Divided Kingdom. Divided Allegiance.
“There was constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” – 1 Kings 14:30 NLT
What a sad time in the history of the people of Israel. Gone are the glory days of Solomon. During his days, gold and silver were in abundance. Israel was wealthy, powerful, and influential. They enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. But now the kingdom was divided into north and south. The once powerful tribe of Judah was alone. The other tribes had split off and formed the northern kingdom of Israel. Their leader was Jeroboam, a former servant of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir to his throne. But in spite of their differences, the two kingdom shared one thing in common: They were both unfaithful to God. Rehoboam and Jeroboam had followed in Solomon’s footsteps, erecting idols to other gods. Jeroboam had gone so far as to establish a completely separate worship system for the people in the northern kingdom. He chose and ordained his own priests and set up his own holy cities. There he erected altars to the gods he had made – two golden calves.
God was not happy. But He wasn’t surprised either. He knew this was going to happen – after all, He’s God. And because He is God, He had to deal with the divided allegiance of both Judah and Israel. To Jeroboam He said, “I promoted you from the ranks of the common people and made you ruler over my people Israel. I ripped the kingdom away from the family of David and gave it to you. But you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted him to do. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods and have made me furious with your gold calves. And since you have turned your back on me, I will bring disaster on your dynasty” (1 Kings 14:7-10 NLT). God had chosen Jeroboam and given him all he had. In return, Jeroboam had turned his back on God. He had disobeyed Him and chosen to serve gods of his own choosing. But Rehoboam was no better. “During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, arousing his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. They built pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites” (1 Kings 14:22-24 NLT).
So God was forced to deal with their disobedience and apostasy. In fact, you see throughout these two chapters, that God is serious about the obedience of His chosen people. Even the young prophet, “the man of God” whom God sent with a word of warning for Jeroboam, suffered death because he refused to obey God completely. It would be easy to look at these two chapters and paint God as a vengeful, angry god who wipes out all those who disagree with Him. But what you have is a picture of the holiness of God in the face of the sinfulness of men. God graciously chooses these men and gives them places of prominence and importance in His kingdom. He makes them a part of His divine plan. In return, He asks for obedience. He reveals His power to them. He makes clear His expectations. The writer of the book of 1st Kings works hard to point out that disobedience brings a curse while obedience brings blessing. The reign of Solomon is described in great detail, pointing out the tremendous blessings of God on the people of God as long as they obeyed Him. But beginning with Solomon we see a pattern of willful rejection of the commands of God. And God is forced to deal with the divided allegiance of His people. He has chosen them, set them apart for His glory, and established them as His own. Their response? They reject Him. They disobey Him. They turn from Him.
And the pattern continues to this day. We love to enjoy the blessings of God. As the people of God, we expect them – even demand them. We pray for, and fully expect to enjoy peace, prosperity, abundance, joy, health, happiness, and a relatively care-free life. And for the most part, we do. But what is our response to the blessings of God? More often than not, it is disobedience. It is divided allegiance. We end up making other gods, replacements for the one true God. We turn to other things for our happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, encouragement, peace of mind, and protection. We end up worshiping the gods of entertainment, money, materialism, pleasure, politics, career, sex, and even self. And then we are shocked and appalled when God is forced to deal with our unfaithfulness. We don’t understand how a loving God can deal so unlovingly just because we have turned our back on Him. But God so often disciplines us because He loves us. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” God wants us to obey Him because He wants to bless us. He wants us to enjoy His best for us. But He cannot tolerate our willful rebellion and rejection of Him. There are consequences for turning our backs on God. He continues to show grace and mercy, but He doesn’t turn a blind eye to our rebellion. To do so would make Him less than God. So, “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever ? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:7-11 NLT).
Father, help me to realize that my allegiance to You can become so easily divided. I can walk away from You so quickly and pursue gods of my own making. And yet, when I do, I am shocked when I suffer the consequences. I almost demand that You bless me. I want the blessing without the obedience. But that is not the way You work. You demand obedience. You have already blessed me is so many ways. You have chosen me, saved me. redeemed me, and promised me eternal life. In return, you ask that I trust You, obey You, follow You, and remain faithful to You. But I don’t want to obey You out of fear or some sense of obligation, but willingly and gratefully, because of all that You have done for me. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men