Ahijah’s garment and the tearing of a nation’s fabric
The prophet Ahijah showed up on the scene in Israel’s history at the end of the governing reign of King Solomon. Israel had become the most powerful wealthy nation in the world. No one during that time could have dreamed that a nation as powerful as Israel could lose its place in the world. After Saul’s wars, David’s heart after God and Solomon’s economic growth, Israel seemed impenetrable. But, Solomon had a problem; he lacked integrity and morality. That’s when the prophet Ahijah showed up one day on a road outside of Jerusalem where he met Jeroboam. Jeroboam had gained favor with Solomon because he was a commander who had successfully built a protection wall. Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment and when he saw Jeroboam he took hold of it and tore it into twelve pieces. He gave ten pieces to Jeroboam saying, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel)…” It was the beginning of the end. The Kingdom had become divided. Israel would never again be known as the most powerful, wealthy nation on the earth. Solomon’s immorality and what it did to his nation was one of the most pathetic stories in the Bible. His weakness of character weakened and eventually ripped the fiber of the greatest nation in the world.
Many mornings Nancy and I listen to an online Jesuit contemplative prayer devotion from the UK called “Pray as you Go”. Because it is a contemplative format it calls for personal reflection on a given scripture with minimal commentary on the part of the facilitator. One morning this story of Ahijah in 1 Kings 11 was read followed by the facilitator instructing his listeners to picture the dramatic ripping apart of the prophet’s linen garment into so many fragments. He suggested that fragments of thread and fabric would be filling the air along with the unmistakable sound of tearing material. He asked if we could identify in any way with what he was describing. The first thing I thought of was the extreme fragmentation happening in America; the separation and polarization of culture and political ideology. I thought of the growing gap between the extreme rich and the poor and growing tensions of race and religion. As I prayerfully contemplated the scene I could envision the fragments and particles floating in the air from the harshly torn garment and the twelve pieces of material thrown here and there. I asked the questions; “If it is possible for a country once as powerful and wealthy as ancient Israel to implode after only a few hundred years, could the same thing happen to America? Is it possible that America will soon become so fragmented and divided that it will lose its place of dignity, prestige and influence in the world? The thought would have terrified me except for my belief that there will be an awakening among the immerging generation for reformation. Because I believe it and have been looking for it, today I stand encouraged as I see a first significant flicker of hope.
Ashes to Beauty [Isaiah 61]
The tragic shooting at Parkland High School in southern Florida marked the eighth school shooting which resulted in student death already in 2018. Since 2013 there have been over 300 school shootings in America; nearly one a week, not to mention the Las Vegas bloodbath which killed 58 and wounded 527. Mass school shootings have tragically become a new normal in American life. The media still faithfully covers these tragedies and the painful devastation that ensues, but after the shooting at Parkland High School something was clearly different. Students who had lost classmates turned their pain beyond natural states of mourning to outspoken outrage; they were fed up. They had had enough of gun violence and in addition to the normal candlelight vigils student leaders began passionately speaking out concerning the ineptness of congress to provide gun control and safety for innocent Americas. I believe a sleeping giant had finally awakened. The Millennial generation found its voice and with eloquence demanded social change. It was a spark; a spark which may well ignite real and lasting change for the first time. These young people proclaimed the beginning of a powerful new movement among their generation. Emma Gonzalez said it well. Speaking on behalf of her fellow students concerning U.S. politicians presently financed by the NRA said, “Adults who are supposed to be protecting us have let us down. They are supposed to be working for us but they are not. That’s pitiful and pathetic” She went on to say, “Someone has to do the dirty work; someone has to shoulder this heavy burden and we (speaking of her generation) will do it and do it well. Congress has failed us.” Being joined by another student leader, Cameron Kaskey announced, “From here on we will be giving a ‘badge of shame’ for any politician taking money from the NRA.
A passionate voice of the Millennial generation – https://youtu.be/jHvUE7PuEbI
The thing which caught my eye the most in this whole discourse wasn’t so much concerning gun control (Although I agree there must be major change on this front specifically when it comes to military weaponry), but rather seeing the Millennials find their voice and rise up in legitimate protest against a major contributor to the torn fabric of our nation. It is possible, maybe even probable, that when this generation can see how much influence they have and the difference their actions can make, they will become energized to become the generation to stop America’s fabric from being torn to pieces. They may well be used to bring logical solutions, unity and healing to our broken nation. They are the hope for our country and what we are seeing in Florida may well be looked back on by future generations as a defining historical moment. For me personally, this is a major point of encouragement. More than a year ago I received a prophetic picture of the Millennials rising up out of the ashes of America’s social, political and faith crisis bringing the beauty of unity and authentic faith back to America. It was the reason I wrote the book Re:Form.