13. Conflict within the Nation

Struggles of Israel Meditations: 13. Conflict within the Nation

1 Kings 14:14-16  “The Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. Even now this is beginning to happen. And the Lord will strike Israel, so that it will be like a reed swaying in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land that he gave to their ancestors and scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they aroused the Lord’s anger by making Asherah poles. And he will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit.”

Focus:  Because of Jeroboam’s folly, that we have already noted, a folly that was repeated by every following king of the northern kingdom, the message above turns out to be a prophecy that will be fulfilled in 208 years’ time when the northern kingdom is swept away.

We have seen the Lord speak against Jeroboam in our verses above and in the previous study. Something I will always maintain is that the Lord desires to bless us all the time, but receiving that blessing is reliant upon us playing our part, living as He has told us and being led as He leads us, rejecting the ploys of the enemy and the ways of the world. This, in the case of Israel, involved relying on the Lord and NOT turning to false idols that were the expression of superstitious worship by ungodly nations.

The ‘struggles of Israel’ at this point in their history, from Jeroboam in the north, and Rehoboam in the south, varies considerably between the two kingdoms and their success or failure is dependent entirely on their spiritual outlook and behaviour. The ‘struggles’ are not merely physical, they are first and foremost spiritual. Although the Lord is rarely mentioned – except when He sends a prophet with a message – we can assume that what goes on is either sent by the Lord or is simply a case of the Lord stepping back and allowing events to unfold as He sees they will.

Conflict between north and south: We have already seen Jeroboam rejecting the Lord’s counsel and instituting his own superstitious, counterfeit religion based on two golden calves. Now we should note the interaction between the two kingdoms. In the south Abijah succeeding his father Rehoboam:

“There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam throughout Abijah’s lifetime.” (1 Kings 15:6):

  • In the south, when Rehoboam died Abijah followed on. When Abijah died Asa became king.
  • In the north, Jeroboam was followed by Nadab but he was killed by Baasha who reigned and then followed by his son, Elah, who we will see, was killed by Zimri.

So, we find, “There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns.” (1 Kings 15:16) The scribes see this as a fulfilment of what the Lord spoke to Jeroboam: Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king. As soon as he began to reign, he killed Jeroboam’s whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of the Lord given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite. This happened because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel.” (1 Kings 15:28-30)

But then a remarkable word comes to Baasha from the Lord and a fulfilment: (a) The word: “Then the word of the Lord came to Jehu son of Hanani concerning Baasha: “I lifted you up from the dust and appointed you ruler over my people Israel, but you followed the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to arouse my anger by their sins. So I am about to wipe out Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and birds will feed on those who die in the country…..” (b) The fulfilment: Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu— because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.” (1 Kings 16:1-4,12,13) However the text suggests that Baasha simply died and that Zimri then destroyed his son Elah who had taken over.

We should note in passing that these things never occur because the Lord makes them happen, but simply because He steps back and allows the sinfulness of mankind to act as it does. When He speaks of what is coming, it is because He knows how the sinfulness of the various players will work out.

Perspective: To try to keep on top of the numbers of kings mentioned we note them again: Jeroboam (22yrs) – Nadab (2) – Baasha (24) – Elah (2) – Zimri  (1 week) – Omri (12). To try to keep perspective we should note that this covers a period of over 60 years. We should also note the descriptions in the Bible of each of them:

Jeroboam – set up idols and false religion.

NadabHe did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of his father and committing the same sin his father had caused Israel to commit” (1 Kings 15:26)

Baasha He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of Jeroboam and committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit.” (1 Kings 15:34)

Elah – no description,  but a short two-year reign suggests not very good.

Zimri  – ditto. Killed off Baasha’s whole family, committed suicide.

Omridid evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him” (1 Kings 16:25) had a son, Ahab, who becomes one of the two most notorious kings of the north and south (Manasseh being the other in the south) but we’ll consider him in a later study.

