Hovering this morning over 1Kings 12, the account of how the kingdom of Israel is divided. And you don’t have to chew on the details very long before the whole thing becomes a bit of a head-scratcher.
That Solomon defaulted the promise of the throne because of his sin — because he allowed countless women of beauty to turn his eyes toward them and his heart away from God — is understandable (1Ki. 11:9-12). That God, for David’s sake, would do so after Solomon’s death, and not rend the entire kingdom from the house of David, you can chalk up to God’s gracious prerogative (11:13). That Solomon’s dodo son, Rehoboam, listened to some bad counsel when good counsel had already been given, thus causing the northern tribes to say, “We’re outta here”, is interesting, especially when the writer of 1Kings records, “for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that He might fulfill His word” (12:15).
But that God would hand the northern tribes over to Jeroboam? Well, that’s the head-scratcher.
Hand-picked before Solomon died, through a prophet God tells Jeroboam what He’s going to do. That He’s going to “tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon” and give Jeroboam the northern ten tribes (11:31). And God even tells Jeroboam why: because Solomon and his kingdom had forsaken God and followed other gods; because they had not walked in God’s ways; because, unlike David, they were not “doing what is right in My sight and keeping My statutes and My rules” (11:33).
Shouldn’t Jeroboam have got it? Follow God, good. Follow other gods, not so good. Evidently not.
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)
What?!?! He just was given a kingdom because of another king’s idolatry and what does Jeroboam do? Makes his own idols. Demonstrates some one-upmanship with the southern kingdom as in effect he says, Look at these two golden calves ! Judah has only one God who delivered them from Egypt, behold, we have two! Head-scratcher!
What’s more, didn’t God know what this guy was likely to do? After all, “the Lord looks on the heart” (1Sam. 16:7b). More head-scratching.
But though I don’t totally get the why, I’m struck by the where. Though God’s ways are higher than my ways, Jeroboam’s heart is probably representative of my heart. And that’s where Jeroboam’s sin all began, in his heart.
The heart which, though it had been promised a kingdom and given a kingdom, did not trust God for the kingdom. A heart which lifted up self-preservation over God’s glorification. A heart which co-opted true worship for political prudence.
Jeroboam said in his heart, I need to do something. And so, he made his own idols, he built his own temples, he appointed his own priesthood, and sacrificed on his own altar. O, beware the heart.
The heart can cause us to go where the head knows it shouldn’t go. Can lead us to do what we never thought we’d do. Can make wrong things seem right. Can convince us that our ways are more sure than God’s ways. Even convincing us that following the many idols of our own making is a better bet than following the one true God who created all things. Head-scratcher!
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
(Psalm 51:10 ESV)
By Your grace. For Your glory.