Following the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel divided into two distinct kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom, known as "Israel," had Jeroboam as its first king, while the Southern Kingdom, also called "Judah," was first ruled by King Rehoboam.
Jeroboam, for his own purposes, established a new type of worship in the Northern Kingdom. In Jeroboam’s fabricated worship, the people worshipped golden calves. Among other things, Jeroboam also did not restrict the priesthood to those from the tribe of Levi and family of Aaron.
Most people just went along with Jeroboam’s new order of things. He was, after all, the king, was he not? It is refreshing to read in the Bible, however, that there was a remnant of people that refused to have a part in this new, unauthorized worship. What was their mentality, and what did they do? Here is what is written of them in 2 Chronicles 11:13-17:
"And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him [Rehoboam, king in the South, rdc] out of all their coasts. For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD: And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong . . ."
We want to spotlight some of the things that those people did who left the Northern Kingdom and went to join themselves to their brethren in the South. Yes, these are matters of history, but since this history was written for our admonition and spiritual benefit, then it behooves us to study it and learn from it (1 Corinthians 10:11). What did those people do that came to be a part of Judah? From 2 Chronicles 11:13-17, we learn that:
(1) They SAW that what was happening in the Northern Kingdom was wrong (11:13-15). Jeroboam had made their worship corrupt by setting up golden calves as objects of worship, allowing non-Levites to serve as priests, and, in general, making things up to suit himself. To their credit, those that forsook him and went south recognized that Jeroboam’s setup was unscriptural. They had enough knowledge of God’s law to see the difference between God’s way and man’s way (in this case, Jeroboam’s way). We need to be people of the Book today, lest we be destroyed by a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). One of the tragedies of our day is that in too many cases members of the church do not know their Bible as they should. That is why some parents allow their daughters to dress like women of the street. That is why some elders see nothing wrong with allowing women to take leading roles in worship when men are present. That is why some preachers sing the praises of schools that promote fellowship with denominations.
(2) They SET their hearts to do what was right. Not only did they see that what was going on was improper, they personally were determined to do what was right. Again, the text says that they "set their hearts" to seek God (11:16). Brethren, when we set our hearts to do the Lord’s will, great things can happen! When we are committed to please Him above all else, God will bless us. What is it that the old song says? "Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters, I shall not be moved." That must be our approach: if the Bible says it, we are sticking with it. We will not budge. If it makes you feel better, call us "set in our ways" if you want to, but we are still not budging. Let’s keep our hearts set on doing those things that glorify God.
(3) They determined to SEEK the LORD God. That is what the text says: " . . . set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel" (11:16). We must seek God’s will, seek to please Him, and seek to live with Him forever in heaven. Let us always keep our affections or desires set on things above (Colossians 3:1,2).
(4) They SACRIFICED to and for the Lord. Those that abandoned Israel to come to Judah "came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God" (11:16). Their brethren up North were worshipping golden calves, but not these folks. They sacrificed to and worshipped the only right object: God (John 4:23,24). Not only that, but in their move to the South, they made some personal sacrifices. We might say that they made such for the Lord’s sake. What did they do that could be counted as a sacrifice? Of the Levites, it is written that they "left their suburbs and their possession" (11:14). In order to serve God acceptably (and not be part of the corrupt practices of Jeroboam), they were willing to uproot their families and move to new territories. For many of us, moving across the road or down the block can seem like a big ordeal. Those Levites, because they wanted to please the Lord, sacrificed the comfort and security of living in a familiar location. Would you be willing to travel a considerable distance in order to worship with and be part of a faithful congregation of God’s people? Many have done, and many still do, that very thing. Good for them for being so committed. You and I may not ever face a situation in which we have to pack up and move to a new location as part of our service to Jehovah, but the New Testament certainly teaches the need for all of us to be willing to sacrifice for our Master. In fact, if, in our heart of hearts, we do not forsake "all" that we have, then we cannot be Jesus’ disciples. He said so (Luke 14:33).
(5) They STRENGTHENED the kingdom. Here is exactly what the Bible says about them: "So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong . . ." (11:17). Not only did these folks see that the worship in the Northern Kingdom had been compromised, not only did they set their hearts to do what was right and seek God, and not only did they make sacrifices, both to God and for Him. They also, once they arrived in the South, made a positive contribution: they strengthened the Southern Kingdom.
We have heard accounts of brethren in the 20th and 21st centuries who were people of conviction. They recognized that unscriptural teachings or practices had taken over where they were members, and they could no conscientiously stay there any longer. So, they began attending elsewhere. Good for them. But, when they became part of a new congregation, they were so "down on everything and everybody" that they never really did anything constructive in the new place. They could talk all day about how bad things were down the road, but they never joined in to help make things better in their new location.
Brother, are you like those Israelites about whom we are studying? Are you one that makes a sincere effort to strengthen the kingdom, as they did the kingdom of Rehoboam? Do you strengthen the hands of the elders by your cooperation, support, and service? Do you strengthen the hands of the widows and widowers by seeing to their needs? Do you strengthen the Bible class program by attending classes and encouraging the teachers? Do you strengthen the worship by enthusiastically participating in it? Do you help recruit prospects to teach yourself or for someone else to teach? If we want the church to be as strong as it can be, and I truly believe that is what we really do want, then it is going to take the efforts of all of us working together, one day at a time. Can our Lord and spiritual shepherds count on you and me to be kingdom strengtheners?
I personally take no pleasure in reading of the division that took place in the nation of Israel. It does not thrill me to read of the corrupt worship that Jeroboam installed and the people accepted. It does encourage me, though, and I am sure that it encourages you as well, to read of some of the devoted people of God that would have nothing to do with the false worship in the North and moved to be a part of a group that was trying to do things God’s way. Again, here are the key words that we have focused on: they Saw, they Set, they Sought, they Sacrificed, and they Strengthened. In principal, in our own way, each of us can do the same things that they did.
Unfortunately, the story of Rehoboam and the Southern Kingdom did not remain a happy one. You see, the Bible says that those who came from the North strengthened the king for three years (2 Chronicles 11:17). Then what happened? "And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him . . . And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD" (12:1,14). They had a good start, but did not keep it going. Do you reckon we should learn anything from such a course of action?
By Roger D. Campbell
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