Chewing on the story of Jeroboam ascending to the throne of Israel in 1Kings 12. And there seems to be something about getting to be king of the castle which, no matter how you got there–even if the castle was freely given to you–evokes a natural tendency to go into a How Do I Protect It way of thinking.
While God didn’t appear to Jeroboam in a vision, as he had to Solomon, He did send a prophet with a pretty clear, unambiguous proclamation.
“Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes . . . And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in My ways, and do what is right in My eyes by keeping My statutes and My commandments, as David My servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.”
(1Kings 11:31b, 37-38 ESV)
How’s that for a promise to claim!
And guess what? It happened. And Jeroboam didn’t need to fight for the northern kingdom. Didn’t need to campaign or politic. Just needed to get in front of a parade that had already determined to exit the Twelve Tribe Union because of bad decision making on the part of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. And this too was “a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that He might fulfill His word” (12:15).
The northern ten tribes of Israel were, as the saying goes, handed to Jeroboam on a silver platter. Not because of his power, but because of a promise. Not because of his character or competence, but because He was chosen. Not because he was great, but because he had been called by a great God. Top of the food chain, not because he deserved it, but because the Sovereign God had determined it.
And like Adam and Eve when given the garden, with a very simple maintenance plan. Listen to Me. Walk in My ways. Do what is right in My eyes. And I will be with you.
But the newly crowned king, rather than trusting the LORD, starts to lean on his own understanding (Prov. 3:5-6). Instead of acknowledging Him in all matters concerning his new responsibilities, and trusting Him for straight paths, he becomes wise in his own eyes as he noodles on how to protect the throne. Rather than fear the Lord, he figures out a plan, now that he’s one top, to stay on top.
And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 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. 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.”
(1Kings 12:26-28 ESV)
So what does he come up with? I need to keep my folks from traveling to the southern kingdom in order to protect my northern kingdom. And why would they go there? To worship the God who dwells there, the God of our deliverance from Egypt. I need to make an alternative to worshiping in Jerusalem. Thus, I need to provide a substitute for Who’s being worshiped in Jerusalem. And one golden calf . . . No! Wait! That failed at Sinai . . . Two golden calves outta’ do it!
Okay. That just sounds crazy. But that’s what you get when you start to try and hold onto something you never earned in the first place. It’s the path you’re likely to walk down when you stop trusting the promises and come up with your own plan. It’s the danger we face when God’s perfect word is jettisoned because of what we think is our better way.
How prone is my heart to be a Jeroboam heart?
To somehow believe that the gift of new life through the Spirit can be brought to fruition in the flesh (Gal. 3:3)? To somehow think that, now that I’ve been seated in heavenly places and given every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3, 2:6), I must now come up with my own game plan to ensure I keep my seat and merit the blessings? To have once trusted the Lord to begin the work, to then rely on my own wisdom and ways to complete it (Php.1:6)? That just sounds crazy. And it is.
Oh to recognize when grace is being supplanted by grit. When trusting His promises is becoming secondary to relying on our plans.
To resist and reject the How Do I Protect It way and, instead, faithfully walk in the How Do I Respond To It way.
By His grace. For His glory.