Chapters 10 through 12 showed us the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam. As soon as he became king, he managed to cause a civil war by his stubborn and self-centered decisions. Ten tribes of the north broke away and became the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam. All that was left to Rehoboam were the two tribes in the south, which became the kingdom of Judah.
Rehoboam had been a double-minded man, doing wrong then right, right then wrong. Finally, after 17 years of being king, Rehoboam died at the age of 58. The last statement of chapter 12 was that...
2Chr. 12:16 ...his son Abijah became king in his place.
It is now 913 BC. Rehoboam's son Abijah has become king over the southern kingdom, and Jeroboam is still reigning in the north. And there continues to be conflict between the two nations.
The Chronicler tells us right up front that Abijah's reign will be short - just three years. As a matter of fact, 1Kings only dedicates eight verses (1Ki 15:1-8) to his entire reign.
War had been averted by the Lord's intervention when the split first happened. But as both nations walked in disobedience to the Lord, the wars began soon afterward and never stopped (2Chr. 12:15).
I have some difficulty with every major translation of verse three. Abijah
- "fielded" the warriors (NLT),
- "set the battle" (KJV),
- "went into battle" (NIV),
- "began the battle" (NAS),
- "joined the battle" (ASV), etc.
The verb here is "aw-SAR," and it means "to tie, bind, or imprison." I think that the clearer meaning of the passage is that the war is already going on, and that he's imprisoning the battle, tying it up. In other words, rather than Abijah starting it, Abijah is pressing the pause button on it, in order to make a statement.
King Abijah stands on Mount Tsem-aw-RAH-yim and speaks to Jeroboam and the northern army. "God gave kingship over Israel to David's descendants." He did this by a covenant of salt. What is a covenant of salt? That is a bit of a mystery.
Today, salt is a commonplace item. Our bodies need a certain amount of salt, and we think nothing of the fact that every table has a salt shaker sitting on it. But in ancient times, salt was just as needful to the body, but it was far from cheap. Some people believe that "a covenant of salt" refers to the great value of it, much as the Jews later would say, "I swear on the gold of the temple."
Another idea is that a covenant of salt refers to the fact that the grain offering included salt, and it was called, "the salt of the covenant."
Lev. 2:13 'Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
Lastly, you are probably well-familiar with the fact that salt was used as a meat preservative, to keep it from spoiling. Meat would be salted so that it did not rot quickly.
It is possible that all of these things combined to give us the phrase, "a covenant of salt." But whatever the it's history, we know from the context of Numbers 18 that "a covenant of salt" referred to a permanent arrangement. When God promised the Levitical priests that the Israelites' sacrifices of meat to the Lord would be given to the priests, He said,
Num. 18:19 "All the offerings of the holy gifts, which the sons of Israel offer to the LORD, I have given to you and your sons and your daughters with you, as a perpetual allotment. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD to you and your descendants with you."
So, the "covenant of salt" referred to the permanent promise, an everlasting deal. Abijah is saying that the promise to King David was that his throne would be established forever (2Sam. 7:13; 7:16; 1Ki. 2:45; 9:5; 1Chr. 17:12; Psa. 89:4; etc.). He was certainly correct.
Abijah points out that Jeroboam had rebelled against the throne of David when he rebelled against King Solomon (1Ki 11:26). He had gathered his forces, building his team, until at this point, it was twice as big as their opponent. 400,000 against 800,000, outnumbering the southern army by two to one.
This had been too strong for Abijah's father Rehoboam, but now Abijah says that it's not about overcoming 400,000 men. It is about resisting the kingdom of God.
Can you resist the kingdom of God through sheer numbers? We often think they can. We think that as long as we have enough people on our side of the war, we can get away with things.
- Isn't that why gossips and faultfinders spread their disease among people? They're trying to build up their side, enlarging their team.
- Isn't that why the homosexuals have placed their people in the universities? By programming our nation's youth, they're building up the numbers of people who believe their position.
- Isn't that why a few years ago, some neighbors circulated a petition against Calvary Chapel, trying to convince everyone within miles of us that constructing this church was going to end civilization as we know it?
But might doesn't make right. You can have pages of signatures, you can have thousands of college students, you can have a whole team on your side, but you cannot fight against God.
In the future, the earth will think that they can. The nations...
Rev. 17:14 "...will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings..."
You can't fight against God. You can't get away with sin, just because you've got a bigger team. God will make sure you fail.
Abijah also points out that although they've got a religious system going, it is an ungodly one. They have made golden calves to worship instead of coming to the temple. They have a priesthood, but it's not a biblical one.
They simply made priests out of anyone who could afford to buy the position. Believe it or not, this is happening today on a large scale.