If we can take a step back and remind ourselves who we are talking about, we should be shocked at these people who constitute part of the chosen people of God of whom years before at Mount Sinai had said, “if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” (Ex 19:5,6) Holy means distinct, utterly different, pure, true, righteous.  It is difficult to comprehend a situation more at odds with this description than we have seen in these sixty years or so of the reigns of these most ‘unholy’ kings, and this is all Solomon’s inheritance! The struggles we have been observing – for they were real struggles – were simply to exist, to remain in existence. The offer from the Lord had been to make the northern kingdom great, but collectively they had spurned that. What is the biggest wonder is that they still exist at all!

And Us? One of my favourite quotes is, “The one thing history teaches us is that history teaches us nothing.” There must come through here a stark lesson in these studies: will we learn from history, will we allow Scripture to teach us, challenge us and keep us on the right path? The testimonies are there, the teaching is there, will we learn from them? These people we have been observing would have all had the knowledge of what the Lord had been saying and yet they failed to learn, failed to seek Him in their dire times. May we not be like that.

12. Offers & Rebuke

PART TWO ‘A’ – The Northern Kingdom

Struggles of Israel Meditations: 12. Offers & Rebuke

1 Kings 12:20  When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.

God’s Intent Declared: So, having sought to gain some historical and geographical perspective in the previous study, we now need to step back into the flow of history as it affected Israel. Following God’s word to Solomon about dividing the kingdom, we next need to see the word from God that should have established Jeroboam in creating the northern kingdom: “the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes. But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe.” (1 Kings 11:31,32) As a declaration, for the moment all it tells us is that the kingdom of Israel is going to be split in two with ten tribes following Jeroboam, forming the northern kingdom, and just two tribes left with Rehoboam as the southern kingdom.

The Terrible Fall:  But then comes the explanation for this: “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molek the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in obedience to me, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my decrees and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.” (1 Kings 11:33)

The “they” in that verse must refer to the nation with and after Solomon, now under Rehoboam. That is the state the land had fallen into after Solomon had turned from the Lord and followed the gods of his many foreign wives (see 1 Kings 11:1-6).  From being a great nation under David and an even greater one under Solomon in his early days – so great the Queen of Sheba had declared the greatness she found there (see 1 Kings 10:6-9) – the nation had followed Solomon’s example and followed all his false gods, instead of remaining the holy nation they were called to be. What an incredible and terrible fall!

Jeroboam’s folly: But this word that Jeroboam had received becomes more personal and goes on, “I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. (The general offer – but see the condition)  If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, (the detailed offer) 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. I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.’” (1 Kings 11:37-39) See the five times he refers to ‘you’.

So he knew why the Lord was acting against the nation as a whole and he knew how he should behave as the leader of the new northern kingdom – faithfully to God. So what does he do? Does he rejoice over this wonderful opportunity that is being handed to him, does he take careful note, not only of the offer being made but the conditions attached to it?  No, he doesn’t, he does none of these things! He sets up two idols, one on the boundary at the south and one on the boundary in the north – golden calves no less!!! (see 1 Kings 12:26-33) Moreover he instituted a priesthood of his own and established copy-cat festivals in order to stop the people drifting south to Jerusalem to follow the Lord there.

To see the terrible significance of this, if you read the history-of-Israel part of the Old Testament, watch out for a description that occurs again and again of subsequent kings of the north: He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit,” (for example see in respect of each of the final kings in 2 Kings 15:9,18,24,28). The idols he set up were never removed and their presence seemed to give legitimacy to everyone in the north in the years to come to have their own idols. Even when the king appeared to be on the right track, the people generally weren’t!

Watch what follows. THIS is at the heart, the cause if you like, of all the struggles and eventually destruction that the northern kingdom face. That’s why we are considering this.  “Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth.” (1 Kings 12:33,34) If you want to see the awfulness of all this, do a study in Deuteronomy sometime and see the number of times Moses warned and exhorted Israel against idolatry that would separate them off from God (start with 4:15,16,23,25).

And So? What is surprising, and you see it more and more as you follow the history of Israel, the Lord allows these various sinful kings to continue. Why does He do that? Why does He not destroy this people who keep idols at the heart of their national and individual lives? I have pondered this in the past and the following are the reasons I conclude must be there:

  1. He allows us to do what we will, to reveal our sinful natures and reveal our need of His salvation.
  2. He allows sin to build up to show our potential for evil without His intervention.
  3. He allows us free rein because He wants to give us space to repent.
  4. He allows our sin to build up as nations to act as self-destructive discipline.

