Summary: Rehoboam and the need for servant leadership divide the kingdom. God appears to be distant.
1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29 “Where’s God in All of This?”
Today is All Saints Sunday. It is a day that we remember those faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who have gone before us. We celebrate those who have gone before us who have been more than a success—they have been an inspiration, and they have left more than an impression—they have left a legacy. We gather together to celebrate the Holy Spirit’s work through the well-known and the unknown—all who have been called and empowered by God to lives of faithful service. We also come together today to worship the God who has decided to move through the chosen and empowered, the baptized—people like you and me--to reach out to the world with God’s love and grace.
It may seem odd to use this text about the reign of King Rehoboam and the split of United Kingdom into the Northern Kingdom of ten clans, which was called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom called Judah. Though this story takes place in the Old Testament, and centers on the actions of a very unjust and self-centered king, it contains lessons that we can apply to our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.
SAINTS THROUGH HARD TIMES
The Golden Age of Israel was coming to an end. Solomon, during his reign had oppressed the people. In verse four, we see the people come to Rehoboam at his anointing as king and ask him to remove the heavy yoke that had been placed upon them by Solomon. They had been pressed into forced labor in order to build the magnificent structures of Solomon’s kingdom. The words used in verses four, eleven and fourteen echo the words used to describe the plight of the Israelites in Egypt. It was not a good time.
I am sure that the people looked around at their harsh lives and wondered, “Where is God in all of this?” The historians who wrote the first book of kings want to assure the readers that God was present—God was still in control. In verse fifteen they write, “It was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word.”
God’s people—the saints—have lived in the reality of God’s presence in the middle of chaos and suffering.
• Christians have been persecuted throughout the centuries. The eleven disciples were all tortured and executed for their faith. Today Christians are being executed by Islamic extremists.
• We have experienced the truth in our own lives. God was with us during the “economic downturn—when we lost jobs and homes. God was with us when we faced health crises and bruised, broken relationships. God was with us in the pain of our grief and the depth of our depression.
• We have learned the lesson that the apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians. In the middle of his suffering God spoke to him and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
It is our natural tendency, when we are faced with chaos, trials and suffering, to turn inward and protect ourselves. It is called the survival instinct. We have all experienced it. Our perspective on life narrows and our focus becomes limited to our own situation.
King Rehoboam and his young advisors are examples of how not to act. As leaders they could have been a blessing to the people. Instead they sought only their comfort and to fulfill their selfish desires. King Rehoboam wanted to be as great a king as his father, Solomon. His ambition, though, limited his reign to a side note in history.
We try so hard to be in control. Ironically often in our attempts to control life we become addicted, whether it be to alcohol, drugs, food, shopping and the like. One of the first lessons that twelve step programs teach is that we are not in control. Once we realize this truth, we can then put into practice of “Letting go and letting God.”
Contrast Rehoboam’s life with that of Jesus Christ. In the middle of opposition by the Jewish rulers and religious authorities, he continued to serve. He healed the sick, cast out demons, reached out to the untouchable and proclaimed the good news that the kingdom of God had come.
The saints we remember most are the saints that have continued to serve in the middle of hard times and persecution. Certainly we recall the lives of the “big” saints like St. Paul, St Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, Mother Theresa, Rosa Parks. The saints that really stick out in our minds are those who have personally touched our lives:
• A Sunday school teacher, came Sunday after Sunday to teach us the stories of the Bible and tell us about God’s love.