For the Love of God, Volume 1/October 9
From Gospel Translations
1 Kings 12; Philippians 3; Ezekiel 42; Psalm 94
THE DIVISION OF THE unified kingdom into two unequal parts—the kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes in the north and the kingdom of Judah with two tribes in the south (1 Kings 12)—once again presents us with a remarkable dynamic between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.
God had already predicted, through Ahijah the prophet, that Jeroboam would take away the ten northern tribes from Solomon’s successor (11:26-40). Jeroboam was explicitly told that if he then remained faithful to the Lord, the Lord would establish a dynasty for him. Yet the first thing that Jeroboam does, once he secures the northern tribes, is erect golden calves at Bethel and Dan, and consecrate non- Levitical priests, because he does not want his people making the trek to the temple in Jerusalem (12:25-33). Doesn’t he realize that if God has the power to give him the ten tribes, and the concern to warn him about disloyalty, he certainly has the power to preserve the integrity of the northern kingdom even if the people go up to Jerusalem for the high festivals? But Jeroboam makes his political judgments, refuses to obey God, and shows himself ungrateful for what has come his way. His only enduring legacy is that throughout the rest of the Old Testament he is designated as “Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin” (e.g., 2 Kings 14:24).
More inexplicable yet is Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Solomon may have been a skilled administrator of justice, but by the end of his life his enormously expensive projects were wearing down his people. Their representatives assure Rehoboam that they will be loyal to him if only he will lighten their load a little. The elders assure Rehoboam that their request is reasonable: he should adopt the stance of being “a servant to these people and serve them,” for then he will discover that “they will always be your servants” (12:7). With massive insensitivity and piercing stupidity, Rehoboam adopts instead the wretched advice of “young men” full of themselves and their opinions, with no understanding of people generally and of this nation in particular (12:8). So Rehoboam responds harshly, not only rejecting the people’s request but promising more demands and increased brutality. And suddenly the rebellion is underway.
Yet the writer comments, “So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite” (12:15). God’s sovereignty (see, for example, the meditation for June 3) does not excuse or mitigate Rehoboam’s stupidity and Jeroboam’s rebellion; their stupidity and sin do not mean that God has lost control. Such mysteries of providence make it difficult to “read” history; they also prove immensely comforting and make it possible for us to rest in Romans 8:28.