Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Kingdom of Jeroboam

"Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites" (1 Kings 12:31).

The apostasy of humanity at the Tower of Babel provoked God to scatter the people into many nations. Similarly, the apostasy of Solomon provoked God to divide the kingdom in half. The northern part of the kingdom, which had its own culture, was to be given to Jeroboam, while the southern part, consisting of Judah and Simeon (which had merged with Judah), was to remain under the Davidic dynasty.

When Solomon learned that Ahijah the prophet had announced this to Jeroboam, he sought to kill him, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt (1 Kings 11:40). After Solomon’s death, the people gathered to make Rehoboam king. Notice that accession to the throne was not automatic in Israel; the people had to accept Rehoboam, otherwise another son of Solomon would be put forward. On this occasion, Jeroboam came out of Egypt and became spokesman for the people. As their leader, he asked that they be released from bondage (1 Kings 12:1–4).

These events fit a pattern we have already seen. The man who was to be king was presented as one who delivered the people from bondage. Moses delivered them from Egypt and became their judge. David had to flee to Philistia, then worked to deliver Israel from bondage both to Saul and to Philistia, and then became king. Next, Jeroboam came from Egypt and stood as the new deliverer, the new king. Jeroboam showed wisdom at this point. He did not lead a revolution, but appealed to Rehoboam to lighten the people’s load. It was only when Rehoboam refused that the northern tribes seceded from the union.

Next, the sad pattern already seen in David and Solomon played itself out again. Jeroboam was given a kingdom, then he too suffered a “great fall.” Fearful his people would become attracted to the Davidic house if they went to Jerusalem to worship, he set up false worship at two sites in the north. He created a new clergy with himself as high priest, and sold the priestly offices to anyone willing to buy them. In short, he created a state-run church, subservient to the king, in order to shore up his nationalistic aspirations.

Many faithful Christians suffered martyrdom in Germany under Nazism because they refused to support the state-run “German church,” which was racist and idolatrous. It was easy for the church to become caught up in nationalism, but the church is an international and transcendent institution. Let us be careful not to allow nationalism to warp the ministry of the church. Pray today for the church universal, especially for those in troubled lands.