“WALK IN MY WAYS AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT…” Fear and the desire to be delivered from laws they didn’t like, prompted a nation who had worshiped God for almost 1000 years to mistakenly pledge their allegiance to a king who didn’t take God seriously. Unwittingly, they allowed him to bring other gods into their midst, leading them to break the very first commandment God had given them.
The great irony is King Jeroboam actually came to the throne with the promise of God's blessing. "...I will take you, (Jeroboam) and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.” 1 King 11:37-38.
Near the end of King Solomon’s life, a prophet came to Jeroboam, who was then one of the king’s officials. 1 Kings 11 tells us the prophet tore his robe into 12 pieces, and told Jeroboam to take 10 pieces for himself, explaining that one day soon God was going to give him 10 of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam to keep it from happening, but he fled to Egypt where he stayed until the king died.
After King Solomon’s death, the scene was set for the struggle between Jeroboam and Solomon’s first born, Rehoboam, who stood first in line to inherit the throne of Israel. As usual, they used politics to sway public opinion. Rehoboam was asked by the people to “lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you." 1 Kings 12:4.
When Rehoboam refused, and instead promised heavier taxation, the frustrated people chose Jeroboam to be their leader because he appeared to be God’s choice. Which brings us to the scripture appointment of today's lesson: the 15th date of the 8th month, the 12th of November on our 2019 Gregorian calendar.
“Jeroboam thought to himself, 'The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam'… Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings." 1 Kings 12:26-27, 31-33
Instead of desiring God to unite His original chosen kingdom of Israel through national worship on His divinely appointed Holy Days in Jerusalem, King Jeroboam wanted to maintain the division he had accomplished when He became the now succeeded Israel’s leader. Realizing that the worship of the Almighty was an absolute necessity to maintain his status with the people, he set up his own version of worship in the cities of Dan and Bethel. He brought about his own Aaronic revival reminiscent of the Exodus days by setting up altars of sacrifice, priesthood and special days of worship, while he stood at the altar as High Priest.
Incredibly, the Holy Day that King Jeroboam blasphemed by appointing it to showcase himself as King is the Festival of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Ingathering, the very day King Jesus will reveal Himself and gather His chosen people together to live with Him. This counterfeit religious system of worshiping God was followed for over 200 years by all the Kings of northern Israel. Because of this, Jeroboam is referred to in scripture as "the man who made Israel to sin." Notice the phrasing. He didn’t sin alone.
When a man known only as "the man of God from Judah" came to the King and predicted Jeroboam's demise along his kingdom, Jeroboam stretched out his hand, pointed his finger and said "Seize him." He would regret that, as his finger instantly shriveled. Then he called on the man from Judah to pray to God to restore his hand, which the prophet did.
Thus began a relationship between the man of God from Judah and the prideful, swaggering King Jeroboam. The man of God was soon worn down by Jeroboam's manipulations, and left the instruction of the Lord's Word, to befriend the King who seemed to need him so much. Though the man of God from Judah delivered the Lord's Word chastising Jeroboam, he allowed himself to be greatly influenced by him, ending with the prophet's untimely death.
As for King Jeroboam, this accounting in 1 Kings 14:7-11 says it all. "...the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me. Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!’"
As for Israel, who walked in King Jeroboam’s ways, "For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.” (2 Kings 17:21-23)
Today, archaeologists have uncovered Jeroboam’s high place of idol worship at Tel Dan. Nothing remains except a few of the 3000 year-old-stones and artifacts, and the lesson to be learned about the futility and danger of adding to or manipulating God’s Word. It also points to the judgment of God on any leader and nation that would attempt to do so.
WALK IN MY WAYS AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT…