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.
The man who loved God (1 Kings 3:3), the man God chose to use to finally build Him a dwelling place, the one who had the privilege of fulfilling promises and had promises made to him by God who revealed Himself to him personally twice, the one God blessed by answering his prayers and going beyond just answering into exceeding blessing and peace and prosperity…
That one, did the very thing his dad had warned him not to do, the very thing God had spoken to him twice about directly in a very personal way. After the overflowing blessing of chapters 9-10, 1 Kings 11 is a tragedy of monumental proportions!
We can be tempted sometimes to think something along lines of; “if only I had…….. then I’d be content”. Solomon is probably the clearest example in all of Scripture exposes that thinking as false.
Solomon had God’s favour as a chosen man with destiny, God’s promises, God’s blessing financially, God’s blessing in his role as king with peace in the nation, God’s blessing with wisdom. More than this he wasn’t single wanting to be married but was married…
And yet he wasn’t satisfied! That’s because things don’t satisfy us, only God can truly satisfy us.
Solomon’s desire for more is most clearly expressed in his insatiable lust for women. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines! His lust for women blinded his eyes and shut his ears to the words of his father and more expressly the words of God and the commands of God which urged him to follow God’s ways and God’s commandments.
God had specifically instructed him not to marry foreign women for a specific reason – God knew that they would cause him to compromise and would lead him astray to the worship false gods. And that is exactly what we discover happening in 1 Kings 11.
So God eventually swore He would tear the kingdom from Solomon, divide the kingdom into two parts. Was God not gracious in swearing to do this? Sometimes we read the Old Testament and make a wrong conclusion that somehow the God depicted in the Old Testament is different to the New Testament- but that is not true. After all, God didn’t make this pronouncement after the first foreign wife or the second or the third or the 300th or 600th….!
God is is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and yet God is also holy and pure and righteous and He can not leave sin unpunished…
And so the glorious reign of Solomon has a dark lining – it’s a sad end and at the end of his life Solomon himself declares;
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV84)
So sad, what a tumultuous fall from grace and favour! So what can we learn? How does this apply to our lives?
If the one guy in Scripture who literally ‘had it all’ wasn’t satisfied by earthly things, by relationships by sex, money and power – do you honestly think you’ll be?
Seek God, find your joy in God, He alone can truly satisfy as God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (Piper). So don’t be tempted and distracted by temporal things or even the good blessings given to you by God, love God more than anything find your joy in Him.
Our enemy is patient. He is happy sometimes to bide his time, he lays down land-mines in our lives (if we let him) but then waits to detonate them at some point in the future when the impact will be greater than it is now.
Solomon becomes king as a young man, he loves God Scripture says, and is even a humble young king at this point (1 Kings 3:7). But sadly he is already making some wrong choices, disregarding the charge given to him by his father David (1 Kings 2:3) to walk in God’s ways and commandments.
Solomon unwisely, disregards God’s commandment to not marry foreign women. Through Moses God had warned about not doing this because these foreign wives would cause God’s people to compromise and end up worshipping their false gods (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Solomon however marries Pharaoh’s daughter in a political move designed to give him political allies.
Solomon loves God (1 Kings 3:3) but again he is unwise not paying attention to God’s commandment in Deuteronomy 12:1-8 to not worship or make sacrifices anywhere they pleased but rather to only worship God in the place God had chosen (where the tabernacle was at any given time). Solomon does exactly what Deuteronomy 12:8 specifically instructs not to be done and makes sacrifices at the ‘high places’ of worship used for worship of other gods (1 Kings 3:3).
The remainder of chapters 3-4 record Solomon’s good request from God and the blessing that flows from this request for wisdom. God blessed Solomon in incredible ways with wisdom (we see this in his adjudication of the difficult scenario of the two women in 1 Kings 3:16-28), prolific writing and song writing and blessed the whole nation with peace and prosperity.
And yet the seeds of compromise had been sown! Solomon didn’t know it but his compromise was germinating beneath the surface and would later result in his effective downfall. Satan is patient, happy to sow sin-seeds and to leave them there for a later time for greater impact.
How many church leaders or prominent people have years later when they have profile been exposed for some thing that was private that they never dealt with which then later becomes public only to destroy them?
So what relevance does this have for your life and mine?
What might there be in your life that seems small to you at the moment but is in fact an area of compromise?
Is there anything in your life that you are tolerating or turning a blind eye to even though you know God’s will for you is contrary?
I urge you to never see sin-seeds as small things, but to see what they become and to deal with them as soon as the Holy Spirit points them out to you. Remember that Satan is patient, happy to wait for the moment when detonating that land-mine, causing that seed to germinate will have greater impact on you and on others.
