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Dec 06, 2015

Living Well in a Divided World

Living Well in a Divided World

Passage: 1 Kings 12:1-16:34

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Story

Category: Old Testament

Keywords: chaos, culture, division, evil, godlessness, good, judgment, truth, violence


We are living in a time of growing division, strife and confusion in our nation and world. Such is the reality when people forget God and turn away from His truth. Such was the reality in the time of the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel. How are we to live and process life events in this kind of cultural environment? This sermon looks at a rather different and somewhat troubling passage that give us challenging answers.


Living Well in a Divided World

I Kings 11-16

December 6, 2015


Baptism Interviews:  Eileen & Steve

Prayer:  baptismal candidates; victims’ families in San Bernardino shooting; our nation. 

Do you ever feel like our country is becoming one big polarized knot of people?  The tragedy of this week’s shooting in San Bernardino, CA got everyone arguing again about multiple issues. 

One camp cries out to have more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens in order to protect ourselves while the other camp wants to apply more gun control measures to more Americans so fewer people have guns.  Could the proposed solutions be more opposite? 

Some presidential candidates tweeted out condolences and prayers while the NY Daily News editors declared front page that “God Isn’t Fixing This” and took them to task for praying instead of voting for more gun control. Could we be farther apart?

The mess in the Middle East and the immigration migration taking place in Europe has left our nation arguing whether we should take in more refugees from that area of the world out of compassion or put more limits on migration of people who don’t share our cultural, religious and moral values. 

The same debate about immigration on our southern boarder rages with no end in sight.

We have become a nation that is so polarized about so much that I pity (and often despise) any politician that waffles back and forth between extremes that seem to have no middle ground. 

Such is the day and age we live in.  As our nation continues to lose its moral and spiritual footing, our culture will continue to degenerate into fractured chaos. 

            Such was the period of history covered in the book of I Kings that we are in today.  David had spent 40 years battling the pagan forces living in Israel and uniting his kingdom.  Solomon his son came along and enjoyed about 40 years of unparalleled peace and prosperity in the nation’s history.  But his failure to worship and obey God as he should have plunged the nation into hundreds of years of division, discord and war.  The chapters we are looking at today deal with that period of division and decline. 

            Now most of us are probably thinking, “Who wants to think about that when you come to church to worship?” “What a downer!”  “Can’t we just sing a few happy Christmas carols and call it a day?”  We could…but then we might not learn what God wants us to know and experience as His children at this time in the life of our own nation as it seems to grow more divided.  We might end up making some really bad decisions in the midst of some really important times. 

So let’s ask for God’s help in discerning how He wants us to live in our growingly divided nation as we look at what He did with His divided people almost 3,000 years ago. 


I Kings 11 records God’s prophecy to Solomon that the kingdom would be torn from his household after his death.  God had made a promise to his father, David, that there would always be someone from his family that would occupy the throne.  But Solomon’s failure to obey God narrowed that promise to the tribe of Judah, just one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  His disobedience greatly diminished what his descendants would experience. 

APP:  This is one of the reasons we must not succumb to the short-sighted view of life that simply looks at the consequences our actions have on us.  Our actions always impact several generations beyond us, whether for good or for evil. Most of us have trouble thinking seriously about the consequences of today’s decisions on next month let alone the next generation or two.  But godly, righteous people consider the impact of their walk before God on their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren…whether physical or spiritual offspring.

The first big crack in the kingdom came with a man named Jeroboam.  He starts out as a gifted administrator in Solomon’s court.   He ends up taking 10 of the tribes of Israel away from Solomon’s son who should have been king after him, Rehoboam.  Here’s how it went down. 

I Kings 11:27-33

27 Here is the account of how he rebelled against the king: Solomon had built the terraces and had filled in the gap in the wall of the city of David his father.28 Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph.

29 About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, 30 and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes. 32 But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. 33 I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molek the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in obedience to me, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my decrees and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.

            So there is the prophecy that now must be fulfilled after the death of Solomon.  Jeroboam apparently got a little ahead of the prophecy.  He starts a rebellion against Solomon who then decides his gifted aid is better dead than alive.  So Jeroboam high tails it to Egypt, waiting for a more opportune time. 

That time comes at the end of I Kings 11. Solomon dies and his son, Rehoboam, takes charge of the throne.

