When the Light Goes Out

Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Israel,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
because they sell the righteous for silver,
    and the needy for a pair of sandals—
those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth
    and turn aside the way of the afflicted;
a man and his father go in to the same girl,
    so that my holy name is profaned;
they lay themselves down beside every altar
    on garments taken in pledge,
and in the house of their God they drink
    the wine of those who have been fined. Amos 2:6-8 ESV

God saves His longest and most detailed declaration of condemnation and judgment for the northern kingdom of Israel. It had been God who divided the kingdom of Solomon in half, allowing the ten northern tribes to secede under the leadership of Jeroboam. But it had been the newly crowned Jeroboam who had immediately led the people into apostasy and open rebellion against God Himself. Not long after the northern tribes had split away from Judah, Jeroboam had come up with a plan to consolidate and conserve his new leadership role. His control over the ten tribes was tenuous at best and highly vulnerable to failure. And he knew that the presence of the temple in Jerusalem would provide King Rehoboam with a strong advantage. The ten northern tribes would feel a constant obligation to return to the capital city of Judah for the annual feasts and festivals commanded by God. And this prospect concerned him greatly.

“Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.” – 1 Kings 12:26-27 NLT

Driven by fear and motivated by self-preservation, Jeroboam came up with a plan to deal with this potential problem.

So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there. – 1 Kings 12:28-30 NLT

Jeroboam created his own religion, complete with false gods, a priestly cast, and places of worship. He even decreed an annual festival to compete with the Feast of Booths, ensuring that his constituents no longer had to make the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jeroboam laid the foundation on which the future kings of Israel built their apostate dynasties. And God would hold Jeroboam personally responsible for his role in Israel’s spiritual rebellion.

“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. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods for yourself 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 and will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will burn up your royal dynasty as one burns up trash until it is all gone. The members of Jeroboam’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures. I, the Lord, have spoken.” – 1 Kings 14:7-11 NLT

And God would fulfill this promise within one generation. Jeroboam’s son, Nadab, inherited the throne but only lasted two years. He was assassinated by Baasha, who then declared himself the new king of Israel. And to secure his hold on the crown, Baasha exterminated Jeroboam’s entire family.

He immediately slaughtered all the descendants of King Jeroboam, so that not one of the royal family was left, just as the Lord had promised concerning Jeroboam by the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh. This was done because Jeroboam had provoked the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by the sins he had committed and the sins he had led Israel to commit. – 1 Kings 15:29-30 NLT

But Israel’s new king proved to be just as bad as the old one. Baasha “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of Jeroboam, continuing the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit” (1 Kings 15:34 NLT). And that pattern would continue, year after year, dynasty after dynasty. A long line of kings would come and go, but the hearts of the people would remain stubbornly committed in their rejection of God. The prophet, Hosea, would record the words of God declaring His displeasure with His chosen people.

“Wine has robbed my people
    of their understanding.
They ask a piece of wood for advice!
    They think a stick can tell them the future!
Longing after idols
    has made them foolish.
They have played the prostitute,
    serving other gods and deserting their God.” – Hosea 4:11-12 NLT

And their love affair with idolatry had eventually led them to commit gross acts of immorality, prompting God to declare them as an abomination in His eyes. 

“But then they deserted me for Baal-peor,
    giving themselves to that shameful idol.
Soon they became vile,
    as vile as the god they worshiped.” – Hosea 9:10 NLT

The Hebrew word that is translated as “vile” in this verse was usually associated with an actual idol. God considered these man-made gods to be detestable because they were intended to be substitutes for Him. Men that God had given life had turned around and manufactured these mindless and lifeless pieces of stone, wood, and precious metal as His replacements. And, in doing so, the chosen people of God became as detestable and abominable in His eyes as the gods they had made. But unlike their lifeless idols, the Israelites were fully capable of committing egregious acts of immorality. According to Hosea, the people of Israel were guilty of a wide range of sins against God and one another.

“There is no faithfulness, no kindness,
    no knowledge of God in your land.
You make vows and break them;
    you kill and steal and commit adultery.
There is violence everywhere—
    one murder after another.” – Hosea 4:1-2 NLT

And Amos discloses that the ten northern tribes had managed to violate every single one of God’s holy commandments. Because they had no love for God, they had no capacity to show love and respect for one another.

They sold the innocent for silver,
the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the dirt-covered heads of the poor;
they push the destitute away.
A man and his father go to the same girl;
in this way they show disrespect for my moral purity. – Amos 2:6-7 NLT

They were not only immoral, but they were also unjust. Their failure to love and honor God by keeping His holy commands resulted in an inability to care for one another. Centuries earlier, Moses had told the people of Israel, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NLT). But God expected their love for Him to show up in the way that they loved one another. So, when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees to name the greatest commandment in the Law of Moses, He responded, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT).

Bu the people of Israel were guilty of abandoning God and abusing one another. They had actually made themselves gods, practicing a brand of religion that was motivated by an unhealthy obsession with self and a disdain for others. Ignoring all of God’s commands regarding the just and holy treatment of their neighbor, the Israelites practiced a form of injustice that was unheard of even among the pagan nations surrounding them.

They stretch out on clothing seized as collateral;
they do so right beside every altar!
They drink wine bought with the fines they have levied;
they do so right in the temple of their God! – Amos 2:8 NLT

The Israelites were to have been a light to the nations, illustrating the way in which the just and holy laws of God could produce a community of loving and compassionate people whose lives were dedicated to honoring Him and caring for one another. But they had failed miserably. The spiritual light had gone out in Israel. They were living in the darkness of sin, the blind leading the blind, and their pervasive pride kept them from recognizing their sorrow state and returning to God in repentance.

Their arrogance testifies against them,
    yet they don’t return to the Lord their God
    or even try to find him. – Hosea 7:10 NLT

And, as Amos will point out, they had forgotten all that God had done for them. Enjoying the recent signs of success made possible by the leadership of Jeroboam II, the people of Israel had grown content, cocky, and spiritually complacent. Like the church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation, the people of Israel were blissfully ignorant of their true condition. They were boastfully declaring, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing” and yet, they were actually “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17 NLT). And their over-confidence would bring down the judgment of God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Divine Word Against Lip-Service

Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Judah,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
because they have rejected the law of the Lord,
    and have not kept his statutes,
but their lies have led them astray,
    those after which their fathers walked.
So I will send a fire upon Judah,
    and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.” Amos 2:4-5 ESV

Now God turns His attention to the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. At one time, the 12 tribes of Israel were unified and enjoyed a period of great peace and prosperity under the wise leadership of King Solomon. But even with all his wisdom, Solomon still succumbed to the temptation of sin, marrying 700 wives and 300 concubines. God had expressly commanded that Israel’s king “must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the LORD” (Deuteronomy 17:17 NLT). But it seems that Solomon had inherited his father’s love for women, which led him to violate God’s command and live out in real life what God had warned would happen. Solomon married women from such countries as Egypt, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Sidon. And, “In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been” (1 Kings 11:4 NLT).

So, God delivered the fateful news to Solomon that the great kingdom he had inherited from his father, David, would be split in two.

“Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. – 1 Kings 11:11 NLT

Solomon had willingly disobeyed the covenant established between Yahweh and the nation of Israel. And his love affair with his foreign wives and their false gods had led the people of Israel down a path marked by idolatry and apostasy.

God graciously informed Solomon that he would be allowed to complete his reign over a unified Israel. But God also broke the devastating news that, upon Solomon’s death, his son, Rehoboam would be left with a kingdom that was a shadow of its former glory.

But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.” – 1 Kings 11:12-13 NLT

Actually, Rehoboam would end up ruling over Judah and the much smaller tribe of Benjamin, while the other ten tribes revolted, declaring themselves to be an independent nation with Jeroboam as their king.

Rehoboam was severely short-changed when it came to the kingdom he inherited from his father. But it seems that he inherited every bit of his father’s love affair with idolatry. Rehoboam’s mother was an Ammonite and it would appear that she also had a strong influence over his spiritual life. Like his father before him, Rehoboam led the people to disobey and forsake God. During his reign, “the people of Judah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors” (1 Kings 14:22 NLT). And this pattern of rebellious behavior would continue on and off for centuries, periodically broken during the reign of one of a handful of godly kings who ruled over Judah.

One such king was Uzziah, who was on the throne of Judah during the time that Amos prophesied against the northern kingdom of Israel. According to 2 Chronicles, Uzziah was a good king who remained faithful to Yahweh.

He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success. – 2 Chronicles 26:4-5 NLT

We’re even told that “God helped him in his wars against the Philistines, his battles with the Arabs of Gur, and his wars with the Meunites” (2 Chronicles 26:7 NLT). Yet, even good King Uzziah had his flaws. It seems that all his military successes went to his head and his ego got the best of him.

…when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar. Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the Lord, all brave men. They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The Lord God will not honor you for this!”

Uzziah, who was holding an incense burner, became furious. – 2 Chronicles 26:16-19 NLT

Like Solomon, Uzziah violated the covenant commandments of God. According to the Mosaic law, he was forbidden from performing the duties of a priest. God had expressly forbidden anyone but an ordained and consecrated priest from entering the sanctuary of God.

“Appoint Aaron and his sons to carry out the duties of the priesthood. But any unauthorized person who goes too near the sanctuary must be put to death.” – Numbers 3:10 NLT

For his act of insurrection against the commands of God, Uzziah was spared death but was stricken with leprosy. His disease would force him to live in a form of exile, quarantined in a separate house, and banned from ever entering the temple of God again.

So, when God announced through Amos that He was bringing judgment upon the nation of Judah, He gave only cause for His action:

“They have rejected the instruction of the Lord,
    refusing to obey his decrees.” – Amos 2:4 NLT

When God had originally given the people of Israel the law, He told them that obedience to it would result in blessings, but disobedience would result in curses. He fully expected them to keep His commands, but He had given them the sacrificial system because He knew they would repeatedly fail to do so. Through the practice of blood sacrifice, the people could have their sins atoned for and forgiven. But even the sacrificial system had become nothing more than a ritualistic form of religious observance that was devoid of meaning and emptied of all its intended benefits. Even the great king, David, knew that God wanted far more than lip service and heartless religious observances.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. – Psalm 51:16-17 NLT

David had learned this invaluable lesson from his old mentor, the prophet Samuel.

“What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

And God would later explain His dissatisfaction with the feigned devotion of His people.

“These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” – Isaiah 29:13 NLT

The nation of Judah stood before God as guilty. Yes, they had enjoyed the godly leadership of a few faithful kings but, for the most part, they had been just as disobedient as their northern neighbors. They had regularly displayed their disdain and disregard for God by chasing after the false gods of the surrounding nations. And even when a godly king came along and attempted to reform the ways of the people, his efforts would be short-lived and the pattern of apostasy would begin again.

So, God warns the people of Judah that their day of destruction is coming. And God’s prophetic statement regarding their demise would come about in 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army invaded Judah and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. This devastating event would take place hundreds of years after the fall of Israel to the Assyrians. Even after watching the fall and exile of their northern neighbor, the people of Judah would continue to reject the law of God and refuse to obey His decrees. And their stubborn refusal to repent would cost them dearly.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

God is the Ultimate Kingmaker

In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned two years. But his servant Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him. When he was at Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah, 10 Zimri came in and struck him down and killed him, in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his place.

11 When he began to reign, as soon as he had seated himself on his throne, he struck down all the house of Baasha. He did not leave him a single male of his relatives or his friends. 12 Thus Zimri destroyed all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, 13 for all the sins of Baasha and the sins of Elah his son, which they sinned and which they made Israel to sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger with their idols. 14 Now the rest of the acts of Elah and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 1 Kings 16:8-14 ESV

Being the heir to a king in Israel could be a dangerous occupation, particularly if your father was under judgment from God. There was Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, who was assassinated in the second year of his reign. Baasha, his murderer, took his place on the throne of Israel. And Baasha secured his kingdom by having the entire extended family of Jeroboam executed. That way there would be no heirs to try and reclaim the throne.

Twenty-four years later, Baasha’s son, Elah ascended to the throne after his father’s death. But he too would enjoy a reign of only two years before being assassinated by Zimri, one of his own military officers. And Zimri also took drastic measures to protect his newfound power and position.

Zimri immediately killed the entire royal family of Baasha, leaving him not even a single male child. – 1 Kings 16:11 NLT

Both Jeroboam and Baasha were under the judgment of God. In Jeroboam’s case, God had placed his entire lineage under a curse because he had led the northern tribes of Israel to worship false gods.

“You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods for yourself 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 and will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will burn up your royal dynasty as one burns up trash until it is all gone.” – 1 Kings 14:9-10 NLT

And though Baasha was not a descendant of Jeroboam, he would find himself under a similar curse because he had chosen to follow Jeroboam’s example.

“I lifted you out of the dust to make you ruler of my people Israel, but you have followed the evil example of Jeroboam. You have provoked my anger by causing my people Israel to sin. So now I will destroy you and your family, just as I destroyed the descendants of Jeroboam son of Nebat. The members of Baasha’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.” – 1 Kings 16:2-4 NLT

These two men had been elevated by God from obscurity to places of power and great influence. But rather than respond to God in gratitude and reverence, they let their success go to their heads. They lost sight of the fact that they had been placed on the throne by God and it was He who deserved their honor, worship, and faithfulness. It was the prophet, Daniel, who told King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings” (Daniel 2:20-21 NLT). And the psalmist, Asaph,  added, “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:7 ESV).

Power is intoxicating. It has a highly attractive quality to it that, once tasted, can become addictive and habit forming. As has been made abundantly clear, the position of king was highly coveted in Israel. Since Jeroboam, a relative nobody had been able to enjoy his 15-minutes of fame and fortune, everyone believed the position was open to anyone with enough drive and ambition to take it. Baasha had deemed himself a far better candidate than Nadab, so he took matters into his hands, eliminated the competition, and crowned himself king. But in doing so, he failed to realize that he was nothing more than an instrument in the hand of God. The Almighty had used him to bring judgment against the house of Jeroboam. And God would have used Baasha if he had recognized the hand of God in his life and given Him the glory and honor He so richly deserved. But Baasha became blinded by his own glory.

