1 Kings 12:25-33
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king, but he acted foolishly. He followed the advice of his young friends and rejected the counsel of older men who understood the mood of the people for change. Jeroboam led the revolt of the people against Rehoboam, and as God had determined, he became the king of the ten northern tribes of Israel. Rehoboam was left with two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, and he wanted to start a civil war to regain the other ten, but the Lord ordered him not to do that (12:1-24). This meant that Jeroboam could set up his kingdom in peace.
He had a good opportunity, and his first steps were necessary and wise. Though the Lord had restrained the aggressiveness of Rehoboam, Jeroboam had to act wisely to protect his people from a hostile neighbor. He fortified two cities and made one of them his capital. The Lord expects his people to act prudently in a troubled world. However, prudence can too easily cross the line to fear. This is the outward occasion for Jeroboam’s turn from the Lord God.
To understand Jeroboam’s fear, consider the covenantal context in which they lived. God had made Jeroboam king over the majority of the old covenant people of God. Having a king outside of the line of David did not terminate that covenant relationship. The men were still obligated to journey to Jerusalem three times of year for God’s appointed festivals. The worship of God took place in Jerusalem, where every sacrifice was to be made. The temple made by Solomon was extremely impressive, which would affect everyone who attended worship there. With that in mind, listen to what the Holy Spirit tells us in God’s Word.
Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam” (12:26-27 NIV)
His fears came from his own thoughts, and they were filled with fear rather than faith in the living God. The Lord had promised Jeroboam an enduring dynasty. In a short time, he feared the loss of both his kingdom and his own life. How ready we all are to trust our own fears rather than the promises of God! The Lord’s promises are used by the Spirit to build hope; unbelief fuels distress and despair.
His fears impelled him to seek advice, but he clearly did not seek the Lord’s counsel. Jeroboam invented a new religion! Notice how he accomplished that evil.
- He made two golden calves (12:28a). Idolatry was direct disobedience against the Lord and his covenant law (Exodus 20:4-7). Idolatry is the “evil exchange” that people make when they turn their backs on the Lord (Romans 1:21-23).
- He appealed to the people’s love of ease (12:28b). He posed as their benefactor, who was troubled that they had to take such a difficult trip to Jerusalem. He built shrines in many places to make worship “easier” (12:31a)
- He referred to the Scriptures, though in a twisted way (12:28c). His words about the two golden calves he made are almost an exact quote from Exodus 32:8. Please understand that the quotation of a few Bible verses does not mean that the teacher is telling the truth. Jeroboam intended them to pursue evil. He put the golden calves at the two extreme ends of his kingdom: Dan in the north and Bethel in south (12:29-30).
- He made people priests that were not from the tribe of Levi (12:31). God had restricted the priesthood to the tribe of Levi, and Israel had suffered greatly in the wilderness when they had rebelled against God’s will in this matter (cf. Numbers 16-17).
- He instituted a new religious festival as an alternative to what the Lord had ordered (12:32-33). The purpose was to deflect the people from the longtime worship of the Lord. And it was easier: they didn’t have to go three times a year, but only once!
- He set an evil example (12:33). Jeroboam practiced the evil imaginations of his heart. He showed people that they could do his new religion and “get away with doing it”.
In all this, we are not told of any objection made by his people. They readily bought into their new king’s new religion. By all this, Jeroboam strengthened their desire to forsake the Lord. And he abandoned the promise that God had made to him.
We need to ask ourselves, “Am I on a course of my own fears and the love of personal ease? Are we determined to follow the Lord Jesus? Read Mark 8:34 for his way.
Grace and peace, David