“That We Might Have Hope” (Rom. 15:4)
First Kings, Chapters Twelve through Fourteen
The Divided Kingdom
While I was preparing to write this article on the dividing of the kingdom of God’s people in the Old Testament, my thoughts turned to the division that our country faced in the wake of the last Presidential election. How can we apply the truths of this account to our daily lives today in this country? May the Lord bless our study.
Solomon was dead. The kingdom was left to his son Rehoboam. During Solomon’s reign the people had been taxed heavily, both monetarily and in work, in order to support his lavish lifestyle. Therefore the people made the request that Rehoboam should treat them more leniently than his father had.
Rehoboam sought advice from his father’s seasoned advisors, who told him to grant their request, and the people would prove faithful to him. But Rehoboam wasn’t satisfied with their advice, so he sought counsel from his young friends. Their advice to him was to be even more harsh on the people that Solomon had been. This advice Rehoboam followed. This turned out to be ruinous, for the ten northern tribes rebelled and anointed their own king, Jeroboam, to rule them.
What lesson can be learned from this? We live in a society where a lack of respect for elders is evident. In fact, many heathen countries treat their elderly in a much better way. We often lack the patience and humilty to hold in high regard the words of those who have more experience than we do.
The Proverbs of Solomon are full of admonitions for the young to seek wise counsel. May we learn to seek such counsel.
More important, however, is what Rehoboam did not do. He did not go to the Lord with his problem. Solomon, when given one request of God, sought wisdom to be a more capable ruler of his people. What could have been a better time for Rehoboam to seek this same wisdom from above? Instead, he turned to humans for advice.
Don’t we often do the same thing? When faced with important decisions, how often do we turn to the wisdom of the world? Surely secular counselors and self-help books can provide good advice at times, and shouldn’t be ignored entirely. But let us not forget the treasure of God’s Word and the direct line we have to God through prayer. Take advantage of the counsel available through your pastor and other Christian friends. We also pray that the leaders of our country would be led by the Holy Spirit to make God-pleasing decisions based on God’s Word.
The story of the ten northern tribes is a sad one. Since Jeroboam felt that worship in Jerusalem would lead his people away from him, he established worship centers in Bethel to the south and Dan to the north. In these cities he had golden calves constructed for worship. He also made shrines in the high places and made priests out of non-Levites. In these ways he clearly led his people into idolatry.
No doubt Jeroboam looked upon these changes as innovations rather than idolatry and was pleased with his progressive thinking. In the modern-day church we need to be careful not to depart from the truth of God’s Word. Many today say that God’s commands regarding marriage and the role of women in the church are outdated philosophies. Many would have Christianity become more user-friendly by not focusing so much on sin and its consequences. They would have us pick and choose which teachings apply to our modern world. These “progressive” changes only lead to doubt and confusion. Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word.
Jeroboam continued in his idolatrous ways, refusing to repent. This led to judgment on Israel. Through Ahijah the prophet, Jeroboam was told that cruel deaths would come to those who succeeded him: “The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Jeroboam and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field” (1 Kings 14:11). He was also told that the ten tribes of Israel would be attacked and scattered abroad, never again to reestablish themselves in the Promised Land.
What a sobering warning to our country and its leaders today! Under Jeroboam’s leadership the people were led into idolatry and suffered the consequences of it for generations to follow. Many have lost their way in our country as well. We too are an idolatrous people. We too have set up false gods, including materialism and humanism. Let us pray for our leaders that they set a good example for our country, and may we as citizens be lights shining in a dark world.
One last lesson we can learn from this account is full of comfort and hope. In spite of all the idolatry of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, God did not forsake His promise of a Savior who was to come from the seed of Jesse. Jesus was a descendant of Rehoboam! God used the tragic events–recorded for our learning–to accomplish His will for the benefit of those who love Him–those called according to His purpose.
Our account even provides an example of one who loved him. Abijah was the one descendant of Jeroboam who did not forsake God and die a cruel death “because in him there is found something good toward the Lord God” (1 Kgs. 14:13). God called him home to heaven when he was just a boy. What a blessing death is for a believer!
So as a new administration begins in Washington D.C., let us not be afraid. God is in control of our lives. God will work things out for our good. He will keep His promises. May we remain faithful to Him and look forward to meeting Abijah in heaven.
–Prof. Joseph Lau