Jesus Redeemed You From Your Rebellion
Third Sunday in Lent – 2 Chronicles 10:16-19
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 all the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them. 18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
One day, the parts of the body looked at the stomach. They were jealous. All the stomach did was sit in the body and take in all the food. It didn’t appear to work like all the other members of the body. It just received. So the other members of the body, the mouth, the hands and the feet went on strike. The feet didn’t take the stomach to any food. The hand refused to bring food to the mouth and the mouth refused to eat anything.
For the first couple of days the body’s strike seemed to work. But then the hand slowed down. The feet could barely stand up. The mouth became dry and parched. The members of the body realized that their strike against the stomach hurt themselves. Their rebellion was their undoing.
That silly little story from Aesop’s Fables illustrates a very serious point. It is a warning God has been giving ever since sin entered into the world. “An evil man is bent only on rebellion.” We don’t always think of rebellion when we look at sin, but God often puts sin and rebellion together. In fact, you could say all sin is rebellion. Satan rebelled against the Lord in the beginning, only to be cast out of heaven. Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s command, thinking that their decisions were better than God’s command.
Ever since sin entered in the world, rebellion has stood alongside it. When God sent his prophets to turn the Israelites from sin they often warned about rebellion too. “Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.” In fact, sin and rebellion summarize all of Israel’s history. In one short verse Psalm 106 summarizes the entire history of Israel. “Many times [God] delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.”
So I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by our first lesson this morning. The rebellion that took place in the kingdom of Israel almost seemed like a foregone conclusion. It was going to happen, it was just a matter of “when” and “how.”
It was clear King Rehoboam had big shoes to fill. His father, King Solomon, had made Israel the largest it would ever be. Solomon had ruled with his God-given wisdom. Solomon had built the temple. Solomon was known throughout the world. But then, after chasing the many gods of his many wives, Solomon died.
Now how would King Rehoboam show God’s people that he could be every bit the king his father was? His advisors gave him two options. He could either win the hearts of the people by being kind, or he could squash them into submission by driving them like slaves. After considering his options Rehoboam gave his answer: “My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”
You can probably guess how the people of Israel reacted to the King’s declaration. Our first lesson begins with the response of the people to their slave-driving king. “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!”
Rebellion in Israel! The united kingdom now became two kingdoms. The unified kingdom David and Solomon once ruled over would never return. Until their exile, God’s people would be two peoples.
So who was to blame for this rebellion? Certainly King Rehoboam didn’t do the kingdom any favors by threatening his people. But there is another side to this rebellion. Did God’s people really need to separate from their king so quickly? There were no discussions. We don’t hear of either side trying to calmly work out a solution. Instead, everybody disagreed and went home. In that way everyone was to blame for Israel’s rebellion from the king on high to the lowest slave.
God’s Old Testament people weren’t the only rebels the world has ever seen. We all seem to have a predisposition toward rebellion. We try to get around the rules. We see what we can “get away with.” We shout back. And if all of that still doesn’t work, we take Israel’s approach and go home. Little children are just as good at rebellion as the elders of a church are. Do you know what one of the most common first words for an infant is? No!
We are all born with a sinful nature ready to rebel. Throughout our lives we only get better at rebellion. And there are a lot of ways to rebel. We rebel when we stand against the law. We rebel when we shun others. We rebel when we make fun of the laws we are supposed to follow. That’s nothing new. There is an old Roman phrase, castigat ridendo mores, which means “if you don’t like the rules, call them silly.”
I suppose that is why everyone expected Jesus to incite rebellion during his ministry. The Pharisees thought he would overthrow their church. The Romans saw Jesus as another dangerous instigator. The crowds thought Jesus would become a physical king and overthrow the Romans. And even Jesus’ own disciples expected him to rebel against the ruling status quo.
Everyone was surprised when Jesus didn’t rebel. They were shocked when Jesus allowed himself to be capture. Even his enemies marveled at the fact that Jesus didn’t yell back when he was mocked and beaten. Pontius Pilate was sure that Jesus would say something in his defense. But he was silent.
As Jesus suffered and died because of our sinful rebellions he revealed who he really is. He is the Lord. And this is how the Lord describes himself: “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.” That was how Jesus made you a part of a body – the body of believers. Jesus is our head. We are the parts of the body. But it doesn’t do anyone any good if we refuse to live our faith and serve one another. If the members of the body rebel against the head they eventually die. The body needs to work together, every part for each other – at the direction of Jesus, our head.
This morning we saw where Israel’s rebellions led them. In our second lesson Paul reminds us why we look at lessons like that. “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” Instead of rebelling against our Lord we live for him. Instead of rebelling against one another we serve each other in love.
Jesus’ faithful service won heaven for you. Now let your Christian obedience be your thanks to him. Amen.