For the Levites left their common lands and their possessions and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons rejected them from serving as priests of the Lord. Then he appointed for himself priests for the high places, for the demons and the calf idols that he had made – 2 Chronicles 11:14-15 (NKJV)
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
It might be considered ironic that Jeroboam had been chosen by God to lead the ten northern tribes of Israel as a result of the apostasy of Solomon and his son, Rehoboam. Jeroboam quickly became enamored of his own power and position. Rather than trusting God who had put him on the throne, holding to the truth and traditions of Moses and the Patriarchs, Jeroboam wanted a nation that was loyal to him alone. He decided that he was not content with being an obedient servant of the One True God nor was he willing to allow another power to possibly rule over his people and divert their devotion from him. He would exalt himself above God.
We can read in Isaiah 14:12-21 about the fall of one called Lucifer – the light-bearer, “son of the morning”. This depicts, as it were, a rebellion in heaven, but it has a general application in every place and in every age, indeed, perhaps in every human heart. Pride is the original sin. If I say that I can go my own way and do what I want, though it hardly sounds sinister and certainly not diabolical, it is exactly that when it is the attitude I take with regard to God.
I don’t doubt that many in the northern kingdom were happy to see those stick-in-the-mud traditionalists leave for Judah. Those priests and Levites probably thought they were special just because of their tribe and what was in the old scrolls. Why, they probably wrote that themselves and said it was from Moses. And anyway, who was Moses? Times have changed. Those Levites needed to check their privilege.
The people of the breakaway tribes also knew that Rehoboam who ruled Judah and Benjamin was far from perfect himself. Had not God rejected him as their king?
This is something I think we all have to watch, too, with regard to the church, the cultural, politics, and government. If God puts someone in charge, are we obligated to obey the rules? Are the rules now God’s will? Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1). There are those who will demand that Christians adhere to this. Yet, obviously, if an authority is acting contrary to God’s will, demanding, as the government may do these days, that we violate our conscience and disobey Christian principles, we are obligated to not obey.
The rabbi Gamaliel gave this advice to the religious leadership of his time regarding the followers of Jesus the Nazarene, “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39). A little while before this, Peter and John had summarized the position of Christians across all epochs: Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).
Like the priests and Levites giving up their homes and their possessions among the northern tribes, we have decided to become citizens of another kingdom. While we remain in this world, we are not of it. Some of us in various places on the planet are asked to surrender our lives because we will not turn from the truth. Christians have been persecuted, tortured, abused, imprisoned and killed because they would not renounce the Lord. Even in this country, in our modern, enlightened and oh-so-tolerant age, Christians are penalized for refusing to bake a cake or take pictures or otherwise participate in and endorse something that the Bible says is wrong. It is pretty mild compared to having one’s head removed, but it is annoying nonetheless, and it is likely a sign of worse things to come.
Not everything that God allows is God’s will. Some things that start out as God’s will may easily end up being perverted and twisted by man’s will and man’s arrogance. Truth wins in the end, but many fall in the battle. Fear not. It is not Valhalla nor virgins that wait for the entrance of the faithful witness, but a robe of righteousness, a martyr’s crown, and a word from the lips of the Lord Himself, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”