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2 Chronicles 12:1-2
He forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him.
Rehoboam, first king of Judah
Individual lives attract and reward attention; hence the interest and fascination of fiction and history. What others have experienced and done comes to us as a revelation of a life in which we share.
I. Its waste of opportunities exceptionally grand.
1. He was the first king of Judah. Unless forfeited by misconduct, special honour and grateful appreciation are the inheritance of the founders of a dynasty. Conspicuous in time and relative position, they have an acknowledged leadership, though dead for centuries.
2. He inherited institutions and traditions of a prestige sacred and commanding. His was the city of David, with all its history, radiant with the Divine presence; his the temple, of which God was the architect and his father the master builder; his the unbroken priesthood, exalted to a genuine mediatorship between God and His people; his all the costly and sacred relics upon which the Queen of Sheba looked with amazement; about himself centred the hope of a coming prophet, ruler; his the sole honour of continuing the royal line.
3. He was of mature age and superior abilities.
4. He had the best material of all Israel as well. Jeroboam and his sons had cast off the Levites from executing the priest’s office unto the Lord, and they emigrated to Jerusalem in a body, “and after them, out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers.” Thus all the land of Canaan was sifted for his benefit.
5. The very smallness of Judah was an element of strength. He could and did intrench himself in his central fortress on Zion, and surround himself with a chain of fortresses mutually supporting from their proximity. His people were homogeneous, and not liable to the jealous rivalries which imperilled the ten divisions of Israel. But alas! the example of Rehoboam reveals the insufficiency of opportunities, however golden, to command a wise improvement.
II. His inability to Bear prosperity. When strengthened in his little kingdom of Judah, he at once repeated the folly which had only recently dispossessed him of the grand unbroken empire left by Solomon. Like multitudes, before and since, he was willing to use God’s help when in extremity, but when successful, when apparently sailing in smooth waters, he and all Israel forsook the law of the Lord. How inexplicable that blindness which increases with added light, that moral and spiritual weakness which grows when supplemented with all Divine help, that confidence in self built out of dependence and gracious gifts! Rehoboam and his numberless imitators in all time illustrate this. Left to himself, he mars and almost ruins the grandest schemes of infinite wisdom, and foils the gracious designs of a long-suffering God for his own rescue and elevation.
III. Chastisement brought partial repentance and humility. There is such a thing as “final permanence of character,” upon which all Divine warnings or dealings are unavailing except to harden. All moral character is voluntary, but the absoluteness of moral inability is only the measure and result of obdurate wilfulness. We are inclined to credit the humility of Rehoboam, because it vindicated God in the midst of His judgments. He and his princes said, “The Lord is righteous.” Their lips, and possibly their hearts, may have been free from murmuring when city after city crumbled before invading hosts. Repentance is safe to the degree in which it acknowledges and enthrones God. We cannot omit passing mention of the superior inheritance of those who submissively suffer. The tragedy of life comes from hopeless, helpless opposition to the irresistible.
IV. Nevertheless, religion was not its controlling influence. Though he never quite cast off God, he “did evil because he fixed not his heart to seek the Lord.” When the service of God dominates affections, plans, and deeds, then, and not until then, is true and steady progress possible. There can be no harmony, no worthy enthusiasm, nor any noble elevation to life which enthrones self. We live in a time of special peril, because of its wealth of opportunity. Never were the resources of the world so placed at man’s disposal. But this wealth of opportunity brings a corresponding peril. Nothing but a heart “fixed to seek the Lord” can withstand its temptations to indulgence, to pride of power, to high looks and vain imaginations.
