Today we continue a series from Jesus’ genealogy as listed in Matt. 1, God’s imperfect family. The genealogy is divided into three sections, we’re in the middle section, the Kings. Before we look at King Abijah, I thought it would be helpful to show the big picture of what’s going on at this point in history. Hand-out of the Kings of Israel/Judah…. (plus a smaller cheat sheet to tuck in your Bible. BTW, I have also decided that next year for the CBS we’ll study the Kings of Judah and Israel)
- The divided Kingdom: Judah and Israel (today it’s confusing because what we call “Israel” is the former “Judah”. Ancient Israel does not exist, only Judah.)
- All the Kings are classified as “evil” or “good”… the designation of each King is from the scripture, although good kings can make bad decisions, and some of the evil kings, like Abijah, make some good decisions… God is wild.
- Not a single “good” king on the side of Israel. More good kings than bad kings in Judah, and many of the good kings rule a long long time.
- In Judah, the kings come from a single family, the next King is the son of the King before him. Only one hiccup in the line, Queen Athaliah, but after she is killed the kings return to the son of the previous King. This is important for stability… a period of 400 years from David to exile, a son of the King of David sits on the throne… Jesus is the rightful heir…. Contrast Judah… I handwrote the relationship of one King to the next. 9 different breaks in the 200 year history of the divided Kingdom….
- Surprisingly, God made an amazing promise to Jeroboam… READ 1 Kings 11:37-38. Jeroboam chose to reject God which includes God’s promise… Israel never repented. Jereboam chose to worship a pagan God and institute pagan religion. Listen to this crazy decision making…. READ 1 Kings 12:26-33 and explain as read along…. Sounds a lot like Aaron’s golden calf.
- The religion of the two calves are the dominate gods of the remainder of Israel’s existence. Lest you think all religions are the same, think again. The two calves religion also included prostitution and child sacrifices, “that’s what the “high places” are… You know when the two calves are destroyed? King Josiah, 300 years after they were constructed. It only took Moses a day when Aaron created his golden calf….
- Ancient Israel as part of the divided nation is not a God fearing nation. They worship a pagan calf god… Jeroboam, the first king of Israel sets the stage for worship practices/beliefs that are contrary to the one and only God as revealed to Abraham… Jeroboam’s name is invoked almost 20 x’s as the prototype evil King. For example, in 1 Kings 16:26 Israel’s King Omri is described this way: READ.
King Abijah, the 2nd King of Judah, is successor to his father King Rehoboam. He continued his father's wars with King Jeroboam of Israel. Though his three years as king are declared to be evil, the only incident recorded shows a measure of faith and wisdom.
2 Chron. 13. READ 2 Chron. 13:1-3… war is the setting, but this is ultimately about the worship of God. Abijah has half the troops of Jereboam. There is no earthly way Judah can prevail! Yet with confidence Abijah boldly declares God is on his side. Abijiah preaches his own version of “The Sermon on the Mount” in which he puts the greater purpose of following God front and center. Let’s walk through 2 Chron. 13:4-12
4 Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim, in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, “Jeroboam and all Israel, listen to me! Notice he is addressing Jeroboam… as the sermon continues, he is directly appealing to the people of Israel and in effect inviting them to be restored to the one true God… in effect he is saying Jereboam is not important, abandon the ways of Jereboam and return to the one true God.
5 Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? The emphasis on the line of David is critical. “salt” is uncertain but obviously something known, binding…
6 Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, an official of Solomon son of David, rebelled against his master. He is now talking about Jeroboam as if Jeroboam is not there… Jeroboam is not an heir to the promise… “an official of Solomon.”
7 Some worthless scoundrels gathered around him and opposed Rehoboam son of Solomon when he was young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist them. Abijah is admitting the sin of his father Rehoboam who was led astray by his immaturity, while at the same time drawing attention to the promise of God given to the Son of Solomon, the son of David…Abijah’s own history is a model of repentance, not claiming perfection but the need to be renewed.
One of the great lessons of Abijah is self-determination. Each person must choose. Abijah is appealing directly to the people, much like Joshua when he first entered the promised land, “Choose this day whom you will serve…” Abijah, at this moment, does not care about history and past bad blood, he is not looking for revenge/punishment/enslavement. To Abijah it is more like RED ROVER: “Red rover red rover send ______ on over.” Abijah cares about the people standing before him believing they can make a commitment to the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is a liberating truth. No matter your background you can have a fresh beginning in Christ Jesus. You can choose to follow him. Let past divisions go… Many times I have tried to bring warring families/friends together, to not hold onto past grudges. One person said about King Abijah he would have approved of Romeo and Juliet… This sermon is an appeal for the people to bury the hatchet and worship once more the only true God. Isn’t that a message families, friends, communities, churches need to hear… to let go of the past and reconcile under God.
8 “And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the Lord, which is in the hands of David’s descendants. You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods. Do not resist… do not resist. I talked to one person this week who is several weeks free of smoking. She said she is learning it’s not so much about trying hard, digging in and refusing… it’s more about surrendering to God, to not resist… to let go…not smoking is good, but how much more to surrender our spiritual life/heart.
The Israelites have obvious earthly advantages over Judah, a vast army and to them a new golden calf god they are trusting… Abijah is pleading with them to not rebel against God almighty, to let go… it’s a message for how we are to make a full commitment to God, to quit resisting and instead surrender… 2 Chron. 13:9 is more ways they have resisted God… purposefully disobeyed his commands… but they know better… a lot of our world knows better, yet they continue in destructive patterns. I told one person recently she doesn’t have time to be depressed because she needs to start doing what she knows she needs to do to get her world together practically and spiritually. I wouldn’t say that to everyone, but sometimes when it seems right I scold people and tell them the obvious…. Don’t resist God, but surrender….I love one line in the fuller version of the serenity prayer that speaks to the way of getting right with God: trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will
10 “As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him…. AMEN! 2 Chron. 13:11 describe the God honoring practices of Judah… We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him. There is an implicit choice in this statement. A decisive difference between Judah and Israel. Abijah opens the door for repentance: 12 God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed.” The invitation is for the people to lay down their weapons, to repent. Abijah has half the army behind him as Jereboam. If you continue reading in 2 Chron. 13, while Abijah is speaking, the army of Israel is sending troops around the backside of Judah… the human odds are against Judah, yet Abijah speaks with confidence and conviction that Judah will succeed. I love that Abijah is not asking Israel to surrender to Judah. Abijah is seeking a win win for both sides: And success for both sides is surrender to God….
2 Chron. 13:12 is a towering verse, for it is an appeal for the divided Kingdom to become one again. Abijah is appealing for them to become one people, one nation, under God, indivisible… May this be the appeal of the Christian Church today, as long as there is breath, as long as we live on this earth, may we keep the door open for repentance and reconciliation… the rest of the chapter of 2 Chron. 13 doesn’t explain how but only says Judah did prevail over Israel that day… 500,000 of Israel’s soldiers were slaughtered. Abijah took control of several cities of Israel, significantly, including Bethel. Bethel is one of the cities that was the home of one of the golden calves. Perhaps one of the reasons Abijah is evil is because he did not destroy the golden calf. He was no Moses!
A broken clock is right twice a day. In spite of his evil ways, Abijah has a message that is relevant and true today. Abijah preached the need to repent and return to God, the need for reconciliation and reunify, the message to keep an open door and let go of the past and trust God once again ~ He preached directly to the people. His win win solution is for both sides to be surrendered to God. Everyone needs the opportunity to draw a line and have a fresh beginning, that may be the best thing we can do for people today above all else.