Read 1 Kings 11:28-43
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then at the LORD’s command, he shouted, ‘O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.’” (1 Kings 13:2 NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 63: Jeroboam. Whe n God holds people and nations accountable, it is seldom painless or smooth. Solomon had gotten a little too big for his britches and forgot that he owed everything he possessed (his wisdom, his reign, his success) to God. The way that such forgetfulness often takes place is by rulers placing themselves and their own interests above the interests of the people. Solomon was no exception to that rule.
He forgot that he was merely the ruler of God’s people, but not God. He forgot only God is truly sovereign and that, as king, he was a representative of God and a reflection of God’s presence with the people of Israel. Instead of serving God faithfully, Solomon served himself and his own lavish, eccentric whims. He raised taxes to pay for an extravagant palace to house his 700 wives and 300 concubines (or sexual partners who were not married to him).
He also raised taxes to pay for the building of the Temple, as well as the building of other temples to foreign gods in order to promote trade and tourism. He forced 30,000 men to build the temple, and continued in his father’s footsteps with regard to offing his political opponents. Solomon saw himself as above God’s law and, thus, he brought God’s justice upon himself.
This is where Jeroboam comes in. Jeroboam was somone who initially found favor with the king. Solomon appointed him when he was a young man to be the superintendent of the people of his tribe. As superintendent, Jeroboam became intimately connected to his people and increasingly aware of the ways in which they were suffering under the weight of Solomon’s rule. Their discontent led him to empathize with them and, eventually, take up their cause.
The name Jeroboam means, “the people contend” or “he pleads the people’s cause”. God must have definitely guided his parents to name him that, for he did end up pleading the people’s cause. God sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam to let him know that God was displeased with Solomon and that God was going to split the kingdom in two, giving ten of the tribes to Jeroboam to rule over.
Hearing this, Jeroboam began to act. He started to conspire with others against the king. When Solomon learned of the plan, he sought to have Jeroboam killed. Thus, he fled to Egypt, where he lived under the protection of Pharoah until Solomon died. Following that he returned, and eventually led a successful revolt that resulted in the splitting of the kingdom.
Jeroboam went on to rule the Northern Kingdom of Israel, while Rehoboam oppressively ruled the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Unfortunately, Jeroboam fell into the same pit that Solomon and others before him did. He became paranoid that the people would turn on him, because they had to travel to Jerusalem (in Judah) and worship God. Having to go to another Kingdom to worship their God, Jereboam feared that they would eventually give their allegiance to Rehoboam and kill him.
So, the paranoid king of the northern Kingdom of Israel set up temples with golden calfs in them in order to keep people from going to Judah to worship. Sadly, Jeroboam stopped pleading the people’s cause and began to try to manipulate the people so that he could remain in power. In the end, this led Israel down a destructive and wayward path with devastating consequences.
Hopefully, the tale of Jeroboam challenges us to pause and reflect on our own lives. Who did God create us to be? Have we become all that God desires for us? Have we carried out God’s plan for us, in its entirety, or have we fallen short, turned away, and abandoned who we ought to be at our very core. An honest and humble reflection will always lead us to see our shortcomings and beckon us to change. Let us, unlike Jeroboam, not fail to recognize our need for God and our faithful duty to our God-given purpose. May God, through Jesus Christ, help us to that end.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“To get overprotective about particular readings of the Bible is always in danger of idolatry” – N.T. Wright
Lord, help steer me away from turning to and worship idols of any sort. I desire to remain on the path of faithfulness for you, alone, are my God. Amen.