JEROBOAM, THE MAN THAT REPLACED GOD (I Kings 11-14)
This is an account of what happens to people that think they can get along without God. Even a man of God, can be fooled by godless people. When God gives an order, it will be fulfilled in one way or another. Jeroboam was under the illusion that he could do as he pleased without the God of his fathers. The tragic end of his household was an example of what would happen to the nation of Israel in the future. It is one of those lessons when we presume that what we do now shall have no impact on our children and nation. It was not a cheerful story, but neither was the end. If it had not been for the King’s stubbornness, the entire history of a nation could have been a blessing instead of a failure.
King Salomon, yes the wise Salomon, was bankrupting the country. A man by the name of Jeroboam rebelled against the king’s economic policies and heavy taxation. Jeroboam went into exile and waited for the country to collapse. Salomon’s son Rehoboam continued his father’s policies and ten tribes separated from the House of David and made Jeroboam king over Israel. Rehoboam ended up with the tribe of Judah and an enormous debt. He planned a military action but the prophet Shemaiah, with orders from the Lord, told him to cool it. Brothers should not fight each other.
Jeroboam like David was aware of the influence religion had on the people. He could take them away from the House of David, but how could he stop them from going to Jerusalem to worship the God of their fathers? He had his craftsmen make two golden calves and placed them in Bethel and Dan. When he himself was about to make an offering to his calves, a man of God appeared and condemned Jeroboam’s perversion of religion. He warned that his son would die and most of his false prophets. The king pointed at the prophet and ordered that he be apprehended. That instant, his hand shriveled and he could not move it. Now it was the king that had to plead with the prophet to intercede for him to the Living God. The plea of the man of God was answered and the king invited the man to eat with him. The man informed the king that the Lord did not allow him to do that at any price and then rode away on his donkey.
The man of God’s mission was to deliver God’s terms to Jeroboam and then get out of the country, and not go back the way he came. A local prophet heard about the man of God and he went after him and convinced him that the Lord had a change of heart and that he could come back with him for a meal and some rest. The man of God fell for the lie and returned to Bethel and the false prophet’s home. Just as he stepped out of the door of his host, he realized that he could not go back the same way that he had returned on. He had wasted precious time and now had to travel when hungry lions were on the prowl. That put him in unsafe territory and a lion killed him, but did not maul him. The lion guarded his body until the false prophet retrieved and buried him. The object of this unbelievable incident was that God had to be obeyed and what he tells his prophets to tell others will come to pass. And God’s own people are not exempt from punishment when they disobey God’s orders.
King Jeroboam soon found out that what the man of God predicted began to happen. His son became very ill. He induced his wife to disguise herself and seek the help of Ahijah, a prophet of Jehovah. Ahijah anticipated the lady and informed her that the Lord had made her husband king. Because of his disloyalty to God his offspring, with the exception of Abijah, would be destroyed and not be buried (I Kings 15:29). Abijah, her son, would die the moment the woman set foot in her home and he would be the only one that shall be buried. Israel as a nation shall be scattered among the nations for not remaining loyal to God Jehovah.
Jeroboam had a chance to reverse course, but his ambition and pride were in the way (Proverbs 16:18). Pride is in all of us. Once we step into something we cannot cope with, we rather fail than change. We think we can do better than Jeroboam. Yet, like he did, we hide our mistakes. Then our pride ruins us and our family, our community and our nation. I had to discipline pride in my work, in my conduct with people and in my marriage. How do you think we stayed married for over fifty years? “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). King Hezekiah, unlike Jeroboam, humbled himself and Jerusalem was spared from being invaded and plundered by Assyria, the nation that ended the existence of Jeroboam’s Israel (II Chronicles 32:16, 26). For us, however, Jeroboam is a painful reminder that the God of the Bible does not tolerate idolatry, nor can He be replaced (Exodus 20:3-6). The meek and not the Jeroboams inherit the earth and are left to pick up the pieces (Matthew 5:5). “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for his inheritance”(Psalm 33:12).