Monday, January 26, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 17: More on the Samaritans

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' (Luke 10:33-35 NASB)

Understanding how a problem developed helps us understand the reference to it, so, in the previous post, we began a look at how the problem with the Samaritans developed. You can click on this link

Because of Solomon's unrepentant rebellion and idol worship, God "tore" the kingdom from him, promising ten tribes to Jeroboam. All he had to do was wait, listen, and obey. He was excited about this, as we probably would have been, and he obviously told some people about the prophecy and began to make a conspiracy to make himself  the king, because word got back to Solomon, who tried to kill him. He fled to Egypt to avoid assassination, and stayed there until Solomon died and Rehoboam became king in his father's place. 

When Jeroboam heard the news, he hurried back from Egypt, leading all the people to beg Rehoboam to ease the severe treatment of the citizens by his father. Rehoboam laughed. "Ha. You think my daddy was bad. I'm going to be tougher than my daddy ever was!" Those words were all the people needed to justify rebellion, and the ten tribes rejected Rehoboam as king, split the nation, and made Jeroboam king over those who rebelled. The new nation was called the Northern Kingdom and Judah became known as the Southern Kingdom. Jeroboam established his capital in Shechem in the region of Samaria, but the capital was later moved to the city of Samaria. 

As you might expect, there was a great rivalry because those who were in the Southern Kingdom felt that they had an edge on the basis of the lineage of King David. Those in the Northern Kingdom felt that they had an edge because God had torn the kingdom from Solomon and his descendants. All Jeroboam had to do to gain a lasting kingdom was to wait, listen, and obey, but he quickly proved that he would not do what God had said. 

Jeroboam was afraid of losing his newly-gained kingdom because of the need to go to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. He feared that, in going to Jerusalem to the temple, the people's hearts would soften and they would return to the house of David. Rather than ask God what to do, he made a solution of his own. In an unbelievable turn of events, Jeroboam instituted the very behavior that had caused Solomon to lose the kingdom. Jeroboam set up two golden calves and announced that these golden calves were the gods that had brought the people out of Egypt. To make matters even worse, the people followed his leadership and began to worship those despicable golden calves. Things quickly went from bad to worse, and soon they were a nation filled with idolatry. Two centuries later, they were carried into captivity by the Assyrians, which was essentially the end of the Northern Kingdom. 

Jerusalem and the temple were located within the Southern Kingdom. Despite the sin of the Southern Kingdom, they generally made at least a show of worship in the temple, in contrast to the open idolatry of the Northern Kingdom. Because the Southern Kingdom was basically just the tribe of Judah, these people began to be called Jews. The Northern Kingdom was situated in the area of Samaria and the capital of the Northern Kingdom was the city of Samaria. These people, from the ten tribes, began to be called the Samaritans.

We will look once more at the rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans in the next post, but for today, let us ponder what happens when we act without consulting God. Rehoboam tried to prove himself by being tough and lost a kingdom. Jeroboam tried to save himself by making his own brand of religion, and ended up losing his kingdom, as well. Both lost the legacy God offered them because of their rebellion. How heartbreaking is that? 

Dear ones, God is serious about obedience and generously rewards us when we obey. He is also serious about disobedience. (For more on this see Deuteronomy 11:13-15, 26-28, 30:1-20.) His instructions in Deuteronomy 30, had they been heeded, could have saved the kingdom, and we would do well to take note of them today. God gives us a choice, with blessings on one side and discipline on the other. The choice is ours. Let us consider carefully the life we want, and choose well. Our life and the legacy we leave behind depends upon it.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NASB)