May 3, 2015

 I Kings 12-14
Rehoboam traveled to Shechem where all Israel had gathered to inaugurate him as king. Jeroboam had been in Egypt, where he had taken asylum from King Solomon; when he got the report of Solomon’s death he had come back.
Rehoboam assembled Jeroboam and all the people. They said to Rehoboam, “Your father made life hard for us—worked our fingers to the bone. Give us a break; lighten up on us and we’ll willingly serve you.”  “Give me three days to think it over, then come back,” Rehoboam said.

King Rehoboam talked it over with the elders who had advised his father when he was alive: “What’s your counsel? How do you suggest that I answer the people?”  They said, “If you will be a servant to this people, be considerate of their needs and respond with compassion, work things out with them, they’ll end up doing anything for you.”

But he rejected the counsel of the elders and asked the young men he’d grown up with who were now currying his favor, “What do you think? What should I say to these people who are saying, ‘Give us a break from your father’s harsh ways—lighten up on us’?”  The young turks he’d grown up with said, “These people who complain, ‘Your father was too hard on us; lighten up’—well, tell them this: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. If you think life under my father was hard, you haven’t seen the half of it. My father thrashed you with whips; I’ll beat you bloody with chains!’”

Three days later Jeroboam and the people showed up, just as Rehoboam had directed when he said, “Give me three days to think it over, then come back.” The king’s answer was harsh and rude. He spurned the counsel of the elders and went with the advice of the younger set, “If you think life under my father was hard, you haven’t seen the half of it. My father thrashed you with whips; I’ll beat you bloody with chains!”

Rehoboam turned a deaf ear to the people. God was behind all this, confirming the message that he had given to Jeroboam....When all Israel realized that the king hadn’t listened to a word they’d said, they stood up to him and said,
Get lost, David! We’ve had it with you, son of Jesse! Let’s get out of here, Israel, and fast!  From now on, David, mind your own business.  And with that, they left. But Rehoboam continued to rule those who lived in the towns of Judah....

When the word was out that Jeroboam was back and available, the assembled people invited him and inaugurated him king over all Israel. The only tribe left to the Davidic dynasty was Judah....

At this time the word of God came to Shemaiah, a man of God: “Tell this to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, along with everyone in Judah and Benjamin and anyone else who is around: This is God’s word: Don’t march out; don’t fight against your brothers the Israelites; go back home, every last one of you; I’m in charge here.” And they did it; they did what God said and went home.

Jeroboam made a fort at Shechem in the hills of Ephraim, and made that his headquarters.... But then Jeroboam thought, “It won’t be long before the kingdom is reunited under David. As soon as these people resume worship at The Temple of God in Jerusalem, they’ll start thinking of Rehoboam king of Judah as their ruler. They’ll then kill me and go back to King Rehoboam.”  So the king came up with a plan: He made two golden calves. Then he announced, “It’s too much trouble for you to go to Jerusalem to worship. Look at these—the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” He put one calf in Bethel; the other he placed in Dan. This was blatant sin. Think of it—people traveling all the way to Dan to worship a calf!

And that wasn’t the end of it. Jeroboam built forbidden shrines all over the place and recruited priests from wherever he could find them, regardless of whether they were fit for the job or not. To top it off, he created a holy New Year festival to be held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month to replace the one in Judah, complete with worship offered on the Altar at Bethel and sacrificing before the calves he had set up there.... 

And then this happened: Just as Jeroboam was at the Altar, about to make an offering, a holy man came from Judah by God’s command and preached (these were God’s orders) to the Altar: “Altar, Altar! God’s message! ‘A son will be born into David’s family named Josiah. The priests from the shrines who are making offerings on you, he will sacrifice—on you! Human bones burned on you!’” At the same time he announced a sign: “This is the proof God gives—the Altar will split into pieces and the holy offerings spill into the dirt.”  When the king heard the message the holy man preached against the Altar at Bethel, he reached out to grab him, yelling, “Arrest him!” But his arm was paralyzed and hung useless. At the same time the Altar broke apart and the holy offerings all spilled into the dirt—the very sign the holy man had announced by God’s command.  The king pleaded with the holy man, “Help me! Pray to your God for the healing of my arm.” The holy man prayed for him and the king’s arm was healed—as good as new!...