V. A change of masters for the worse. This change of masters, and opportunity to compare their respective service, which was thus true of Rehoboam, has a perfect parallel in the lives of all wanderers from God. Man will have some master, and he cuts loose from glad allegiance to God--the only true liberty--only to give servile obedience to a tyrant. It is one of the reassuring signs of progress to-day that man as an individual--his rights, his essential worth, and dignity--is valued and talked about more than the collective State or nation; but danger lurks in the shadow of the gain. That individuality is in danger of becoming overweening and imperious. The ego may, and sometimes does, glory in a self-sufficiency that looks almost patronisingly upon the Divine existence, or denies it altogether. Virtue is a queen whose subjects note her faintest wish, but their service is perfect liberty. It springs from the gladness of pure hearts, and knows no compulsion but sweet willingness. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Established in life
An accursed word is that sometimes--“established” or “strengthened,” or prospered, or succeeded. It was the mark of the place where we turned hell-ward. We prayed when we were poor. We went to the sanctuary when we were weak. Who can stand fatness, sunshine, all the year round? Where are the rich? How delicate in health they became when their riches multiplied! How sensitive to cold when they rolled round in gorgeous chariot drawn by prancing and foaming steeds! How short-tempered when they became long-pursed! What a change in their public prayers when they became the victims of social status and reputation! (J. Parker, D.D.)
Because they had transgressed against the Lord.--
Transgression against the Lord
See how religious the Bible is! We should now say that men are punished because they have transgressed the laws of nature; men are suffering because they have transgressed the laws of health; men are in great weakness because they have tempted debility, and brought it upon themselves by neglect or by indulgence. Even atheists have explanations. They cannot treat life as a piece of four-square wood, the whole of which can be seen at once; even they have laws, ministries, spectral actions, physiological explanations; it would seem as if the Bible gathered up all these and glorified them with a Divine name, and said, “This is the Lord’s doing.” (J. Parker, D.D.)
2 Chronicles 12:8
Nevertheless they shall be his servants.
Servitude or service-which
I. That there are some who have already chosen the service of the kingdoms of the countries. Some have chosen--
1. To be the slaves of open sin.
2. To be the votaries of money-making.
3. To be lovers of fashion, lovers of society, admirers of the world.
4. To become the devotees of “culture.”
5. To be the seekers of self-righteousness.
II. Some seem to be pining to give up the service of God, and to go to the service of the kingdoms. Some want to change--
1. Out of sheer love of change.
2. Because of the outward aspect of the new thing.
3. Because of their loss of joy in the service of God.
4. Because of the flagging of others.
5. Because religion now has brought them to a point where it entails some extra self-sacrifice.
III. There is a great contrast between the service of God and any other service. The service of God is delightful. Remember, young man, if you are about to engage in the service of God--
1. There is nothing demanded of you that will harm you.
2. There is nothing denied you, in the service of God, that would be a blessing to you.
3. That in the service of God strength will always be given according to your day.
4. That there is no threat made to hang upon it.
5. All the while that you are a servant of God, you have a sweet peace in reflecting upon what you have done.
6. There is, above all this, a hope of the eternal reward which is so soon to come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
It is an old failing of human nature not to know when it is well off, and the text furnishes an illustration of that failing. There is a great lesson here for to-day. Adam was discontented with Paradise, Israel with Canaan, and many now are despising the goodly inheritance we have in Christ. We are fond of comparing the service of God with alternative services, to the disparagement of the former.
I. Compare the faith of Christ with the faith of scepticism. I say the faith of scepticism, for the sceptic has a creed just as truly as the Christian believer has. Many are greatly dissatisfied with the Christian revelation; they are anxious to set it aside, to find substitutes for it. The proverb says: “The cow in the meadow, knee-deep in clover, often looks over the hedge and longs for the common.” So, many are now looking over the hedge of revelation, and longing for the bare wastes and the wild growths of infidelity.
1. If we renounce revelation, shall we be better off intellectually? It must be remembered that if revelation is rejected, all the dark problems of nature, all the perplexing enigmas of human life, will still be left. Revelation has not created the confusions, the cruelties, the calamities of the world. You will not make a black sky blue by smashing the weather-glass; you will not turn cruel winter into glorious summer by throwing out the thermometer; neither will you get rid of sorrow and mystery and death by rejecting the Bible. Can you, having rejected revelation, give that dark world any clearer or happier interpretation?
