Thesis: God’s plan to dwell with humanity in “paradise” continues. The folly of Israel’s desire for a human king becomes evident as the kingdom is torn in two after King Solomon’s death. His unfaithfulness leaves a legacy of conflict and division within the people of God and in their relationship with God. But God uses the faithful few to continue God’s plan.
Previously on The Story...
∙ God’s good creation is corrupted by human sin and God’s plan to dwell with humanity in “paradise” seems over.
∙ But God’s plan cannot be defeated.
∙ God makes promises or covenants with people to bless them.
God promised Abraham and Sarah to make a great nation from their offspring even though they were too old to have children – God kept that promise.
God promised Moses and the people of Israel that if they kept the Law, they would be blessed but if they turned away they would be disciplined – God kept that promise.
God promised King David that his tribe, Judah, would be blessed and one of his descendants would always sit on the throne – in Jesus, God kept that promise.
∙ David’s son, Solomon, makes Israel a great nation in the eyes of the world – one of wealth and power.
∙ But King Solomon seems to put God’s promise to David in jeopardy.
Today is the first Sunday in a new year, 2015. For many this is a time for new year’s resolutions so that this year will bring many blessings.
∙ Blessings of good relationships – I’m going to take time to develop two friendships that are important to me.
∙ Blessings of faith – I will take a Sabbatical this summer to consider God’s plan for my ministry as I turn 60.
New Year’s resolutions can be good for us – if we remember to include God in the setting and keeping of them.
But, this morning I want to think about 2015 in a slightly different way. How will this year fit into your legacy? How will the decisions you make, big and small, impact your family and your church? What will the upcoming generations – children and grandchildren – say about you because of how you’ve lived this year?
Chapter 14 of The Story is all about King Solomon’s legacy. We know from the previous chapter that Israel is now a great nation with power and influence. But Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines – many of them from other countries. Slowly but surely, Solomon abandoned the faith of his father David and the One God to include the worship of pagan idols.
We read at the end of Chapter 13 - “So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it in your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.’” (p.192)
The main characters in this chapter are Rehoboam and Jeroboam. “Boam” was a common ending to names at that time but it makes it hard to keep the plot straight. Here’s how to remember...“R” stand for “right king” or Rehoboam. Rehoboam is Solomon’s son. He’s from the tribe of Judah. He is Solomon’s planned successor. Jeroboam is a respected government official from the tribe of Ephraim. A prophet comes to him with the message that he will be the next king of Israel but he must wait. Jeroboam doesn’t wait and Solomon hears about his preparations. So, he’s forced to flee to Egypt.
Now, for the plot... READ 1 Kings 12:1-20 or The Story pp.193-195
So, the once great nation of Israel is divided into 2 kingdoms. The 10 northern tribes are ruled by Jeroboam and called Israel. In the South, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin are ruled by Rehoboam and called Judah.
King Rehoboam rules from the capital city of Jerusalem. At first, he plans to send his army to conquer the northern tribes and reunite the nation. But God speaks to Rehoboam through a prophet – do not fight against your brothers. Rehoboam may be the king from David’s line but he falls away from God just as his father Solomon had done.
King Jeroboam has a problem – worship for the people of Israel still revolves around Jerusalem. That’s where the Temple is – that’s where they go to make their sacrifices at the appropriate times. Jeroboam is afraid that if the people keep going to Jerusalem to worship, they’ll want to reunite with the other tribes. So Jeroboam orders 2 golden calves to be created and set up – one in Bethel and one in Dan. The people could go to the closest site to worship. Then he appointed priests that were not from the tribe of Levi. Obviously, God was not pleased. Remember, Jeroboam was chosen by God to rule the northern tribes. Had he remained faithful, God would have blessed him as well as the people.
There is a ripple effect to the decisions we make that affects our legacy.
∙ King Solomon chose to abandon the faith of his father David and to include the worship of foreign idols, leaving a legacy of conflict and division within the people of God.
∙ King Rehoboam chose to follow the advice of his cronies over the wise counsel of the elders, leaving a legacy of a much of a much smaller kingdom.
∙ King Jeroboam chose to ignore the law of God and set up his own parallel religion, leaving a legacy of idolatry.
There are a total of 38 kings of Israel and Judah. Only 5 are faithful to God. It is no wonder that in less than 200 years, Israel will be no more and in less than 350 years, Judah will be sent into exile. There is a ripple effect to our decisions that determines the legacy we leave to the next generations.
What is your legacy? As we see in the kings of Israel and Judah, the decisions we make can have a negative impact. But our decisions can also have a positive impact. On Tuesday we had a worship service in memory of Gene Stewart. We heard from his sons, the legacy he leaves behind: A legacy of spiritual not material treasure; A legacy of education and service; A legacy of family and fun; A legacy of faith. We saw in his grandchildren a legacy of caring for and loving all of God’s children.
Will your decisions have a positive impact on your legacy? She followed Jesus in every decision she made. He followed Jesus and committed his time to serving in the church. They followed Jesus and were in worship with their family every Sunday. She followed Jesus and chose to tithe to the church. He followed Jesus and served as a volunteer fire fighter. They followed Jesus and chose to share their faith with their children. What will your legacy to your family be?
But we also leave a legacy as a congregation. How do the decisions we make impact our community and our nation? Do we choose to make our meetings as Session and Deacons a business meeting or a meeting of spiritual leaders? Do we continue to tithe the income we receive to mission in our community and the larger church or do we keep it for our own needs? Do we reach out to and welcome everyone in our community to worship or do we invite only those who are like us? What will future generations say of us? They showed the compassion of Jesus to everyone. They were faithful to God in their worship and their service. They taught me about Jesus.
They trusted God to lead them every step of the way.
God is still at work to accomplish God’s plan. God works with a remnant of the people to prepare the way for Jesus. God wants to work with you and me to bring blessing into our lives, into the life of our families, into our congregation, and into our world.
Ask God to help you make 2015 the best chapter in your story. Amen