The divided kingdom of Israel (c. 931 BCE, 1 Kings 12) — that section of the new year bible reading plan we never quite get to. We are a mass of well-intentioned new year resolutionists who typically run out of steam halfway through the Exodus. For a handful with a bit more endurance, Moses has come out of the mountains with stone tablets in hand and Joshua’s reeling over the idea of ruinous river crossing. Of course, beyond that there certainly arises a few superstar readers who still trudge on toward Samson and all bloodshed of the Judges. But we all fall short of the Israel’s glorious monarchy torn asunder — the rise of David and Solomon to the ruins of Daniel’s boyhood streets. Jacob’s fall must’ve been incredible.
All kidding aside, a kingdom divided seems rather relevant at the turn of this new year, considering the divides that tug and tear here in our own age, both in America as well as around the world, among our own separate societies as well as in our own individual families. We know how to be at each other. Or rather, away from each other. Or worse still, done with one another. Our own fall is rather incredible.
In the case of Israel, all the wealth and wisdom of nobility is inevitably undercut and implodes on itself from various prides and pains. Cities burn. Prophets mourn. The rise and fall of king after king after king—so many of them like so many of us, selfish and sick, divided in heart and mind, fractured in character and behavior. We are children of our fathers.
Relational divides have always and do always run from the ground up: one foot in the kingdom of heaven and one foot in the kingdom of ruins. “Not us” “We’re better than that” may seem tenable now, but a path already worn wide with self-preservation and personal ambition will undoubtably fork in ways well beyond our most diligent efforts.
If our new year bible reading attests to anything, it reveals that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the kings and the prophets, is truly the great I AM who was and is and is to come. If this should turn out to be true, then what is really before us is not so much a divide as it is a wall, a barrier, an obstruction, a hindrance to the eyes. We cannot see.
Faced with such a malformity, are we not made more keenly aware in some other way? With Moses, Joshua, Judges, the chronicle of kings and the oracle of prophets, one can hardly ignore the subtle shallow hint of repentance and obedient faith in Christ coming off every page of scripture. We are on to using our ears now. After all our personal empires have come and gone, we hear the Jesus of the gospels saying things like: Stop. Wait. Hold. Turn. I am here. I am the true vine. Join yourself to me. Abide in me and you will not stumble. I am willing and able to heal, to make you whole. But again, we mustn’t merely read of such things. We must also hear him speaking.