The history of the kings of Judah and Israel has come a long way since the day when Solomon asked God for “an understanding mind” (1 Kings 3:9 ESV). As the newly crowned king of the still united nation of Israel, Solomon was aware of his shortcomings. He knew he was young and ill-prepared to rule over the vast kingdom his father had built. And, faced with the formidable task of following in his father’s footsteps, Solomon had sought the assistance of God.

“I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” – 1 Kings 3:7-9 NLT

Notice that Solomon understood that the people of Israel were God’s chosen people, not his. He was simply a figurehead, serving on behalf of God and by the sovereign will of God. At this early stage of his reign, Solomon seems quite aware of his place on the depth chart. He has no delusions of grandeur or shows no signs of an overinflated sense of self-worth. He is humble, submissive, and fully aware of his need for God’s help. But over his four-decades-long reign, Solomon would grow increasingly more self-reliant and obsessed with the trappings of power and success. He began to seek fulfillment and satisfaction in all the wrong places and, ultimately, he was forced to confess that his quest had left him unfulfilled and dissatisfied.

I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 NLT

In essence, Solomon had become an idol-factory. He manufactured all kinds of substitutes for God, hoping to discover meaning and purpose for his life. In the early days of his reign, he had turned to God. But as the years progressed, he began to seek help and hope in all the wrong places.

I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! – Ecclesiastes 2:4-8 NLT

He had it all, but he had nothing. Surrounded by all the trappings of success, Solomon found himself empty and trapped in an existential maze with no hope of finding the exit. He was lost. Yet the answer to his problem was all around him. It was God who had given him wisdom and wealth. His fame and fortune were the handiwork of God. But Solomon had begun to read his own press clippings and assumed that his greatness was his own doing. He lost sight of God, and that ultimately led him to seek help from his menagerie of false gods. That decision would have long-lasting ramifications, resulting in the division of his kingdom and the rise of men like Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Nadab, Abijah, Baasha, and Zimri.

The pattern established by Solomon continued for generations to come. Each successive king seemed to lose sight of his calling and, in time, lost touch with his God. They each became guilty of making substitutes for God, a fact that the author 1 Kings makes painfully clear.

So Zimri destroyed the dynasty of Baasha as the Lord had promised through the prophet Jehu. This happened because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed, and because of the sins they led Israel to commit. They provoked the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, with their worthless idols. – 1 Kings 16:12-13 NLT

Late in his life, long after his meaningless quest for significance had left him empty-handed, Solomon came to a painful, yet important epiphany.

Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. – Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 NLT

He had allowed God to become obscured by the pleasures and trappings of success. He had spent his entire life pursuing wealth, treasures, fame, and influence. But in doing so, he had turned His back on the very one who had made it all possible. It was God who had placed Solomon on the throne. It was God who had blessed Solomon with wisdom and wealth. And it was God who would take it all away and give it to someone else. Now, years later, the pattern continues to repeat itself, providing further proof of the validity of Asaph’s words: “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.”

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Different Brothers of the Same Mother

In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah, 10 and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. 11 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done. 12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13 He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron. 14 But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days. 15 And he brought into the house of the Lord the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels.

16 And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. 17 Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 18 Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house and gave them into the hands of his servants. And King Asa sent them to Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 19 “Let there be a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you a present of silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 20 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. 21 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and he lived in Tirzah. 22 Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, none was exempt, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them King Asa built Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah. 23 Now the rest of all the acts of Asa, all his might, and all that he did, and the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? But in his old age he was diseased in his feet. 24 And Asa slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place. 1 Kings 15:9-24 ESV

The men who inherited the thrones of Judah and Israel were not doomed to repeat their predecessors’ mistakes. Their fate was not predetermined just because their fathers happened to model ungodly behavior. Though most of these men inherited kingdoms and legacies marked by sin and rebellion against God, they each had a choice to make. But as will become increasingly clear, few of them seemed to make the right choice. The sins of a father can have a powerful influence over his son. And the manner by which he conducts himself while performing his royal duties will make a strong impression on the one who follows in his footsteps – for better or worse.

In the case of Abijam, he was succeeded as king by his younger brother, Asa. These two brothers shared the same mother: Maacah the daughter of Abishalom [Absalom], and they had both had grown up in the household of Rehoboam. But they would each prove to approach their kingly responsibilities differently. While Abijam “walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 15:3 ESV), Asa “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (1 KIngs 15:11 ESV).

The book of 2 Chronicles provides further details concerning Asa’s reign.

In his days the land had rest for ten years. And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace. – 2 Chronicles 15:1-6 ESV

This young man had born to the same pagan mother and had lived through the wicked reigns of his father and older brother, and yet he had managed to maintain a semblance of his faith in Yahweh. In fact, the author of 1 Kings declares that he “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, as his ancestor David had done” (1 Kings 15:11 NLT). Perhaps he had managed to develop a close relationship with his grandfather David before his death. Or it could be that he had grown up hearing the stories of David’s many exploits and of his close relationship with God. It’s likely that he was intrigued and influenced by God’s description of David as “a man after his own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14 ESV).

Something was triggered in Asa that led him to take a different path than that of his father and brother. After two decades of leadership that had promoted further idolatry and propagated a spirit of rebellion among the people of Judah, Asa appeared on the scene and determined to right the wrongs of his predecessors. And he got off to a great start.

He banished the male and female shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother because she had made an obscene Asherah pole. He cut down her obscene pole and burned it in the Kidron Valley. – 1 Kings 15:12-13 NLT

These radical reforms must have been met with stiff opposition. After 20 years of worshiping false gods, the people of Judah had grown comfortable with the licentious and immoral nature of idolatry. They must have enjoyed the no-rules nature of these pagan religions. These man-made gods allowed them to satisfy their basest desires and offered a tempting alternative to the more legalist and restrictive laws that accompanied the worship of Yahweh. So, it seems likely that Asa’s reforms were not welcome with open arms.

But, in spite of any opposition he may have encountered, Asa attempted to redress the sins of his father and brother by removing all the pagan shrines they had built and restoring the worship of Yahweh. He made an effort to renew the nation’s commitment to the temple as the dwelling place of God and the only place where the worship of God was to be practiced.

he brought into the house of the Lord the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels. – 1 Kings 15:15 ESV

This seems to indicate that Asa and his brother had both been guilty of offering expensive gifts to the many false gods of Judah. But now that he was king, Asa was righting that wrong. He ordered the collection of all those valuable items and had them placed in the treasury of the temple. This very public act was both a demonstration of repentance and a very visible reminder that there was only one true God who was worthy of man’s worship and deserving of such gifts of honor and praise.

Asa’s reign would last 41 years, and while he “was wholly true to the Lord all his days” (1 Kings 15:14 ESV), he would find it difficult to completely eradicate all the vestiges of idolatry in the land. The author of 2 Chronicles states that he “commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment” (2 Chronicles 14:4 ESV), and that he “took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars” (2 Chronicles 14:5 ESV). But 1 Kings reveals that his removal efforts were incomplete: “But the high places were not taken away” (1 Kings 15:14 ESV).

