Don't Be Phony

6-16-24

 

            Mark Twain is quoted as once having said, "Everyone is a moon and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody."  That is so true.  We all have aspects of our lives that we keep hidden from the rest of the world.  In other words, we all have skeletons in our closet that we desperately want to keep there.  That can be good and bad.  Some of those skeletons we need to keep in the closet.  On the other hand, some of them need to be brought out so that there can be healing and growth in our lives.

            It's one thing to have skeletons that we're trying to hide.  It's quite another to be a hypocrite.  We're probably all familiar with that concept.  A hypocrite is someone who wears a mask.  The word comes from a Greek word that describes an actor on a stage, a pretender.  We define it today as a person who puts on a false appearance; someone who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings. 

            There is a difference between being hypocritical and not letting everyone into the dark recesses of your heart.  Just because you have places of your life that you don't want others to know about, doesn't mean you're a hypocrite.  It's OK to have things in your life that you're hiding from others.  We don't have to be totally open and totally honest about everything with everyone.  But when we pretend to be someone we're not; when we seek to lie and deceive and manipulate in order to get our way in life, then we're being a sinful hypocrite.

            We are a hypocrite when we talk and act like the group of people we are with in order to fit in with them, even if what we say and how we act isn't really what we believe.  I think the classic example is the so-called Christian who comes to church on Sunday and acts all pious and holy, putting on the perfect Christian persona for all to see.  But then they leave the building and go out and act just like their non-Christian friends act.  As an example, when they're at church they might say that they think drinking and gambling and carousing are wrong, but then they go right out and do those very same things.

            We don't like hypocrites.  That's because usually when someone is hypocritical, it's because they're trying to get away with something or they're trying to manipulate others to get their way or to get ahead in life.  A hypocrite is essentially a dishonest person who is seeking to deceive.  The hypocrite at church might be a businessman in town.  His motive of acting like a Christian might be to gain some new customers to help his business.  So he deceives and manipulates and convinces others he is a believer when he is not for his own financial gain.  Or maybe the hypocrite in church is someone who wants to maintain a certain reputation in town.  Maybe they went to the church all of their lives or their family has deep roots there so they want to maintain that outside appearance of being a good church-goer, but inwardly they really don't love God and don't care about anything concerning the church except how it benefits them.  

            This morning, as we continue to look at nobodies in the Bible, we're going to look at a hypocrite.  His name is Rehoboam and he is the fourth king of Israel.  On the outside he looked very genuine, but behind the scenes of his life, we find a reckless phony.

            First a quick recap.  The nation of Israel had for a long time been a theocracy, a nation governed and led by God Himself.  However, they came to a point where they wanted to be like the other nations.  So they approach Samuel the prophet and ask to have an actual king rule over them.  Samuel doesn't like the idea, but God tells him to go ahead and give the people a king.  Saul becomes the nation's very first king.  He started off well, but ended up very badly.  He was replaced by David.  Even though he had some personal problems, David was a man after God's own heart and was a great king leading the nation through the greatest period in its history. 

            After David died, his son Solomon took over the throne.  Solomon was a man upon whom God showered wisdom, success and fabulous wealth.  There was peace with all of the surrounding nations during his reign and the nation's economy was very strong.

            Solomon in some ways mirrored Saul.  He started out very well but finished very poorly.  At first he asked for wisdom which God gave him in abundance.  Things started to go downhill for him and the nation when he married wives from cultures God had told the people not to marry.  In fact, he collected for himself 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Then he began to appease those wives by allowing them to worship their idols.  Over time, he compromised further by building them places to worship their false gods.  Ultimately, he fell completely by participating himself in the idolatry his foreign wives embraced. 

            As the nation continued to fall apart, influential men began to desert Solomon.  One of these men was named Jeroboam.  As part of God's punishment of Solomon for his idolatry and disobedience, the Lord promised Jeroboam that he would reign over ten of Israel's twelve tribes.  Solomon knew of that prophecy and therefore saw Jeroboam as a threat to his throne.  In reaction, he tried to kill him, so Jeroboam escaped and fled to Egypt.

            Eventually, Solomon died.  We've recently talked about the kind of legacy we will leave when we're gone from here.  I've encouraged you to think about what people will say about you when you're gone, what your epitaph will be.  This was said about him before he died, but Solomon's ultimate legacy is a very sad one, given to us in 1 Kings 11:5-6.  His son Rehoboam took his place on the throne as the next king of Israel.  Once he took over, it didn't take long for things to start going south.  1 Kings 12:1-4. 

            What we see here is that all of the country's most influential leaders approached the king.  They wanted to know if he would be easier on them than his father Solomon was.  The same Jeroboam whom we just mentioned that had been in exile, came back to lead this delegation before the new king.  Solomon was generally a successful king, but he wasn't respected by the majority of the people.  With his son on the throne, the people hoped to find some relief from the relentless taxes and the harsh burden that Solomon had imposed upon them.

            The first sign of Rehoboam's hypocrisy dealt with his leadership.  1 Kings 12:5-14.  The people ask for relief and Rehoboam sends them away for three days.  That seems like a good, wise way of handling the situation, but it wasn't.  He first asked the older counselors who served his father what they thought he should do.  They said he should lighten the people's burden and if he did the people would be dedicated to him.

            But he actually pretty quickly dismissed their counsel.  That's because he didn't really want to know what they thought.  He just did that to make it look like he was exploring all options.  What he really wanted all along was to know what his young friends thought about the situation.

            They gave the exact opposite advice that the elders had given the king.  They said he should not contemplate easing the people's burden.  Instead, their counsel was that Rehoboam should make the people's burden even greater than it was under his father.