And Us? Now isn’t that just how it is for us? Some of us grew up with Christian parents and a strong moral and spiritual background, others came from non-Christian backgrounds but were called by the Lord out of that. But whatever our background we are still individually responsible before the Lord for how we live out our lives – today. From time to time (often or occasionally) we may fall short and (often or occasionally) we may experience the discipline of the Lord to bring us to repentance. What is tragic is that most of us do not realize what is going on in our lives in this respect.

What we should be quite clear about is that a) the Lord has blessed us greatly, b) He wants us to live lives that are characterized by thankfulness, goodness and love, c) we are always prone to failure and therefore need to be on our guard against this and be ready to repent quickly when we do fail, and d) the Lord is always therefore working for our good, working to redeem us, working to change us and working to bless us and take us on to maturity and to receive our inheritance in heaven. Part of His working, we should also realize, involves discipline and discipline is always designed to break us free from our reliance on the idols of modern life and get us back on track. Hold on to that in all these studies.

18. Redeeming Israel – The Divided Land

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 18. Redeeming Israel – The Divided Land

1 Kings 11:11-13 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

 Redemption despite failing people: I did originally consider making this a study about Solomon, but the truth is that this is about a significant event in the life of Israel and involves a number of people, none of whom come out of this very well.  And that is the point that comes through again and again in these studies – and which we need to see for our own lives – that these are stories of people who fail, people who get it wrong and yet are also people who do not put God off from His goals. I suspect the truth must be that all these things the Lord sees, right there before the foundation of the world, when the Godhead decides on the plan of salvation for the world that will involve the coming to earth of the glorious Son of God.

Yes, the truth is that God knows all these things will happen, but that does not stop Him intervening and speaking into our affairs. This is both the one and the same God who sees it all from above and outside of time, so He knows what will come, but also involves Himself in the individual affairs of mankind in time-space history. This redemption involves Him not only acting into history to save individuals and a nation but perseveres with them to get them through to a good end, an end He is always working towards – and that applies as much to your life and mine as individuals, as it does to Israel as a nation and the world at large.

The Players (1): So, let’s note each of the players in this particular episode in the life of Israel, first of all the main players and then the secondary but significant others. First we must mention the Lord who presides over all that takes place and speaks to the various individuals. Second, there is Solomon, a man who started out with wisdom, was given more wisdom and became the richest and most powerful man on the earth. Tragically he gradually drifted away from the Lord as he took on new foreign wife after new foreign wife, each one who came with their own pagan religion, which eventually permeated the royal household and Solomon himself so that, eventually, the Lord speaks the words of the verse above which decrees what will follow. Now it is always important to understand that the Lord does not MAKE people do sinful acts, but He does a) step back and lift off His hand of protection and b) allow Satan to provoke the hearts of sin that are always there.

The Players (2): The third ‘player’ in this drama is Hadad the Edomite, a child refugee from an earlier time (see 1 Kings 11:14-18) who entered the Egyptian royal family (v.19,20) and who, when he hears David has died, returns to Israel and is counted as “an adversary” to Solomon, an instrument of disciplinary correction. The fourth player, another “adversary” is Rezin, another thorn in Solomon’s side (v.23-25). These two are not major players but they help create an atmosphere of uncertainty and upheaval in the final years of Solomon. Fifth, a more significant player is Jeroboam (v.25 on) who receives a word from Ahijah the prophet, who spells out Israel’s failure in becoming idol worshippers, and very clearly declares what will happen in line with our starter verses (see v.31-39).  After Solomon’s death, Jeroboam comes back from exile and challenges the heir to the throne, the sixth player, Rehoboam who is very unwise in his initial dealing with the challenge and causes the division (see 12:1-24) so that Jeroboam becomes king over the ten northern tribes.