That little statement speaks volumes. It acts as a soft whisper of warning, providing a foreboding omen of what is to come. Asa’s, while sincere and well-intentioned, would prove to be incomplete. Asa’s failure to remove all the high places was like a doctor failing to locate and remove all the cancer cells from the body of his patient. Those few sacred sites that were left standing would continue to lure the people of Judah away from God, and the apostasy they produced would continue to spread like cancer throughout the nation. His partial obedience, while praise-worthy, would in the long-run prove insufficient. And there were other signs that Asa’s love for God, while strong, had been influenced by the actions of his father and brother.

The author of 2 Chronicles states that Asa“ had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace” (2 Chronicles 14:6 ESV), and yet 1 Kings 15:16 paints a slightly different picture.

…there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. – 1 Kings 15:16 ESV

This is not a contradiction, but simply a recognition that the animosity between the northern and southern kingdoms had not abated. Thirty-six years into his 41-year reign, Asa found himself facing a threat from Baasha, the king of Israel. This man had murdered Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, and crowned himself king. And then, in an effort to secure his hold on the throne, he executed Jeroboam’s entire family (1 Kings 15:29). His actions seemed to have spawned a mass-exodus of people who began to cross the border into Judah in order to escape his reign of terror. So, as a preventative measure, Baasha built a fortified city along the border that provided a military presence to deter any further desertions.

What happens next provides a further glimpse into Asa’s heart and how he viewed his relationship with God. When faced with this increased military presence at his border, Asa decided to seek outside help. Notice that he did not seek assistance from God. Instead, he took the sacred treasures from the house of God and sent them to “Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria” (1 Kings 15:18 ESV). In essence, he sent a bribe to the king of Syria, in the hopes that this pagan king would come to the aid of Judah. And his ploy worked.

And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah – 1 Kings 1:20-21 ESV

Asa ordered the immediate dismantling of Baasha’s military outpost and peace was restored. But there’s more to the story. The book of 2 Chronicles reveals that Asa’s decision to make a covenant with the king of Syria had been outside the will of God. The prophet of God delivered a stinging rebuke to Asa.

“Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.…You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” – 2 Chronicles 16:7,9 ESV

This news angered Asa and he had the prophet thrown in prison. And his anger did not abate. His frustration with God manifested itself in the form of cruel oppression of his own people. In time, he became a bitter man, driven by rage and suffering from poor health.

In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians. – 2 Chronicles 16:12 ESV

The great reformer had become an angry and self-reliant ruler who refused to turn to God for healing or help. His reign lasted 41 long years but ended in pain, suffering, and alienation from God. And then, he died. Yes, he proved to be a better king than his brother but, in the end, they both suffered the same fate. Their sins had left them separated from God and both men ended up leaving less-than-stellar legacies. Of Asa, the author simply states, “in his old age he was diseased in his feet” (1 Kings 15:23 ESV). And what a fitting description for the end of Asa’s life. Forty-one years earlier, he had begun his reign walking in the footsteps of his grandfather David. He had been faithful and eager to be a man after God’s own heart. But by the end of his life, Asa’s walk with God had taken a devastating detour. And now, he found himself unable to walk at all, a fitting symbol of his greatly diminished spiritual condition.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Healthy or Harmful Heritage

1 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. The rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam. And Abijam slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place. 1 Kings 15:1-8 ESV

All throughout his record of the kings of Judah and Israel, the author has dropped small hints or clues that provide further insight into the actions of these men. In the case of Rehoboam, the king of Judah, he reveals that “When Rehoboam died, he was buried among his ancestors in the City of David. His mother was Naamah, an Ammonite woman. Then his son Abijam became the next king” (1 Kings 14:31 NLT). Hidden away in these three sentences is a small detail that could easily be overlooked. But this seemingly innocuous fact helps to explain how the spiritual state of God’s chosen people had so quickly deteriorated.

Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, and Solomon had more than 700 wives and 300 concubines. Many of those women were foreign princesses who had been given to Solomon as part of the many peace agreements made between their home countries and Israel. And the author has already revealed that Solomon made many such treaties that required him to marry these women from pagan nations.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. – 1 Kings 11:1-2 NLT

God had strictly forbidden the Israelites from taking wives for themselves from among the nations that lived in the land of Canaan. Long before the people of Israel had entered the land, Moses had clearly communicated God’s prohibition against any fraternization with the enemy.

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are about to enter and occupy, he will clear away many nations ahead of you: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These seven nations are greater and more numerous than you. When the LORD your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the LORD will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you.” – Deuteronomy 7:1-4 NLT

But Solomon had chosen to disobey God’s command – in a major way. He had hundreds of foreign wives and, according to the closing verses of 1 Kings 14, he had married a woman from among the Ammonites. And once again, this small detail is intended to shed light on the moral and spiritual state of the nation. To fully grasp the significance of Solomon’s marriage to this woman,  we have to understand that the Ammonites were the descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. But more importantly, their very existence is tied to a sad and sordid event that had taken place in Lot’s life. After Lot and his two daughters had been rescued from the sinful city of Sodom by an angel of the Lord, they found themselves living in a cave in the wilderness. One night, while Lot was drunk, his two daughters had sexual relations with him, resulting in both of them becoming pregnant. And the book of Genesis tells us that “The younger daughter also gave birth to a son and named him Ben Ammi. He is the ancestor of the Ammonites of today” (Genesis 19:38 NLT).

Hundreds of years later, when the people of Israel were making their way from Egypt to the land of Canaan, their distant relatives, the Ammonites, would refuse to assist them. In fact, they would actually attempt to have them cursed. So, God put a permanent ban on the descendants of the Ammonites and Moabites.

No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants for ten generations may be admitted to the assembly of the LORD. These nations did not welcome you with food and water when you came out of Egypt. Instead, they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in distant Aram-naharaim to curse you. But the LORD your God refused to listen to Balaam. He turned the intended curse into a blessing because the LORD your God loves you. As long as you live, you must never promote the welfare and prosperity of the Ammonites or Moabites. – Deuteronomy 23:3-6 NLT

Yet Solomon had chosen to disobey the will of God by marrying an Ammonite princess. And from this unauthorized and illegal union had come the next king of Israel, Rehoboam, a man who proved to be anything but loyal to God. And when Rehoboam died, his son Abijam took his place. But even in announcing Abijam as the next king of Judah, the author drops another not-so-subtle hint regarding this man’s lineage. He states that “His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom” (1 Kings 15:2 ESV). To understand the significance of this detail, we have to look at the book of 2 Chronicles.

Rehoboam took as wife Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David, and of Abihail the daughter of Eliab the son of Jesse, and she bore him sons, Jeush, Shemariah, and Zaham. After her he took Maacah the daughter of Absalom, who bore him Abijah, Attai, Ziza, and Shelomith. Rehoboam loved Maacah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives and concubines (he took eighteen wives and sixty concubines, and fathered twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters). – 2 Chronicles 11:18-21 ESV

Abishalom is another variation of the name, Absalom. And Abijah and Abijam are one and the same person. So, what’s the point? It is that Rehoboam married a daughter of the very man who had tried to steal the crown from his grandfather, David. And Absalom had succeeded in doing so, if only for a short period of time. Had he managed to complete his coup attempt, Solomon would have never been the next king of Israel. And yet, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, had married the daughter of the man who had attempted to deny his father his God-given right to the throne of Israel.

