A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF 1 KINGS: Are You Willing to Follow God 1 Kings 12
Dr. Jerry A. Collins
This time of year many graduates will be celebrating with open houses and parties. In 1 Kings 12 we have a coronation party about to happen. Then Rehoboam went to Shechem [a town in the middle of the hill country], for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king (v 1). Rehoboam is the rightful heir to the throne as Solomon’s son (11:43). But we have a slight problem. A potential rival, Jeroboam, will threaten this friendly royal transition. Now it came about when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it that he was living in Egypt (v 2). Then we have an ominous parenthetical note, (for he was yet in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of King Solomon).
We also learn in 1 Kings 11:40 that Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death; but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon. So, why did King Solomon want to assassinate Jeroboam which prompted him to flee to Egypt to save his life? Solomon had personally observed Jeroboam while king and was so impressed with Jeroboam’s capabilities as both an industrious worker and a valiant warrior that he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph (1 Kings 11:28). Unfortunately, for Solomon God had raised up a series of adversaries to his rule due to the fact that near the end of it Solomon had abandoned God. Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice (11:9).
One of these adversaries was Jeroboam who also rebelled against the king (11:26). But that is not all. God had earlier sent a prophet named Ahijah to Jeroboam to reveal that if Jeroboam would remain faithful to God, that God would give him most of Solomon’s kingdom. if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you (v 38). It was after this revelation from the prophet that Solomon, who heard of it, began his hunt for Jeroboam which was his impetus to flee to Egypt.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch or should we say coronation, this same Jeroboam arrives from Egypt. Then they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:3). Everyone knows what this is all about. Is this going to remain a friendly royal transition or not? The narrative is fraught with intrigue, conspiracy and maneuvering because that is exactly how it was. God was even involved in the machinations by promising Jeroboam most of Solomon’s kingdom which keeps the potential rivalry afloat with his son Rehoboam.
PT—Remember, Jeroboam was in flight due to God’s will for him and Word to him. Don’t ever think that following the will of God is the path of least resistance. It can actually be the most dangerous path you take. You decide to not pursue revenge or choose to avoid speaking evil of that person or whatever you do you will do your work heartily as for the Lord because these are the direct will of God for you. And whatever the cost to you personally is irrelevant. That was Jeroboams circumstance. And Jeroboam probably had no idea that being obedient to the will of God would produce such difficulty for him.
TRYING TO GET IT RIGHT
Verses 4-5: Jeroboam takes the lead in the negotiations. Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you" (v 4). Solomon had overtaxed the people for 40 years with his strenuous building projects, including the Temple. Rehoboam asked for three days, then return to me." So the people departed (v 5). It is important to note that the people would have sworn allegiance had Rehoboam acquiesced to their reasonable request. So, this seems to be a genuine offer on behalf of the northern ten tribes and one that should be rightfully considered. But it also explains the rising tensions between the tribes after Solomon’s death. Enough already. Unfortunately, we learn that Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him (v 8) before he even consulted the younger men.
PT—We can see some of the spiritual condition of the potential king here as he seems to just be going through the motions having already made up his mind. This is not an honest exchange. Actually, this is a disingenuous attempt that only keeps up appearances.
Verses 6-11: First, Rehoboam consulted the senior class who counseled if you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servant’s forever (v 7). Rehoboam had to relate to the people based on who was, not on who his father was. If he showed kindness and a servant’s heart to the people, they would love and serve him forever. This was good advice and it was based in an honest appraisal without an agenda.
—Then, he went to the freshmen class who advised They suggested an adversarial approach, one that would make Rehoboam more feared than was Solomon.
An Application— Whenever you have leverage in a situation, attempt to use it to pursue righteous ends. You have been given that capacity to bring glory to God, not to serve your own purposes. The temptation for us is to wield our influence without regard for the righteousness it could produce.
TIT FOR TAT
Verses 12-14: We see the affirmation of Rehobaom’s foolish decision. The king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him (v 13). He took the advice of his friends, which was terrible advice, and spoke to the people as if he did not need their support. He counted them as nothing. 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 (v 14). In this case, Rehoboam clearly should have listened to the people. This is not to say that a leader should always lead by popular vote, but a leader needs the wisdom to know when what the people want is actually best for them.
This angry reply to the people by Rehoboam was the tool the Lord used to bring Jeroboam to lead the 10 tribes into revolt. For it was a turn from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. We remember the statement that the prophet Ahijah had said to Jeroboam. Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes (1 Kings 11:31).
PT— And so too the words of the prophet Isaiah come to mind. So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11). God’s Word will accomplish whatever purpose God has for it. Jesus spoke of the Word of God this way. God managed this whole series of events, but He did not Rehoboam take this unwise and sinful action. God simply left Rehoboam alone and allowed him to devise whatever strategy to implement the will of God for him and then to eventually he made the critical errors his sinful heart to make.
An Application—And this is how we study the Word of God. We are confronted with it’s teaching. Then we decide what to do with what we have learned. God makes clear His directive will, but we must devise whatever strategy of obedience needed to put it to use. That is up to us to figure out and then apply to a particular life situation.