But why?  The obvious assessment of what took place in the dividing of the kingdom is simply judgment on Solomon and Israel at large, but why divide the kingdom in this way? There are two preliminary answers, but they are only preliminary. The first one is to remove the control of the land from the family of Solomon, Solomon having shown such disregard for the Lord, despite his earlier wisdom, because so often bad example is projected into the next generation. The second one is an act of grace – to leave Jerusalem and two tribes in the hands of the ongoing family of David. David had shown such an example that perhaps that would impact future kings. The truth is that of the kings of the north, none of them put right the matter of idolatry which Jeroboam instigated (see 1 Kings 12:25-33) and none of them could be considered a ‘good’ king. On the other hand, the kings of the south turned out to be a mixed bunch. Both kingdoms were eventually overrun by invaders, so the kingdom ceased, Israel in the north in 722BC to the Assyrians, and Judah in the south in 586/7 to Nebuchadnezzar. Thus followed the Exile which we will consider in more detail in the next study.

Again, but why? Although the above two reasons are obvious, having been described in the words of the Lord in the earlier prophecies to Solomon (1 Kings 11:11-13) and to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:29-39), they nevertheless still do not explain the Lord’s reasoning. We can but speculate. First, what follows is the breaking up of what had been a great, prosperous and powerful kingdom. It is first of all a humbling experience and second, a bringing to an end of that experience. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away!  Third, it separates off Jerusalem from the larger part of the ungodly and idol-worshipping nation, perhaps in an endeavour to keep it holy with its Temple. Fourth, the cutting down to size of this once great and powerful nation will be seen by the surrounding nations and they will hear that this is a disciplinary act of Almighty God. God is not to be trifled with. A light to the nations? Well in that they convey truth about holiness, righteousness and accountability, yes. Fifth, it is a way to ensure that the nation has a double chance of surviving and remaining in God’s purposes for the earth. Sixth, it will be a lesson, conveyed down through the years to God’s people that they are accountable to Him and that He will act against them if that becomes necessary.  Seventh, it is a sign of God’s grace that He does not completely disown them and start again with some other nation!

In the big picture: Looking at the whole history of Israel, we will see that despite all this, first the northern kingdom and then the southern kingdom simply fail to live up to being God’s people and revert to idol worship. As we’ve already noted, both kingdoms will eventually be brought to an end because of their ongoing folly and intransigence. Yet, nevertheless, despite all this, there will still remain an identifiable people, descended from Abraham who will still be recognized on the earth as “God’s people” and who will create a right environment into which the Son of God will eventually come. It is all part of the ongoing picture of redemption of Israel, a picture that reveals the ongoing sin of Israel and the ongoing grace of God. There are certain unwise crusading atheists who rant about what a terrible God we have. These accounts show how foolish that assessment is.

15. To Jeroboam

“God turned up” Meditations: 15 :  To Jeroboam

1 Kings 11:29-31 About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.

There are times when God ‘turns up’ through His representative. Sunday by Sunday, in many churches, the Lord turns up through the worship leader or the preacher (or both) or through a prophetic word, where the congregation is open to that. In our next illustration, He turns up through Ahijah the prophet who lived in Shiloh.

To put this in context, we move on from the time we considered in the previous meditation, and Solomon in old age has succumbed to the pagan religions of his many wives, and idolatry is now widely practised in the land. For this reason the Lord is now bringing disciplinary action – as He said in His previous word to Solomon – and is going to take the nation away from Solomon’s son and give it to Jeroboam.

Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s officials (v.26), a man of standing (v.28) who had been put in charge of the whole labour force. Apparently he was a good man who had risen in the ranks to a place of great authority under Solomon. Now the Lord comes to him and reveals His plans to him through Ahijah. First, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.” (v.31) but then explains why only those tribes, “But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe.” (v.32). Then He makes very clear why He is moving against Solomon: “I will do this because he has forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.” (v.33)

Now we have to say that whatever happens in the future, Jeroboam has had a very clear warning. Solomon is having the kingdom taken from him because of idolatry. This must surely be something that Jeroboam should also avoid!   Then He gives him a conditional promise: “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.” (v.38) That is going to be the basis for Jeroboam’s future. All he has to do is lead the people faithfully before the Lord and the Lord will bless him and bless his children after him. It is all very clear.

