A sermon preached
Readings: 1 Kings 11:28-40, 2 Cor 11:21b-33
This is the first of our series on prophets in the Book of Kings.
be looking at a mixture
of well known and lesser known Biblical figures.
look at Ahijah –
the first time I have ever preached on him.
I want to
use his story to introduce
a variety of themes about the prophets –
obvious, some which will recur in following weeks –
but all of which will I hope highlight something about prophecy
and about how God deals with his people.
First let me remind you
of the story
of the torn cloak (1 K 11:28-40)
King Solomon the great and the wise hero of Israel
no longer follows God’s commands.
In his old age he has compromised
with the worship of local fertility cults and so forth.
Jeroboam is a rising star at the court of King Solomon.
So God sends the Prophet Ahijah to see Jeroboam.
He catches up with him on an open road.
The prophet is wearing a new cloak –
he tears it into 12 strips, one for each of the tribes of Israel.
He gives 10 strips to Jeroboam.
He tells Jeroboam that Solomon will keep
the united Kingdom of Israel for now,
but when Solomon dies
Jeroboam will rule over the 10 Northern tribes,
leaving only Judah and Benjamin
for Solomon’s designated successor.
Solomon tries to capture Jeroboam –
but the young Pretender escapes to Egypt
where he lives under the 22nd Dynasty until Solomon’s death.
Then he returns and becomes King of the 10 tribes.
What can we learn from this story?
1. God is concerned with theology and politics
needs a Bishop to make a critical statement
about Government policy for someone to tell him
that the Church should stick to saving souls.
The Church’s place is the Cloister not the Market Place.
Whoever says such things must have read
a very heavily expurgated version of the Old Testament.
Scriptures are quite clear that –
as John Wesley would have put it –
Scriptural Holiness is worked out in the world, not away from it.
course that it is easy to know
what God is saying about the political situation.
One only needs to look at history to see how
(with a few noble exceptions)
almost every war which has ever been fought
between so called Christian countries
has been simultaneously endorsed
by the national Church of both sides of the conflict.
to hear what God is actually saying about politics,
not what we would like him to say –
but the fact remains that he is saying something,
and we need to discern that word and proclaim it.
2. Rulers and nations are called to live Godly lives
if Ahijah was our preacher each week –
or if he were given a Party Prophetical Broadcast on TV,
what he would say??
fashioned view of the prophets
was that they were concerned with the distant future –
and how many people of the ages
have found prophecies predicting everything
from the Black Death and the Fire of London
to the Assassination of Martin Luther King.
actually the prophets nearly always
wrestled with the political spiritual problems of their day.
And what did they say?
reminded Israel that she was chosen by God
and as such had responsibilities to keep her Covenant promises.
that Ahijah and the others
would say similar things to us.
Your people, like every people, he might say,
are chosen by God, charged to do his will here and now.
remind us of our responsibilities as a nation before God
to walk in the paths of peace and justice,
to be good stewards of our resources.
3. The word of truth can provoke evil response
how Ahijah felt the next time
he encountered King Solomon in Jerusalem?
One feels he may have got a guarded welcome.
Ahijah was lucky of course –
Solomon went for Jeroboam (who had to flee) –
many other prophets – from Paul to Romero and beyond -
have found that they have been persecuted for the pains.
In the movie “Pearl Harbor”
Japanese Admiral Yamamoto
says after the invasion,
“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant.”
In a very different context, that is what the prophets tended to do.
you were Moses up against Pharaoh or Elijah up against Jezebel,
you must have felt like a mouse with a stick
provoking a great sleeping giant.
Prophets need courage.
4. Prophetic Words are words of power –
and the prophetic symbols have particular weight.
difficult to pin down,
but a symbolic action often has greater impact than words.
wouldn’t want to go down the route of magic
and say that rituals and actions
have magical power to manipulate the world.
But the fact remains that when I make a symbolic act
I am often not merely saying something theoretically
but in a quite deep way committing myself,
identifying myself with the symbolic deed.
couple argue and throw insults at each other.
Then finally one partner grabs hold
of their wedding photo on the sideboard –
takes it out of the frame and tears it in two.
Suddenly the stakes are raised –
when the words are forgotten or forgiven
that act will live on in the memory –
it is a statement which has almost taken a life of its own
and has been let loose on the situation.
the great prophetic acts hit hard
So Ahijah tears his cloak into 12 pieces –
it is a powerful statement –
Ahijah was human and was probably scared
of what he was getting into
between Solomon and Jeroboam and Rehaboam.
he also knew not to underestimate
how God could use his words and deed.
They could in a real sense alter the situation and make things happen.
So Solomon dies and true
to Ahijah’s prophecy the Kingdom is split.
Though this is not the end of the story of Ahijah.
There is a sequel in 1 K 14:1-20
now King of the Northern tribes,
has a son, but the son is sick.
He sends his wife to Ahijah asking for healing for the lad.
But he sends his wife with gifts or bribes –
and she goes in disguise.
Why? – because Jeroboam has now gone the way of Solomon –
he has allowed power to go to his head,
he too no longer follows God’s will.
In these circumstances Jeroboam fears a frosty answer
and hopes like Jacob of old, to get a blessing by deceit.
Ahijah is not fooled.
Like Isaac he is going blind,
but he has the spiritual insight of a prophet
and as soon as the woman approaches
he hails her as Jeroboam’s wife -
and tells her that the boy will surely die.
So let me these quick extra points based on the sequel
1. You cannot fool God – he has eyes in the back of his head.
2. God does not have favourites –
Jeroboam is condemned now as Solomon was before
3. God is always faithful – he always stays with his children.
But according to our life choices we will know his presence in different ways.
· When we follow in his footsteps God is there to affirm us
· When we depart from his ways God is there to judge us
And what was true of the OT prophets is true for us in Christ –
ever faithful -
When we share his work we find the reward of his labour
go astray we find ourselves looking at the cross
and knowing that we have driven in the nails.
Sometimes God’s presence may be harder to bear than others –
Sometimes his word will affirm, other times purge us
really good news is this –
God is always there for us -
and ultimately –
though earth’s proud empires come or go,
and though we rise and fall again into sin,
God will never desert us,
and his Kingdom shall remain.