Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Sin of Jeroboam

Devotion: 1 Kings 12:25-33

As I mentioned in our last newsletter the blog will be following the ministry of the Prophet Elijah for a while.The prophet emerges on the scene of Israel during a turbulent time and remained a popular figure in the history of Israel right up to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To understand the prophet and his ministry we need to look at the historical context that led up to the reign of King Ahab of Israel. That context really begins with the naivete of King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon and grandson of King David. When Solomon died, Rehoboam was to ascend to the throne, yet his coronation was not without controversy. The 10 northern tribes were not happy with the forced labor they endured under Solomon and wanted assurances that Rehoboam would not continue his father's policies. Rehoboam took counsel from his father's advisers who instructed him to capitulate to the people's demands and thus be loved and respected. Not satisfied, Rehoboam (who was around 18 at the time) took counsel from his friends (also about 18) and they instructed him to deal even more harshly with the people, postulating that fear and reprisal would keep the people in line. Faced with two conflicting pieces of advice, Rehoboam went with his friends and the people revolted and rejected his claim to reign over them.
"And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents." -1 Kings 12:16 ESV
Waiting in the wings was Jeroboam. Jeroboam had been a capable official (ironically over Solomon's forced labor program). After receiving a message from the Lord through Ahijah the prophet, Jeroboam led an unsuccessful rebellion against Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:26-40). This led to Jeroboam's flight to Egypt. Yet, when Solomon died, as Rehoboam was preparing for his coronation, Jeroboam emerges on the scene again, providing a ready alternative to the ill-advised Rehoboam when the 10 northern tribes entered into rebellion against the heir of David. It took the Lord Himself to intervene through the prophet Shemaiah to prevent open civil war (see 1 Kings 12:16-24).
The end result was a splitting of the United Kingdom of Israel into a northern (Israel) kingdom and southern (Judah) kingdom. The southern kingdom continued the Davidic dynasty and certainly outlasted the northern kingdom (they fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC, while Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC). The northern kingdom followed Jeroboam's line (until they were usurped, but more on that much later). It is Jeroboam's acts as the first King of Israel where we pick up the story.
"Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, 'Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.' " -1 Kings 12:25-27 ESV
Civil War was narrowly avoided between Judah and Israel, yet the specter of open conflict was haunting Jeroboam.Since his was a bloodless coup-d'etat the northern tribes had no real investment in his reign. What united the north under Jeroboam was not his leadership, charisma or policies, but rather a general disdain for Rehoboam. The political question that Jeroboam needed to answer was how long could that disdain sustain his reign (try saying that 5 times fast). He knew that the more interaction the northern tribes had with the south, the more likely reconciliation would take place. What's more, the religion of Israel, YHWHism, meant a central place of worship, namely the Temple in Jerusalem, that was also the seat of the southern monarchy. That religion was one of both mercy and justice, but the mercy tended to outweigh the justice in the long term.
So what was the king to do? Jeroboam could have listened to the prophet Ahijah and remained faithful to the Lord and let the events transpire as he had been promised. In that scenario, according to the prophet, it would be the line of Jeroboam and not the line of David from whom the redeemer would come and it would be Jeroboam's name and not David's name that would be held in reverence.
So the king decided to go a different direction (and leave behind the Word of the Lord).
"So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, 'You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.' And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan." -1 Kings 12:28-29 ESV
Jeroboam's solution is to create two shrines each with a golden calf idol to represent the gods (or God) who delivered Israel out of Egypt. Such a program did not end well the last time it was attempted by Israel under the leadership of Aaron (see Exodus 32). And, as anyone familiar with sin could guess, the sin of idolatry did not end there.
"Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings." 1 Kings 12:30-33 ESV
Jeroboam proceeds to make temples in the high places, most likely to Baal and his consort Asherah and appoint priests to oversee these shrines who are not Levites (the tribe of priests chosen by God-see Numbers 18:1-7). One sin leads to another and soon the prophecy over Jeroboam is discarded for what is politically expedient. Isn't that the way it usually goes?
King Jeroboam's legacy was one of rebellion against God. He sets up idol worship to replace true worship in an attempt to secure his reign and dynasty. In turning from the Lord he puts in motion his dynasty's demise.
What can we take from this? I believe it tells us that sin makes promises it cannot keep. It promises life, fulfillment and happiness, and ends in death, emptiness and misery. Sin begets more sin and it is better to stop it before it starts. To do that, we need true repentance that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who conquered sin on the cross for us and for our salvation.

The song today is "On & On" by Christ Church Manchester Music.

News for You:

  • CPC's Youth Group for 6th-12th grades is meeting Sundays from 7-8:30 p.m.
  • The annual Church picnic will take place Saturday, August 25 at 4 p.m. Sign-up at the Welcome Center at CPC!
  • Small Group Leaders are needed for our Fall groups. If you are interested, Pastor Bill is hosting a meeting in the Memorial Parlor following worship on Sunday, 8/19.
  • Sunday School and Sunday School Remix will resume in September (9/16 and 9/18 respectively). The next series will cover the history and theology of our confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith

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