First Reading Proverbs 22:1-9, 22-23
Second Reading James 2:1-17
Gospel Reading Mark 7:24-37
Sermon: “Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right”
Last week we talked about the Solomon’s fall from obedience to a life of hedonism and idolatry. God promised consequences and now this week we will see how those consequences come about. They happened not with a lightning bolt from the sky, but through predictable sinful human behavior that ignored the will of God. As you heard already from James this morning: It is not enough to know about righteousness and the ways of God, we must actually follow them.
Lets begin with two Proverbs – one scriptural, one modern and secular. From our reading this morning: (Proverbs 22:6 NLT) Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. But as we will see, Solomon did not follow his own proverb. Secondly from that very wise fictional philosopher Forest Gump: stupid is as stupid does. A modern source of “wisdom”, the urban dictionary says this about that proverb: It means that an intelligent person who does stupid things is still stupid. You are what you do. As you heard in our second reading today, James agrees!By that definition Rehoboam, the son of the wisest man to ever live, was in fact stupid and Solomon was largely to blame.
So today I actually want to tell you about two men, who both became kings. The first I have already mentioned: Rehoboam, son of Solomon. He started out as King of all of Israel, but shortly ended up as the king of only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. I’ll remind you how that happened shortly, but first we have to meet the other man who would be come king. For this one, we have another pair of proverbs to consider – 1st from scripture quoted by Jesus to Satan during his temptations – You Shall love the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. This second man, Jeroboam, would violate that one so badly that mentioning his sin becomes a constant refrain in Kings and Chronicles. Secondly a modern proverb “Two wrongs don’t make a right. He reacted to a obvious wrong – even with divine sanction as you will see, but then immediately followed it up with a horrible sin that would endure far beyond his years.
Jeroboam, who would become king of the northern tribes of Israel started out as one of King Solomon’s more talented officials, working on one of his massive building projects. 1 Kings 11:27-40 tells us how it started out: “Solomon had built the terraces and had filled in the gap in the wall of the city of David his father.  Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph. About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country,  and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces.  Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.  But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe.  I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molek the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in obedience to me, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my decrees and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did….. However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel.  If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.  I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.’ ”
Not surprisingly, when Solomon heard of this, he tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak the king, and stayed there until Solomon’s death. Now we are ready to see these two men together at the crucial moment in Israel’s history. It comes as Solomon has died and his son Rehoboam takes the throne of all of Israel.
1 Kings 12:1-5 NIV  Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king.  When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt.  So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him:  “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”  Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.
Rehoboam had access to two sets of advisors – the old advisors of his father Solomon, They said: (1 Kings 12:7 NLT) “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”
It was good advice, but Rehoboam had no interest in being a Servant to his people, he wanted to be KING! He had a second set of advisors – these were the young voices that he had grown up with. They were excited about Rehoboams rise to power and were eager to see him take firm control and be just as glorious as his father. Guess which he listened too. Apparently Solomon never taught him – Wisdom or humility.
Well the story goes on with predictable tragedy: (1 Kings 12:14-19 NIV)  he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” …  When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!” So the Israelites went home.  But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.  King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem.  So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
At this point, the Prophecy is complete, Solomon’s empire is sadly decimated and the Northern tribes have a strong and capable leader. It could have still gone OK at that point. But … Jeroboam was worried about the power and influence of the temple of Jerusalem and those words: “not forever”…
(1 Kings 12:25-33)  Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.  Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David.  If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”  After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”  One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.  And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.  Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites.  He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar.”
I don’t have time to tell you about all that took place after this outrage. But know that Jeroboam was strongly warned by prophets of God and eventually told that none of his family would survive his son’s generation, which it did not. Of the 20 or so kings from 3-4 other dynasties that would follow him, none were righteous. It is a sad turn of events. What Rehoboam did was wrong. What Jeroboam did in response was even worse – two wrongs don’t make a right.
Things really weren’t a whole lot better in the South as we learn from (1 Kings 14:21-26) During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, …For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree.  There were even male and female shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.  In the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s reign, King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem.  He ransacked the treasuries of the LORD’s Temple and the royal palace; he stole everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.
The empire of Solomon – Gone in the first year. The vast wealth accumulated by Solomon gone in 5 Years. The promise God made to David about one of his descendants to reign eternally – Still fulfilled in a most interesting way. Rehoboam’s grandson Asa was a righteous king and rolled back much of the idolatry that Solomon had allowed to enter. Many of the kings who followed would not be faithful, but five more righteous kings would reign over Israel at times in the coming years, each bringing renewal and revival. But God’s promise to David would eventually come to fulfillment in the most wonderful way when the Spirit of God produced within a young Jewish woman named Mary a son, whom she would name Jesus.
In contrast to Jeroboam’s apostasy, Jesus brought unwavering obedience to his fathers will. To Rehoboam’s dreams of heavy burdens and absolute monarchy, Jesus comes saying (Matthew 11:28-30)”Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” And he also said: (Matthew 20:25-28)
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This is our Lord for all the ages. The very one who invites us to the table set before us. One who is living water, the bread of life, the the true vine. God is faithful even when we are not. God continues to work through circumstances that seem hopeless. God’s wisdom never fails even when ours does frequently. Our part is to live faithfully, mercifully and lovingly. We come to this table this morning not with short proverbs to guide us, rather with the very presence of the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and seek the very food of God of give us strength. For we should know by now that we do not have all the answers. We must walk by faith – guided by love.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, but one Savior does!