Now what is frightening about these studies is that time and again the Lord comes and makes very clear His requirements, and yet time and again the individual in question fails to live up to them, despite having heard it so clearly from the Lord. I wonder how many of us hear it so clearly on a Sunday morning through the preacher or through a prophetic word, and yet go away and let the words be snatched from us by the enemy.

The parable of the Sower (see Matt 13) focuses on four sorts of ground and that surely represents fours sorts of ‘heart’. The seed is always the same; it is only the ground or the individual which is different. Are we half-hearted or even hard-hearted when we hear God’s word so that it bears little fruit in us? Or are we faint-hearted so that worries overcome us and subdue God’s word so we are not fruitful? This seems to be a challenge which comes again and again through these accounts.

You may not be familiar with Jeroboam so you may not know what happened with him. The word was fulfilled and Jeroboam was given the ten tribes but he resorted to human reasoning which led him to do something which set the course for idolatry to remain in Israel for the rest of the existence of the northern kingdom: 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.” After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.” (1 Kings 12:26-30)

What a terrible little phrase, he “thought to himself”. Don’t think to yourself – think before the Lord and get His wisdom if you need it. What absolute folly in this man. He had everything presented to him on a plate. He was clearly warned how to live and he did exactly the opposite. How stupid! May we be warned!

Walk of Imitation

WALKING WITH GOD. No.34

1 Kings 12:28,29 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.”

You may be surprised to see that we are focusing on two verses today that we referred to in the course of explaining Jeroboam’s failure in yesterday’s meditation, but we need to consider more deeply just what was going on in this man’s mind, that can so often go on in ours. As we noted yesterday, Jeroboam had been made king over the northern ten tribes of Israel , while Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south – which included Jerusalem. That, as we observed yesterday, had been Jeroboam’s concern, that Israel might drift back down to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in the Temple there, and thus align themselves with Rehoboam.

Now there is something very important to notice here at the outset: God had declared His will in respect of Jeroboam and the northern tribes and so the Lord would not just sit back and let the tribes all drift back together again. The first thing to note was that Jeroboam was half-hearted in receiving the word of God. He had not fully taken on board what that word had said and had not thought through the significance of it.

If there are common failures in the Christian world, one of the main ones is that so often the people of God do not take in the word of God and the significance of that word. That is one of the main reasons for the presence of these meditations, that we provide a resource where people are refocused on God’s word and its significance. The question for you, therefore, is how important do you consider the Bible? Do you read it daily or just once in a while? Are you at this meditation page by chance or because you have disciplined yourself to read your way through them and take in God’s word? The same thing applies to the preached word and the prophetic word, I have observed. People’s reception of both is often quite casual, and that was Jeroboam’s first problem! If Jeroboam had realised that he was living in God’s declared will, he would not have had the worry he had.

Now the second thing to note is that having saddled himself with this worry, he then began reasoning how he could deal with it and he did not turn to the Lord and seek and answer from Him. If he had, he would probably have received a word of reassurance. The Lord hasn’t got a problem with us seeking reassurance, as long as we do seek Him.  No, here is another common tendency – failure to turn to the Lord for answers. Now if you don’t get help from the Lord you are only left with yourself (or perhaps other counsellors) and so Jeroboam started reasoning and came to the wrong conclusions.

Conclusion number one was that the people would drift south, and conclusion number two was that he would have to do something about it, and conclusion number three was that he would have to provide a substitute religion for his people to stop them going to Jerusalem. So he sets up what is clearly an imitation of the true religion that God had instituted at Sinai through Moses. It has altars, sacrifices and festivals. Why not, reasons Jeroboam, it will still enable the people to worship the Lord. Do you see that? That is the subtle error that sounds so right – they’ll still be able to worship the Lord. However as the text goes on to show us, that was not all right with the Lord. What He had given them was what should happen, not some pale imitation of what He had given – because He wasn’t in the pale imitation!

Can you see a parallel to this in what has so often happened in the church down through history? The Eastern Orthodox Church focused on the use of icons to help them focus on God. The Holy Spirit and the word of God were not sufficient. The Roman Catholic Church built great church buildings (our cathedrals were mostly built in the time of the Catholic Church being the only church), the church leaders wore special clothes to make them distinctive, and a managerial hierarchy was set up to maintain control and exercise authority. We take all these things for granted, but they are all things that come from the thinking that, “The people will need something more to encourage their faith and keep them true to God.”