There are so many plots and twists to this story that remain hidden from view, but they provide the context for all that we see happening. The individual actions of these men are to be seen as the byproducts of a much bigger problem. The nation of Israel has a long and sordid history of disobedience to God and each successive generation follows in the footsteps of their ancestors, displaying the lingering and infectious nature of sin. And it becomes painfully clear that each indiscretion and act of insubordination, no matter how small, has consequences. Our sins against God can take on a life of their own and, in the same way that an infectious disease can be spread from one person to another, so we can end up passing on our sinful propensities to the next generation. And that is exactly what happened with the son of Rehoboam.

…he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father. – 1 Kings 15:3 ESV

Yet, God had his hand on Abijah, giving him victories over Jeroboam and the ten tribes of Israel. But it was not because of anything Abijah had done. God was honoring the faithfulness of David.

But for David’s sake, the Lord his God allowed his descendants to continue ruling, shining like a lamp, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem. For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite. – 1 Kings 15:4-5 NLT

Not only do our sins have consequences, but our acts of faithfulness can be passed on as well. God was preserving the kingdom of the rebellious Abijah because of the faithfulness of his grandfather. And, amazingly, some of David’s faithfulness had been passed down to his grandson, manifesting itself in a powerful declaration of allegiance to God, spoken to the rival forces of the ten northern tribes.

“Do you really think you can stand against the kingdom of the Lord that is led by the descendants of David? You may have a vast army, and you have those gold calves that Jeroboam made as your gods. But you have chased away the priests of the Lord (the descendants of Aaron) and the Levites, and you have appointed your own priests, just like the pagan nations. You let anyone become a priest these days! Whoever comes to be dedicated with a young bull and seven rams can become a priest of these so-called gods of yours! But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned him.” – 2 Chronicles 13:8-10 NLT

And when the battle ensued, the people of Judah cried out to God, and He delivered them.

So Judah defeated Israel on that occasion because they trusted in the Lord, the God of their ancestors. – 2 Chronicles 13:18 NLT

God gave Abijah and the people of Judah a great victory over their enemies. This rebellious young king, who had inherited many of his father’s worst traits, had managed to lead his people back to the Lord, if only for a moment. Faced with overwhelming odds and the threat of defeat at the hands of Jeroboam and the ten tribes of Judah, Abijah had cried out to God. In that brief, shining moment, the nation of Judah had placed their hope in the Almighty and He had delivered. But sadly, Abijah’s moment of faithfulness proved to be short-lived. And the author simply records: “And Abijam slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place” ( 1 Kings 15:8 ESV).

The legacy continues. But what will be the nature of this new generation of leadership? Will the next king be faithful or faithless? Will he display a heart for God or a hard-headed insistence to live in rebellion against God? Only time will tell.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

19 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 20 And the time that Jeroboam reigned was twenty-two years. And he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his place.

21 Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. 22 And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. 23 For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 24 and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.

25 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. 26 He took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house. He took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold that Solomon had made, 27 and King Rehoboam made in their place shields of bronze, and committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house. 28 And as often as the king went into the house of the Lord, the guard carried them and brought them back to the guardroom.

29 Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 30 And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. 31 And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. And Abijam his son reigned in his place. 1 Kings 14:19-31 ESV

From this point forward, the author is going to provide a side-by-side chronology of the two kingdoms, alternating his focus from one kingly line to the other. The kingdom over which David and Solomon once reigned has been officially and permanently divided, creating two nations that will each mirror the excesses and exigencies of their rebellious leaders.

He begins with a short recap of Jeroboam’s reign over the ten northern tribes, which become known as the nation of Israel. Notice that the author refers to the wars that Jeroboam had to fight. Unlike Solomon, Jeroboam would not have the pleasure of ruling over a kingdom characterized by peace and prosperity. His entire 22-year reign would be marked by constant wars and territorial conflicts. The land that God had awarded to the ten tribes as their inheritance would become a place of turmoil and unrest. And the pagan nations that had once occupied the land would once again assert themselves and pose a persistent threat to Israel’s peace and security. But two decades into his reign Jeroboam died, and his son Nadab assumed the throne of Israel.

Meanwhile, in the south, Rehoboam the son of Solomon ruled over the nation of Judah. He sat on the throne of his father in the city of Jerusalem, but the extent of his domain had been drastically reduced. He ruled over a single tribe: That of Judah. And he did so from “the city the Lord had chosen from among all the tribes of Israel as the place to honor his name” (1 Kings 14:21 NLT). This somewhat innocuous line is actually intended to stress the dramatically altered fortunes of Judah and its king. God had graciously allowed Solomon to construct a house for Him in the capital city of Jerusalem. The magnificent temple that Solomon spent nearly eight years constructing was meant to be the dwelling place of God on earth, and God had agreed to honor this man-made structure by allowing it to be associated with His name.

“I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy—this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.” – 1 Kings 9:3 NLT

But God had gone on to warn Solomon that this honor was conditional. If he and the people failed to remain faithful to their covenant commitment, the glorious temple would fail to protect them from the judgment of God.

“As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. …But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled and will gasp in horror.” – 1 Kings 9:4-8 NLT

But Solomon had failed to live up to his end of the agreement. He allowed his love for his 1,000 forbidden foreign wives and concubines to turn his heart away from God. He became an idol worshiper and ordered the construction of countless shrines and holy sites dedicated to these false gods, which led to the apostasy of the people of Israel. And, ultimately, that is what led to the split of his kingdom. But Solomon’s acts of spiritual adultery would pale in comparison to those of his son. Rehoboam’s 17-years of misguided leadership would end up causing the nation of Judah to abandon the one true God for a pantheon of false gods and immoral religious practices.

During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even male and female 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

While the house of God sat in Jerusalem, the people occupied themselves by offering sacrifices at the countless pagan shrines dotting the landscape of Judah. There were literally Asherah poles “on every high hill and under every green tree.” In other words, they were everywhere. Asherah was a female fertility god worshiped by the Syrians, Phoenicians, and many other nations that once called Canaan home. While Rehoboam was king, he encouraged the people to resurrect the gods and religious rituals of the land’s former inhabitants. In essence, he promoted spiritual regression. He led the people to adopt the false gods of the very same nations that had once occupied the land. And years earlier, Moses had clearly communicated God’s will concerning these pagan nations and their false gods.

You must completely destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, just as the Lord your God has commanded you. This will prevent the people of the land from teaching you to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the Lord your God. – Deuteronomy 20:17-18 NLT

But hundreds of years later, Rehoboam was reviving the “detestable customs” and causing the people to “sin deeply against the Lord.” Judah had become a hotbed of religious syncretism and moral relativism. They even instituted the use of sexual promiscuity as a feature of their worship, utilizing male and female cult prostitutes as priests and priestesses. Nothing was off-limits. And the commands of God became little more than divine suggestions, up to interpretation and easily ignored.

But God was not going to tolerate their unbridled and unapologetic actions. In the fifth year of Rehoboam’s 17-year reign, God sent the Egyptians to mete out His judgment against the rebellious and unrepentant people of Judah.

