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Faithful Amidst Unfaithfulness

It must have been a bewildering time for the godly Israelite when the kingdom was divided, with ten tribes following Jeroboam, while Judah and Benjamin maintained their allegiance to David's grandson, Rehoboam. From the outset it was evident that king Jeroboam had no intention of following the way of the Lord. Intent on personal gain, he was actuated by human cleverness rather than faith. At the beginning of his reign he made two golden calves, setting up one in Bethel and the other in Dan, thus introducing a spurious worship which God referred to as 'the sin wherewith Jeroboam made Israel to sin'. Time and again that condemnation occurs in Old Testament history. The seriousness of what he did could hardly he exaggerated. There was no place in his new system for the priests and the Levites, and it says 'Jeroboam and his sons cast them off, that they should not execute the priest's office unto the LORD' (2 Chron. 11:14). So they left their suburbs and their possessions and came to Jerusalem where they could continue their God-given service in His house.

Their example inspired many of the godly in the Northern kingdom of Israel to do the same, and verse 16 of the same chapter makes stirring reading.

And after them, Out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the LORD, the God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the LORD, the God of their fathers. They uprooted themselves and relocated in Jerusalem so that they could sacrifice to the Lord. Why? Because Jerusalem was the place where God had put His Name. His Temple was there and the service of God associated with it. His clear word through Moses had never been repealed:

unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His Name there, even unto His habitation shall ye see~ and thither thou shalt come: and thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes (Deut. 12:5,6).

All that was precious in their national life was centred in Jerusalem, the city of the great King. These worthy souls acknowledged that and they set their hearts to seek the Lord. Cost what it may they determined to obey His Word. It was costly. Great sacrifice was involved. But God had spoken and His Word had to be obeyed. God records their faithfulness and adds the comment that they strengthened the kingdom of Judah and made king Rehoboam strong. Such people would strengthen any movement. They had deep convictions, rooted in God's Word, and by these convictions they ordered their lives.

Some may have argued that times had changed; there was a new king on the throne. True, there had been changes, tremendous changes, but the Word of God had not changed. The instruction of Deuteronomy 12 was still part of 'all the words which the LORD hath spoken', to which they had pledged their obedience. Friends may have urged them to stay put in their familiar surroundings, arguing perhaps that with changing circumstances God would accept their worship in these new locations. But they knew better. God's Word was too clear to allow any argument. 'Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the LORD shall choose'. So away they went, demonstrating for all time that the number one priority in their lives was the worship and service of God.

Has their noble example no voice for us today? Surely it has. We live in serious days too, when to follow the Word of the Lord may be difficult and even discouraging. Some turn away from the truth of God's house, and the vast majority of fellow-believers seem never to have grasped its importance and preciousness to God. But the faithful word which is according to the teaching has not changed. God still looks for faithful men and women who will 'hold the pattern of sound words' (2 Tim. 1:13). It may seem easier to worship God in other places, but there is a place today where He has put His Name, as there was in Israel's day, and to that place we must come. There we find not only a place but a Person, for God has made His Christ Son over His house, and His plain word is:

Unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:4,5).

In His spiritual house the holy priesthood serves under the great Priest who is over the house of God. To this place and through this Person God expects us to bring our spiritual sacrifices. His word is 'Let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith' (Heb. 10:22). May God help us to set our hearts to value this high privilege.