There was an old prophet who lived in Bethel. His sons came and told him the story of what the holy man had done that day in Bethel, told him everything that had happened and what the holy man had said to the king.... He told his sons, “Saddle my donkey.” When they had saddled it, he got on and rode after the holy man. He found him sitting under an oak tree... he said,“Well, come home with me and have a meal....I am also a prophet, just like you. And an angel came to me with a message from God: ‘Bring him home with you, and give him a good meal!’” But the man was lying. So the holy man went home with him and they had a meal together....

When the meal was over, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. Down the road a way, a lion met him and killed him. His corpse lay crumpled on the road, the lion on one side and the donkey on the other.   Some passersby saw the corpse in a heap on the road, with the lion standing guard beside it. They went to the village where the old prophet lived and told what they had seen....The old prophet loaded the corpse of the holy man on his donkey and returned it to his own town to give it a decent burial. He placed the body in his own tomb. The people mourned, saying, “A sad day, brother!”  After the funeral, the prophet said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the same tomb where the holy man is buried, my bones alongside his bones. The message that he preached by God’s command against the Altar at Bethel and against all the sex-and-religion shrines in the towns of Samaria will come true.”

After this happened, Jeroboam kept right on doing evil, recruiting priests for the forbidden shrines indiscriminately—anyone who wanted to could be a priest at one of the local shrines. This was the root sin of Jeroboam’s government. And it was this that ruined him.

At about this time Jeroboam’s son Abijah came down sick. Jeroboam said to his wife, “Do something. Disguise yourself so no one will know you are the queen and go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet lives there, the same Ahijah who told me I’d be king over this people....Jeroboam’s wife did as she was told;...  Ahijah was an old man at this time, and blind, but God had warned Ahijah, “Jeroboam’s wife is on her way to consult with you regarding her sick son; tell her this and this and this.” When she came in she was disguised. Ahijah heard her come through the door and said, “Welcome, wife of Jeroboam! But why the deception? I’ve got bad news for you. 

Go and deliver this message I received firsthand from God, the God of Israel, to Jeroboam: I raised you up from obscurity and made you the leader of my people Israel. I ripped the kingdom from the hands of David’s family and gave it to you, but you weren’t at all like my servant David who did what I told him and lived from his undivided heart, pleasing me. Instead you’ve set a new record in works of evil by making alien gods—Pushing me aside and turning your back—you’ve made me mighty angry. “And I’ll not put up with it: I’m bringing doom on the household of Jeroboam, killing the lot of them right down to the last male wretch in Israel, whether slave or free.... Go on home—the minute you step foot in town, the boy will die. Everyone will come to his burial, mourning his death. He is the only one in Jeroboam’s family who will get a decent burial; he’s the only one for whom God, the God of Israel, has a good word to say....

Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he took the throne and was king for seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city God selected from all the tribes of Israel for the worship of his Name... Judah was openly wicked before God, making him very angry. They set new records in sin, surpassing anything their ancestors had done. They built Asherah sex-and-religion shrines and set up sacred stones all over the place...Worse, they had male sacred prostitutes, polluting the country outrageously—all the stuff that God had gotten rid of when he brought Israel into the land.

In the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s rule, Shishak king of Egypt made war against Jerusalem. He plundered The Temple of God and the royal palace of their treasures, cleaned them out—even the gold shields that Solomon had made... 

II Corinthians 4  - 
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.  We refuse to wear masks and play games.  We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes.  And we don’t twist God’s Words to suit ourselves.  Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

If our Message is obscure to anyone, it is not because we’re holding back in any way.  No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention....

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master.  All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you.  It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!”  and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.  If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.  

We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.  That is to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us....We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized , but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.  What they did to Jesus, they do to us---trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us--he lives!  Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus sake which makes Jesus‘ life all the more evident in us.

We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life.  Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believe it, so I said it,” we say what we believe.  And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you alive.  Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory; more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

So we are not giving up.  How could we!  Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.  These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us....The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow.  But the things we can’t see now will last forever.