King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem. He ransacked the treasuries of the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace; he stole everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. – 1 Kings 14;23-24 NLT

Having heard the rumors concerning the grandeur of Solomon’s temple and the vast extent of his wealth, the Egyptian troops set their sites on these symbols of the nation’s prosperity. They ransacked the temple and royal palace, stealing everything and further diminishing Rehoboam’s status as a king. Now, not only was his domain a fraction of its former size, his financial net worth had been greatly reduced. So much so, that he didn’t have enough capital to replace the golden shields his father had commissioned. He was forced to manufacture cheaper replicas made of bronze.

And his fortunes did not improve. Even after the Egyptians had returned home, Rehoboam found himself in a constant civil war with King Jeroboam and the ten northern tribes. Twelve years later, at the age of 58, Rehoboam died and his son took his place as the king of Judah. And with this transition of power, a sad and recurring pattern begins to emerge. With each succeeding generation, each king will bequeath to his heir not only his throne but his propensity for sin, creating a seemingly unbroken chain of ever-increasing rebellion against God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Behold Your Gods!

25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 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.” 28 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.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 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. 33 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 12:25-33 ESV

Because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God had divided his vast kingdom in half, placing ten of the 12 tribes under the rule of Jeroboam. This left Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, with only the tribe over which to reign, that of Judah. The sprawling domain he had inherited from his father had been greatly diminished, virtually overnight. This judgment against Solomon created two kingdoms out of one. In the north, the ten tribes would become the nation of Israel. In the south, the tribe of Judah, which was later joined by the tribe of Benjamin, would become known as the nation of Judah.

The 12 tribes of Israel were the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob, whose name God later changed to Israel. These 12 tribes had been set apart by God and bestowed with a great privilege. They were to be His chosen people.

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 7:6 ESV

“And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.” – Deuteronomy 26:18-19 ESV

God had miraculously rescued them out of their slavery in Egypt and had led them to the land of Canaan, which He had promised to give them as their inheritance. On their way to this promised land, God had graciously provided them with His law, which provided them with detailed instructions regarding their behavior as His chosen people. They were His treasured possession and, as such, they were to reflect their unique status by conducting their lives according to His commands. This would ensure that they remained holy or set apart, living distinctively different lives than all the other nations of the world. And because God knew they would fail to keep all His laws, He provided them with the sacrificial system so that they could receive cleansing from and forgiveness for their sins. But the one thing God required from them was faithfulness. The very first law He had given them to obey concerned their unwavering allegiance to Him.

“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3 ESV

And because He knew the natural proclivity of man’s heart, God elaborated on His command by adding the following restrictions:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…” – Exodus 20:4-5 ESV

The book of Exodus goes on to record that the very day Moses came down from the top of Mount Sinai with the commandments of God in hand, he discovered the people of Israel had already violated the first command. While he had been on the mountaintop, the people had begun to have second thoughts about his leadership and the God he claimed to represent.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” – Exodus 32:1 ESV

Aaron, the brother of Moses, obliged the people and ordered the construction of a golden calf, which the people promptly began to worship. And Moses descended from Mount Sinai to find the people dancing and singing before their new god.

And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire… – Exodus 32:19-20 ESV

This proclivity for unfaithfulness did not stop in the wilderness of Sinai. Even after God graciously led them to the land of Canaan and had assisted them in conquering and occupying the land He had promised to give them, the people continued their pattern of disobedience, which led to further spiritual adultery. Idolatry became a habit for the people of God. And it was his own penchant for false gods that led to the division of Solomon’s kingdom.

…when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… – 1 Kings 11:4-6 ESV

But the infidelity of the people of Israel didn’t end with God’s judgment. As this chapter reveals, they seemed to have an endless capacity for unfaithfulness. As soon as Jeroboam had been crowned king over the ten northern tribes, he made an executive decision that he hoped would guarantee his reign for years to come. Fearing that the people would feel obligated to worship God in Jerusalem where Solomon’s temple was located, Jeroboam came up with a plan to erect his own holy cities with his own gods. This would eliminate the need for any Israelite from having to journey to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. So, buoyed by the advice of his counselors, Jeroboam built these shrines in the cities of Dan and Bethel. And just like Aaron and Solomon, Jeroboam became personally responsible for leading the people into rebellion against God.

This caused Israel to sin; the people went to Bethel and Dan to worship the calves. – 1 Kings 12:20 ESV

And Jeroboam didn’t stop with the construction of these shrines to his man-made gods. He created his own religious system, complete with priests and a sacrificial system. He attempted to replicate all the details of the system established by God and, in doing so, provide the people with an alternative means of cleansing and forgiveness. But everything he did was in direct violation of God’s law.

It’s important to remember that God had given Jeroboam his kingdom and his kingship. He had done nothing to earn his new position or to establish his domain. It had all been handed to him by the sovereign will of God. And yet, fearing that he might lose what he had been given, Jeroboam chose to violate the will of God in order to protect and preserve his newfound power and prestige. Relying on faulty human reasoning, he determined that the best way to maintain the peoples’ allegiance was to provide them with their own gods to worship. And like docile sheep, the people willingly followed the lead of their new shepherd.

On the fifteenth day of the eighth month (a date he had arbitrarily chosen) Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar he had made in Bethel. He inaugurated a festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to offer sacrifices. – 1 Kings 12: 33 NLT

The many shrines that Solomon had built to honor Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and Chemosh the god of Moab, were still in the land of Judah. The spirit of idolatry had not ended with the split of the kingdom. And now, Jeroboam had just ensured that the ten northern had their own false gods to worship in place of the one true God. And the rest of the Book of Kings will chronicle the sad story of how the divided nation of Israel failed to give God their undivided allegiance.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

This Thing Is From Me

16 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. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah. 18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.

21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord. 1 Kings 12:16-24 ESV

Reigning over the 12 tribes of Israel had never been an easy task. Even the great King David had found it difficult to win over the allegiance of all the tribes when he first ascended to the throne. After the death of King Saul, David’s own tribe of Judah immediately crowned him as their king. But the rest of the tribes anointed Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth as their king. This included Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel (2 Samuel 2:9). For seven-and-a-half years, David would reign over the tribe of Judah, while the rest of the tribes gave their allegiance to Ish-bosheth. But eventually, these two factions ended up doing battle with one another.

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker. – 2 Samuel 3:1 ESV

After a long and protracted struggle, Ish-bosheth was assassinated by two of his own soldiers, leaving the 11 tribes of Israel in a state of disarray. Eventually, they settled their dispute with Judah and agreed to accept David as their king.

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. – 2 Samuel 5:3-5 ESV

Each of these tribes was characterized by a strong independent streak and a natural desire for autonomy. While they had all demanded that Samuel the prophet appoint a king over them, they would have each preferred that he choose a man from their own particular tribe. And this strong tribal allegiance made it difficult for any of Israel’s kings to rule without experiencing some form of unrest or dissatisfaction from the various clans. Ruling over this confederation of 12 tribes required diplomacy and humility. No king could expect to manage this diverse conglomeration of autonomous people groups through intimidation or brute force.

