2 Chronicles 11:5-17 – The Church Seeking Unity: What A Wonderful World That Would Be

Posted: August 14, 2020 in 14-2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 11:5-17

Rehoboam Fortifies Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

There was an old song by Sam Cooke that was entitled, “What A Wonderful That Would Be!” It’s chorus was “I do know that I love you and if you love me too, what a wonderful world that would be!” That title seems appropriate for this morning’s blog. What A Wonderful World That Would Be. What a wonderful world it would be if there was truly unity in the church. If we loved each other enough to seek unity, what a wonderful world that would be. However, the history of the church provides us evidence that unity is a problem for man. This scripture passage demonstrates that throughout the history of God’s people, we have let pride get in the way of unity. Unity requires that we on all side of an issue submit ourselves to the Lord. We have not always done that as God’s people and in particular as the church that Jesus left behind.

There are those seminal moments in the life of the church, in general, and of local churches, and of individual Christ followers. Throughout the ages, there have been defining moments, for the church, in general, such as October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 objections as to how corrupt and off course the church had become.

Taking a little explanative detour for those who don’t understand, why the church is made up of so many names nowadays. Since 1517, the original church is Catholic Church with a capital C. But Catholic is the English word derived from the Latin word, catholicus, which means universal. Up until the Reformation Day just noted there was just the universal church, the one church universal. Nobody thought about different factions back in the first century up to the 16th century. There was just the church – the collective body of believers in Jesus Christ. We are still collective, all denominations and flavors on our signs, as the general church now but we are all fractured into Catholics and Protestants (the original church and the all encompassing term, Protestant, for all who are not part of the original or catholic church). Then within Protestantism, we are all kind of fractured up into hundreds of denominations, including United Methodists, Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, non-demoninational independent churches and so on.

To view the multiplicity of fractures within Christ’s church on earth since the early 16th century from a negative viewpoint is that man is terribly stubborn. While the New Testament repeatedly tells us in its various books that we are to seek unity, we are often very prideful as those in authority in the church. Often, we do not seek unity. We are not willing to give an inch. However, the Bible calls us to seek unity. God desire multiplication from us not division. God would much rather see church planting than church splits. He would rather see the pie get larger than divvying up the existing pie. It seems that the lack of unity within the church in general relates to the fact that one side or the other in these fractures was unwilling to consider the view of the other side. One side or both in these fractures was not willing to take correction from Scripture itself. In these fractures, there has to have been a side or both sides that could not see how their actions or desires were contrary to Scripture. Jesus himself tells us to seek unity in various statements in the Gospel of Matthew. Paul continually hits on the issue of reconciliation and unity within the church in his epistles to the churches he planted and mentored. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us as Christians to set aside our personal preferences and, most of all, our pride so that its not personal. Those on opposing sides should have the humility to seek what Scripture tells us on the doctrinal issues over which we battle. Seeking what the Holy Spirit tells us, not what our pride tells us, and not what cultural appeasement may lead us to do should lead us to the universal and timeless truths that He has led men toward throughout the history of the church. Both side must be willing to humble themselves before the Word of God and the Holy Spirit’s protection of what His Word means in its timeless and universal truth. How unwilling have been as the general church over the centuries?

To view the multiplicity of fractures from a positive viewpoint, often, these fractures have been necessary. Certainly, some of the fractures within Protestantism are not over things that save souls but rather differing takes on certain doctrines that emerge from God’s Word. However, there have been those fundamental doctrinal issues that have caused splits such as the break between Protestants and the original church, the Catholic Church and between the original church and what is now the Eastern Orthodox church. Those splits were about significant doctrinal issues of the church – about the authority of Scripture over leaders of the church, about whether Scripture alone is the authority vs. accumulated non-scriptural traditions and judgments of the church. In the Reformation split that gave birth to Protestantism, it was a necessary split to return the church to Scripture. It had veered off into all kinds of non-scriptural beliefs and practices all in the name of the political expediencies of the leader of the church, the Pope. The Reformation called the original church, the Catholic Church to reform itself and return to solo scriptura – only Scripture. The Reformation called the church to return to it’s true love, the Word of God. The Reformation called the church to return to measuring itself by God’s Word. The Reformation called the church to return to the simple gospel. The Catholic Church refused to reform in prideful arrogance and the split was necessary so that there was an avenue of Christianity that was being true to God’s Word and His Word alone. There comes a point when reconciliation is not possible and it is necessary to stand on Scripture and let the chips fall where they may. When one side is intractable in NOT submitting itself to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and protection of the biblical doctrines coming forth from the Word of God, we must seek to protect the church by splitting with those who would take the church into a direction that is not scriptural and that is in opposition to what the Holy Spirit has led man to understand about God’s Word throughout the history of His Word.