2. If we renounce revelation, shall we be better off as pertaining to the conscience? Take away the Bible, and conscience is left--an accusing conscience is left. To what terrible beliefs and deeds an accusing conscience drives men the history of paganism clearly shows. A guilty conscience built the wicker-basket of Druidism; it doomed the children to pass through the fire to Molech. “Yes,” you reply, “but it is impossible for these tragedies of superstition to be repeated; Druidism, for instance, can never come back again.” Who can say what may, or may not, come back again? Theosophy teaches that through endless reincarnations we must be purged from our sins. Our sorrows in this life are the results of the sins and errors of past incarnations, and before us is a dreary vista of fresh incarnations in which we are again to sin and suffer. It is terrible to think of the monstrous intellectual and religious systems which must arise when men no longer know the mercy of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. The guilty conscience will not go to sleep; it will have blood and tears.
3. If we renounce revelation, shall we be better off touching character? If unbelief triumphed, and Christ were rejected as the pattern and perfecter of character, would anything be gained? The whole world of thoughtful men acknowledges the marvellous, the incomparable moral beauty of Jesus Christ.
II. Compare the doctrine of Christ with the doctrine of the world. Thus many now are inclined to prefer the worldly life to the Christian life. It seems so much more free. Men feel that the Christian law retards their youth, cramps and foils their appetites and curiosities. But is this so? “The doctrine of Jesus is hard, men say. But how much harder,” exclaims Tolstoy, “is the doctrine of the world!” Take its doctrine of glory. Cruel doctrine! What blood, groans, tears, it implies! And not only on the battlefield is the doctrine of glory seen to be merciless; it works woe in a thousand subtle ways in all spheres of human life and action. Take its doctrine of gain. How that principle of selfishness, which is the doctrine of the world, grinds men to powder! Take its doctrine of fashion. What a terrible price the world exacts for its empty shows, its vain titles, its purple and gold! Take its doctrine of pleasure. Millions have been ruined by following in its paths of roses and music and beauty. How cruel! Ah! the world has far more martyrs than the Church has. And what is the doctrine of Jesus that men call hard? Instead of the doctrine of glory, He teaches the doctrine of humility and service; for the doctrine of gain, the doctrine of equity and love; for the doctrine of fashion, the doctrine of simplicity and truth; for the doctrine of pleasure, the doctrine of purity and peace. Well may Jesus dare to say, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
III. Compare the law of Christ with the service of self-will. A man says: “I will not be restrained; I will determine my own path, choose my own pleasures, shape my own character, be the architect of my own fortune. It shall throughout be according to my own preferences and determinations.” Is, then, the self-willed man happy? Is he happy as he sets himself against nature? You tell your boy not to play with fire; but he is self-willed, and takes the opportunity to sport with matches and gunpowder, and probably repents ever after. It does not pay to set up our will against the grand ordinances of nature. Is the self-willed man happy as he opposes himself to the laws and institutions of society? To outrage the judgments, the feelings, the rights of society is to be keenly miserable. Is the self-willed man happy within himself? You say proudly, “I am my own master.” Could you have a worse? It is a terrible thing to setup our will against the Divine will as that will is expressed in the physical universe, in society, or as it seeks to fulfil itself in our personal nature and life. Self-will is captivity and ruin: loving obedience to the will of God in Christ, with its self-control and self-denial, is health and peace. To be His slaves is to be kings. Surrender yourselves to Him, and prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. “The service of the kingdoms of the countries.” The Jews often heard delightful things about this foreign service. They remembered the fish which they did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. Nothing to do in Egypt but to regale themselves with piquant viands, and to stroll under the palms on the banks of the Nile. They heard of the attractions of Babylon, of its hanging gardens, its luxuries and delights. And the ambassadors of Sennacherib painted for them in glowing colours the life of Assyria: “A land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.” No more work, no more worry, no more worship. Getting away from Jerusalem, they were to get away from temple and law, from priest and prophet, and to taste the pleasures of an unfettered life. But did they find captivity so desirable? You who are tempted to despise God’s Word, beware. Young men, weary of the order and restraint of a godly home, and ever hankering after a looser life, be wise, and stay thankfully where you are. Discontented Englishmen, ever protesting against narrowness and austerity, against Protestantism, Puritanism, and bumbledom, and ever looking with longing eyes to laxer civilisations, be content; subdue your murmurings and wantonness, lest God spoil you of your rich inheritance. Discontented Christians, ever casting lingering glances at the life you have left, be content; see to it that there is in you no evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. (W. L. Watkinson.)