And yet, here was Rehoboam, the new king of Israel, attempting to do just that. Having heard the request of his people that he rescind some of his father’s more abusive policies, Rehoboam ignored their plea and threatened them with even worse conditions.

“My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!” – 1 Kings 12:14 NLT

Emboldened by the foolish counsel of his inexperienced peers, Rehoboam had decided that intimidation was better than negotiation. He stubbornly refused to make any concessions and, in doing so, he ended up alienating ten of the 12 tribes of Israel. In just a matter of minutes, Rehoboam managed to destroy the kingdom his father and grandfather had spent 80 years building.

When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,

“Down with the dynasty of David!
    We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Back to your homes, O Israel!
    Look out for your own house, O David!”

So the people of Israel returned home. – 1 Kings 12:16 NLT

Centuries later, Jesus would make a statement that powerfully illustrates the folly of Rehoboam’s decision: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25 ESV). In a single act, fueled by youthful pride and arrogance, Rehoboam had managed to destroy one of the greatest nations on the face of the earth.

The people of Judah and Israel were as innumerable as the sand on the seashore; they had plenty to eat and drink and were happy. Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These kingdoms paid tribute as Solomon’s subjects throughout his lifetime. – 1 Kings 4:20-21 NLT

Rehoboam had inherited his father’s wealth, crown, and vast domain, but it seems that his father’s wisdom had been non-transferable. He was operating in ignorance and determined to do things his own way. And he would learn the painful lesson from one of the many proverbs his father had collected.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. – Proverbs 14:12 ESV

This stubborn young man refused to believe that his kingdom was lost. In a futile effort to quell what he saw as an insurrection, “Rehoboam sent Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, to restore order, but the people of Israel stoned him to death” (1 Kings 12:18 NLT). Rehoboam quickly discovered that he was a king without a kingdom. He had lost control over the entire northern region of the nation and was left with nothing but the land belonging to the tribe of Judah as his domain. And the author of 1 Kings makes sure that his audience understands the gravity of the situation.

And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David. – 1 Kings 12:19 NLT

This was not a temporary setback, but a permanent realignment of the political, civil, and religious fortunes of the nation of Israel. What happened that day would have long-term implications for all 12 tribes. And, as the author points out, this entire scenario had been according to the sovereign will of God. It had all been His doing. Yes, Rehoboam had played his part, alienating his fellow Israelites by refusing to listen to their calls for justice. But God had already warned that this was going to happen. It was His judgment against Solomon for his sin and rebellion.

The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.” – 1 Kings 11:9-11 NLT

This was God’s will. And yet, Rehoboam continued to stubbornly refuse to accept his fate. In a last-ditch effort to restore his kingdom, he assembled an army of 180,000 men from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin with the intent to fight a civil war against his own people. But God graciously intervened.

“Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” – 1 Kings 12:23-24 NLT

Rehoboam would not be able to thwart the will of God. The die had been cast. The outcome was set in stone. The nation had been divided and no one would be able to restore it to its former glory. And the rest of the book of 1 Kings will chronicle the somewhat sordid history of the divided nation of Israel. Virtually overnight, what had once been a rich and powerful kingdom had been reduced to a shadow of its former glory. The ten tribes in the north became the nation of Israel, while Judah eventually joined forces with the tribe of Benjamin to form the nation of Judah. And these two nations would not only find themselves constantly at odds with one another but also with God. The unfaithfulness displayed by Solomon would continue on both sides of the border between these two nations. For generations to come, the people whom God had chosen would choose to disobey and dishonor Him. And yet, throughout it all, He would continue to display His love and grace, sending His prophets to call His people to repent and return. Despite their unfaithfulness, He would remain faithful.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Pride Goes Before Destruction

41 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon? 42 And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43 And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.

1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” 10 And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. 11 And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” 13 And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 1 Kings 11:41-12:15 ESV

As God had promised, Solomon was allowed to complete his reign with his kingdom still intact. But upon Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam, who succeeded him to the throne, would find himself facing a God-ordained crisis that would leave his kingdom divided and greatly diminished. It would be easy to sympathize with poor Rehoboam because he is completely unaware of what is about to happen. The day of his coronation should have been one of the most joyous occasions of his life. He was inheriting the vast kingdom his father had established but all the wealth and riches that Solomon had accumulated over the last four decades. He was a lucky young man. But the reader has a distinct advantage over Rehoboam. He knows something of which the new king is most likely unaware. Speaking through the prophet Ahijah, God had promised to divide the kingdom of Israel, awarding ten of the tribes to Jeroboam and leaving Rehoboam with only one.

For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees, I will keep Solomon as leader for the rest of his life. But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you. His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign, shining like a lamp in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name.” – 1 Kings 11:34-36 NLT

But any sorrow one might feel for Rehoboam is quickly dispelled when his true nature becomes apparent as he attempts to handle his first official crisis as king. For some undisclosed reason, Rehoboam had decided to hold his coronation ceremony in the city of Shechem, located in the land that belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. His decision to hold this important ceremony outside the city of Jerusalem may indicate that he was aware of the potential problem with Jeroboam. It is likely that Solomon had warned Rehoboam about the potential threat from the Ephraimites. Prior to his death, Solomon had become aware of the prediction concerning Jeroboam, made by Ahijah the prophet, and he had attempted to have Jeroboam murdered. Jeroboam, who was an Ephraimite, had been assigned the task of supervising the conscripted labor force from among his own people. And in performing his duties, he had become aware of the heavy burden Solomon had placed upon the Ephraimites and other northern tribes.

So, Rehoboam may have moved his coronation to Shechem in an attempt to placate and win over the disgruntled Ephraimites. But this ploy would prove unsuccessful.

From his place of exile in Egypt, Jeroboam heard the news that Solomon had died, and he returned to Israel, where he was promptly appointed the official spokesperson for the tribes of Israel. When Rehoboam arrived in Shechem for his coronation, he was met by a large contingent of the people who made an appeal through their appointed leader, Jeroboam.

“Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.” – 1 Kings 12:4 NLT

Notice that Jeroboam did not restate the words of the prophet. He did boast about the promise God had made, declaring that he was going to be the next king over ten of the tribes of Israel. There were no threats of insurrection or insurgency. He simply expressed the grievances of the people and their desire to have the heavy burdens of labor and taxation reduced.

This was a defining moment for Rehoboam. He could have seen this as an opportunity to unify the nation by demonstrating his intentions to be a fair and just king. Even though he was the son of Solomon, Rehoboam was going to have win the favor and trust of the people. And he was being given the opportunity to rectify some of his father’s less-than-stellar policies.

Having heard their complaints, Rehoboam sent the people away, assuring them that he would take everything into consideration and return with a decision. As the son of Solomon, the man who compiled and edited an entire book of proverbial sayings, Rehoboam would have grown up hearing all the sage advice his father had gathered.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11:14 ESV

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. – Proverbs 15:22 ESV

Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war. – Proverbs 20:18 ESV

Only with sound guidance should you wage war, and victory lies in a multitude of counselors. – Proverbs 24:6 BSB

So, it should come as no surprise that Rehoboam sought counsel. He first “discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father” (1 Kings 12:6 NLT). These men advised Rehoboam that he could win over the hearts of the people if he would respond favorably to their request. He could forestall any potential unrest by demonstrating that he was, first and foremost, the servant of all the people. While Rehoboam was from the tribe of Judah, he was expected to serve as God’s shepherd over all the tribes of Israel. By making this concession, Rehoboam could avoid a rebellion and establish himself as a compassionate and caring king.

