Fear is a powerful force in a person’s life. The more I get into the history of Israel, the more I realize a person’s way of thinking will ultimately make or break them. Saul is a case in point – his fear of people essentially ruined his life. In 1 Kings 12, we come across another person whose sinful way of thinking destroyed a golden opportunity. His name is Jeroboam.
Solomon was a great king who did amazing things in his lifetimes in terms of buildings he built and the wisdom he exhibited. In spite of all his wisdom, however, he ended his life over his head in idolatry, worshiping the gods of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Sidonians. As a result, God sends the prophet Ahijah to a young man named Jeroboam to let him know that God is tearing 10 tribes of Israel away from the house of David and giving them to him to rule over. This strikes me as an astounding, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a young man like Jeroboam; to be king over 10 tribes of Israel! I wonder what went through his mind as he walked home from the open field, reeling with the news that was just given him by God.
Fast forward to 1 Kings 12:16 and we find that the prophecy has come to pass. Jeroboam is now ruler over 10 tribes of Israel as the prophet has said. Now God had given him very clear instructions:
37 I will appoint you, and you will reign as king over all you want, and you will be king over Israel.
38 “‘After that, if you obey all I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight in order to keep My statutes and My commands as My servant David did, I will be with you. I will build you a lasting dynasty just as I built for David, and I will give you Israel.
God gave Jeroboam the direct promise that if he kept God’s commandments and walked in His ways, God would be with Him! What a promise! You would think that a promise like that would cause this new king to seek the Lord for all the help he can get with his new job. Instead of doing that, however, Jeroboam takes the opposite route. Look at his line of thought:
26 Jeroboam said to himself, “[The way things are going] now, the kingdom might return to the house of David. 27 If these people regularly go to offer sacrifices in the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem, the heart of these people will return to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will murder me and go back to the king of Judah.” 28 So the king sought advice. Then he made two golden calves, and he said to the people, “Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here is your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
As stupid as this is from a spiritual point of view, it actually makes some sense. People go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord on a regular basis, so the fear that this might turn their heart back to the house of David is not far-fetched. And Jeroboam is somebody who gets things done, as 1 Kings 11 testifies:
28 Now the man Jeroboam was capable, and Solomon noticed the young man because he was getting things done.
Jeroboam could have led a revival and gone down in history as the man who turned the nation of Israel back to God. He could have been known as the man who stood in the face of incredible challenges and let his faith in God lead him to great heights. Unfortunately, he relies on his own reasoning and his own cunning to lead the people of the northern kingdom into idolatry. He turns the opportunity God gave him into the means of his own demise, paying the ultimate price for his ‘stinkin’ thinkin”. This one decision, birthed out of fear and a lack of faith, would eventually result in the destruction and exile of the Northern Kingdom.
I’d love to take the article and chop Jeroboam’s decisions to bits. What stupidity! What a wasted chance! As so often in this journey through the Bible, however, I find myself looking in the mirror and seeing a man who is often tempted to rely on his own way of thinking instead of on God’s. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Has God not promised us that He would never leave us nor forsake us? Does the Bible not say that if our God is for us, nothing and nobody can stand against us? Do we not have the stories of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, and countless others to point the way to spiritual thinking and faith-filled actions through the power of the Spirit? As human beings we do well to remember that well-known Scripture: ‘”not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit!” says the Lord’. No circumstance should ever prompt us to act out of fear instead of faith. God is always in control. May God grant us the grace to be like David rather than like Jeroboam – to seek His face with every challenge instead of taking matters into our own hands.