None of these things were anywhere in Jesus’ thinking in his teaching. There was just a bare, simple, straight forward faith, expressed collectively when the people of God gathered together, under men who were raised up by God without any external trappings, only the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Some of those men were gifted to be pastors and teachers, some to be evangelists, some to be prophets and some to be apostles (see Eph 4:11,12), so that they could help everyone else become what they were called to become, those who do the works of God.   Instead we very often have an imitation of the real thing, an imitation that is devoid of the power and presence of God. The final question must be, do we each as an individual, know the power and presence of God in our lives, or are we walking a walk of imitation?  A serious question!

Walk of Potential

WALKING WITH GOD. No.33

1 Kings 11:38 “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.”

They do say that some people have a better start in life than others. I suppose this is so when you consider a child born to a wealthy, healthy, united family compared to a child born to a poor single mother in a ghetto. The potential for each child is the same in that they are a human being capable of much if they reach for it, but the truth so often is that the child from the slum is rarely able to overcome all the awfulness of that environment and what it means, and climb to great heights. The child from the wealthy neighbourhood, we might say, has it all going for them.

Yes, a good start in life is a real help and Jeroboam certainly had that, and that is who our verse is about today. Jeroboam had been an official for Solomon (v.26), a young man of standing (v.28) who had been appointed a manager. Now Jeroboam was minding his own business going out of Jerusalem, presumably on business, when he was joined by a man named Ahijah, who happens to be a prophet. Once they have walked some distance from Jerusalem, Ahijah takes off his new cloak and tears it into twelve strips and gives ten of them to Jeroboam saying, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.(v.31). In other words God is appointing him the new king over Israel although He is going to leave Solomon’s family two tribes, for the sake of David (v.32), and He goes on to explain, “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.” (v.33). Now it is important to see this because the Lord is giving Jeroboam clear insight into why Solomon’s family is being removed from office – because they had false worship. That is important to bear in mind in all that follows. By way of contrast, the Lord goes on to promise him a lasting dynasty if he doesn’t go that way.

From this point on Jeroboam has potentially a great future. He and his family will be the future kings of Israel . All they have to do is stick with the Lord and avoid the foolish ways that Solomon had gone, into foreign idol worship. As Jeroboam looks to the future, his walk with God is a walk of potential. He has everything going for him. He has God on his side and he has seen clearly the cause of Solomon’s downfall, so he knows what to avoid. The future looks good. If only!

To cut a long story short, Jeroboam was made king of the ten tribes (12:20) and God even told Rehoboam in the south not to go to war against Jeroboam. In this manner the Lord protects him, and the word of this must surely have reached Jeroboam. He is at a place of peace and he has the Lord on his side. Potentially everything is great, and then this man shows his true colours. Does he refer to the Lord when he has a concern? No! He starts worrying, thinking about the Temple in Jerusalem, and thinks that the people of the north under his reign might drift back south to go and worship the Lord in Jerusalem . So what does he do? He sets up a substitute religion with an idol at either end of the country, and high places with shrines for worship all over the place, making sacrifices and creating festivals. It is truly a substitute religion with all the trappings of the old – except the Lord! For this he was rebuked by a word from God. Jeroboam squandered all the potential that had been his and disregarded the Lord.

What is the lesson here for us? When we come to Christ we have tremendous potential. We know what we have been saved from and gradually we come to see what we have been saved for.  In Christ we have the potential to become the people we were designed to be. As we receive all of our inheritance in Christ we become whole people, who have every aspect of their lives touched by God. The path ahead is a path of blessing. All that is required of us is that we remain true to the Lord. The potential is enormous! However, there is that awful thing called free will to consider. Yes, the terrible thing is that the Lord still gives is free will and we can choose to follow the Lord, or not! The blessing of God is not on the ‘or not’! God has wonderful things He yet wants to do in and through you. The potential for your life in His hands is enormous. Will we fulfil it or squander it? The choice is ours! You can be a child of the slums but yet with Christ rise to great things. You can be a child of the affluent West, yet squander all the potential you have. Consider these things carefully.