Sermon title: A NATION IN CONFLICT
1 Kings 12:19-32
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, May 26, 2019
and Memorial Day is time of remembrance—
remembering those we have lost,
especially those who died
defending our freedom.
The pattern for Memorial Day was set in 1863
5 years before it began to be celebrated
as a national holiday, originally called Decoration Day.
It was on November 19, 1863—in the middle of the Civil War—
that President Abraham Lincoln was speaking
at the dedication of a National Cemetery
on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
And his Gettysburg Address went like this:
"Fourscore and seven years ago
our fathers brought forth, on this continent,
a new nation,
conceived in liberty,
and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war,
testing whether that nation,
or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated,
can long endure.
We are met on a great battle-field of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field,
as a final resting-place
for those who here gave their lives,
that that nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper
that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate,
we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here,
have consecrated it far above our poor power
to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember
what we say here,
but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather,
to be dedicated here to the unfinished work
which they who fought here
have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated
to the great task remaining before us—
that from these honored dead
we take increased devotion
to that cause for which they here
gave the last full measure of devotion—
that we here highly resolve
that these dead shall not have died in vain—
that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom,
and that government of the people,
by the people, for the people,
shall not perish from the earth."
Contrary to Abe Lincoln’s humble and modest thought
that what he said there on that day
would not be long remembered,
his Gettysburg Address
is probably the best remembered
and most-often quoted
of any speech ever given
since the time of Christ.
And what stands out in it
is that the memory of our fallen heroes
should inspire us
to be, as he said,
“dedicated here to the unfinished work”
“dedicated to the great task remaining before us.”
At that time, the “unfinished work”
was to win the Civil War,
and to keep this country
and the godly principles it was founded on
from being torn apart and lost.
And there is still “unfinished work” for us today,
a “great task remaining before us”—
but more about that later.
Despite being founded on godly principles,
which Lincoln referred to,
when he cited
“the proposition that all men are created equal”
—which means we have a Creator—
and which he further emphasized when he said this is a
“nation, under God”—
—despite those godly principles in our foundation,
there was also a rotten plank
in the foundation of our country.
It was a rotten plank that was inserted into our Constitution
as part of what came to be called
“The Three Fifths Compromise.”
When you’re building a house,
if you include a rotten plank in the foundation,
that rotten plank will eventually cause the house to collapse.
And the rotten plank in the United States Constitution
was Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3
which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.
When the population data from the census
was used to determine
how many senators and representatives each state would have,
slaves—who were not allowed to vote—
were counted as three-fifths of a person.
meant that men, women and children
could be bought and sold at auction, like cattle.
They could be used and abused,
without any recourse to law to protect them.
This abusive slavery
violated our Declaration of Independence which said
“all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty
and the pursuit of Happiness.”
And this toleration of slavery
eventually led to the American Civil War.
When we read the Old Testament
we learn that ancient Israel, too,
was wracked by civil war.
After Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt,
the twelve tribes of Israel lived in the Promised Land
without a king
during the period of the Judges.
Their first king was Saul,
followed by David
and then David’s son Solomon.
But Solomon, in his later years,
allowed his foreign wives to persuade him
to build temples and altars
to the false gods of their homelands.
As a result, God told Solomon
that he would take away most of his kingdom away
from the son who would succeed him as king.
And, speaking though a prophet,
God told one of Solomon’s officials named Jeroboam
that he would give 10 of the 12 tribes to Jeroboam,
for Jeroboam to rule as king.
Solomon evidently heard about this,
and tried to kill Jeroboam,
but Jeroboam fled to Egypt until after Solomon died.
1 Kings Chapter 12,
which we read together in our Responsive Reading
tells what happened
shortly after Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king.
Beginning at 1 Kings 12:19, it says,
19 So, Israel has been in rebellion
against the house of David to this day.
20 When all the Israelites heard
that Jeroboam had returned,
they sent and called him to the assembly
and made him king over all Israel.
Only the tribe of Judah
remained loyal to the house of David.
