Thursday, May 24, 2012

difficult circumstances can lead to spiritual growth

When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.
2 Chronicles 12:1

It is disheartening to read stories of human failure. And Rehoboam's decline is a spiritual failure that nearly led to national collapse. He experienced five solid years of growth and national prosperity. His kingdom was established as he obeyed the LORD. But as his strength grew, evidently his faith and dedication to God began to wane. It is easy to trust in our own efforts when things are going well. And in the case of a leader, those spiritual declines never happen alone. Rehoboam took a nation with him. He led Israel to abandon the law of the LORD.

This series of events was not without consequence. And God has an ironic way of removing our false trust in self. Rehoboam thought that he was strong and established. God brought the powerful Egyptian army to bear on Jerusalem to show him how foolish was his confidence. Shishak's attacks on Jerusalem were devastating. Rehoboam repented with a sincere heart, leading the nation back to God in the process. And the Lord restored Judah again. The nation was not the same though. Rehoboam secured peace by letting the Egyptians plunder gold from the temple. Judah was now a vassal state to Egypt, but God thought it would teach Rehoboam the necessary humility, reminding him to serve God alone (2 Chronicles 12:7-8).

God moved in the big picture of world events to gain back the heart of Rehoboam. Clearly, He has a sovereign purpose even in the wars that men fight among themselves. God used an invasion to bring restoration. The lesson was costly, and permanent. Rehoboam would die in allegiance to Egypt. But Judah was restored to peace and the worship of the Lord was renewed in His temple. That was the best outcome given the circumstances. And the humility it instilled taught a rebellious people to return in a greater humility to worship God. It was one thing to serve Egypt politically. It was another thing... a more important reality... to serve the Ruler of the Universe and worship the God Who saves. Sometimes impossibly difficult experiences are God's way of helping us focus on Him, leaving us with spiritually healthy, permanent reminders of our need for Him.

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