When the current pandemic finally dies out, whenever that may be, the denomination of which I am a part will have to return to the issue that has us at the brink of fracture. The United Methodist Church is grappling with the issue of human sexuality. It has gotten to the point where the denomination is considering fracture into separate denominations over the issue. The question is, is this an issue in which both sides have fully submitted themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the issue at hand. The Holy Spirit should be the one to whom we are all submitted on both sides. If that were the case, the Holy Spirit would guide all concerned to the universal and timeless truth of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has led believers to understand His truth about human sexuality for thousands of years. God never changes course and the Holy Spirit has always guided us to His truth. The Holy Spirit is not subject to current or previous cultural norms when divinely inspiring those who wrote His Word and thus His Word is true for all time without cultural bias. Therefore, this is a doctrinal issue about the validity of the Holy Spirit’s protection of His Word and the truth that emerges from its pages. Therefore, we should all submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s guidance on this issue, set our pride aside, seek His Will and if we are wrong, admit it and seek reconciliation with one another and forgiveness from God for getting sidetracked from the real business of the church, leading people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and then deepening their relationship with Him through discipleship.

It is that idea of protecting God’s church by protecting His Word that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 11:5-17. Let’s read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

5 Rehoboam remained in Jerusalem and fortified various towns for the defense of Judah. 6 He built up Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, 7 Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, 8 Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, 9 Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, 10 Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron. These became the fortified towns of Judah and Benjamin. 11 Rehoboam strengthened their defenses and stationed commanders in them, and he stored supplies of food, olive oil, and wine. 12 He also put shields and spears in these towns as a further safety measure. So only Judah and Benjamin remained under his control.

13 But all the priests and Levites living among the northern tribes of Israel sided with Rehoboam. 14 The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and moved to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons would not allow them to serve the Lord as priests. 15 Jeroboam appointed his own priests to serve at the pagan shrines, where they worshiped the goat and calf idols he had made. 16 From all the tribes of Israel, those who sincerely wanted to worship the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem, where they could offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. 17 This strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they supported Rehoboam son of Solomon, for during those years they faithfully followed in the footsteps of David and Solomon..

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, before the nation split, the center of worship was in Jerusalem and people flocked there for the three annual festivals prescribed for the entire nation to celebrate together. During the rest of the year, other worship services and rituals were conducted in the respective lands of each tribe. These services and rituals were officiated by priests and Levites who lived in the 48 Levitical cities scattered throughout Israel (as prescribed by God through Moses). They offered God’s prescribed and ordained Old Testament sacrifices, taught and interpreted God’s Law, and encouraged the people to continue to follow God and to avoid the pagan influences of the Gentiles living among them and of the cultures/nations that surrounded Israel.

After the nation split, Jeroboam, the new king of the now separate northern kingdom, saw these priests as a threat to the stability of his new kingdom, since these priests and Levites were loyal to and took their direction from the elders of the Temple in Jerusalem, the capital previously of the entire nation and still the capital of the now, rival southern kingdom. To insulate his new nation from the influence that may have come from the religious center of Israelite life in Jerusalem, he terminated the existing priests and Levites and instituted priest that would be loyal to Him rather than Jerusalem. As a result, the rightful and hereditary priests and Levites were de facto unemployed and felt ethically compelled to not stand by and watch these false priests and their king lead the people into idolatry. So, they all moved south to the southern kingdom, where at this time, they were still worshiping the one true God.

By their actions, they preserved their integrity and, secondarily, they strengthened the southern kingdom. In the future after this moment, most of the people in the northern kingdom would go along with the evil designs of the northern kings, hoping to benefit or at least have a nice quiet life by cooperating. Sound like anything we might have to make a choice on in the future?

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Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we are to seek unity in the church – whether it be in the local expressions of the church, the local church, or whether it be in the global sense of the church, the collective of all believers in Jesus Christ. We are all to first check our hearts and souls over issues that divide us. We must determine if it is our pride and arrogance that prevents us from seeking unity within the church. We must determine if we have submitted ourselves to the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit on an issue dividing us. That soul searching analysis is important because the Holy Spirit should be the one determining our next steps on issues that divide the church, not our personal preferences or our pride. Let us be an humble people and submit ourselves to the Lord and admit when we are wrong. Let us reconcile with one another and seek forgiveness from one another when we have come to blows and let our pride get in the way. Let us seek forgiveness from God when we are wrong about what His Word says. Let us seek forgiveness from God when we have tried to twist His universal and timeless truths so that it meets our personal preferences, meets some political expediency, or makes God’s Word more appealing to culture. Let us submit ourselves to God’s Word and not God’s Word to ourselves. Let us preserve God’s Word inviolate. When we let God’s Word reign over us all, our hearts and souls will be changed when we are wrong and reconciliation can then occur and unity will result. What a wonderful world that would be!

Amen and Amen.

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