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Religion Made Easy
1 Kings 12:28
Hebe was an adroit and subtle appeal to human nature. Tell the people they are tired; seem to be very anxious about their health; assure them that nothing but a true concern for their physical condition could ever have impelled you to consider the long distance to Jerusalem. Keep them away from Jerusalem, keep them away from the old songs and the old memories, from the reminiscences that start up and make a powerful appeal to human pathos; as it were, lay your petting hand upon them and say, 'It is too far for you to go to Jerusalem; you could do the same thing much nearer home'. This is a powerful appeal to human nature. Here is a grand-fatherly king; here is a king who, even upon his throne, thinks it worth his while to save us walking or otherwise journeying to Jerusalem: what an excellent man, what a thoughtful king, what a treasure of a friend! He is trying to keep you away from Jerusalem, the city of God, the tabernacle and temple of the Most High; he is seeking to keep you away from the vision that would do good to your eyes, and mayhap might bring you back to old ways and ways forsaken.
I. Jesus Christ never made religion easy. There is where the great difficulty lies with Jesus Christ. He will not allow us to be at ease, and He will not allow us to think that the acceptance of His religion will bring us into a state of lulling, self-easing, and self-considering sentimental reflection. He said, 'If any man will follow Me, let him take up his cross daily'. He made Himself unpopular, He made Himself utterly disagreeable; He would not rest content with things as they are, but only with things as He would make them, and what He preached He practised.
II. It is very curious, is this study in human nature. It opens up so many possibilities; it touches so many weak points. He says, 'Now, don't you think that you are giving away too much money? I say that it is all right to be giving away a certain proportion, but I think that all things ought to be done with a clear eye towards proportion. Now you have been giving away money at the rate of let me see at the rate of ten per cent; you have been giving God a tenth part of your income. Now, although I quite approve of giving God some part of your income, I suggest that you give too much. Don't give it all at once; certainly not, you are perfectly right to give a certain proportion, but I think less than you do give.' When a man is so very anxious that you should do less, suspect him, and show him the door. When he is so very anxious that you should lay up for a rainy day at the Lord's expense, turn him out into a very rainy day.
III. What does the Bible claim? Only one-seventh of your time, but when it claims the seventh, it means that the six-sevenths also belong to God. Jesus Christ never set any man an easy task; Jesus Christ never said, 'You might do much less; you give away too much, you worship God in spirit and in truth too much'. What He did say could be done too excessively was false worship, to be making new moons and Sabbaths, and fastings and observances, and all these things which were really nothing better than luxuries, to be turning all these into excess and surfeit. The moment religion becomes easy to you, give it up!
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. VI. p. 165.
Reference. XII. 28. Archbishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, p. 79.
The Sin of Jeroboam
1 Kings 12:29
The death of Solomon brought a crisis in national affairs that his successor and son did not know how wisely to meet. Rehoboam's vacillation and impolitic conduct gave the opportunity, as well as formed the pretext, for a revolt that the ten tribes had long meditated, owing to the jealousy on the part of Ephraim of Judah's pre-eminence as the ruling house. The dissentient tribes found in Jeroboam a capable leader and a willing abettor of their movement. He had been designated to this position by the prophet Ahijah. The apparent cause of the revolt was political discontent, but a deeper reason underlay the irruption it was God's method of marking His displeasure with the conduct of the house of Solomon in permitting and fostering idolatrous practices. This reason was known to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31-33 ). He was made aware of the fault to which he owed his elevation. But this knowledge proved of no advantage in the regulation of his own conduct. Jeroboam had the courage and capabilities of the ruler, but he lacked confidence in the providence of God. He gave himself up to finessing in religious matters that wrought his own undoing and his people's shame. He knew that he owed his position, not only to the suffrages of the people, but to the election of God, and yet he fell into the very sin which had resulted in part of Rehoboam's kingdom being wrested from him. While leaning to his own understanding, and failing to conciliate the malcontents among the people, Rehoboam's more serious fault lay in his not removing the idolatry which had fastened its fangs upon the national life.