Here’s how you can remember the difference between Rehoboam and JeroboamRehoboam is the REAL king; Jeroboam is the JV king.  “Real Rehoboam” will rule over the southern kingdom of Judah while “JV Jeroboam” takes the 10 tribes of northern Israel. 

But HOW this split occurred is instructive.  Chapter 12 gives us the story.  Rehoboam went to Shechem for an inauguration ceremony.  As with every new administration, whether it’s America with a new President or Israel with a new king, everyone got their hopes up for some long-hoped for changes.  And in case you think taxes is a new political football from the last hundred years of so, think again.  Solomon had levied some pretty hefty taxes on the people in order to build up his military and his public works department.  As much as the “golden age” of Israel had been under Solomon, it had come at the price of some very high taxes. 

So the people petition the new King Rehoboam for a little tax relief.  He tells them to give him 3 days to think about it and come back.  During those 3 days, he consults with two groups of advisors.  Group #1 are all the “old administration” advisors/elders of his father Solomon’s team.  Group #2 are a bunch of his peers, buddies he had grown up with, the “young bucks” of the kingdom. 

Group #1 advocate for Rehoboam to become a “servant leader” who serves the people by lightening their tax burden.  They predict that the whole country will “always be your servants” if he does that.

Group #2, his young buddies, advocate, not for lower taxes or even for holding taxes the same.  They call for much higher taxes…and with a real attitude.  Here’s the inauguration speech they suggested:

Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”  Sounds like a good communist to me, no?  J

The net result is that 10 of the 12 tribes decide to form a new country and “succeed from the union.” They go to Jeroboam who has since arrived from exile in Egypt (via express camel?) and is more than happy to serve as king over the rebel northern kingdom.

As Abraham Lincoln was compelled to do when he took office and the South succeeded , Rehoboam pulls together an army of 180,000 young men to go to war to keep Jeroboam from succeeding (or succeeding). 

But then God steps in.  Here’s how it is recorded in I Kings 12:22ff--22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to all Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered.

Do you ever feel like God’s will is hard to swallow?  “What do you mean, God, a divided kingdom?”  “I’m the rightful heir to this nation.  I’ve got the army.  I’ve got the authority.  What do you mean, ‘Go home!’?” 

God had spoken prophetically about how he was going to discipline Solomon’s line.  This was just the working out of that discipline.  While Rehoboam seemed at first to walk away from a fight, the closing commentary on his life in 14:30 tells us, There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” 

That could have been because God was disciplining BOTH Israel and Judah during this time.  BOTH Rehoboam and Jeroboam led their respective nations into idolatry.  Rehoboam does it with Judah by continuing the idolatry of Solomon and adding male shrine prostitutes and pornographic “sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree” (14:23). 

Jeroboam gets a little more creative with his apostasy.  Fearing that he can’t keep up with the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, he decides to set up not one but two golden calves in two separate places in northern Israel.  One gets put in Bethel, a whopping 12 miles north of Jerusalem, while the other gets put in Dan, way up north.  He also appointed his own priesthood, developed his own national religious holidays and made sacrifices on these two altars.    You could say that it was a race to the bottom spiritually for both divisions of God’s people. 

APP:  I think there is at least a strong word of caution here for our nation, our state, our city and our families—anywhere where leadership really matters..  The bottom line is, leader’s spirituality matters!  Granted, we are not Israel.  We’re not a theocracy.  Our leaders don’t have nearly the power a king in Israel had.  And God calls us to exercise our spirituality today through an individual relationship with Him rather than a national one. 

BUT the spiritual temperature and focus of leaders will make a decided difference to the spiritual direction of those the leader leads…be it a marriage, family or nation.  That is far more important than the political party or host of policy issues. The notion that one’s leadership can be divorced from one’s spirituality and morality is folly. 

God includes two more specific incidents in Jeroboam’s life in this passage.  Both of them are puzzling on the surface.  Both of them are God’s way of trying to flag down the runaway life of a leader.  Both of them are a bit sobering. And I can guarantee neither of them you heard as a kid in Sunday School.  But don’t get too nervous; they are still only rated PG.

I Kings 13:1-10

Two questions we should all ask ourselves about any passage of Scripture we are studying: 

  • What does this incident have to teach us about God?
  • What does this incident teach us about people?