One of my duties lately has been to oversee the Calvary Chapel ministries here in Wyoming, keeping the pastors in fellowship with one another, and being responsible to hold new ministries accountable. It has been an eye-opening experience. In one case, there was a man who claimed to be pastoring a Calvary Chapel, but he wasn't a pastor. No church that he'd ever been part of had ever recognized his calling as a pastor and ordained him. (Of course, he'd never stuck around any of the churches long enough to be recognized as anything but trouble.)
But here he was, saying, "Hi, I'm the pastor." When I confronted him about this, he said he would fix the problem, he'd make it right. The next time I spoke with him about the situation being so terribly out of order, he said, "Problem solved." I asked if he'd shut down the ministry and was being restored to one of his former pastors. No. He'd just gotten on the internet and bought an ordination!
I received one of these spam e-mails just yesterday entitled, "Our church will ordain anyone who asks." Clicking on the link led me to read,
"IIS Ministries. Minister Charles Simpson has the power to make you a LEGALLY ORDAINED MINISTER within 48 hours!!! BE ORDAINED NOW! As a minister, you will be authorized to perform the rites and ceremonies of the church!! WEDDINGS, FUNERALS, BAPTISMS, FORGIVENESS OF SINS, VISIT CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES. WANT TO START YOUR OWN CHURCH?? (Ministry in a Box! Click here to learn more!) After your LEGAL ORDINATION, you may start your own congregation!! Only $29.95!"
In other words, "If you have a young bull and seven rams, we've got a ministry for you!" No church will ordain you as a pastor? Not a problem anymore! Just send your credit card number to Minister Charles Simpson!"
I served with another guy who claimed to be a pastor, but I couldn't quite figure out why he didn't have a shepherd's heart for the sheep. Turned out his ordination was from one of these same kinds of places.
Another way that people are entering the priesthood today is through education. They pay their big bucks to a Bible College or Seminary, and come out ordained. Don't have to be called by God, you just have to have a passing grade and pay your tuition.
But saints, here is the biblical model:
Acts 13:1-3 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
A group of believers recognizes that God has ordained a man, and they lay hands on him, ordaining him for ministry. It's that simple. It's not about having a Doctorate of Diviniry. It's not about the piece of paper you can buy for thirty bucks. It's about the Lord's ordination of a man.
Under the Old Covenant, the only men that God would ordain as priests were the Levites that were direct descendants of Aaron. Jeroboam bypassed the process, and accepted anyone who could pay for the paper.
Abijah tells the nation, "We haven't forsaken the Lord. Our priests are the sons of Aaron. Our sacrifices are made at the place where God chose to establish His name. Our worship takes place at the temple."
"We have sided ourselves with the Lord. You have decided that we are your enemies. By fighting against us, you are fighting against the Lord. And you cannot succeed."
Do you have confidence tonight that you are on the right side? That God will not let the enemy succeed against you? A lot of times, we don't think so. We think, "I may be a Christian, but my heart is pretty wicked a lot of the time. I fail more than I succeed. I stumble more than I walk. I don't expect that God is really on my side at all, 'cause I'm such a sinful loser."
If you think that, then I think that this would be the perfect time to bring up what the book of Kings tells us about Abijah:
1Kings 15:3 He walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, like the heart of his father David.
This guy wasn't another David. He was another Rehoboam. A guy who had problems with sin. A guy who didn't always do the right and godly thing. A guy who is more like us.
And this guy, in spite of his failings, understood that God's faithfulness to the kingdom was bigger than him. He understood his position in the kingdom. He knew that there are some promises of God that are unconditional. 1Kings goes on to say,
1Kings 15:4 But for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to raise up his son after him and to establish Jerusalem
Today, if you are a born-again Christian, God has given you a lamp. Not because of your behavior, but for David's sake, or more accurately, the SON of David's sake, Jesus Christ.
I am not saying that you can be in total sin and expect showers of blessings. But you can expect that those promises of God that are unconditional to the believer still apply to you.
Jeroboam paid no heed to the warning. He set an ambush from the rear, and an attack from the front. Judah was outnumbered two to one, and being assaulted from in front and behind.
And yet they succeeded. How? "Because they trusted in the Lord."
Today, the enemy desires to attack you visibly in the front, and sneak up on you from behind. You may think that your defeat is certain.
But are you a child of God? If so, then cry out to Him, trust in Him, and rely upon Him.
1John 5:4-5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Your walk may not have been great lately. You may be feeling condemned by your recent behavior. You may be afraid to turn to the Lord because of your recent failure. But...
Rom. 8:1 ...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
If you look in front and see attacks, if you look behind and see and ambush, then look up and see your Lord, Who will give you the victory because you are His child.