There were some watershed moments in the life of God’s people during the times of the kings. We will read of one of the more important ones this coming week in our reading. This event and choice made by Jeroboam truly set Israel on a course that doomed the nation to exile and captivity. The event of which I speak is when Jeroboam made a decision to believe his own heart rather than believing God’s Word and promise concerning his kingdom.
In 1 Kings 11 we read of Solomon’s disastrous choice to multiply wives among the ungodly nations that surrounded Israel. Because he did this, Solomon began to tolerate idolatry in his heart – and then eventually allow idolatry to flood Israel. The people were worshipping false god’s – Ashtoreth, Milcom, Chemosh, and even the horrible god of Moab, Molech. God brought judgment upon Solomon and his kingdom for this – which involved tearing 10 tribes of the kingdom of Israel out of the hands of the son of Solomon, Rehoboam.
When God did this, He had the prophet Ahijah meet a young man named Jeroboam and proclaim that God was going to give him 10 tribes of Israel as kingdom. With this prophecy also came a word from God to Jeroboam. God promised to make an “enduring house” for Jeroboam if he listen to God and walk in His ways. It was a very clear promise from God.
When Jeroboam received his kingdom – he began listening to his own fleshly thinking rather than God’s promise. He said the following to himself – which proved to be spiritual fatal to him and to the kingdom of the 10 tribes of Israel.
Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. "If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt." He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 1 Kings 12:26-32 (NASB)
Jeroboam decided to listen to his own heart, which feared Israel returning to Rehoboam, instead of remembering God’s promise. That is when he decided he could cause his kingdom to endure by instituting a religion of his own making. He copied some aspects of what God had done – but changed enough so that he would be ultimately in control of this new god of his own making. Clearly what he had done was directly disobey God – and institute idolatry into the life of God’s people.
In what we will read – we will see that God rebukes him for this and says that his actions will lead to disaster for Israel. The historical reality is that there was never a godly king who followed after Jeroboam. Israel went through a succession of godless kings – descended deeper and deeper into idolatry and sin – until the day they were taken away into captivity.
What can we learn from this? First and foremost we need to see the intense danger of idolatry. When we make a god with our minds rather than honor God who has revealed Himself in Scripture – very bad things will happen in our lives. Oh how very careful we need to be to worship the God of the Word – and not the god of whatever we want in our hearts. God takes the sin of idolatry very seriously. The second lesson, which is equally important, is to remember and meditate on God’s promises to us. We will be tempted to forget God’s promises because of our own fears and struggles. But God will bring to pass what He has promised. The dangers we face are that of putting God’s promises to the side and instead, believe whatever our heart thinks. The problem with this is our hearts are desperately wicked and will turn from the truth if we trust them without the corrective and directive of God’s Word leading us.
Jeroboam’s actions led to dire consequences not only for himself – but also for his children and his entire family. We need to remember that if we turn to idolatry and a self-made god, dire consequences will also come to us and to our families. It is far better to remember God’s promises and let them fill our minds and hearts. Remember He has told us to let the Word of Christ dwell richly in our hearts. We will be blessed if we keep His promises and His Word foremost in our thinking so that our hearts will be strengthened by it to stand on His Word no matter what may come.