“But they will become his slaves so that they may learn [the difference between] My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.”
2 Chronicles 12:8
The context of this verse is that Rehoboam had been faithful to God for three years. This happened in year five of Rehoboam’s reign. The king was no longer faithful to God, but was worshiping something else.
This reminded me of the chorus of a song. The chorus is “Bow down before the one you serve. / You’re going to get what you deserve.” repeated twice. While we, in our very modern minds, think that there are no idols any more, we are very much mistaken. The ancients worshiped gods who reflected what they valued. There were gods of fertility because the societies were agrarian and needed a good harvest to survive. There were gods of war because victory in war often meant survival. There were gods of the home and language and knowledge and all manner of things. Each and every one of those things was something that the ancients wanted to influence in some way. While there is no temple to Zeus (except the old ones) or service to worship Odin (that I know of), there are people who still worship false gods. Some people at university are getting an education while others are worshiping knowledge. Some humanists want to better the conditions of life for people everywhere while others are worshiping human beings. Some worship fame, others money, others position, others sexual gratification, others their pets (which seems a step backwards … ancient Egyptian cat worship, anyone?). Some of us just worship ourselves. We can find these folks in their temples: the gyms, the salons, and so on. Not everyone in a gym or a salon is worshiping self. This needs to be noted so that no one gets the wrong idea. Some people go to the gym to try to stay healthy. Nothing wrong with that. Some people go to the salon for whatever reason beyond vanity drives people to a salon — I don’t know, I actively avoid salons if I can help it aside from the occasional hair cut. How does this relate?
Well, God gave Rehoboam and Judah over to the service of the kingdoms of the countries. God allowed Rehoboam to be ruled by those he was trying to be like. Want to be like Pharaoh, Rehoboam? You can be his subject; his vassal and see how that works out for you. God sometimes does this with me, as well. I get sidetracked and think how great something must be. This is due to several factors, I think, but that’s potentially an entry unto itself. Suffice to say that I allow myself to believe that something will be better than what I have. I once (a while ago) thought that the sexual “freedom” people had apart from walking with God must have been amazing. I mean, they talked about it like it was just this side of nectar and ambrosia. What I learned is that it may be sweet on the lips, but it’s bitter in the stomach. If anyone has ever had that one food that tastes so good but causes stomach upset (subtitled: gastrointestinal misery) every time, then that person knows exactly what sin is like. Sure, it seems fun at the time, but it’s unsatisfying and leaves a person in agony. Woe betide me if ever that agony subsides and only the saccharine falsehood remains.
But that, I think, is the substance of what God was saying to Rehoboam and repeats to me. If you really want to be like others and serve what they serve and bow down to what they bow down to then you can do that, but you will regret it. It is no threat. It is a statement of fact. We are wont to think that the statement “You’ll regret it.” is meant as a threat. I don’t think that’s how it is always meant. I think that sometimes it is a statement that what we are about to do is not as awesome as we think it is and will not provide us with what we think it will.
That brings it all back around to service. The song lyric said “Bow down before the one you serve.” In truth, we always will. We will humble ourselves and bring ourselves low for the one we serve whether that one is God or some imposter. Jesus promised that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. To serve Him is no great labor. He has done the great labor, we just come alongside Him. The gods of this world — money, fame, pleasure, position, possessions, power, knowledge, self, etc. — do not promise light service. If anything, those master promise unceasing toil. To serve God will cost me. It will cost me time and energy, opportunities and resources. But what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his own soul? May today be a day that I reaffirm my commitment to serve God and Him alone.