A Reflection on 1 Kings 11:29-33 & 38 for Sunday, June 28, 2020 at Mosaic Baptist Church
…when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country. Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “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), because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did…
And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.
1 Kings 11:29-33 & 38 (ESV)
The account of the dividing of the kingdom of Israel is terribly sad.
YHWH did not promise Jeroboam that he would be king over the ten tribes of Judah because Jeroboam was exemplary. This promise is made because Solomon has been unfaithful. The nation has followed.
Now the kingdom – at least in part – is being promised to Jeroboam. There is no blood connection to Solomon. Jeroboam was the king’s servant.
Yet the same promise is given: ‘…if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.‘
King David, with his heart after the heart of YHWH, is still the pattern – the legacy. David’s faithful heart is God’s dream for Israel.
Jeroboam seems to have taken this gift seriously. The same cannot be said for the accompanying warning.
Yet Ahija’s prophecy unfolds. Solomon is laid to rest. His son begins to reign. The kingdom is split. Two tribes to Rehoboam – the kingdom of Judah.
And ten to Jeroboam – the new kingdom of Israel.
The servant has become king.
The next four chapters are nothing if not disturbing. Rehoboam retreats into Jerusalem and Jeroboam establishes additional capitals in Bethel and Dan.
Yet without access to the temple in Jerusalem, Jeroboam fears losing the people. In order to prevent a mass exodus, two golden calves are made and set up – one in Bethel and one in Dan. Substitutes for YHWH – or idols.
In addition Jeroboam builds temples on the High Places – and appoints an army of priests to serve in them.
And Israel worships these other – infinitely lesser – gods.
Of course, this does not go unnoticed. An unnamed prophet is sent to Jeroboam. His hand is miraculously frozen – and restored. The king is temporarily sobered – yet makes no changes. 1 Kings 13:33-34 reads: ‘After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.’
Strong echoes of Solomon’s dependance on political strategy – rather than on YHWH – bounce throughout the rest of this spiritual history. Kings rise and fall in both kingdoms. War is never far away – and often breaks out. Prophets are sent.
And the high places are honoured. Idols are erected. Temples are built to other deities. Priests are trained to serve the gods of the world.
Throughout Chapters 12 -16 Jeroboam’s name becomes a way of assessing kings. Of the vast majority of the kings of Judah and Israel it is said: ‘…he walked in the way of Jeroboam…’ King David’s legacy is recalled only for Asa.
In only a few short generations, Israel has moved from prosperity and peace to division and civil war. From the vision of David to the vision of Jeroboam.
David’s legacy is barely in the picture. Jeroboam’s is everywhere.
In what ways do you trust in the ways of the world rather than in the ways of God?
Do you believe that it is possible to have a faithful heart toward God – like David’s – in our time? Do you think there are compromises that are inevitable?
If you were to die today, what legacy would you leave? What legacy would you like to leave?