2 Chronicles 12:9-10
Instead of which king Rehoboam made shields of brass.
The downward grade
See how deterioration follows all character that goes down in its religious aspects. This deterioration marks the whole progress of human development. Is it not so with regard to all personal service? How ardent we once were! How devoted to the house of God, how punctual in attendance, how zealous in worship! How we longed for the hour of praise to double itself, that we might have long intercourse with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost! Now how soon we become uneasy, how we long to be released, how patience becomes sensitive, and yields in angry surrender because too much tried! You never bring gold for brass when you leave God. The prodigal never brings any treasure back with him. When men go away intellectually from the Bible they bring back brass for gold. When they leave the Bible morally they bring back brass for gold. When they leave sympathetically they bring back artifice for inspiration, mechanics for vital communion. (J.Parker, D.D.)
2 Chronicles 12:12
And when he humbled himself, the wrath of the Lord turned from him.
I. The place in which there was this prosperity.
1. Things will go on well in our own country--
(1) When the intelligence of its inhabitants shall keep pace with their means of information.
(2) When their conduct shall keep pace with their increasing knowledge.
(3) When the Christian Church shall employ all those means for the salvation of the world which are placed within her power.
2. Things may be said to go on well in a Church when there is a unanimous desire to--
(3) and spread the gospel.
II. The time when there was this prosperity in Judah. “And when he humbled himself,” etc. When the Church shall humble herself for her sins, she will realise an amount of prosperity hitherto unknown.
1. Some of the sins which should induce this humiliation.
(3) The profanation of the Sabbath.
2. The character of that repentance which is necessary. It must be--
(3) Daily. (Zechariah 12:10-14).
III. The ackowledgment of this prosperity. Lessons: We may learn--
1. That one individual may be the source of incalculable good, or incalculable evil.
2. The importance of a knowledge of history, which illustrates the dealings of God with men.
3. The gratitude we owe to God for having given us the means of prosperity. (H. Hollis.)
2 Chronicles 12:14
He prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.
Rehoboam the unready
I. He did not begin life with seeking the Lord.
II. He showed no heart in seeking the Lord afterwards.
III. He was not fixed and persevering seeking the Lord.
IV. He had no care to seek the Lord thoroughly. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. Implied obligation. To seek the Lord is the obligation of all This is suggestive--
1. Of the loss sustained. How is God lost to man? He has lost--
(1) The true knowledge of His character.
(2) The conscious enjoyment of His favour.
(3) The blessedness of communion with Him.
2. Of its retrievableness. For this purpose--
(1) God has revealed Himself to man in His own nature.
(2) The redemptive work of Christ is made known.
(3) The Holy Spirit performs His beneficent functions.
3. Of the importance of its recovery.
II. Mental conviction. In Rehoboam we see mental conviction arising from knowledge of duty, promptings of conscience, consciousness of guilt. This is a mental state of frequent occurrence. It may be observed--
1. As the effect of truth. The Word of God is “a discoverer of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Felix. There are many Felixes.
2. As intensified by circumstances.
3. As critical in its results. How much depends on moments of conviction! They are often the turning-points of destiny. It does not seem that Rehoboam ever paused in his downward career from this time forward.
