Obedience to the Law (Jer. 3:14–18; Deut. 28:1–14)
The covenant established between God and humanity sees humanity as a constant failure at remaining faithful and taking advantage of the mercies of God. In the book of Jeremiah, Israel is described as “a wife unfaithful to her husband” (Jer. 3:20, NIV), who commits spiritual adultery with the people the nation was called to be a light unto. God, speaking to His prophet, highlighted Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him and His willingness as a merciful God to forgive the people’s adulterous acts against Him. Where His chosen nation had failed to uphold the covenant, God continually reestablished it with the hope that His chosen would be faithful to Him. He communicates to Jeremiah that the separation of Israel need not be—and that if the people would return to Him, accepting His love and law, Israel would be restored and His name be praised.
God Himself would choose leaders after His own heart to feed His people with knowledge and understanding, not those who would lead the nation into ruin. Israel would look directly to God and not to humans, as John 4:23 says, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” As parents are responsible for their children, so is God. He knows all too well what the absence of the law in our lives ultimately brings: confusion and disunity. God lovingly encourages us through His Word to display humility, allowing Him, and only Him, to lead so that we will receive the blessings He has for us. Today, God still provides opportunities for us to strengthen our obedience and faithfulness to Him, but we, like Israel, persist in rebellion.
Right in His Own Eyes (Judg. 2:11–13; 3:5–7; 17:6; 21:25)
Judges 17:6 retells the sad story of human history. The nation of Israel was meant to epitomize the blessing of a people walking in righteousness. As God’s chosen, the people of Israel did not live up to the expectations that He had for them. The author of the book of Judges paints a picture of a selfish nation in which “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The children of Israel were supposed to associate with heathen nations to share God. Instead they indulged in self and the desire of the flesh, pleasing themselves with the illicit companionship of their neighbors, contrary to what God had intended and specifically warned against. They relied on Him neither for their needs nor for counsel, but chose the “wisdom” of the carnal rather than that of Him who is wisdom. Ironically, despite their many battles against the cultures of the heathen nations, Israel, God’s people, now became servants and slaves to that very way of life. This was found in their worship of Baalim. As Israel fell deeper into apostasy and came under the wrath of God, Scripture records multiple examples that show us the consequences of stepping outside of God’s plan. For instance, King Solomon allowed himself to be distracted from serving God and was subsequently coerced into serving the heathen gods of his wives. If Solomon, in all his wisdom, could not prevent his own kingdom from becoming divided because of his own carnal indulgences, what about us? We must understand that we are indeed helpless without the guidance of God. When we disregard the guidelines God prepared for us, we get caught up in our own self-righteousness, and in the end our only reward is sorrow and regret. Without God’s leadership, the household of faith is left broken down and in want of a Divine presence to restore it.
Division of the Hebrew Nation (1 Kings 12:1–16; Prov. 4:1–9; 9:10; James 1:5)
The division of Israel started years before the debacle between King Rehoboam and his people. This incident illuminated the devastating reality of disunity in Israel. At his coronation a simple request was made of King Rehoboam. He was respectfully asked to lighten the load placed on the people by Solomon. In what appears to be a wise move, Rehoboam asked for time to consider the request and promised to meet with them in three days with a decision. He consulted with both his elders and his peers on the matter. His father’s counselors wisely recommended a servant leadership approach to the request received. His friends, however, appealed to his pride and recommended that he prove himself to be mightier than his father. Rehoboam didn’t heed the words written by his father in Proverbs 13:10, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” The separation of the tribes was a result of King Rehoboam’s pride. He failed to lead the people of Israel at a time when they needed sound leadership, a guide who would serve them, a leader who could only be guided by God—one who would show mercy, kindness, and humility, a leader who would bring unity to a nation burdened by sins and the actions of their past kings. Rehoboam did not and could not provide godly leadership. To assert his authority, he “answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him” (1 Kings 12:13). Today we all fall into the same demise as Rehoboam. We have great intentions, but we fail because we are trying to accomplish them on our own, without the wise counsel of others and of God. In the process, we can easily become catalysts for disunity in our churches. Without consulting the law, we set our standards based on what is acceptable to our peers. What have we done? Quite possibly the very same thing.
1. What are some ways we allow pride to cloud our better judgment by rejecting the Holy Spirit?
2. Who has more influence over your decisions—your peers, your elders, or God?
3. Are you motivated by being well liked rather than by being true to your calling in Christ?