In the New Testament book of Mark, Jesus is recorded as saying, “…a house divided against itself cannot stand.” He said this in response to some religious leaders claiming that he was using Satan’s power to cast out demons from people. Jesus is explaining that this is not the way battle works because by casting out his own demons, Satan would be dividing his own house which would lead to failure.
Remember Israel? The great nation God had protected and placed in the land He had promised. Remember the battles they won? Everyone in their world knew that they were God’s and not to be reckoned with. This was the mightiest of the mighty. A Kingdom Torn in Two? Really? How could this happen? Who came up against them and tore them apart?
As the Story goes in 1 Kings 12-16 (Ch. 14), there was no force coming against them, but rather one rising up from within. Together they could stand against anyone, but now they are split in two – a Northern Kingdom with ten tribes and a Southern Kingdom with two tribes. Solomon’s reign didn’t end as well as it began (I know that is shocking). His heart had turned away from God and he followed other gods, in spite of the LORD’s command.
“So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David, your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” 1 Kings 11:9-13
Solomon has two sons, Jeroboam and Rehoboam. A prophet tells Jeroboam that he will be king, but he will have to wait. When Solomon heard this he plotted to kill his own son, so Jeroboam took off for Egypt (this has a familiar ring doesn’t it?). When Solomon died, his tribe Judah, automatically accepted his other son, Rehoboam, as king. When Jeroboam heard this, he came home and an uprising occurred which eventually led to Jeroboam leading the Northern Kingdom of ten tribes and Rehoboam leading the Southern Kingdom of two tribes. Not good.
In this portion of the Story, we continue to wrestle with both the Lower Story and the Upper Story. In the Lower Story, we know that a house divided against itself cannot stand. We cannot fight against each other. Christians have done this for far too long. Churches crumble because of what happens on the inside, not what happens to them from the outside. Small groups that fight and leave conflict unresolved will lose and look foolish to those on the outside. In the Upper Story, we see that God always keeps his promises, in spite of our disobedience. No matter how bad our mistakes, he will continue to work his plan out in you, but wouldn’t it be better for God to work through our obedience than in spite of our disobedience?
@RandyFrazee said this in his commentary on Chapter 14…
Nothing harms the church more than when its people reflect the wrong image of who God is.
We do this when we gossip about one another, when we show unkindness to others, when we do business in an unethical manner, when our tempers get the best of us. I believe this is the heart of his command for us to not take his name in vain. It’s so much more than saying swear words or exclamations. We take his name in vain when our words and our actions do not correctly reflect the name of God. Ouch.
The good news is that though our actions may harm the church, they will not stop it. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” I’d rather be a part of the building than a stumbling block or unnecessary hurdle. Wouldn’t you?