*July 20 - 26
The Rending of Gods Nation
MEMORY TEXT: So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, 0 Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents (1 Kings 12:16).
THE SPLIT. After Solomon died, his kingdom fell apartJudah in the south and Israel in the north. What may have appeared to be a strong and united empire broke in two. The causes are found in Solomons own reign. The outward glory of his kingdomthe sumptuous court ceremonials, the strong new fortress, the powerful army, the great trading enterprises with foreign nationsnone of this could hide the fact that by the time Solomon died about 931 B.C., his empire was badly fissured.Siegfried H. Horn, The Divided Monarchy: The Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, Ancient Israel, Hershel Shanks, editor (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeological Society, 1988), chap. 5, p. 109.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What kind of sins did the Hebrew nation fall into? Where did they learn much of the evil they practiced? What caused the nation to split? How did Jeroboam in the north try to keep his people loyal? What were some of the immediate spiritual and political results of the division? What lessons can we, today, learn from what happened to Israel after Solomons death?
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 27.)
Sunday July 21
Ideas, it has been said, have consequences. Sin does, too, especially when that sin comes from those, such as Solomon, who have great privileges and responsibilities. That he repented at the end of his life, of course, is good: On the other hand, it made no difference regarding the fate of his kingdom. The damage had been done.
Look at 1 Kings 11:33. Notice the trinity of false gods the Israelites had come to worship. From whom did Gods people learn about them?
The text itself gives the answer: They learned about them from the surrounding nations, a clear and irrefutable testimony to how culture came to influence, and destroy, true religion.
It is not hard to imagine the rationale used by those who started bringing these gods into the Hebrew worship: We need to be progressive. We need to keep up with the times. We need to advance in faith. Times are changing. We should not be so closed-minded. What makes us think that we have a monopoly on truth? Let us try to draw as close to these people as we can; that way we can better reach them.
On the lines below, write your responses to some of the arguments made above. How would you answer them, especially when some could, in fact, contain some truth?
|Though the Lord said that they had forsaken me
33), it is not likely that these people openly and flagrantly denied
the Lord God. Rather, they brought in aspects of these pagan religions and
melded them with their worship of the true God. Nevertheless, God said they
had forsaken Him. In what ways can we be guilty of doing the same?
After the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam reigned in his stead. Rehoboam was Solomons son by an Ammorite wife. He was about forty years old at the time he became king and well-versed in the inner workings of the kingdom. He might have had the bloodline of Solomon, but he did not inherit any, it seems, of his fathers wisdom.
First Kings 12:1 says that Rehoboam journeyed to Shechem, in the north, to be made king. No doubt that had been partially a political move, to try to help secure the loyalty of the northern tribes. It did not work.
Read verses 2-14 in 1 Kings 12. What were the people complaining about? What were they asking for? What was Rehoboams response?
What is particularly interesting about this incident is verse 15:
Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat. What God spoke to Ahijah was the prophecy that the kingdom would be torn apart (1 Kings 11:30-36), which is exactly what happened because of Rehoboams arrogance and sheer political insensitivity.
How do we understand this incident? Did the Lord purposely make Rehoboam stubborn and arrogant in order to fulfill His divine purposes? (See also Exod. 14:4; Matt. 26:24.) Or does God, knowing the beginning from the end, simply use our actions to fulfill His divine purposes? Could Rehoboam have acted differently? If so, what would that have meant for the prophecy?
Read verses 16-24 in 1 Kings 12. After the division of the kingdomIsrael in the north (under Jeroboam) and Judah in the south (under Rehoboam)the Judean king sought to create an army and invade the north. However, he was warned by the Lord not to do it, and he obeyed. Again, according to the text, this thing is from Me (vs. 24, NKJV), meaning that, because of Solomons sin and the sins of the people, God had intended for the kingdom to be divided.
|Rehoboam was ready to make war on his own people in order to achieve his political aimsall this in the nation that had the greatest revelation of God! What can we learn about how quickly sin can damage our spiritual perceptions and blind us to our true condition?|
Once named king in the north, Jeroboam lost no time in consolidating his position. His first move was to assure that his people would not go to Jerusalem to worship, thus weakening their loyalty to him in the north.
What was Jeroboams method of retaining loyalty to his new kingdom? 1 Kings 12:26-33.
Notice the words he uses to describe the golden calves. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt! (vs. 28, NKJV). Where have we heard this before? Of course, from the apostasy of the golden calf after the Exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 32), one of the darkest sagas in early Israelite history. Now, those same words become the focal point of their worship. How could this be, especially when the Lord, through Ahijah, told Jeroboam that he must walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight ? (1 Kings 11:38, NKJV.
Why did the Lord prohibit graven images and other kinds of idols? Exod. 20:4; 1 Kings 21:26; Jer. 10:3-5; Ezek. 14:3-5.
The human mind apparently finds it difficult to separate permanently a physical religious image from reality. It does not matter if the idol is a literal graven image, a so-called statue of a saint, or a good-luck charm worn around a persons neck. If it is given religious significance, it could itself, eventually, become the god it supposedly represents.
Look at the chart to get an idea of how carefully Jeroboam developed a plan to counterfeit just about every part of the Israelite worship system.
|Element of Worship||Gods System||Jeroboams System|
|The temple||Deut. 12:4, 5||1 Kings 12:28-30|
|Physical images||Exod. 20:4||1 Kings 12:28|
|Priests||Num. 3:9-12||1 Kings 12:31|
|Annual festivals||Lev. 16:29-31||1 Kings 12:32|
|Satan is the great counterfeiter. Look around; what other counterfeits of Satan do you see? Do not just look at others or even other faiths. Have some of his counterfeits infiltrated our own lives and our own church, as well?|
But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back (1 Kings 14:9).
