The Counsel of the Carnal
Robert Wurtz II
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day. And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. (1 Kings 11:12-16)
Our passage is the sacred account of the events that led ultimately to the division of Israel, as a nation, into the northern and southern kingdoms. A cursory read would suggest that the kingdom will be divided into the young and the old: the wise and the foolish. History proved that it was really a division between the faithful and the backslidden. The northern Ten Tribes of Israel will go from bad to worse, in spite of the fact that the southern kingdom tried for over sixty years to reign them in. In time, Ahab became king and Jezebel established Baal as the god of the land. Before the northern kingdom finally passed into legend, God had sent the Prophets Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, and Nahum to call them to repentance. As best as we know these rebellious people greatly withstood these men of God, continued in rebellion, and eventually died without God or mercy. Nevertheless, this Old Testament account is written for our New Covenant instruction.
A History of Division
Although the ostensible reason for the division was Rehoboam “adding to the peoples’ yoke and chastening them with scorpions,” the two groups had long been at odds. The northern tribe did not want to worship as did the faithful south. They enjoyed the high places long before they fell full-on into Baal worship. They were trending towards compromise and conflict. In fact, Josephus tells us that when the kingdoms split the people stated, in effect, “We leave to Rehoboam the Temple that his father built.”(Antiquities, VIII., viii. 3) That Temple was Solomon’s Temple; the one dedicated with sacrifice and the sacred Fire of God. The northern compromisers had their own fires going, and had no interest in maintaining God’s design. It was evidence that deep down inside was a longing for sin and this present evil world. It didn’t happen over night. It rarely does. But, slowly but surely they backslid into full-blown idolatry.
Tender Heart and Turmoil
Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord. And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them. (2 Chronicles 13:6)
It was an act of carnality for the new, young, king Rehoboam to use vain words to sound tough at the advice of the young men. Nevertheless, our passage above clearly show that he was in fact – “young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them.” Carnal words do not work on carnal men. It takes an unction from God to prick their hearts. These rebels had cast out the Levites as priests, worshiped golden calves, and anointed unqualified men to minister to false gods. On the other hand, Rehoboam may have got in the flesh with his tough-talk, but he still made sure the Levites were burning for God and keeping the charge. Unlike Rehoboam, Abijah didn’t use empty words, but spoke under inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
Jeroboam, the leader of the north, even tried to ambush them from before and behind. None of it worked. God already determined to prosper the ones willing to keep His charge and burn for Him. They who were foolish enough to mix the world, and its gods with the one true God met with a rude awakening, and a violent end:
And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind: and they cried unto the LORD, and the priests sounded with the trumpets. Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand. (2 Chronicles 14-16)
A Modern Warning
I was recently horrified when I came across the photo below as part of an article written in 2012 by a “Christian” organization called YALT (Young Advocate Leadership Training). My first thought was about Jeroboam and his group of rebels. The pride and arrogance in this photo bespeaks of an inward attitude of many in modern times that believe they can overthrow 2000 years of Church history in the name of cultural relevance.