When things are good, when society is prosperous and making its greatest advances, that is when the seeds of destruction are often planted, and people are often unaware.
Right now many Americans are marveling at the economic recovery that is taking place. Many political reforms are underway that may prove to advance our country into greater recovery. And while these are all good things, we live in a society that is deeply divided politically, more-so than at any other time in history. Why are we so divided with such acrimony and hatred? I’d like to suggest that it is because America is divided spiritually, and more-so than any other time in history. And I’d also like to suggest that no matter what political reforms we put into place, it may be too late to repair the damage. Allow me to explain why this may be, from a lesson in Israel’s history.
The reign of King Solomon was the period of greatest advancement that Israel had ever seen (I Kings 4:20-21). Israel had become an economic and cultural powerhouse. There was no war, the nation was at peace. And it ruled over nearly all of the surrounding nations. The promises of God to bless the nation were at their fulfillment. It seemed that nothing could bring Israel down. Yet, the seeds of trouble were being planted.
Forced labor was used in Israel’s greatest building project, the Temple (I Kings 5:13). The seeds of rebellion were being planted as leaders of the northern tribes became dissatisfied at the harsh rule of the king (I Kings 12:4). Solomon himself began introducing worship of foreign gods to appease his numerous wives (I Kings 11:1-8).
As punishment for Solomon’s sins, God divided Israel and Judah politically into two separate kingdoms after the throne passed to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam (I Kings 11:11-13). But the nation was still united spiritually. They were still both under the same covenant enacted at Sinai. Though there were two nations, there was one spiritual capital in Jerusalem. Yet, King Jeroboam of Israel feared that his people would return to the kingdom of Judah because they had to appear there three times a year to celebrate the annual feasts and sacrifices to the Lord (I Kings 12:26-27).
So, in response to his lust for power, Jeroboam enacted a little revisionist history. He had two golden calves made and declared them the gods who brought Israel out of Egypt. He also initiated new feasts and holidays so that Israel would not return to Judah (I Kings 12:28-33). The effect was not only to break the covenant, but to disregard it entirely. God divided the nation politically, but Jeroboam divided the nation spiritually. He essentially created a new national religion; and the people accepted it. From that moment, Israel was doomed (I Kings 13:34).
As history progressed there were kings of Judah who tried to reunite the people spiritually. After cleansing the Temple, King Hezekiah invited the Israelites to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem, but most people laughed his invitation to scorn (II Chronicles 30). Three generations later King Josiah tried to cleanse what was left of the northern tribes (II Kings 23:15-20). But, in neither case was there hope of restoration. The reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah pleased the Lord in that these kings expressed faithfulness to God, but once the split had been made by Jeroboam it was only a matter of time before judgment would fall—for Judah as well as Israel (I Kings 14:15-16).
If you are one of those people who are excited about the reforms taking place in America’s politics right now (and there is a lot to be excited about), then a word of caution may be in order. Embrace the reform, but never kiss it. All reform is temporary. America’s spiritual division can never be healed by any measure of any kind of reform. At best, judgment can be stayed for a time (I Kings 21:29), but not forever. It will come. Our spiritual division cannot be healed except for a radical transformation of millions coming to the faith of their fathers, to real, true, humble, repentance and faith in Christ. This was a lesson the northern kingdom of Israel never learned, nor did their brothers to the south in Judah. As such, all Israel didn’t see its sovereignty restored for over 2,000 years.
America, like every other kingdom in history, will have it’s day to fall. Only one kingdom is promised to last, that is the Kingdom of God, a nation that transcends nations. As prophesied in Daniel 2:44-45, the kingdom of God will crush all others and will never fall. There is our ultimate citizenship.