III. Moral infirmity. There was want of decision in Rehoboam. He did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord. This may be traced--
1. To sensual habits (2 Chronicles 11:18-23; 1 Kings 14:21-24).
2. To evil companionship.
3. To Satanic temptation.
IV. Accumulated guilt. “He did evil because,” etc. This sin was parent of a host. He sinned in this neglect of known duty, and in what resulted from it. So do all who pursue a like course. They sin--
1. In resisting their convictions.
2. In self-depravation. “Beware lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
3. The depravation of others. Through his guilty conduct the people were corrupted. “One sinner destroyeth much good.” (S. A. Browning.)
A heart not fixed
The marginal reading is, “He fixed not his heart upon the Lord.” This was a favourite expression of David’s. “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.” “His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” Perhaps it was intended to draw a contrast between the character of Rehoboam and his far worthier ancestor. Religion is not a thing that can be taken up in a loose, careless manner. It claims the whole purpose and energy of the heart. In the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Prudence wished to know from Christian how he was enabled to overcome his temptations and to persevere in the good and holy way. Christian’s reply was, “When I think of what I saw at the Cross, that will do it; when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.” I cannot do better than follow in the line of the great dreamer’s allegory.
I. The first condition of a fixed heart is a sight of the Cross. The world’s religion ends with forgiveness; God’s religion begins with it. There is nothing that imparts such solidity to character, and such strength and dignity to life, as conscious peace with Heaven.
II. The next thing is to look upon your “broidered coat”--the righteousness that is “unto all and upon all them that believe.”
III. Bunyan’s pilgrim looked also oftentimes into the roll which he carried in his bosom. Habitual study of the Bible is indispensable to a healthy condition of the soul. McCheyne would not speak to any one in the morning till he had first of all heard the voice of God. It gives a tone to the whole day, when we begin the day with Him.
IV. “when his thoughts waxed warm about whither he was going,” that gave fixedness to Christian’s heart. You may be none the less shrewd as to the interests of time because you are wise as to the concerns of eternity; like a trusty pilot, who, though his eyes are on the stars, keeps his hand upon the helm. (J. T. Davidson, D.D.)
True and false seeking
I. There is what one may call natural seeking. Seeking is the language of human want. The cravings of life will always demand attention. All the industries of the world, with their ten thousand beneficent developments, are the products of human wisdom to supply human wants. Human life is but a seeking in so many ways, from the cradle to the grave.
II. Seeking the Lord. This is not born of nature, but of grace. Seeking the Lord implies a conscious sense of weakness and insufficiency.
III. Heart preparation. All true and successful seeking of the Lord comes of prepared hearts. The heart is always the part that makes our hearing, believing, praying, and doing right or wrong. As soon as the sun rises in the morning the birds are ready to go forth from their nests to sing. So it is with all the moral forces or faculties of the soul when the heart is prepared to seek the Lord. The heart is to the whole man what the main-spring is to the watch--it sets all the other powers in motion. “But as the bowl,” says one, “runs as the bias inclines it, and as the ship moves as the rudder steers it,” so man seeks as the heart prompts him. A prepared heart is a loving heart, “believing true and clean.” It enters into the secret place of the Most High as a loving child enters into his father’s home. Whence cometh this preparation? There must be some efficient cause to account for the differences we see among men. The difference between the common field and the garden to-day has been brought about by the application of human thought and manual skill. It is even so with respect to differences among men. As the garden did not enclose itself, or of itself become more fertile than the field, neither have men become different among their fellows or before God except by different resolutions of will and energy of character. Those who exercise no forethought or natural sagacity become as the man who built his house upon the sand.
IV. The evil of neglecting to prepare the heart. Men may do evil by failing to do well. Mere neglect is sufficient to ruin a man. A man need not be openly profane or wicked to be excluded from God’s presence; he has but to neglect the means of grace, or to prepare his heart to seek the Lord while He may be found, to call upon Him while He is near. (John Kerr Campbell, D.D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 12". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11