June 5, 2015

Choosing to follow Christ

2 Chronicles 11:1–13:22, Titus 2:9–2:15, Psalm 96:1–13

Most children form early ideas of God by observing their parents, particularly their father. I’m encouraged by today’s reading in the OT because it gives an exception to that.

First the bad news; Solomon’s son Rehoboam did not start out as well as his father did. Solomon pleased God, at least in the beginning. But by the end of his reign, he had disobeyed in several ways and even turning to the idols worshiped by his many wives.

After Solomon died, his son took the throne and: “King Rehoboam grew strong in Jerusalem and reigned. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put his name there. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 12:13–14)

He could have been influenced by Solomon’s decline in spirituality, and if so, this illustrates the importance of perseverance. He failed to set a good example for his son. Besides that, every child is born with a sinful bent. Eventually each one must choose whether to keep on that track or seek God. Rehoboam could have chosen the example of his father’s early life. Instead, he let Solomon’s disobedience be his example.

Rehoboam’s son was named Abijah. Abijah did not follow his father or his grandfather Solomon. Instead, he choose his great-grandfather as his example. Here is what he said: “Abijah stood up on Mount Zemaraim that is in the hill country of Ephraim and said, ‘Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?. . . . And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made you for gods. Have you not driven out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are no gods. But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him . . .’” (2 Chronicles 13:4—5, 8–10)

Abijah warned Jeroboam of his error and his pride. He wanted this man to realize he was foolish and disobeying God. Abijah had a heart for God and this was an effort to do what the Lord later commanded in the NT. The reading for today says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10–11) Jeroboam was a rebel. Rehoboam told him so in no uncertain terms.

As I read Titus, it seems to me that warning trouble-makers does not happen very often. It seems easier to pacify them and attempt peace-making or compromise. Perhaps this is because the person creating division is quick to self-defense, even retaliation. I wonder what would happen in a squabbling congregation if the leaders scolded those who were stirring the pot, and then ignored them as this passage says. Maybe they would straighten out and confess their sin? Maybe they would begin to praise the Lord instead of pushing their own agenda?

These thoughts bring sorrow and a sense of deep desire to my heart. How wonderful if God’s people could focus on God instead of internal issues or trying to have our own way.

The psalmist did it well as he wrote: Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 96:7–10)

Abijah is an example of making the best choice and at the end of his story, it appears that his son Asa decided to follow his dad by following the Lord also!

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