings (originally written as one book called "Kings") was written to show the Israelites why there were living in such a terrible situation in Babylon. It was to show them that it was as a result of their persistent unfaithfulness to God and in hopes that they would live differently.
5) Divisions Leads To Fall
Mark 3:24 tells us that a kingdom divided cannot stand and will eventually fall. The nation of Israel eventually fell into captivity. If you do not deal with division you will eventually fall as well.
As we closed I challenged the congregation to search their own hearts, and definitely not look at others who may be dealing with these affects of division. I challenged them to search their hearts and let God examine to them to show them what in their lives may be causing them division from God. I ask you to do the same. What divisions exist within your heart? What are you willing to do to change. In 1 Kings 15:11-15 King Asa gets rid of everything that causes division and sin. He even removes his mother or grandmother (it could have been one or the other based on the position) from her position because of the idol worship that she was involved in. Asa raised the standard and was wholly devoted to God. He left a legacy of a man who followed God. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of sin and division so that you will leave a legacy this way? Not so that you are glorified but so that God is glorified through you. You and only you are responsible for this. You may not be in control of all of your circumstances in life, but you can control how you react to them. You cannot blame anyone else for your own failure to obey God. You have to take ownership, and be willing to turn your heart back to following God.