Studies in Chronicles
2nd Chronicles 11
ESTABLISHING JUDAH AS AN INDEPENDENT NATION
Having lost the majority of his Kingdom almost as soon as he was crowned, Rehoboam was tasked with the rather sad duty of consolidating Judah\’s new position as an independent nation. This was a responsibility he did not relish nor was it one that he chose but reality dictated that he must must face this circumstance and provide good and wise leadership.
As a result of God\’s judgement and providential dealings we too are called to face situations which we would have rather avoided but from which we cannot run away. We are called to serve God and be a light in a society which has become increasingly dark and ungodly. Like Rehoboam we must face reality and play our part for the good of our people.
1: Listening to the Voice of God
Rehoboam\’s instant reaction was to go to war. He amassed an army of 180,000 warriors to fight against Jeroboam with a view to reclaiming the ten tribes under the headship of David\’s lineage.
Rehoboam\’s \’gut\’ reaction seemed to be the right the thing to do, yet it was rash and thoughtless. He did not consider the immense loss of life and the further weakening of the nation. Above all he never considered that this division of the kingdom was part of God\’s plan even though it was most damaging.
Sometimes we react to situations according to what seems and feels right at a given point in time. We do not consider the effect of our words and actions together with the long term consequences. We can build up a logical argument as to why we are behaving appropriately yet we fail to reflect upon the will of God and how He would have us to respond.
Many people have acted and spoken in the name of God without the blessing of God, like Peter who rashly severed the servant\’s ear!
Rehoboam, however, was blessed with a man of God called Shemaiah who had the courage to tell the King to stop because this war was not of God.
At this point Rehoboam had the grace to accept his circumstances and the army was stood down. This was an act of great humility which makes me think rather highly of the young king.
It is a blessing to take advice, to change course, to act with humility. It is a blessing when God gives us a Word and when he presents us with advice, which is faithful and true, even if goes against what we are planning.
2: Attending to the Defence of the Realm
Rather than go to war Rehoboam spent his energy, time and money fortifying the borders of Judah, therefore protecting his people against attack.
The defence of any nation is a serious business and is one one that governments dare not take lightly.
The defence of the church against backsliding, error and apostasy is a more serious nature which weighs heavily upon the spiritual leadership of the church.
For protection against backsliding and error we fervently preach the Word, attend to means of grace including the place of prayer, we exhort, rebuke, we listen to the Word by responding positively with humility and we administer fair and godly discipline. These aspects of church life are our spiritual bulwarks given to us for our protection. Let us not tare them down.
Against the onset of apostasy we have erected the bulwark of doctrinal standards, as embodied in the Westminster Standards and our Articles of Faith. These are statements articulating the principles and truth of Scripture which cannot be shifted. To do so would be to render us guilty of apostasy, which is total departure from the faith. We must gather behind these fortifications abiding within the safety of truth.
By the grace of God let us be determined to maintained these bulwarks for our spiritual protection in a wicked day.
3: Making Jerusalem a Spiritual Centre for all Israel
Rehoboam seized an opportunity which was presented to him by the influx of Levites who came to Judah having been unable to remain in the northern territory. These priests of God populated Judah and enabled Rehoboam to establish Jerusalem as the spiritual centre of all Israel.
The Levites under the terms of settlement under Joshua were not given a specific territory. They were rather dispersed throughout the entire nation.
When Jeroboam, established the ten tribes as as one nation, known as Israel, he cast off the Levites and in so doing abandoned the worship of Jehovah according to the principles of the Law. He ordained priests of his own choosing who conducted pagan worship in two centres, which revolved around the worship of golden calves. No-one in Israel was encouraged to go to Jerusalem for worship because Jeroboam had two new very convenient temples in the north, Dan, and in the south, Bethel.
Jeoboam\’s unique and man-made religion was devised to create an identity for the northern kingdom which was separate from Judah. This religion was a strange mixture between the worship of Jehovah and the pagan worship of the Gentile peoples. It was a new way of doing things. We must always beware of those who try to introduce new ways into the church of Christ. While we move with the times in terms of external things such as publications and broadcasting we must remain on remain on the same ground in terms of how we worship God and what we believe. Modernism within the church has been a apostate curse.
Ultimately Jeroboam, afraid lest the lure of Jerusalem and the prestige of the temple would draw the people back to Rehoboam, employed this religious tactic for the preservation of his new kingdom. Similarly within the evangelical church there are some who believe we must provide the innovations of unreliable translations of Scripture and of modern man-centred music and song into the church to appeal to the culture of this age. I even heard the simple plain preaching of the Gospel described on one occasion as a \’hard sell\’. Let us never ever sacrifice truth for the sake of popularity!
The Levites, however, being the spiritual cream of Israel, recognised these innovations as being an apostate religion of convenience. Being bereft of their ministry and purpose they made the journey in their thousands to Judah where Rehoboam welcomed them. These exiled Levites teach us today regarding the importance of separating from error and putting our faith in God and our loyalty to His kingdom before all other affiliations.
I would suggest also, that these Levites, as a people who naturally had their affiliation throughout the entire territories of the Hebrew people, were a spiritual bridge that joined the hearts of the faithful in the two nations.
Therefore in Rehobam\’s early years Jerusalem was established as the spiritual home of the entire nation. Verse 16 records that many followed these Levites, coming to Jerusalem to offering sacrifices. This remnant from the ten tribes had a positive effect upon Rehoboam\’s kingdom in the early years.
In the following centuries, although there were days of backsliding and apostasy, the fact that the temple remained at the heart of true worship for everyone would in itself be a symbol of unity and a basis for the great revivals that periodically occurred. This is a most encouraging outcome of the division of the kingdom – a token for good that God in wrath does not forget to be merciful.
4: Acting Wisely for his People
The final verses of the chapter comment that Rehoboam acted with wisdom in his early administration of the kingdom. Perhaps he learned the harsh lesson when he dealt so aggressively with the men of Israel at his coronation. He learned never to take his supporters for granted. It is a lesson that every leader must learn; that support is borrowed and never claimed as a right.
Therefore Rehoboam rewarded those who supported him in those difficult days when Jerobam seized his kingdom such as his son Abijah the son of Maachah. In so doing he prepared Abijah for the throne as his successor. Although Rehoboam was only forty years of age on becoming King, he acted with considerable foresight considering the welfare of his kingdom.
He also dispersed his family throughout the nation in an effort to make the ruling family friendly and relevant to the people. In so doing he promoted the unity of his nation. We must cherish, consolidate and promote the unity of the church, ever fearing the tragic consequences of disunity.
Another example of Rehoboam\’s wisdom was his choice of wives. Choosing brides from the House of David he took a different course than that which his father took in marrying Gentile women. The very reason why the nation was divided was because of the influence of Solomon\’s brides. Therefore, it seems that a lesson had been learned, to some degree.
Nevertheless, although Rehoboam learned from his father\’s sad choice of wives he did follow his father\’s example in the practice of polygamy. Such immorality would never enjoy the blessing of God.
For three years Rehoboam did well, acted wisely and laid a decent foundation for future blessings. But the corrupting influences were never far away.
So it is for each of us individually and collectively. Let us be aware of our sin and our need of grace.