21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem,
he mustered the whole house of Judah
and the tribe of Benjamin—
a hundred and eighty thousand fighting men—
to make war against the house of Israel
and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.
This would mean civil war—
180,000 soldiers from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin,
fighting against the other 10 tribes of Israel.
But civil war was averted when God intervened through a prophet.
22 But this word of God
came to Shemaiah the man of God:
23 "Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah,
to the whole house of 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.'
The Lord let them know
that Jeroboam’s rebellion was instigated by God.
It was the Lord
who split that nation of Israel
into two parts—North versus South.
So they obeyed the word of the Lord
and went home again, as the Lord had ordered.
25 Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem
in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there.
From there he went out and built up Peniel.
But now, instead of trusting in the Lord
to support him in his Northern kingdom, as God had promised,
to set up a separate religion
to keep his people separate
from the Jews down South in Judah and Jerusalem.
26 Jeroboam thought to himself,
"The kingdom will now likely revert
to the house of David.
27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices
at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem,
they will again give their allegiance to their lord,
Rehoboam king of Judah.
They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam."
28 After seeking advice,
the king made two golden calves.
He said to the people,
"It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem.
Here are your gods, O Israel,
who brought you up out of Egypt."
29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.
30 And this thing became a sin;
the people went even as far as Dan
to worship the one there.
31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places
and appointed priests from all sorts of people,
even though they were not Levites.
32 He instituted a festival
on the fifteenth day of the eighth month,
like the festival held in Judah,
and offered sacrifices on the altar.
This he did in Bethel,
sacrificing to the calves he had made.
And at Bethel he also installed priests
at the high places he had made.
So, for selfish political reasons
Jeroboam set up a man-made false religion
in his Northern kingdom of Israel
to compete with the true worship of God
at the temple down South in Jerusalem.
1 Kings Chapter 14 tells us that
God was not going to put up with that.
Beginning at 1 Kings 14:7, God spoke through his prophet,
7 Go, tell Jeroboam
that this is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says:
'I raised you up from among the people
and made you a leader over my people Israel.
8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David
and gave it to you,
but you have not been like my servant David,
who kept my commands
and followed me with all his heart,
doing only what was right in my eyes.
9 You have done more evil
than all who lived before you.
You have made for yourself other gods,
idols made of metal;
you have provoked me to anger
and thrust me behind your back.
10 Because of this, I am going to bring disaster
on the house of Jeroboam.’”
And he did.
God caused civil war to break out among the Jews,
between the Northern kingdom of Israel
and the Southern kingdom of Judah.
And that civil war went on year after year, for decades.
But the Southern kingdom of Judah
also corrupted its form of worship,
even though Jerusalem and its Templewere in their midst.
Moving on to 1 Kings 14:22, we read,
22 Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord.
By the sins they committed
they stirred up his jealous anger
more than their fathers had done.
23 They also set up for themselves high places,
sacred stones and Asherah poles
on every high hill and under every spreading tree.
24 There were even male shrine prostitutes
in the land;
Those “male shrine prostitutes in the land”
are translated as “sodomites”
in the King James Bible and a number of other translations.
The “God’s Word Translation” says,
in the temples of idols throughout the land.”
The Douay-Rheims Bible translates it as “the effeminate.”
So, these were homosexual male prostitutes
who were included as part of the service
in the new temples of false worship
in and around Jerusalem.
And God was furious.
So, he allowed the surrounding foreign nationsto invade the land.
And he eventually threw the Jews out of the Promised Land,
allowing the invaders to carry them off
to captivity in Assyria and in Babylon.
Is there a lesson for us in all this?
Here we had a nation that God himself had set up
in a Promised Land he had given them.
The nation was established by godly men
and was given God’s Law to guide them.
But they corrupted themselves.
They brought in the false worship of foreign gods—
the idolatrous images that were worshiped
by the pagan nations around them.
For selfish political reasons
they corrupted the worship of the true God.
They even went so far
as involve effeminate male prostitutes
with their religious worship services.
And the true God didn’t put up with it.
