If Rehoboam was a carnal man, lacking in any conviction at all, is there any hope for his family? You’ve maybe heard the expression, ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’, or ‘a chip off the old block’. In other words, we often behave in the way that our parents did before us. It is certainly unusual, and often not an easy path, for a person to come out of the shadow of their parents - but it is possible!
Abijah had a lot of obstacles to overcome. His father was an arrogant, selfish, carnal man who was devoid of moral compass. God’s instruction had been that Judah was not to fight with Israel after the division at Shechem, 2 Chr. 11. 4, and initially Israel had obeyed. However, that changed and 1 Kings chapter 15 verse 6 tells us that Rehoboam and Jeroboam had been at war all Abijah’s life - he had never known anything else. What about his mother? She was Maacah the granddaughter of Absalom who had attempted to remove David, his own father, from the throne of Israel. She, according to 2 Chronicles chapter 15, worshipped an idol and had made a ‘detestable image’, v. 16 ESV, of it. Because of his recent family history Abijah was up against it! What would he do? ‘And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him’, 1 Kgs 15. 3. In particular, 2 Chr. 13. 2, ‘there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam’, in spite of God’s instruction not to go to war against his relatives.
Do we just write Abijah off? Is he just a casualty of his parents’ sin? There is a fascinating expression in 1 Kings chapter 15 verse 3, ‘his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father’. This verse is worth investigating because it is making a comparison with the greatest king there has ever been, King David. There is a clue that although he was not the man after God’s own heart that his forefather David had been, 1 Sam. 13. 14, there was a faint glimmer of his great-grandfather. Let’s view Abijah in the same way as we viewed Rehoboam, in the ‘triangle of conviction’, namely his attitude towards the word of God, the house of God and the people of God. In the battle he had with Jeroboam, recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 13, we see a different picture. Instead of risking his people’s lives by putting them straight into war with an army twice the size of his, he tried to reason with Israel. He reminded them of the worship of God that went on in the house of God in Jerusalem. He clearly knew the word of God, because he understood the priesthood and the sacrificial system.
It becomes clear that Abijah was a man of great conviction, had a real desire for God, His word, His house and His people. So, what was his problem?
Where Rehoboam lacked conviction, Abijah lacked courage. He didn’t have the courage to reverse his father’s bad decision to go to war with Jeroboam, or to remove his mother from the throne of Judah. He didn’t have the courage to lead the nation back to the Lord again. He simply didn’t have any backbone. It must have been a miserable life for Abijah, knowing the truth and not doing it. He must have felt his three years on the throne were a complete failure. To crown his disastrous reign, he realized that while he was trying to reason with Israel, they had trapped him in a military ‘pincer movement’, and were about to massacre the people of Judah. That was when Judah cried to the Lord, raised the battle cry, and roundly defeated Israel in what had seemed an unwinnable war. What was the secret? 2 Chronicles chapter 13 verse 18 states, ‘Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers’.
What about us? Whatever our background, however strong or weak our parental example might be, we must all stand on our own two feet, develop convictions about what matters to the Lord, and defend them with the courage of our convictions. Where does that courage come from? Is it within? Not at all - it is from reliance upon the Lord. It comes from an acceptance that I can do all things through Christ who pours His strength into me, Phil. 4. 13!