Israel Rebels against Rehoboam / A Letter to Gentile Believers: June 23rd 2021

1 Kings 11:14-12:24

As Solomon had been unfaithful to the Lord, God now raised up adversaries against him: Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom and Rezon, who led a band of rebels in Aram.

The Edomites were descended from Jacob’s brother, Esau, and so should have been allies of Israel but the commander of David’s army, Joab, had killed all the Edomite men apart from a few, including Hadad, who had fled to Egypt. Eventually, despite being very well treated by Pharoah, Hadad wanted to return home.

One of Solomon’s officials, Jeroboam, also rebelled against the king. Solomon had put him in a responsible position but he didn’t stay loyal to the king (1 Kings 11:28). Ahijah the prophet prophesied that after Solomon was dead, ten of the twelve tribes of Israel would be handed to Jeroboam and he would rule Israel. Solomon tried to assassinate him but Jeroboam fled to Egypt.

Solomon reigned for forty years and was buried in the city of David his father (Zion). He was succeeded by Rehoboam, his son.

Rehoboam lacked the diplomacy of Solomon. His rival Jeroboam had returned from Egypt and teamed up with the assembly of Israel, the northern part of the combined nation. They asked Rehoboam to lighten the harsh labour and heavy yoke that Solomon had imposed on them. King Rehoboam consulted his elders and then rejected their wise advice to placate Israel. He followed the advice of fellow foolish young men and told Israel he would make their burdens even heavier. The Israelites went home furious and now felt disenfranchised from the nation. They rejected David’s line of succession (1 Kings 12:16) and continued in rebellion against the house of David (1 Kings 12:19) which could explain why so many Jews were hostile to Jesus and the Good News spread by the disciples.

Israel made Jeroboam king over them. Rehoboam was now just king of Judah and Benjamin. He assembled one hundred and eighty thousand fighting men to regain Israel for his kingdom. However, God through the prophet Shemaiah told them all not to fight the Israelites for this was all his doing. Rehoboam and his troops listened to this advice and went home ‘as the Lord had ordered’ (1 Kings 12:24).  

Rehoboam had lost a massive part of his empire due to his arrogance and not trusting the advice of his elders. He followed the advice of similarly foolish young men. Commercial companies in this country used to rely on senior, experienced staff for major decisions. However, many now employ young staff who can make bad decisions out of pride and arrogance while ignoring the advice of older workers, who are obliged to watch the company they loyally built-up flounder. It is marvellous when companies value the experience and wisdom of older staff and do not cast them out without even attempting to download their priceless wisdom.

When people come to us with a valid concern we should listen and respond with grace. Rehoboam may have kept his whole country together if had been diplomatic but God was against him due to the disloyalty of his father.

Acts 15:22-41

The Jerusalem Council sent Barnabas and Saul along with two other leaders, Judas (Barsabbas) and Silas, to Antioch. They took with them an encouraging letter, to clarify the small set of rules that Gentiles must follow to become Christians. Judas and Silas went to confirm these stipulations by word of mouth. This shows that the early church did follow a strict hierarchy with written rules (an early Catechism). It would have caused chaos and been counterproductive if the early church had split into multiple denominations, as we have now, all teaching different versions of Christianity. The Council wrote with the authority of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28) as the Pope does today, thanks to the apostolic succession from Saint Peter.

The gathered church in Antioch were glad for the letter’s encouraging message. Judas and Silas were prophets and ‘did much to encourage and strengthen the brothers’ (Acts 15:32). It is very important for congregations to have this accessible link back to the headquarters of the church. Bishops visit the different churches in their dioceses to show lay believers they have access to senior leaders. Their visits do much to encourage and strengthen their flock who witness that they are part of a much larger church, that is concerned for their welfare and spiritual wellbeing.

Paul and Barnabas decided to revisit all the towns in which they had previously preached. However, Barnabas – who was ever forgiving and full of encouragement – wanted to take his cousin John Mark. Paul disagreed because John Mark had deserted them in Cyprus. They had such a sharp disagreement that they spilt up. Barnabas took John Mark to Cyprus and Paul went with Silas throughout Syria and Cilicia. I am sure that Barnabas and Paul would have quickly forgiven each other and become reconciled in the future. The Holy Spirit used a human disagreement to form two missionary teams rather than one. Good comes out of every stressful disagreement, when people are dedicated to God.

Psalm 77:10-20

I try to spend some time every day remembering God’s miracles of long ago, his works and his mighty deeds (Psalm 77:11-12).

All God’s ways are holy. None of the gods that the Canaanites worshipped is as great as our God (Psal, 77:13).

He is a miracle working God. He displayed his power among his people and redeemed them, leading them like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron and parting the mighty waters of the Red Sea.

God loves it when we reflect on Israel’s exodus and exalt him for it, how He lead his people to the promised land.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and leads us today as his flock through the direction of the Holy Spirit within us.

Image: Lucas van Leyden, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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