Q&A: Millennium and Unity - A Clarification

Millennium and Unity - A Clarification

Question

Under the Q&A section Millennium and Unity, you had written, "The Bible presents us with one people of God in both the Old and New Testament (the division of the northern and southern kingdom in the Old Testament represented a political division, but not a religious division". In 1 Kings 12:25-33 it is very clear that the division was not only political but religious division too. Please clarify.

Answer

Thanks for your question!

My point was that when God divided the northern and southern kingdoms, he did not divide them into two separate covenant people under two separate covenants. Rather, he executed covenant judgment on all the tribes: Judah lost control over the northern tribes; the northern tribes lost their Davidic king; and all the tribes lost the political unity they once possessed. These judgments all depended on the continuation of God's covenant with his one covenant people. That is to say, if the covenant had not continued to bind all the tribes, then it would have been inappropriate to judge them according to that covenant.

That the kingdoms varied in their religious practices was not a matter of their standing before God as his people. Rather, it was a matter of human sin. It did not change either kingdom's covenant standing before God, nor did it change the fact that both kingdoms were part of God's one people. Both kingdoms were still obligated to obey God's covenant, including its administration under David.

Jeroboam himself admitted this in 1 Kings 12 when he said that he was establishing worship centers in the north in order to spare his people their obligations to travel south. These obligations existed because the northern and southern tribes were still one people with one unified religion. Jeroboam believed this religious unity would make it hard to enforce their political division. So, he came up with an idolatrous solution to his political problem.

But Jeroboam had no authority to alter his people's covenant with God, nor did he have authority to remove their obligations to God under that covenant. His actions did not separate the north from the south religiously; they continued to be one people of God. All Jeroboam did was to lead the north into sins that violated their existing covenant with God.

1 Kings 13:1ff. records that God sent a prophet from the south to rebuke and curse Jeroboam for this sin. Sending prophets for these purposes was a typical way that God prosecuted his covenant with his people when they sinned. This demonstrates that Jeroboam had not successfully thrown off God's covenant with the northern people. Moreover, the fact that the prophet came from the southern kingdom confirms that both kingdoms were still one people of God, and that both were still accountable to the same covenant, particularly with regard to their religious obligations.

Reference

Millennium and Unity

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.