Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house; he took everything. He also carried away the gold shields which Solomon had made. Then King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place, and committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard, who guarded the doorway of the king’s house.
2 Chronicles 12:9-10
Rehoboam was embarrassed. He was the king of Israel, steward of the great Temple and all the riches amassed by David and Solomon, but he was a neglectful man, more interested in avoiding risk than trusting God. Because Rehoboam was disobedient, God sent the Egyptian army to defeat Israel and plunder its riches. To replace the gold shields, Rehoboam ordered bronze ones to be made. They looked pretty good on the outside, but they weren’t the real thing. Who knew? From a distance, bronze looks a lot like gold, especially if it’s polished. Maybe some of the people didn’t realize the counterfeits, but the captains of the guard certainly knew. They had carried the gold ones, and now they had to carry cheap imitations. We can only imagine what they thought of the king.
One of the most attractive traits of any believer is authentic faith- genuine trust in God along with brutal honesty about our failures. Authenticity surfaces our continuing need for God’s grace, and it builds trust with others. When people realize we are the genuine article, not wearing a mask of superspirituality that says, “I’ve got it all together,” they let their guard down and open up to us, and in turn we pursue God together.
If Rehoboam had been honest with the guards, he would have won their respect. Together, they could have rebuilt the kingdom. Like the king, we may be tempted to cover up the truth se we look better to people around us, but living a lie tarnishes our hearts and ruins our relationships.
It’s better to be the real thing- with God and with those around us.
You cannot solve a problem until you acknowledge that you have one and accept responsibility for solving it.
Plastic has become king. It is the cheap imitation that substitutes for the real thing. Because it is pliable and easily molded into whatever shape needed, it has become popular. The term plastic has also become a word used to describe a card that can be substituted for money, even if the user doesn’t have any money. There’s no question that plastic has its place but there are places that can’t afford to be anything except the authentic, genuine version and one of those places is the life of a Christian. Although our world is inundated with knock-offs and imitations, it demands that our witness to Christ to be authentic. We may accept fake pearls, zirconia for diamonds, knock-off clothes, shoes, and handbags, but eternity is too serious of a thing to accept anything other than genuine testimony of Christ.
Like Rehoboam, we may attempt to substitute polished bronze for gold but it will only fool those who never come near. Once someone picks up the substitute and realizes it offers no hope, no help, and no protection, they’ll discard it and move on.
We live in a world filled with doubt, skepticism and questioning. The people of the world have at their fingertips a multitude of choices and opportunities with the click of a mouse. Many of them have had contact with some form of religion. Some of them have investigated the church or looked at the life of a professing Christian. And unfortunately they are still searching for something authentic. Their questions and problems demand something more than a church experience or an encounter with a professing Christian who is no different than they. This is nothing different than the world in Jesus’ day. The world of that day was filled with an array of gods and religions. Even the Jews who had the opportunity to worship the true and living God had come to the place that their rituals left them just as empty and broken as those around them who weren’t the “people of God.” Into that world came the genuine expression of God-Jesus Christ. He didn’t stand afar off because He had no fear for the shield He offered was pure gold and no bronze substitute. He called the seeker to draw near and when they did, their encounter with Him offered them an authentic, life-changing experience. Not only did many experience a natural life change such as the lame who walked or the blind who saw or the leper who was cleansed, but they also experienced a spiritual change. Consider for example the spiritual transformation of Zachaus who went from greedy and grasping to generosity. Every person whom Christ touched became the authentic witness to the grace and power of God. They all could pass the metal test. No bronze and no fools gold, this was the real deal. The skeptics could question the words of Jesus, they could argue with His teaching, but they had no case because they had to recognize that nothing about Him was plastic.
The disciples faced the same environment. Theirs was no easy task. They were challenged to prove that a crucified criminal was in truth the Son of God. Not much different in our world today when we’re asked why we insist that receiving Christ as Savior is the only way to eternal life. But those disciples who had been with Jesus had themselves become authentic. The transformation of their lives gave witness to the power and position of Jesus. As God worked the visible changes in them and through them, even the skeptics had to recognize that they were gold shields and not just polished bronze. And because of their authenticity it was said of them, “these are those who have turned the world upside down.”
The analogy of the shields may escape us unless we understand their differences. The gold ones had been refined and the impurities had been removed. They had passed through the refiners fire and all the dross had been brought to the surface and skimmed off. Those shields represent those who have come to Christ and have been washed in the blood and cleansed. They have been immersed into the fire of the Holy Spirit and refined. Daily they have come to the throne of grace with repentant hearts and continual cleansing. They have learned to walk not in their strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Though they may not be perfect, they seek constant transforming encounters with Christ and the Holy Spirit and the change in them is witnessed by those around them. They can truly say with confidence, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
The bronze shields are made up of a mixture. Bronze is a combination of tin and copper and sometimes aluminum. Any of these three elements are easily bent and shaped. This represents those who can be easily persuaded to fit in with their environment. Depending on their surroundings, they are somewhat like a chameleon. They are still as much involved with their old life as they are with the new. Their priorities and choices waver between the two worlds. While they want to belong and to some degree represent God, they also want to belong to the world. Although bronze goes through a process of blending it fails to be purified. The fire is used to combine rather than refine. These are those who have allowed their trials to press them to conform to the world rather than to transform them fully into the image of Christ. And in the heat of an intense battle, they become lost because this blended shield has no power to quench the fiery darts of the devil. Their lives become a mixture of chasing God and chasing the world and their lack of authenticity impresses no one.
I believe that there is a call by God and the world for authentic, genuine Christ followers. There is a call to be real, to live out a “gold shield” life that witnesses the power of the resurrected Christ. This is a call to lay down the “bronze shield” with a blended mixture of righteousness and sinfulness. It’s a call to cross the line, to declare our allegiance, to do away with our old patterns and to clothe ourselves with new thoughts, new ways, and new lifestyles. It’s a call to move beyond grace to holiness.
In our plastic world with all its imitations, will you choose to be the authentic representation of Christ?
Dr. John Thompson