The little section (3:18-4:1) that follows Colossians 3:17 expands on what it looks like in a number of life-spheres, to have Jesus as our Lord. What it looks like to ‘do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus’, to live a life that is ‘fitting in the Lord’ (vs18) and a life that pleases God (vs20).
Now some of a section like this might ruffle your modern-day feathers and ways of thinking but before you baulk at anything in this section it’s worth noting something…
This section of Scripture is not an appeal to some societal norms at a point in history. Why do I say this? Simply because in just nine verses the imperatives are rooted in the foundation of Jesus being Lord (or some similar phrase) seven times!
This is not some out-dated teaching, but is rather instruction regarding the type of life that is worthy of someone who has been saved by Jesus Christ and who has professed Him as their Lord.
- ….wives.,submit to your husbands and husbands are to love their wives with gentle affirming love – as this is fitting in the Lord (vs18-19)
- Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord (vs20)
- Bondservants (employees), obey…fearing the Lord (vs22)
- Whatever you do, work heavily, as for the Lord… (vs23) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance (vs24)
- You are serving the Lord Christ (vs24)
- Masters treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven (4:1)
Jesus as our ‘Lord’ can also be understood as Jesus being our ‘King’. In a king’s kingdom, it’s the king that determines the way that life will be lived out, what will be prioritised and what will be outlawed. When we accept Jesus as our Lord, Jesus becomes our King and our whole lives need to then be lived out according to His plans and purposes, His ways.
Jesus’ kingship over us impacts marriage, family, the workplace, all aspects of our days and lives regardless of what we do for a living. We are not to resemble the world and its ways, we are to be a different people, walking to a different drum beat to that of the world around us.
So read and re-read this passage as a wife or a husband, as a child or parent, as an employer or and employee and whatever you do, whatever is your life situation – do everything remembering that ultimately; “You are serving the Lord Christ” (vs24) as you obey these instructions.
So read and re-read and ask Your LORD and Saviour to speak to you personally about anything you need to be challenged on or anything that needs changing.
As believers we need to be on our guard, careful not to be distracted or distorted by every wind of teaching that blows through town, or the internet or social media…
We as believers need to ensure we aren’t gullible, aren’t easily impressed, impacted or taken along with teachings or ideas that have their basis in the empty thinking of our age. Such philosophies can sound so persuasive (certain issues pertaining to gender, sexuality, freedom, life’s purpose…), so clever, but in the end they are devoid of God’s eternal truth as they don’t line up with Scripture and they aren’t centred around the biblical revelation of Jesus Christ and the Gospel!
We on the other hand are to look to, to focus on the man Jesus, the One in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form. Focusing on Jesus, trusting His ways for our lives regardless of whether such ways seem popular or are even despised by our popular culture has a resultant effect. Our lives become filled to the brim – no lack at all. Jesus + nothing is what you and I need. There is no lack in Him and there will be no lack in us as we look to Him and trust Him and His ways as revealed in Scripture for ALL of life.
So, is there anything? Any worldly thinking that’s actually at odds with the revealed will of God in Scripture, with which you might have been taken captive or allured by? Ask God to reveal anything like that, that’s in play in your life or your thinking… And if God shows you anything I urge you to repent of such empty thinking that has its foundation in the emptiness of the world’s thinking and choose now to place Scripture over all other philosophies and to fix your eyes on Jesus + nothing.
As people we are inquisitive by nature. You can see this clearly in children, the desire to know, to understand propels learning and growth. Many people love riddles, or stories with plots that unfold, mysteries that need resolving, that draw us in as they press on our desire to know more.
This passage describes Jesus as the mystery of God! The God of the Bible is so much bigger, more loving, more magnificent, holy, wrathful against sin, just, holy, righteous, powerful, gracious…. than we could ever imagine. What we know of God, just reveals how little we truly know of God. What we know of God simultaneously satisfies us and stirs up within us an insatiable desire, an inquisitiveness wanting to know more of our glorious God.
Here in Colossians 2:2-3 Jesus is described both as ‘God’s mystery’ and as the One in whom are hidden ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’. What an intoxicating combination. If we want to pursue the mystery of God, then we need to focus on Jesus, and Scripture here confirms that as we pursue relationship with Jesus, we will find that Jesus is the One in whom ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found.
Friend, Jesus is the answer to every problem, every need. Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy our souls, Jesus contains the wisdom we need for life and for godliness, for parenting, for our career choices and our relationships… Jesus deserves not only all our worship but all our reflection, all our attention and as we focus our lives on Him, we discover more and more about God, who He is and what He is like, we discover treasures that will thrill our hearts and satisfy our souls and we discover wisdom and knowledge for life.
Oh may we make Jesus our vision and our pursuit.