1 Kings 12:21-24 – When You Burn Down The Tree House, What Have You Won?

Posted: January 12, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 12:21-24

Shemaiah’s Prophecy

Knee jerk reactions, they are usually the worst decisions that we can make. A mistake on top of another mistake. Have you ever made a mistake and compounded it by making another one? I think that we have all been there. I remember when my brother and I were little kids, the cute little boys of a young Methodist preacher. The memory that comes to mind is when we were living in a little town in the extreme northwest corner of South Carolina called Walhalla. RT was 5 and 6 years old during our two years in that little town and I was 4 and 5. We were only 18 months apart in age so we were pretty close in physical development while there. We loved to play outside on the empty lot next to the parsonage. An empty lot and the imaginations of two little boys made for many hours of entertainment over there. One of the games would like to play though was not some imaginary battle between good and evil but rather and American pastime, baseball. We would play the equivalent of batting practice – as well as kids our age could play a baseball-based game. It involved a lot missed swings, missed catches, and a lot of running after the ball. It the batter missed on the swing, he would have to chase the ball behind him down the steep incline to our yard at the parsonage, next to the open lot. If the batter connected, the pitcher would have to chase down the ball after missing the catch or missing the grounder. We had a predetermined number of at-bats. It was three unless you got a hit beyond the pitcher. Then, you could stay at-bat until the pitcher caught your hit or stop a ball from getting past where he was pitching from.

On this particular day, my brother was connecting on all the balls that I was pitching his way. Being 4 my fielding skills weren’t the best so I was chasing down a lot of hit balls. Finally, I just got tired of it all. RT had been at-bat for what seemed like forever to me. In my frustration and not getting to do the fun part, the batting, I just gave up and said I didn’t want to play anymore. This angered my big brother and a fight ensued (as much as 4 and 5 year old boys can fight). Somehow during the tilt, my brother takes the baseball bat and boinks me over the head with it. That hurt A LOT. I immediately began to cry and ran into the house to tell Dad. He immediately pulled his belt off and went outside to find RT next door at the empty lot. Now, this is where one error gets compounded by another.

My brother sees Dad coming with an angry look on his face and his belt, nicknamed “the Black Spirit of Power”, in his hand. For some inexplicable reason, my brother did not just stand there and take his punishment. Right as my dad gets up to him, he takes off running toward the back yard of our house. This angered my Dad to no end. Having to chase his 5 year old son down to give him his punishment. At my view as a 4 year old, it seemed that RT got away from dad forever because time seems so much larger when you are that age. I am sure that the reality of it was that Dad was able to catch him pretty quickly. But RT was able to make down the embankment from the lot next door to our back yard at the parsonage. By the time Dad caught him, Dad was, shall we say, not very happy. That whipping my brother was more strokes than we would have gotten if he had just stood there and took his punishment. I had a bump on my head for a couple of days after that. Dad was not happy with my brother for an equal amount of time. My brother compounded one mistake with another. Dad would have been more lenient in his whipping and in the length of the daily reminders after that, if RT had just apologize and took his punishment as soon as Dad got out there.

Oh the memories of childhood that stick with you. I am 56 years old now and that memory of that day is still pretty clear in my mind, 51 years later. It is a reminder to us today that sometimes that we have to admit our mistakes, eat our humble pie, and try to restore relationships rather than following up one mistake by making another one. That baseball incident 50 plus years ago is what came to mind when I thought of how Rehoboam handled this situation in today’s passage. Let’s read what happens in 1 Kings 12:21-24:

21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Rehoboam’s foolishness divided his kingdom and, then, he wanted to reunite it by force. He made a huge political blunder that caused most of the nation to split away from Judah and start a separate nation. Then, Rehoboam compounds the error with wanting to go to war with his own people, his fellow Israelites, to restore his power over the whole nation.

Since in the last few blogs, we have been talking about marriage and this passage reminds me of how we act in conflict situations in marriage at times. Sometimes, we do something to hurt our spouse and then we compound that error by arguing about it and making our mistake their fault. Then things escalate to the point that the argument becomes about more than just one incident but a referendum on the whole marriage. Mistakes from the past all come boiling to the surface and pretty soon the argument is out of control. Spouses shut down. They don’t speak for days. When they do, the argument flairs up again. Negative comments about everything ensue. And after a while, the two of you don’t even remember what the initial cause of the argument was all about. Have you ever been there?