I. Jeroboam's Sin. This blunder is repeated, or rather aggravated, by Jeroboam, for he initiated a new religious cultus, which was the more mischievous because it was a specious representation of the Jehovah worship, while utterly alien to its central principle. Jeroboam could not himself trust to the wisdom of God to devise means whereby the hearts of the people should be kept loyal to their own chosen king. To obviate the necessity of the people going up to Jerusalem as often as occasion required, Jeroboam set up the calves, one in Beth-el, and the other in Dan, saying, 'Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt!' We see that Jeroboam takes counsel with himself (v. 26), and forgets what he owes to God, and what God could do for him; that in fostering the people's loyalty to God he would be strengthening their loyalty to his own throne. He suffered the penalty of his folly, as all must who seek to circumvent right by the practices of expediency. He suffered in the direction of his fears, though not as he anticipated. Domestic loss, the extinction of his family, the utter destruction of the kingdom. The people never recovered from the evil effects of his example and influence. The idolatry he established laid hold upon their habits of mind and heart, so that its spell could only be broken by the nation becoming utterly disorganized, and carried into captivity. Going up to Dan and Beth-el was the beginning of a march that ended in disruption and bondage. Jeroboam's expedient branded his name with infamy.
II. As an Expedient. This act of Jeroboam's was wholly false and impolitic. Our acts have issues of which we little dream. The attainment of our purpose forms but a very small part of the consequences of our conduct. What may seem to us at any given time as an act of simple expediency may in the long run prove to have been the beginning of irreparable mischief. We have to regard tendency, as well as consider the wants of any special occasion. Acts that we may think (as Jeroboam evidently did) will consolidate our power, may prove but the cause of its decadence and overthrow. We cannot step outside the bounds within which God would have us move without being involved in shame and loss. Whatever we substitute for God will bring about our ruin. Thus, as an expedient, it was ill-conceived, dangerous as a precedent, and fraught with mischief. For however right a thing may be in itself, whatever the motive that suggests it, and howsoever necessary circumstances may seem to make it, put in the place of God, it can only be to our hurt. Only in doing right is there safety. It may be inconvenient, there may be fears, but the strong arm of the Almighty is with us that controls all that may be against us, and that can make seemingly adverse things minister to our good. We cannot bound our life with schemes of prudence and political sagacity, if at the expense of rectitude and justice, without discovering we have set up a leakage of strength which ultimately will drain us absolutely dry. Jeroboam's expedient has nothing in its favour.
III. As a Policy. This act of Jeroboam's overreached itself, it went too far. There must be no competition set up between God and expediency. The contest is unequal, and there should be no rivalry. What can the calves at Dan and Beth-el do? If they divert attention from the claims of the true God, they leave the real necessity of life unmet; if they turn the thoughts from the main issues of obligation to God, they render less stable all authority and power; if they satisfy the craving for the simple observances of worship, they cannot release the soul from sin. Business, culture, pleasure, success, these as expedients may serve a healthy purpose, provided they are not brought into competition with God; as a policy entered upon in order to supersede or ignore His claims, they are fatal to well-being. Jeroboam is not the only one who has set up idols. Recreation is in danger of being substituted for godliness. A gospel of culture is being vigorously preached as indicating the path of safety for the nation's future life. When shall we learn that godliness is great gain, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come? We cannot set aside the claims of God, either from fear or from jealousy, without finding we have parted from our best friend and chief counsellor. Strength is lost, confidence goes, we fall a prey to the policy upon the inauguration of which so much stress was laid, and from which such different results were anticipated.
Human substitutes for godliness may seem eminently plausible. But we must beware of reasons, however plausible, by which men seek to turn the heart away from God; whatever the character of the object for which they would win your worship, God alone has the right to be heard and obeyed in all that affects worship and godliness. How often have men turned the mercies of God into reasons for rejecting His claims to the allegiance of heart and life!
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany