If you’ve been following us in the last few weeks, we’re in a sermon series called Reforming. Reforming. And today’s message is called Divided for a Purpose. That can leave you wondering, what’s God up to? God, what are you doing in my life? Questions that arise, wondering even where he is in the midst of it all. And I think it’s an especially of those times of deep loss, personal loss or tragedy when we can question God to the very heart depths of our hearts. In the ebb and flow, life is not easy much of the time, isn’t it? And you may have questions that even today you might still be looking for an answer from God. But if you’re at all like me, I mean there are times in my life, probably in yours, when tough things have happened for which actually God’s purpose is quite clear. And this is the first point I’d like us to get into our minds and hearts this day, and that has to do with discipline. That God disciplines us for our own, um, do you remember as a child, or perhaps as a parent, you might have said or heard these words when discipline’s about to be issued. You’ll thank me for this later. Yeah, right. I never believed those words, and my parents told the truth. And the reality is that, no, I never did thank them right afterwards.
Now, years later, in hindsight, I can see their good intention and the lessons they wanted me to learn, and I can thank them. Now for us today, we might not see it that way when we are going through a rough patch in our life and I have questions for God. But I can hear God saying, you’ll thank me for this later. Are you willing to hear that from Him and receive it? I know I can look back at times in my life, hard times, didn’t understand why it was all going on. But now in hindsight, I’ve realized that it was actually God’s gracious. And loving hands like that of a potter that actually brought me to and through those difficulties so that he might correct me and teach me to follow his ways. Discipline. It comes in different forms. I got permission from my nine year old grand, uh, nine year old granddaughter to use this image of her. This is her at about one and a half or two. What is that? You know what that is? Time out. Yeah, it’s just precious. And, um, grandma, Ann and I picked up on our daughter and her husband’s discipline patterns.
And so once when we were at a county fair, next picture please, uh, she’s in time out again. Wasn’t playing well in a pool of plastic balls. Has God ever put you in time out? Have you ever experienced? The Discipline of the Lord. This is Reformation Weekend, and way to go wearing red today on this day that we remember. The recapture of the gospel of Jesus Christ through that whole reformation. Christ alone, faith alone, word, God’s word alone, grace alone, for the glory of God alone.
And yet that process through which that reforming of the church occurred actually caused the Christian church to divide in two, Catholic and Protestant. Now why would God allow this division in his church? Today’s sermon really comes out of 1 Kings chapter 12, and if you’ve got your Bibles or devices, you can turn there. I’m not going to be reading as much from there as from Jeremiah later on, but it’s, it’s really a look at the time in the history of the people of Israel, in the Old Testament, when God actually divided the nation of Israel in two. Now, why would God… Allow division of his people. This sermon title is called Divided for a Purpose.
And that’s there intentionally. Forming and reforming. Last week, we looked at King David. A man, as the Bible says, after God’s own heart. Under King David was ushered in, really, the beginning of the golden age of the nation of Israel. One nation, united in, uh, of twelve tribes. Under… These kings fast forward to today’s message divided for a purpose in the scriptures We read how the kingdom of Israel was divided in two one nation now of ten tribes in the north two in the south In fact this time is known in the history of the people of Israel as the divided Kingdom. Interestingly, it took 120 years for the kingdom to be united and uh, under one monarchy. First was Saul, then David, and then his son Solomon. 120 years. But it only took 17 for Solomon’s son to throw it all away. Now, today, reformation Sunday, we remember another time. When God’s people were divided in two.
This time it’s a divided church. And we as Lutherans actually celebrate it. Isn’t that curious? Celebrating the dividing of God’s church. Why is that? 506 years ago, the beginning of what is called the Reformation occurred when on October 31st, 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 assertions 95 feces to the doors of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. And you can see a replica of the 95 feces out in the foyer on your way out today. I think it’s important to note, Martin Luther didn’t want to divide the Christian church. I mean, he was a monk in the Catholic Church, of the Augustinian order. No, Luther didn’t want to divide the church. Luther wanted to reform the church from the errors he identified.
But instead of reforming, it really was a revolution. As a battle ensued between the Catholic Church leadership and this renegade monk in Germany, amplified by subplots and geopolitics at play. But all this to say and raise this question, why would God divide his people? Why would God divide the kingdom of Israel? I mean God’s people had taken possession of the promised land, a land promised centuries earlier to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And then now, led by, you know, after Moses and the Exodus, led by Joshua into possessing the land and then the monarchs come and there’s this one nation. Why would God divide the kingdom of Israel into two?
I think the same question could be asked kind of in the context that we’re remembering today. Why would God allow his church to be divided in two? Well, 1 Kings chapter 12 verse 15, I think, gives us a clear answer to that first question, where the Bible reads, this is about the dividing of the kingdom. `This turn of events was from the Lord. And why? To fulfill the word the Lord had spoken. And I think it also answers the question about the division.
Let me just give you a quick review of what led up to the dividing of Israel in two. God had used these three kings to build the kingdom of Israel up. Saul, David, and David’s son, Solomon. Saul was rejected by God because he continually disobeyed God. didn’t follow him. Under David, the kingdom of Israel was greatly strengthened and David’s son, Solomon, started off really well, asking God for wisdom to lead the people instead of wealth or power, and God gave him all of it.
But Solomon, in his later years, departed from God grievously and followed the gods of his many wives and concubines. God finally stepped in with discipline and as 1st Kings 11 reads, 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.
Here’s kind of a critical question, I think. The answer to which you and I may not like. Who divided the kingdom of Israel in two? God did. Now, there were human dynamics involved and certainly divine impulses at play. The Israel Judah… division and the Catholic Lutheran division were in some ways for the same reason, that of building a place of worship.
Solomon taxed and worked the people of Israel hard to build Solomon’s temple, his temple in Jerusalem. And Solomon’s son Rehoboam taxed and worked them even harder. And so the people of Israel revolted under this, uh, under Rehoboam. and reached out to another one of Solomon’s sons, this time born from a servant, a man named Jeroboam. The Protestant Reformation, ultimately a division, was precipitated by the Pope taxing people under the religious cover of indulgences so that, what, he could build St. Peter’s Cathedral, another place of worship. So what was God’s purpose in the dividing? What was God’s reason to reform His people? Well, Ted read it clearly for us in the passage from Jeremiah, and I want to remind us of some of what he read.
God said, Can I not do with you, Israel, as a potter does, declares the Lord? Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation, I warned, repents of its evil, then I will relent. And not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. But if at another time I announce that a nation or a kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, This is what the Lord says.
Look, I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So, turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions. That’s the Word of the Lord. Can we really say thanks be to God? May God’s Holy Spirit work in us that we can. Israel had turned away from God to follow their own inclinations. And I think the same could be said about the Catholic Church at the time of Martin Luther. I think any serious student of the Reformation knows that the church at that time had lost its focus on God’s salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. It had moved away from word alone and became a religion focused on human actions and agency. And so God divided his people. He divided the kingdom of Israel, and he divided his church, if you can accept this, as a loving act of discipline, to turn the hearts of his people back to the truth and to the scriptures, and to turn their hearts back to follow God himself.
And isn’t that what God does with us today? Is this not what God the Potter does in your life and mine? If you take one thing from this message, I hope it’ll be this. That God does not discipline in anger, He does it in love. As the writer of the book of Hebrews puts it, But you have forgotten that the scriptures say to God’s children, When the Lord punishes you, don’t make light of it. And when He corrects you, don’t be discouraged. The Lord corrects the people He loves. And disciplines those he calls his own. Be patient when you are being corrected. This is how God treats his children. Discipline and then punishment. You want to know the biblical way? To differentiate between discipline and punishment, it’s really this faith assertion that Jesus Christ took your punishment and mine, so that we need not be punished for our sin. Here’s how the prophet Isaiah puts it when speaking about Jesus Christ yet to come.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds. We are healed in the New Testament. Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. That’d be a good thesis to nail to the door of your home. And this is true for everyone who believes no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned. We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life.
Friends, that’s what we’re all about here at Victory, and may it ever be so. Jesus took the punishment that you and I deserved, bore it on himself on the cross, paid the entire debt, Paid the price to redeem us from the death sentence we are under because of our sin. But not only redeemed us, then burst forth from the tomb, the first for all who will follow after him. So in Christ, we have pardoned, but also the promise of new life now, and resurrection life to come, time without end. I think it’s important to note that the Reformation, yes, it happened 500 years ago, but it, it’s more than that. It’s still happening today, and it needs to continue to happen, especially in our own hearts.
And so today, if you’re going through something tough or troubling, ask God to show you if He may be doing something for you as He’s doing something to you. Forming and reforming. Ask God if He might be reforming you in some manner. And then ask God to give you the faith to trust that it’s from His loving hands. As he forms and reforms your faith and your life in Christ Jesus. Join me in prayer. Heavenly Father, in moments of confusion and loss, we can often wonder about your purpose and wonder about your presence in our lives. Today, Today, we’re reminded that even in the depths of our questioning, you work with clear intention. Just as a parent disciplines their child out of love, you discipline us for our own good. May we understand that while we may not understand all that’s going on, give us the faith to trust in your wisdom. So Lord God, just as you divided the kingdom of Israel, and later the church, for a purpose, Help us discern the lessons in our own divisions and challenges. Grant us the patience and the understanding to recognize that your corrections come out of love, not anger. Thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus, who took our punishment and redeemed us. And as we navigate life’s challenges today, Reform and mold our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord to the glory of his name in which I pray.