Why is it that we sometimes get so prideful when it comes to our spouses? The aim seems to be victorious over your spouse rather than restoring the marriage. So, we compound one error with another. We add insult on to injury. It kind of reminds of that rare gem of a movie that few people have heard of – The War starring Kevin Costner and Elijah Wood (when he was a young boy).

Here the plot synopsis from www.imdb.com

The War tells the story about a young boy named Stu (Elijah Wood) and his father Stephen (Kevin Costner), who is a recovering war veteran. Stu, his sister Lidia Simmons (Lexi Randall), and their friends are determined to build the ultimate tree fort during their summer break. Stu’s father has equally high hopes of rebuilding his life and the life of his family. Stu is constantly getting into fights with everyone who says a bad word about him or his sister. Especially a group of children, who Stu considers to be the lowest of the low, the Lipnicki’s. Stephen, Stu’s father realized what was worth fighting over and what wasn’t, and so he tries to help Stu understand that he needs to pick his battles. Lidia, meanwhile, is off in the Lipnicki’s junkyard, scavenging for the items they need to make the tree fort. She runs into Billy Lipnicki (Christopher Fennell) on one of her trips, and pays him ten cents to stay quiet. Once the tree fort is completely built, Billy spends all the money he got on ice cream. His father and brothers and sister find him with them as confront him about how he got all that ice cream. His eldest brother shaves a portion of his head and Billy tells about Lidia taking stuff from the yard. The Lipnicki’s go to the tree fort and make a dare with Stu, whoever swims across the water tower while it’s draining and back, gets to keep the tree fort. The Lipnicki’s back out of the dare, but Stu goes through with it. The Lipnicki’s promise to not take the fort, and one of the Lipnicki’s throw the lock and key to the fort on top of the old water tower roof. Stu gets the lock, but couldn’t reach the key. Later that day, Stu’s father is in the hospital because of an accident at his work. A few days later, Stephen dies. That day, the Lipnicki’s break their promise about staying away from the tree fort, and take it from Lidia and her friends. Stu finds his father’s old crate of war items, face paint, smoke bombs, grenades, and his father’s army tags. Stu and his friends start a war with the Lipnicki’s to get the tree fort back. The tree fort gets ruined in the process, and Billy Lipnicki goes to the water tower to try and get the key, to stop the fighting. Billy falls through the roof of the water tower and Stu jumps in after him. He and Arliss (Donald Sellers) manage to free Billy from the drain and get him on solid ground. However, Billy is ice cold and isn’t breathing. Stu and Lidia try everything they can to get Billy to breath again, and after a lot of slapping and yelling, finally Billy takes a breath. After that, the Lipnicki’s and the Simmons stopped fighting with each other. The tree fort never got fixed, and Stu was able to come to terms about his father’s sudden death.

The very thing that they were fighting over became a scorched pile of burnt wood and metal on the ground after all that. It was never rebuilt. The damage was not repairable. We are sometimes the same way in our marriages. We would rather burn down the fort than lose the battle. We may win the argument but when the fort is in tatters on the ground, what have we won. Rehoboam was about to do the same thing. He was willing to burn down the fort to say he won. He was willing to start a civil war just to get his way. He was wanted to prove that he was the winner. Meanwhile, the nations of Judah and Israel would have been ripped to shreds. What would he have won? He would have compounded one error with another. Is victory in our marriages so important that we burn down the house just to be able say we won?

Let us pray that we can realize that our marriage, the survival of our fort, our tree house, our nation, our relationship is worth more than being able to claim victory or defend our mistakes as being right! May we be able to admit to our spouses when we are wrong. May we be able to say, “I realize now that what I said or what I did was just plain wrong and that it hurt you. Will you please forgive me?” May we have be that humble! May we treat each other with the same level of love and forgiveness that God in heaven showed us through Jesus Christ. He did not have to sacrifice His Son on the cross as the payment for our sins. He could have just said, they can go to hell, but God loves us so much that He was willing to pay any price for our eternal survival. He was more interested in the relationship with us than He was about whether He had the perfect right to condemn us – which He does! May we love our spouses in the same way. May we see the relationship as more important than each of us individually. May we be willing to set aside our personal rights and claims and see that the survival of the relationship is more important than burning down the tree house with our pride and need to be right and victorious. When we burn down the tree house, what have we won?

Amen and Amen.

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