Sermon title:   A NATION IN CONFLICT

1 Kings 12:19-32   

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, May 26, 2019

 

 

This is the Memorial Day weekend,

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.

 

Accommodating slavery

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.

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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,

Jeroboam decided

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,

“male prostitutes

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.

 

Similarly, today,

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.

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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,

even fashionable,

to malign traditional Christian beliefs.”

 

Yes, our nation is being tested by so-called ‘culture wars’

over abortion,

homosexual activism,

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 nota 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.”