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.