He was furious.
And he unleashed his fury
on that ancient nation.
The people suffered intensely
under the hand of God’s anger.
And they eventually lost their freedom
and lost their nation.
we can point back to the godly principles
our nation was founded on.
We can call to mind the time
when the life of each community in America
revolved around our churches.
And we can call to mind the time
when nearly all of those churches
upheld the teachings of the Bible
and taught God’s standards of right and wrong.
But today’s population
is abandoning the churches in record numbers.
Churches are closing, or sitting almost empty.
And many of the churches
have become like those idol temples in ancient Israel.
Some of them fly the rainbow flag of the homosexual activists.
Some have installed homosexual or lesbian pastors.
Many that haven’t yet gone that far
are still teaching just half of the Word of God—
just the parts of the Bible
that don’t offend anyone:
The parts that talk about love,
but not the parts that talk about obedience.
The parts that talk about God’s mercy,
but not the parts that talk about God’s anger.
These churches still talk about ‘Jesus’
but it isn’t the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible.
As the Apostle Paul wrote to a troubled church
at 2 Corinthians 11:4, and he scolded them:
“You happily put up with
whatever anyone tells you,
even if they preach a different Jesus
than the one we preach,
or a different kind of Spirit
than the one you received,
or a different kind of gospel
than the one you believed.”
In the same way many churches today
preach a different Jesus,
embrace a different spirit
and teach a different gospel—
not the Gospel that Paul preached,
and not the Gospel
that inspired so many of the Founding Fathers
of our great nation.
So, our nation is in danger
of facing calamitous judgment from God
much like the disasters that came upon ancient Israel.
We don’t have civil war,
but the news media talk about “culture wars”
going on now in America.
The culture of traditional marriage
with a loving father and mother
raising all their children—
this is being replaced by
a culture of free sex, lesbian and homosexual relationships,
or boyfriend and girlfriend living together without marriage,
and children being aborted,
even while they are in the process
of being born alive.
They call it “culture wars” because Bible-believing Christians
are not giving up without a fight.
We haven’t just rolled over and played dead
like the devil’s side of the “culture wars” wants us to.
We started out this morning
quoting from a speech by President Abraham Lincoln.
But now I’d like to quote from a speech
that Vice President Mike Pence gave a few days ago
at the commencement ceremony of Taylor University,
a Christian college in Indiana.
First, the Vice President gave his testimony—
the story of how he found Jesus,
and how Jesus changed his life.
And then he spoke about what he called:
“a change in our culture.”
And he said,
“You know, throughout most of American history,
it’s been pretty easy
to call yourself a Christian —
but things are different now.
Lately, it’s become acceptable,
to malign traditional Christian beliefs.”
Yes, our nation is being tested by so-called ‘culture wars’
forced ‘sex education’ in the schools,
and other areas where a secular society
now seeks to impose its twisted views
on Bible-believing Christians.
The 3rd Chapter of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes
tells us how “there is a time for everything.”
And then it gives examples, like
“a time to kill and a time to heal...
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
With these “culture wars” being waged against us,
now is not “a time to be silent”
but, rather “a time to speak.”
This is, for us, like what Abraham Lincoln
referred to as “the unfinished work”
-- and “the great task remaining before us.”
It is a time when we must confront evil.
It’s a time to call our nation to repentance
by sharing the Gospel found in the Bible,
whether it is popular or unpopular.
The Apostle Paul told Timothy at 2 Timothy 4 to
2 Preach the word;
be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage—
with great patience and careful instruction.
3 For the time will come
when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires,
they will gather around them
a great number of teachers
to say what their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will turn their ears away from the truth.
Today’s so-called “culture wars”
are actually the visible face of devil’s war
against the Gospel of Christ.
And we are the soldiers of the Cross,
upholding the Gospel in the face of the enemy’s assaults.
God gives us this promise at 2 Chronicles 7:14—
“If my people, who are called by my name,
will humble themselves
and pray and seek my face
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven,
and I will forgive their sin
and will heal their land.”