In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak, king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them…
1 Kings 14: 25 - 27
During the glory days of Israel, Rehoboam’s father, Solomon, had made two hundred large shield of hammered gold. About seven and a half pounds of gold went into each shield. At today’s prices that’s about thirty-two million dollars in golden shields. Even then it was an impressive display of prosperity.
By Rehoboam’s reign the glory days had passed them by (and now I have that Bruce Springsteen song in my head). But image was still important and so when Shishak ransacks and loots the temple and the palace Rehoboam has the shields replaced. He can’t afford gold so he uses bronze instead. Perhaps he thought if no one looked too closely then everything would appear as glorious as ever.
Rehobaom’s story has me thinking a lot about the ways people, and churches, try to hold on to our glory days. We replace golden shields with bronze (which is what we can afford) and tell ourselves that everything is just as good as it’s always been. As long as no one looks too closely everything appears fine. But the truth is things aren’t the way they were and trying to hold on can be exhausting. And the danger in holding on to the past is that we might miss the new things God has springing up all around us.
In Isaiah 43, God tell us to:
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43: 18, 19
We can’t hold on to the golden shields forever and bronze replacement shields really just aren’t the same. But God is still doing new things and there are glory days ahead – if we can only let go to the former things so that we might embrace them.