LOOK WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE REFUSE TO LISTEN TO AND OBEY GOD!
As you listened to Blake present his sermon on “Malicious Monarchs, Faithless Followers, and Preaching Prophets,” and heard him describe the horrible mess that most of the 39 kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah made of their reigns, I suspect that you probably sat there asking yourself, “What was wrong with those people? Couldn’t they do anything right?!” After all, God told them quite clearly what would happen if they ever ignored His laws, disobeyed His commands, or worshipped false gods. As far back as Mt. Sinai where God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, He had warned them:
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).
But what happened once the Israelites entered the Promised Land of Canaan, which God had given them just as He had promised to do? We find the answer to that question in 1 Samuel 8:4-5—“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him…, ‘Make us a king to judge us like all the nations!’” Samuel, of course, was devastated by the Israelites’ request. He had dedicated his entire life—from the time he was a young boy under Eli’s tutelage in the tabernacle—to serving the Lord and His people. Now, he no longer was good enough for the Israelites. Instead, they wanted “a king.” When Samuel spoke with the Lord about the people’s request, God told him, “The people have not rejected you, but have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). For Samuel’s part, he tried diligently to warn the Israelites about what would happen if they decided to choose an earthly king over their heavenly King. In fact, that warning is recorded for us in 1 Samuel 18:11-18. Listen carefully to what Samuel told Israel’s elders:
“This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not hear you.”
And what was the reaction of the people’s leaders to these foreboding words of caution from Samuel? We find that reaction recorded in 1 Samuel 8:19-20—“Nevertheless, the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us so that we, too, may be like all the nations.’” The text of 1 Samuel 18:22 gives us God’s reaction to the people’s stubborn, rebellious attitude against Him: “So the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed their voice, and make them a king.’”
Because Blake and I have been involved in an in-depth “Journey through the Old Testament” class here at Mill Creek, and because all of you adults have been just as involved in your own “All about the Bible” study that has provided equally in-depth material on the Old Testament, we all know what happened as a result of the Israelites’ insistence that God give them an earthly king, do we not? Israel’s first king was Saul. And how did that work out? Saul grievously disobeyed God. First he offered a sacrifice that he was not authorized to make (1 Samuel 13:8-10). Second, instead of annihilating the wicked Amalekites as God had commanded him to do, he spared some of their animals and even their king (1 Samuel 15:1-32). God therefore rejected Saul as king, and eventually removed him from the throne.
Israel’s next king was David. And how did that work out? David committed adultery and murder. As a result, his reign was marred by continual wars with his enemies, tumult within his own family, and insurrection at the hand of two of his own sons—just as God had prophesied through the prophet Nathan, whom He had sent to chastise David for his sins (2 Samuel 12:7-12).
Israel’s third king was Solomon. And how did that work out? We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:1-6, where we read,
“King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of pharaoh— women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites, from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord.”
As a result of Solomon’s folly, God told him, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you” (1 Kings 11:11). Solomon’s sin resulted in the kingdom of Israel being divided into Northern and Southern parts.
And how did that work out? As Blake was very careful to point out in his sermon, during the roughly 200-year existence of the Northern Kingdom, she was ruled by no less than 19 kings—not one of whom is designated by the Bible as being “good.” In the Northern kingdom, Jeroboam reintroduced ancient Egyptian calf worship into Israel via golden idols that he set up at Dan and Bethel. Then, as if that was not bad enough, King Ahab built in his capital city of Samaria a temple to the false god Baal, erected a statue of Baal in that temple, and commanded his people to worship it—which they did.
During the approximate 400-year-long existence of the Southern Kingdom, 20 kings or queens ruled over her. And of those 20, only 8 ever were referred to in the Bible as being “good” in any sense of the word. Queen Athaliah made it her goal to murder all of the royal heirs to the throne—an action on her part that unwittingly threatened to bring to an end King David’s bloodline, and thus prevent forever the prophesied arrival of the Messiah Whom God planned to send to save us from our sins. King Manasseh worshiped the Ammonite god Molech, sacrificed his own son to that pagan god as a burnt offering, and then forced the people of Judah to offer their children as burnt sacrifices as well. We are told in 2 Chronicles 33:9 that “Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than even the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel.” Then, last but not least, Manasseh “shed very much innocent blood, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another” (2 Kings 21:16). King Jehoiakim continued the tradition of Manasseh’s wicked ways. He ignored justice and righteousness, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 23:37). As 2 Chronicles 36:8 tells us, his 11-year reign was filled with abominable acts against God. According to the prophet Jeremiah, Jehoiakim even went so far as to execute Urijah, a prophet of the Lord (Jeremiah 26:20-23). Because of Jehoiakim’s repeated irreligious acts, Jeremiah authored a scroll of divine judgment against the evil king. But, in one final act of ultimate defiance against God, as the contents of the scroll were being read in the king’s presence, Jehoiakim stopped the reading, personally shredded the scroll with a knife, and then threw it into a fire where he could watch it burn (Jeremiah 36:22-23).
Considering all of the travesties that the combined kings of Israel and Judah would ultimately commit against God during reigns that spanned more than 500 years, is it any wonder that the Lord had prophesied to Samuel, “The people have not rejected you, but have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them”? And is it any wonder that the Lord’s patience finally reached its limit—so that He allowed the Northern Kingdom to be completely destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and then allowed the Southern Kingdom to be carried away into seventy long years of captivity by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.? If you want the biblical answer to those questions, listen to what God Himself told His people after He had saved them from more than two centuries of Egyptian bondage and led them to the Promised Land of Canaan:
“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them…I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you, and confirm My covenant with you…. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people…. But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: I will appoint terror over you…. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you…. I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy…. And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you in fury…. I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and…your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities shall lie in waste” (Leviticus 26:3-33).
No one can say that the Lord did not give the Israelites adequate warning. No one can say that His warning was not plain and easy to understand. Yet in spite of God’s warning, and in defiance of His longsuffering nature, the Israelites ignored His laws and disobeyed His commands, and then, as if that was not enough, turned to worship false gods—to whom they even offered their own children as burnt sacrifices. As result, God kept His promise. He sent terror among them. He allowed them to be defeated by their enemies. He allowed those whom they hated to reign over them. He allowed their cities to be laid waste. And He “scattered them among the nations”—all because they refused to love Him, honor Him, and obey Him.
That said, now do you understand why I titled this sermon, “Look What Happens When We Refuse to Listen to and Obey God!”? And now do you understand why our “Journey through the Old Testament” and “All about the Bible” classes are so very, very important? There is an old saying that says, “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history—are doomed to repeat them.” I hope that no one will ever be able to say that of us, don’t you?