1 Kings 12:16-24

The Kingdom Divided; Jeroboam Rules Israel

16 When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying,

“What portion do we have in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse;
To your tents, O Israel!
Now look after your own house, David!”

So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him [h]to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

20 It came about when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. None but the tribe of Judah followed the house of David.

21 Now when Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 “Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin and to the rest of the people, saying, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, “You must not go up and fight against your [i]relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.”’” So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord.

It’s almost amazing, that for all his willful spirit, when the word of God came to Shemaiah, Rehoboam actually listened and sent the warriors home. But it would have been a difficult enough thing to fight among their brothers. While not unprecedented, it had been a long time since such a thing happened, and it was a very tragic event that almost wiped out an entire tribe. So likely, the menu of Judah were not looking forward to fighting their brothers.

Even worse, they were going to battle to bring them back under the rule of Rehoboam and re-unite the tribes. Fighting to re-unite is a very difficult ordeal in any case, and not likely to bring the desired results. When division comes, the only thing you can (or should) do is to move forward, and turn your eyes back to God.

The men of Judah did this, and it saved a world of hurt and bloodshed. Even though they had to let go of half the kingdom (or more), their brothers still lived in the same land, and were not completely cut off from them by further strife. Likewise, there are times when division comes to our churches, and we need this lesson especially then.

No matter the cause, we need to get our eyes and our focus back on God. These things always happen because folks have been distracted by secondary things, often petty arguments that lack any substance, but create a lot of bad feelings between the opposing sides. That’s not to say there are never good reasons for leaving a church, or wanting to split from a church that seems to have strayed from God’s truth.

But in all things, our focus needs to be on God, if the split is from Him, then follow Him back to the truth and do what you must. However, if it is because of your own feelings, then work to make amends, to get past the hurt, and encourage your brothers (and sisters) to become re-united under the One in whom we live and breathe and have our being. Only then can we put struggles of the past behind us.

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