#1. GOD: 

  • He still has his faithful people even in the midst of the most evil of times.
  • He’s always sending His messengers to turn people from their sins.
  • God will sometimes intervene miraculously to protect his servants from death.
  • God is kind and gracious enough to heal even godless rebels.

#2.  PEOPLE:

  • Righteous people still hear from God in unrighteous times.
  • Being the man/woman of God in your day may demand bold, life-threatening confrontation of sinful power-centers and people.
  • Confronting evil may also require caring for perpetrators of evil.
  • Part of being a man/woman of God is not compromising what God has commanded you to do.

So let’s keep reading.  I Kings 13:11-34. 

Anybody just a little confused?  So what happened here? 

            The “man of God” who had delivered the prophecy to Jeroboam is found by an “old prophet” living in Bethel.  That “old prophet” turns out to be a lying prophet who claims to have had an encounter with an angel of God that told him to bring the man of God to his house. 

Q:  Did that lie go contrary to what the man of God had been told?  Yes, directly.

So what should the man of God done?  Ignored it!

TRUTHAlways refuse to obey any supposed ‘angelic message’ that contradicts the already revealed word of God…ALWAYS! 

The man of God had a clear choice:  either follow through with what he had heard God say loud and clear himself OR ignore/disobey that and follow what someone else was claiming they heard from God via an angel. 

            Now if I were God, that lying prophet would be the last person I would have sent any message to anyone through, especially that day with that ‘man of God.’  But that’s one of many reasons why I’m not God. J

            Somewhere during the meal at the prophet’s home, God really did speak to the prophet.  And the message was not comforting.  The man of God would pay with his life for “defying the word of the Lord” and not keeping God’s command.  He would die somewhere away from home and not be buried in the family plot. 

            But the fulfillment came much sooner than either of those men imagined with the man of God being attacked and mauled to death by a lion on the way home.  But the lion didn’t eat it and perhaps most surprisingly he didn’t scare off the man’s donkey.  In fact, both the donkey and the lion simply stood there like sentries until the old prophet eventually heard the news and came to fetch the body.  That had to be a God-thing!

So let me ask the same two questions:  What do we learn about God from this event and what do we learn about people? 


  • God means business with His word. Once we hear and understand the truth, we are responsible to obey it regardless of what anyone else says.
  • God is often harder on his own kids than on rebellious sinners.
  • God doesn’t contradict himself when he speaks.
  • God can use animals to accomplish His will with humans.


  • Even godly-looking/sounding people can be liars.
  • Truly godly people can stop obeying God at any time.
  • Even godly people can be deceived.
  • People can sound very persuasive but be very wrong.

Any other principles to be learned from this rather strange story?  [Time of silence and see what God speaks to us…then share.]

So now we come to the last story for today in I Kings 14.  It’s a story about Abijah, son of Jeroboam, and Ahijah, an old prophet of God.  The names sound alike but we’re talking two very different people. 

Read 14:1-13

Did you hear that last verse???  The boy is killed WHY?  (Because he’s the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom God found anything GOOD!) 

How does that fit your theology?  God is removing the one somewhat innocent member of an entire family line that He is going to punish.  Death, in this case, is a grace of God. 

Read 14:14-18

  • Can we all agree that living in a world sometimes dominated by evil and evil people is a sad experience?
  • Can we agree that God’s ways are not our ways?
  • Can we agree that wicked leadership at any level, unchecked and unchallenged, is grievous and eventually leads to divine judgment?

We live in a world divided by good and evil. 

We are increasingly living in a nation whose growing rebellion against God is leading us down a road of growing violence, increased suffering and accelerating death.  When our leaders refuse to call evil what it is—evil… and continue to attack good and godly people who willingly give their lives for others rather than take lives, we can expect to see more of God’s judgment on that evil and more good people die.

So how should we live as God’s people in the midst of growing evil in our world?

  • Be the voice of God in a world going mad.
  • Hold to the Word of God no matter what others say that contradicts it.
  • Be ready to lay down your life for the people around you. We have everything to gain (God and eternity with Him) while they have everything to lose (their souls, the only true God & eternity with Him.)
  • Share the love, life and sacrifice of Christ with everyone we possibly can. We never know what day may be our very last on earth to do that. 
  • Mourn the evil that continues to grow but trust the sovereign hand of God that He is working out his divine prophetic plan.