When the Old Testament nation of Judah split into two kingdoms, the fallout included more than just a split of kings and courts. It involved a split of priests and worship as well. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, was far from a righteous king, but he did keep the Temple in Jerusalem and worship to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jeroboam, the newly minted king of the northern kingdom of Israel, quickly erected altars to false gods and squeezed the Levites out of Israel. As the Levites left their homes to move to Judah, many others who remained faithful to true worship left with them. The result was a weakening of Israel’s religious and moral future, and a strengthening of Judah’s (at least for a time).
The text in 2 Chronicles puts it like this:
13 And the priests and the Levites who were in all Israel presented themselves to him from all places where they lived. 14 For the Levites left their common lands and their holdings and came to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons cast them out from serving as priests of the Lord, 15 and he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat idols and for the calves that he had made. 16 And those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord, the God of their fathers. 17 They strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon. 2 Chronicles 11:13-17, ESV
This small exodus from Israel to Judah was a significant move. Leaving home is always a big deal, but this also meant leaving ancestral homes, family tribes and villages, and the land your family passed down from generation to generation. But the corruption of true worship was worth it to these people. They would rather move to Judah and worship their God than stay in Israel and be subject to idolatry and everything that came with it. (False worship is more than just what someone does with themselves on Sunday mornings, it eventually includes all of life and the consequences of public decisions.)
Reading this passage recently, I was struck by some of the tensions facing the Church and individual Christians right now. The longer church shut downs last, and the further woke theology infiltrates churches, the more I hear stories of frustrated Christians who either don’t know what to do, or have left their churches and are now drifting, feeling like churches and pastors have betrayed them.
There was a time in the history of the people of God, a moment of crisis to be sure, when many left false teaching for a place where they could worship God. Many Christians may find themselves at exactly this moment. Not only do we have this dramatic example of literally leaving bad teaching, but Scripture is clear that the people of God should have nothing to do with idolatry or theological cowardice.
It is OK to leave. It is not OK to stay gone.
Churches that exchange the gospel of Christ for woke theology deserve to be emptied, and the testimony of history is that eventually, they will be. But this does not mean that all churches have given in, or have adjusted their teaching to fit into the spirit of the age. There are plenty of faithful churches out there that need the support and involvement of committed followers of Jesus.
A sizeable portion of the American church has coasted on church-hopping nominalism for a long time. That way of doing church is becoming less viable all the time. The church moving forward will be comprised of Christians who are learning how to be faithful over the long run, be healthy parts of an imperfect body of believers, and who are ready to extend grace and truth to the world around them.
When the faithful left Israel for Judah, they “strengthened the kingdom of Judah”. That would not have happened if they left the land of Israel, moved to the hills of Judah, and then kept to themselves. Leave false teaching and theological cowardice, engage with a body of believers where you can worship our God, and help the church endure.
Churches that exchange the gospel of Christ for woke theology deserve to be emptied, and the testimony of history is that eventually, they will be.Tweet
Great article Pastor Phil. I love this quote of yours, “leave the false teaching and theological cowardice, engage with a body of believers where you can worship our God, and help the church endure.” I agree, now is no time to be adrift away from a church home and family of believers. Right at a time when the harpazo could be closer than ever, it is hard to watch those walking away. An amazing Bible teacher named Loretta, whom you may know, always taught us, “bloom where you’re planted.” Or as you put it so succinctly, “It is OK to leave. It is not OK to stay gone.” Wise advice. God bless you as we contend for the faith!
Thanks, brother. And you, too!