1-kings-12

1 Kings 12, Ezekiel 41

Today we’re reading 1 Kings 12 and Ezekiel 42.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 12.

Just as God promised, the kingdom of David and Solomon was torn apart into two kingdoms: Judah and Israel (aka “the Northern Kingdom”). This division happened as a consequence of Solomon’s idolatry, a divine act of judgment, as we read yesterday. That was the divine side of the division. The human side was accomplished by the foolishness of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Instead of lightening the burden of taxation on the people of Israel, he promised to make things worse than ever. The Northern kingdom rallied around Jeroboam, a capable leader from Solomon’s administration, and made him king.

David and Solomon reigned over Israel for a combined 80 years and the two of them centralized political, economic, and spiritual power in Jerusalem. Jeroboam was delighted to be king but he worried that his fragile kingdom would “likely revert to the house of David” (v. 26) if people kept going to Jerusalem to worship. Instead of trusting God, who decreed this division and prophesied about it before it happened, Jeroboam decided to make his own gods to keep people from traveling to Jerusalem. Verse 28 told us that he ordered the creation of two golden calves. If you’re making your own religion, you might as well make it easy for people and offer them two convenient locations (vv. 28, 29). Everything he did made sense on a human level. What does not make sense is his statement in verse 28: “Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

What?! These idols were so new, so freshly manufactured, that they were still warm from the gold smelting furnace. Yet somehow the people were to believe that these idols had led God’s people out of Egypt generations earlier?

Well, yes, if the calves represented gods rather than actually being gods. That seems to be what Jeroboam was saying to the people. “You don’t need no stinkin’ Ark of the Covenant to be the place where God is represented. Let these calves represent our gods instead.

This was a clear attempt to appropriate Israel’s redemption story for Jeroboam’s advantage and apply it to the idols he made. This is often what false doctrine, false religion does. It claims aspects of God’s true revelation and reapplies it some significant but false way. A little bit of truth can help people swallow a whole lot of error. Ask Jeroboam; he built his career on that principle.

Someone who knew God and wanted to be faithful to Him should have pointed out that the God who brought Israel out of Egypt was One Lord (Deut 6:4) not two calves. A faithful servant of the Lord should also have said that the God who rescued them from Egypt commanded no graven images. The same person should have pointed out what happened when Aaron made a golden calf for Israel to worship after the Exodus.

Instead, the Northern Kingdom liked the ease of having two convenient locations for worship as well as the ability to keep their redemption story without maintaining any connection to Jerusalem. As Christians, we should be very careful. Many self-help books quote scripture but are filled with advice that is directly unscriptural. Don’t allow our faith to be pasted like a label on a can of manmade ideas.

1 Kings 12, Philippians 3, Ezekiel 42, Psalm 94

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 12, Philippians 3, Ezekiel 42, Psalm 94. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 12.

Today’s devotional is too easy to write. One verse explains what happened to Solomon’s son Rehoboam and what happens to anyone who thinks that authority is for them: “They replied, ‘If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.’” Did you catch it: “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them…?” This is what leadership is all about—serving those you lead. Solomon, despite his great wisdom, imposed a heavy tax burden on his people to build all the grand structures that made Jerusalem a world-class city and to support all his wives and girlfriends. The people went from prosperous and happy (1 Ki 4:20, 10:8) to begging his son for relief (12:3). That’s because Solomon turned from having a servant’s heart (1 Ki 3:7b-9) to believing he was entitled to whomever and whatever he wanted. 

An entitled attitude can develop at any stage of life—witness Solomon who had a servant’s heart when he was young and gradually began to feel that he was entitled. But I wonder if youth and immaturity don’t make people especially susceptible to a feeling of entitlement. When you’re young, everything is done for you because you haven’t learned to do it yourself. But at some point in your life you must learn to do things for yourself, to set goals and accomplish them, to understand that setbacks and hurdles are part of life and that you have to find ways to overcome them. Nobody but your parents owes you devoted love; you have to cultivate that with another person if you want to get married and have a happy family yourself. Nobody owes you a job or a decent standard of living. Your employer does not owe you a promotion or a raise or a carefully mapped out career path where you ascend to greater leadership and prosperity. Because you are human—made in God’s image—society does not have the right to take your life or to mistreat you. You have the right to life, to private property, and to justice. With those basic protections in place, whatever else happens in your life is up to God’s providence and your decision-making. 

Rehoboam, I’m sure, lived a very entitled life. He never had to tend sheep or fight in battles as his grandfather did. His friends (v. 10), likewise, were probably sons of high officials in Solomon’s administration (see 1 Ki 9:20-23). None of these kids had to work for anything; the good life was provided to them in abundance and they all saw how Solomon did whatever he wanted. Their advice to Rehoboam was not to serve his citizens by getting off their backs and out of their way so they could provide for themselves (12:4, 9); rather, their advice was to push them harder, to show them who’s boss (vv. 10-15). The result was a rebellion that nearly led to civil war (vv. 16-21). Only God’s direct revelation kept Israel from decimating itself (vv. 22-24). All of this happened in God’s providence (v. 24: “…this is my doing…”) as a consequence of Solomon’s sins (11:34-39). But it reminds us to watch out for the sin of pride manifested in an entitlement mentality. If you use your power and influence for yourself, that is a sin against God. It is also a prescription for trouble because eventually those you use and abuse will seek relief.

If anyone in our government were paying attention, it should warn them of the potentially devastating consequences of helping themselves to too much of the wealth of a nation’s citizens. Many people in our country are upset by “welfare mothers” and others who are accused of abusing our welfare system. But what about the politicians, regulators, lawyers, bureaucrats, defense contractors, and consultants? What about the lobbyists, bankers, farmers and workers in other industries who get government subsidies or exemptions from laws everyone else has to follow? What about government employee unions who vote for politicians who then give greater wages and benefits? Are these groups of people truly serving the citizens or are they using the public for their own enrichment? Instead of condemning the poor for being poor, we should look first toward the prosperous who do not design, manufacture, or sell anything but instead become prosperous by confiscating the profits of those are productive. 

For the moment, we can not do much about the burdensome government we elected and empowered. But we can learn how to serve those we lead instead of using them for our own enrichment. Learn the lesson of Rehoboam and banish the entitlement mentality from  your heart. Be a servant just as God served us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.