            So that's what the king did.  When the people re-gathered three days later, he told them he was going to actually make things worse for them.  In response to that, a great civil war broke out.  Suddenly a nation that had been unified for more than a century is shattered.  Ten of the 12 tribes go with Jeroboam.  They form the northern kingdom of Israel and make their capital in Samaria.  Only Judah and Benjamin side with Rehoboam.  They are the southern kingdom of Judah which makes its capital in Jerusalem.  All of that happened just exactly as God had prophesied.

            Another area of hypocrisy for Rehoboam was in regards to his worship of God.  Rehoboam had a plan in order to appear godly to the people.  Part of that plan involved convincing some of the priests and religious leaders to leave Israel and Jeroboam and relocate to Judah.  2 Chron. 11:13-17.

            The northern kingdom's king, Jeroboam, actually contributed to this.  He worried that his people would begin to switch their allegiance to Rehoboam if they continued to worship the Lord at Solomon's temple in Jerusalem located in the southern kingdom.  So he established two worship centers to false gods in northern territory to give his subjects no reason to travel to the south and be wooed to the God of David and Solomon.  But some of the people living in the northern kingdom of Israel who loved the Lord uprooted their families and moved to Judah anyway.  For three years, Rehoboam's plan worked as he presented a godly figure to the nation and as he went through the motions of showing devotion to Yahweh.

            But he never really was a true worshiper of God.  1 Kings 14:21.  One thing that stands out about this seemingly random, apparently un-interesting verse is that Rehoboam was raised by his mother.  We are told that she was an Ammonite.  That meant that she was someone who worshiped the idols Molech and Milcom.  She had considerable influence within the kingdom.  She first of all convinced Solomon to abandon Yahweh for worship of her detestable idol.  She also reared her son in the worship of Molech.  That did not end well.  1 Kings 14:22-24.

            Like his dad Solomon and his grandfather David, Rehoboam had a number of wives and concubines.  In fact, he had 18 wives and 60 concubines to be exact.  2 Chron. 11:18-23.  David kind of began all of this by marrying many pagan women.  But his heart never turned to idols.  Solomon built an even bigger harem and his wives did lead him to worship their false gods.  Rehoboam also married too many pagan wives.  Through it all he continued to maintain a public perception that he was steadfastly devoted to the Lord.  But privately, he followed in his father's footsteps and worshiped false gods.    

            Once he established an outward veneer of religiosity, he then worked on strengthening his hold on the southern kingdom.  He did that by placing some of his sons in strategic cities around the kingdom.  He gave them plenty of supplies and if you notice, he also helped them to build harems for themselves.  That may have been unethical and immoral, but it was also shrewd politically as he strengthened his hold on the people.

            It didn't take long for God's chosen nation to completely lose their witness to the world.  The Lord established David's dynasty to be a witness to the surrounding pagan nations.  By the time of his grandson, the Promised Land was polluted with the same filth that Joshua had cleaned up earlier.  The people had become exactly like their leader:  utterly contemptible and totally decadent from the inside out.

            That is the way Rehoboam had always been.  He was raised to be an idolater, but he kept that hidden from his God-fearing public in order to enlarge his kingdom.  He even attracted families who were loyal to the Lord by pretending to worship and obey Him.  As soon as he felt secure, the real Rehoboam burst forth.  2 Chron. 12:1. 

            There are more areas of our lives than just two, but Rehoboam gives us a place to start to examine our lives to determine if we are hypocrites or not.  Ask yourself this:  Am I a hypocrite in how I deal with other people?  Do business associates know me to be one way, while my family sees a completely different me?  Do the people at church know what I'm actually like or is it just a front to control and manipulate others for my own benefit? 

            We should all be able to honestly say "what you see is what you get."  That's the basis of what Peter commands to us in his first epistle.  1 Peter 3:13-17.  We need to keep a clear conscience before God and others.  If we're hypocrites our consciences aren't clear and we open ourselves up to all kinds of legitimate accusations. 

            However, our conscience is clear if we are doing our part to be the men and women of God that He wants us to be and if we are doing the things He wants us to do.  Then if we're accused of something our accusers will put to shame because they have nothing to actually accuse us of.  Take off your mask in front of others and let them see the real you that God created you to be.  When we do that, the danger is that they might see a few things we don't want them to see.  But God can use even that to make a difference for the kingdom.

            We also need to ask ourselves:  Am I a hypocrite in my worship of God?  Do I come to church in order to genuinely and sincerely enter into worship of the one true God?  Am I focused on that while I'm here?  Or do I come in order to put on a show?  Is my attendance and my worship only for God, or am I here to make sure certain people see me so that I can receive some sort of benefit?

            John 4:21-24.  It is much more dangerous than we think to play games when it comes to worship of Almighty God.  Everything we do here at church should be done with awe and reverence for who He is.  That means we shouldn't be making noise and talking amongst ourselves which is disrespectful to God and distracting to others who are trying to worship.  Your presence here isn't about you; it's about God.  So focus on the truth of the Word and the truth of who God is and make that the basis of your honest worship of Him.

            Are you a phony?  If we were to see the dark corners of your life, what would we see?  What's behind the part of your character that people do see?  Are you someone who speaks the Christian language fluently but only on Sundays?  Are you wearing a religious mask that you take off when you leave the building?

            As our singer and musician come now, we invite you to tear off your mask and be genuine and real with God and with others.  If there is some confession or decision you need to make this morning, come talk to me about that now as we stand and sing.

            Prayer.

 

            

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