The Divided Kingdom quickly alienates the Lord

From our daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 12-14
April 17, 2019

 

I wish that I could make this particular reading into two or three segments, because this is one of the most striking – and I think relevant – passages in the entire book of 1 Kings.

We see here the story of how the kingdom of Israel is split into two nations, with the 10 northern tribes rebelling against king Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, and forming their own kingdom under Jeroboam.

As you may remember, all of this happened because of the idolatry and spiritual failings of Solomon. In the space of a single generation, Israel has gone from peace and prosperity to utter turmoil, entering into a period which will eventually end Israel’s sovereignty as a kingdom. Israel payed the price exactly as the law of Moses predicted that it would should the people depart from the law and serve other gods.

By the end of Rehoboam’s reign, the Egyptians had invaded and taken away all the riches, all the gold, all the opulent treasures that Solomon had amassed.

Solomon’s unfollowed advice

It reminds of Solomon’s own words in Ecclesiastes 2:

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:9-11

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. Ecclesiastes 2:18-19

But what stands out about this story to me is that it all came about because God’s people steadfastly refused to do what God commanded – even in the face of overwhelming evidence and a complete clarity of what God wanted them to do, and repeated evidence that they knew who God was, what he desired, and how powerful He was to do all his will.

When God’s instructions are ignored

We have Jeroboam, who is given the throne by the power of God, revealed to him by the prophet Ahijah, and promised that if he will honor God and follow his will, God will bless and preserve his house. And immediately on taking the throne, Jeroboam proceeds to violate God’s entire law of worship, mainly because he doesn’t trust that the God who gave him the kingdom can also preserve that kingdom for him.

We see a prophet who witnesses first-hand the power of God and the surety of God’s word, only to be killed on the way back home because he makes the mistake of listening to another man claiming to be a prophet, who convinces him that God had sent HIM a different message, and that the prophet should ignore God’s command and do what the prophet has told him.

We’re never told why this man lied to the prophet – it appears he simply wanted to share in the glory of the man to whom God has actually spoken. He openly acknowledged that his own lies are what caused this prophet to be killed. Maybe he just didn’t believe at the time that God really meant what he had told the other prophet, and figured that a lie told for the benefit of the prophet and for himself wouldn’t hurt anyone.

And then we have Rehoboam, who not only does not learn from his mistakes in allowing the kingdom to be split, or from the sins of Jeroboam, but he embraces idolatry just as much as Israel does, ultimately leading to the invasion by Egypt, and an end to the glorious period that had been ushered in by David, God’s anointed.

The results of rejecting divine authority

We see here man’s amazing ability to justify himself in any behavior, all the while convinced that he is accepted by God. Very little has changed – how many times do we find ourselves talking to someone who is firmly convinced that they have a relationship with God, taking a position on doctrine or morality that is completely in opposition to the scriptures – in some cases even presenting their case dishonestly, as the old prophet did in 1 Kings 13.

The message of these passages rings clear: as God’s people, we need to trust God when He tells us something through His word, not justifying ourselves to follow our own ideas because we aren’t convinced that God will truly work through us as He has promised, and not allowing ourselves to be diverted from the word by people who claim to be on the same side, all the while teaching doctrines that will ultimately lead us into sin.

Next reading: 1 Kings 15-17

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