There is a plethora of advice out there for us at any given stage in our lives – we need to choose wisely who we listen to!
As God promised, Israel is torn in two after Solomon’s death as judgement for his many sins and his compromised heart towards God. 1 Kings 12 is one of those places in Scripture where we see the will and actions of men and women and those actions have ‘natural’ consequences and yet simultaneously those actions and consequences are attributed by Scripture to God’s sovereign workings.
After Solomon’s death his son Rehoboam is approached by his people who ask that consider easing the heavy burden of conscripted labour and taxes that his father had placed on them (for all his building works). Rehoboam calls the old men who used to advise his father – they advise him to heed the call to lighten the burden. Rehoboam abandons (1 Kings 12:8) their counsel and goes to his young contemporaries who advise him unwisely to speak harshly to the people about making their lives even harder under his rule! This is bad advise and he takes it. And as a result the people of Israel all rebel under the leadership of Jeroboam and all the tribes except Judah succeed from Judah and become the northern tribes with their own king. Israel is divided and is never re-united.
And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. (1 Kings 12:13-15)
Rehoboam acted unwisely, was selfish, arrogant, did not listen to and was harsh with his people – it was his doing. And yet Scripture attributes this moment to God’s sovereign plan – ‘it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that He might fulfill His word…’ (vs15).
So who did this? Rehoboam or God? Well both. Rehoboam was unwise and sinful and therefore the kingdom was torn in two and yet God was at work to fulfil the judgement He had made on Solomon and the prophesy He had spoken through Ahijah to Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 11:28-40).
Now, Jeroboam (now the king of the Northern tribes of Israel – called Israel from now onwards in the book) had heard God speak to him. He had God promise to bless him and establish him as a king “IF” (there is that word again);
“If you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” (1 Kings 11:38)
Jeroboam had heard God speak to him, God gave him counsel…
And yet Scripture records that Jeroboam didn’t listen to the counsel of God but rather listened to his own thoughts; ‘Jeroboam said in his heart…’ (1 Kings 12:26) & ‘He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart.’ (1 Kings 12:33)
Jeroboam did not believe what God had promised but doubted and thought to himself – I can’t have people continually going back to Judah to worship at the temple in Jerusalem so I will build temples here in the North (in Dan and Bethel which was contrary to what God had commanded) and I will appoint my own priests for these temples (men not appointed by God) and I will make statues of golden calves for these temples (just like Aaron had done in the Exodus)! More than this Jeroboam found counsellors who agreed with his ungodly plan (1 Kings 12:28). This plan became sin for the whole nation of the north (1 Kings 12:30).
Jeroboam had God’s wisdom and advise and promise – and yet he chose to ‘follow his heart’ and found counsellors to confirm his folly! And so he set the Northern tribes on a disastrous course of idol worship which they never recovered from.
In 1 Kings 13 we read about a prophet sent by God from Judah to denounce Jeroboam’s self-styled worship. This prophet is told by God to prophesy and then go home and not eat or remain in the Northern territory – but he too doesn’t listen to God and ends up being killed by a lion sent by God.
What can we learn from this all?
I am freshly invigorated to listen for God’s counsel, to read God’s counsel in Scripture and to not depart from it come what may. I don’t want to be like Rehoboam, or Jeroboam or the prophet who had heard God and knew what God had said to him and yet departed from it to his own detriment. May I, may we be those who listen to God and obey all He tells us to do.