And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done (1 Kings 14:22).
Read the first twenty verses of chapter 14. Just a few chapters earlier, the Lord, through Ahijah the prophet, had told Jeroboam that he would be king over Israel (see 1 Kings 11:29-33; 1 Kings 14:2); now, using that same prophet, He tells Jeroboam that He is going to tear the kingdom from him.
What reason is given for such a harsh punishment against the house of Jeroboam? 1 Kings 14:7-11.
Sadly, his blood brother in the south, Rehoboam, was not doing much better. Nor did Abijam who followed him (1 Kings 15:1-7). According to the text, Judah, under Rehoboam, did worse than all their fathers before them (1 Kings 14:22). Besides building various places of idolatry (1 Kings 14:23), they were engaging in some of the lewder abominations (vs. 24) of the nations around them, acts that were, in fact, the very things that caused the Lord to uproot them from the land to begin with. And now the Hebrews (who were given that land) were doing the same thing?
Read Deuteronomy 18:9-13 and list some of the abominations practiced by the nations surrounding Israel and Judah that they were specifically told to avoid:
|Among some of the practices of the nations was male prostitution, translated perverted persons (1 Kings 14:24, NKJV). All this was now happening in the nation that God has raised up to spread the truth to the world? How could a nation, so greatly privileged, degenerate so quickly? What makes us think that we are not just as vulnerable to our own modern version of these abominations?|
So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, 0 Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents (1 Kings 12:16).
When one reads the promises and blessings made to Israel, nothing indicates that the nation was to be divided into two rival, even at times, warring factions. It was never part of Gods original plan for the nation to split; the split came as a result of the peoples own sins. As a result, almost overnight the nation lost much of its empire. United, under Solomon, it was a strong, local power, able to keep its hostile neighbors under control. After all, had not the nation been promised, The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways? (Deut. 28:7). Divided, they became two very weak, second-rate powers overnight. When they were not fighting pagan enemies, they were fighting among themselves (1 Kings 12:24).
In short, deviation from the explicit word of God caused the nation to split into two kingdoms that even sporadically warred against each other. Thus, when a united front should have been presented to accomplish the Lords will in spreading the truth to a world steeped in paganism, idolatry, and error, Gods chosen nation was so weakened with internal strife and bickering that it became easy prey for external enemies. After accommodating pagan practices, the Israelites eventually had no protection against pagan armies.
Of course, as a church, we are not Israel, not in the sense of a theocracy. But, like Israel, we have been called out to deliver to the world a message that no one else is giving. Though we should not push the parallels too far, what can we see in our own local church today that reflects the situation back then? Is there some of the same spirit of What portion have we in David among us? (1 Kings 12:16). Is some of that spirit, as it was back then, even justified? If so, what can be done to rectify it? What are some of the issues that are causing contention and division among us today, either as a world church or at the local level? In what ways do these divisions weaken our ministry to our communities? What could we learn from the mistake of Rehoboam, when he refused to listen to the people? What are the principles here that can help us as we struggle with our own internal conflicts?
The Lords evaluation of Jeroboam raises the question of the rise and fall of nations and the flow of history. Ellen White writes: Here it is shown that the strength of nations, as of individuals, is not found in the opportunities or facilities that appear to make them invincible; it is not found in their boasted greatness. It is measured by the fidelity with which they fulfill Gods purpose.Education, p. 175. Read also in the book Education the entire chapter entitled History and Prophecy, pp. 173-184, for an overview of the issue.
Gaspar Calunga was a mess. When he was not in a mental hospital, he lived on the streets of a major Cuban city, drunk. Often he felt like one of the demoniacs of Jesus time. With uncut hair and unwashed body, he wandered the streets begging for money to buy alcohol.
One day he wandered into an Adventist church. He staggered to the front of the sanctuary and stood on uncertain legs, conducting the choir. A deacon invited him to sit down or step outside; he refused. When the music ended, he sat down on a bench.
The next Sabbath Gaspar returned to church; again he was drunk.
Then José, a church member, saw Gaspar on the street and spoke to him. Come to my house, José invited Gaspar. Gaspar followed José home. José gave him food and a bath, then started talking to Gaspar about God. When José finished, Gaspar said, "What you say is true. I am going to quit drinking and come to church regularly. But now give me five pesos for a drink, so I can end my torment.
I am a Christian, José said. I cannot give you money for a drink.
A few days later José saw Gaspar. I am drunk, Gaspar said, but I have not forgotten what you told me.
Gaspar continued attending church. After little more than a month of attending church, Gaspar stopped drinking and began separating himself from his drinking friends. A Bible worker began studying with him. His new friends in the church encouraged him every day. When he had been alcohol free for six months, he was baptized.
Gaspars life now is centered on the church. He cleans and repairs the church and often serves as night watchman. His mother is amazed at the changes in his life. She now attends church and is looking forward to baptism.
Gaspar has sought out his former drinking friends, not to drink but to share his faith with them. One of these friends was recently baptized. When someone reminds him of his former life, he responds, I am not the same person. I never want to return to that life.
Gaspar Calunga (left). Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
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