Verses 16-17: At last now, it seems, that Ephraim to the north can finally once and for all throw off the
yoke of Judah to the south and return to the place of leadership in the north they desperately coveted
since the nation was birthed. When all Israel that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, "What portion do we have in David? no inheritance in the son of Jesse; to your tents, O Israel! (v 16). Rehoboam’s foolishness made Israel reject not only Rehoboam, but also the entire dynasty of David. They rejected the descendants of Israel’s greatest king. It takes years to build unity, but only a moment to tear it apart. The kingdom officially split into two. But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them (v 17).
Verses 18-20: Apparently, Rehoboam did not take the rebellion seriously until this happened. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem (v 18). When his chief tax collector was murdered, he knew that the ten tribes were serious about their rebellion. The inevitable result was that Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day (v 19).
—From this point on in the history of Israel, the name “Israel” referred to the ten northern tribes and the name “Judah” referred to the southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah. It came about when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. None but the tribe of Judah followed the house of David (v 20). Thus, the prophecy of Ahijah in 1 Kings 11:29-39 was fulfilled. At the time the prophecy was made, it seemed unlikely, but God’s word through His prophet was fulfilled.
Verses 21-24: Rehoboam had foolishly intended to make war against the seceding tribes of Israel. Now when Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon (v 21). But
God, in judgment, had ordained the north-south split (verse 15; 11:29-39), so to attack Israel was to oppose God Himself. You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me (v 24). This warning from God was enough to stop them. They would not go into battles against their brothers. This is the plan of God for taking the ten tribes away from the family of Solomon. God had warned him of this very thing, because he worshipped false gods. They are still listening to the Word of the Lord through the prophets at this time. There would be no war now.
An Application—God is always working behind the scenes orchestrating His will and purpose which we cannot discern at the time. That’s what makes the Christian life an adventure since it requires that we walk by faith and not by sight in the sense that we discern everything God is doing. Not possible.
WILL YOU FOLLOW GOD
Verses 25-27: Jeroboam needed a capital city because Jerusalem was in the territory of Judah and Benjamin. The city of became the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel (v 25). This, of course, to solidify his rule in the north. It seems that Jeroboam’s reign began with energy and opportunity. He had a significant promise from God through the prophet Ahijah. However, the fact of the divided kingdom did not mean that the northern tribes were exempt from their covenant obligations.
They were under the Law of Moses as much as the southern tribes, but Jeroboam feared the
implications of yearly trips down to the capital city of the southern kingdom of Judah. The Lord had ordained a political, not a religious, division of Solomon’s kingdom. The Lord had promised Jeroboam political control of the 10 northern tribes (11:31, 35, and 37). However, Jeroboam was to religiously follow the Mosaic law, which demanded that he follow the Lord’s sacrificial system at the temple in Jerusalem (11:38).
PT— Now Jeroboams faith will be tested. Jeroboam seemed to forget or ignore the promise God made to him through the prophet Ahijah recorded in 1 Kings 11. Motivated by fear rather than faith he pondered . Jeroboam could best secure his throne by radical obedience to God, not by leading the ten northern tribes into idolatry.
Verses 28-32: So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt" (v 28). There was no point in asking advice for this evil purpose. Jeroboam wanted advice on how to do a bad thing in the best way. This included the thought that it would be good if an idol in Bethel or Dan could replace the trip all the way to Jerusalem (v 29). Notice, the sacrifices were not made to the Lord, they were made to the golden calves. Obeying God approximately rather than literally is the game here.
—It included high places for idol worship and hand-picked priests (v 30-31) who were not of the tribe of Levi. It included instituting feasts and building altars to idols within each of the two idol cultic centers (v 32). This was an entitled religious program of idol worship embedded within the religious psyche and practice of the northern kingdom. Complete with its own shrines.
Verse 33: It all culminated with Jeroboam’s own arrival to worship these idols through this idolatrous ritual system. Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month. This gave it legitimacy. It was a system he was proud of as one he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense. God is not part of any of this. This is a good summary of Jeroboam’s religion – it was . Jeroboam is an example of those who create their own religion according to their own taste.
An Application— For the most part, the world embraces the religion of Jeroboam. Not necessarily his particular expression of golden calves and high places, but a religion created according to taste. From here on out the evil kings would be known as the ones who walked in the way of Jeroboam. What a reputation to have.
—Stephan was a young man from the Netherlands who I briefly met in India and dressed as a Hindu worshipper. Curious, I asked him about this. He said he finally found a religion he agreed with—to his taste. What was that, I asked? Not mine, for sure he said. He had discerned my position. That was what he had left. What he found was acceptance of any belief, and so his religion.
· When God gives you an opportunity to serve Him or honor him or participate with him, embrace it and focus solely upon it as the very thing you live for.
· Do not fear man at any time, for any reason, so as to curtail your devotion to Jesus Christ period. The fear of man brings a snare into your spiritual life and we cannot serve two masters.
· Watch your heart before you watch your mouth or your feet or your hands or your eyes because your heart governs all of the other aspects of your life.