But Rehoboam didn’t like what he heard. The author flatly states, “Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers” (1 Kings 12:8 NLT). And in doing so, Rehoboam lived out the truth revealed in the proverbs his father had so painstakingly collected.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15 ESV

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. – Proverbs 19:20 ESV

Listen to instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. – Proverbs 8:33 BSB

Unlike his father, Rehoboam had not been given the gift of wisdom from God. He was young and inexperienced and in desperate need of wise counsel. But when he received it, he rejected it, choosing instead to seek out those who would tell him what he wanted to hear. Disliking the counsel of the older and wiser men, Rehoboam turned to his peers for advice. And they were more than eager to give it.

The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” – 1 Kings 12:10-11 NLT

These brash young men appealed to Rehoboam’s ego. They advised him to law down the law and establish his reputation as a no-holds-barred disciplinarian who ruled with an iron fist. These young men knew Rehoboam well and their advice was meant to appeal to his over-inflated ego and his desperate desire to escape the shadow of his father’s reputation. And in a demonstration of his inherent foolishness and pride, Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and handed down his decision to the people. And in doing so, he fulfilled the words of the proverb.

Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe. – Proverbs 28:26 NLT

Rather than humbly heed the pleas of his people, Rehoboam listened to his own heart. But the author reveals that this was all part of the sovereign will of God.

…it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word. – 1 Kings 12:15 ESV

God didn’t force Rehoboam to do what he did. This stubborn and prideful young man simply acted according to his own sinful nature. But in doing so, he was fulfilling the will of God. Rehoboam’s decision would fuel the fire that would end up burning down his kingdom. In his foolish attempt to establish himself as a great king, Rehoboam was unwittingly destroying his own kingdom. And, once again, he was living out the wisdom of the proverbs.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

2 Chronicles 11-12, 1 Timothy 2

God-less Living Vs Godly Living.

2 Chronicles 11-12, 1 Timothy 2

When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him. – 2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV

After the split of the kingdom, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, retained two tribes – Judah and Benjamin – as well as control of the city of Jerusalem. And when he made plans to attack Jeroboam and the people of Judah, God told him, “You shall not go up or fight against your relatives. Return every man to his home, for this thing is from me” (2 Chronicles 11:4 ESV). God had brought about the split of the kingdom because of the disobedience and unfaithfulness of Solomon. Because Rehoboam listened to the word of the Lord, he was able to maintain control over the nation of Judah. He even found that those living in the northern kingdom of Israel, who were appalled by Jeroboam’s idolatry, soon joined forces with him and “they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they made Rehoboam the son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Chronicles 11:17 ESV). In other words, they remained faithful to God for three years. Then something happened. “When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV). As his kingdom became stronger, Rehoboam became increasingly more independent and saw less and less need for God. He let his success go to his head and it had a direct impact on his heart.

What does this passage reveal about God?

So God stepped in. He brought the Egyptians, along with the Libyans, Sukkum and Ethiopians against Jerusalem. And God made it clear to Rehoboam why this was taking place. “You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak” (2 Chronicles 12:5 ESV). As had happened all throughout the period of the judges, God brought “plunderers” against His people in order to teach them a lesson. And this latest threat had the same impact as all those before them. “Then the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, ‘The Lord is righteous’” (2 Chronicles 12:6 ESV). They acknowledged that what God was doing was just, righteous and right. They deserved it. They were guilty. And when God saw their response, He said, “I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless, they shall be servants to him, that they may know my service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries” (2 Chronicles 12:7 ESV). The NET Bible translates that last line as, “Yet they will become his subjects, so they can experience how serving me differs from serving the surrounding nations.” They were going to learn the difference between faithfully serving God and having to unwillingly serve a pagan nation. God wanted His people to be godly. He wanted them to live with Him as the focal point of their individual and corporate lives. But because the people of Judah had turned their backs on God and, in essence, become God-less, He allowed them to experience what life could be like without Him. Shishak and the Egyptians ransacked the temple, taking away all the treasure David and Solomon had accrued. Yet, God spared Judah from complete destruction because they humbled themselves before Him, admitting their guilt and His justified actions against them.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It is amazing that God continued to bless Rehoboam in spite of all he had done to forsake Him. “So King Rehoboam grew strong in Jerusalem and reigned” (2 Chronicles 12:13 ESV). He would reign for 17 years in Jerusalem, “the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put his name there” (2 Chronicles 12:13 ESV). And yet, Rehoboam would not learn from his mistakes. He would not respond to God’s grace and mercy with godly living. Instead, “he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14 ESV). Like Israel’s first king, Saul, and his own father, Solomon, Rehoboam would forsake God. He started out well, but finished poorly. He went from godliness to godlessness. And the amazing thing is that his actions took place even while God was in the midst of blessing him and prospering his kingdom

Over in the book of 1 Timothy, Paul encourages his readers to live godly lives. He challenges them to be people of prayer. He instructs them pray for “all people”, including kings and all who are in high places. His goal? “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV). Our prayers are to be focused on asking God to provide a safe and fertile environment in which to live god-focused lives so that we might influence the culture around us. We are to pray for an atmosphere in which we can live for God and share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet. Paul encourages the men to be prayerful, uncontentious, and not quarrelsome. He tells the women to be modest in their dress, respectable in their appearance, and self-controlled in their behavior. At the heart of Paul’s message is the power of and need for prayer in the life of the believer. As Dr. Thomas L. Constable so clearly explains, “Prayer is so important because it invites God into the situation we pray about and it secures His working on behalf of those in need” (Dr. Constable’s notes on 1 Timothy, 2007 Edition). Prayer expresses our dependence upon and need for God. It is at the core of godly living. To live a life without prayer is to live a god-less life. It communicates to Him that we have no need for Him in our lives. When Rehoboam and the people humbled themselves before God, they were acknowledging their need for His help and forgiveness.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God desires His people to live godly lives – lives that are empowered by His Spirit, obedient to His Word, and dependent upon His help. To forsake God does not require that we completely turn our backs on Him or worship other gods in place of Him. It can simply mean that we have chosen not to depend on Him. We can become self-sufficient, autonomous in our decision making, and convinced that we can somehow live our lives in our own strength and according to our own wisdom. I can’t help but keep reflecting on the fact that Solomon had wisdom and knowledge that had been given to him by God. Yet he ended up turning his back on God and worshiping idols made with human hands. Not exactly the wisest decision he could have made. But even godly wisdom is useless if we don’t put it into effect. It is useless to us if we choose to disobey it. Godliness is nothing more than God-centeredness – living our lives completely dependent upon Him. It is leading peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 ESV). When we live godly lives, made possible through the work of Christ on the cross, we become living testimonies of God’s grace and His life transforming power.

Father, I want to live godly. I want my life to reflect my dependence upon You and reveal Your power through me. I want to be a man of prayer, a man who lives to serve, please and obey You in all that I do. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org