Partial script for the May 2nd episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the May 2nd episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis, and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is 1 Kings 12-13. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.
1 Kings 12
As we finished 1 Kings 11, we read about Solomon’s death. Rehoboam, his son, became king in his place.
But we had also read in that chapter that the prophet, Ahijah, had said that Jereboam would claim the right to rule over ten of the tribes of Israel upon Solomon’s death. First Kings 12 picks up at this disastrous moment in Israel’s history.
1 Kings 12:1 (CSB): “Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king.”
All is good so far. Solomon’s son goes to Shechem to officially claim the right to rule in his father’s place. But Jeroboam was nowhere to be found. Ahijah had said that he would reign over ten tribes, but where was he?
1 Kings 12:2 (CSB): “When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard about it, he stayed in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon’s presence. Jeroboam stayed in Egypt.”
Claiming the right to be the king even as the dead king’s son is claiming the right to be king would inevitably lead to someone’s death. So almost certainly, Jeroboam was afraid for his life and didn’t want to make a misstep.
In verse 3, the people of Israel summon Jereoboam to go with them to meet with Rehoboam. Sure, they would anoint him king but they wanted to have a little talk with him while they had his ear.
The people of Israel, along with Jeroboam, told Rehoboam that they were weary from living under Solomon’s rule. Sure, Solomon’s rule was characterized by unmatched wealth and splendor. But it was built upon their backs, and it claimed their own personal resources. And they were tired of the injustice.
They assured Rehoboam that if he lightened their load, and quit demanding so much of them to run the government, then they would follow him loyally. But if not – well, they would have to take another route.
1 Kings 12:5 (CSB): “Rehoboam replied, ‘Go away for three days and then return to me.’ So the people left.”
During the next three days, Rehoboam consulted with the elders and his peers. The elders, men who were older and generally wiser, told Rehoboam that the people’s request was reasonable and that he should lighten their load. However, Rehoboam’s peers told him to be a man and let the people know that he had even grander plans that would require even more of the people.
Rehoboam’s ego liked the counsel of his younger peers. However, the people of Israel did not. And the kingdom of Israel split.
Once again, we see the tension between two biblical truths: God’s sovereign rule and mankind’s free will. Rehoboam did exactly what he wanted to do, and yet God was doing exactly what He willed to do.
1 Kings 12:15 (CSB): “The king did not listen to the people, because this turn of events came from the LORD to carry out his word, which the LORD had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat.”
The northern ten tribes heard of Rehoboam’s decision and left. Rehoboam saw that a rift was occurring, so he sent his officer in charge of forced labor to demand that the people get to work. The folks of Israel didn’t particularly like what he said, so they stoned him to death. Rehoboam fled back to Jerusalem as the people of Israel called for Jeroboam to be their king.
1 Kings 12:20 (CSB): “When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they summoned him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. No one followed the house of David except the tribe of Judah alone.”
Rehoboam wasn’t finished with the northern tribes. He had sent his officer of forced labor, and they killed him. Now, he mustered an army of 180,000 soldiers to go and fight the northern tribes. But the Lord made it clear that this turn of events was from him. Rehoboam was told to send his massive army back to their homes.
Well, things are still tenuous. Jeroboam realizes that if the people of his northern tribes continue to go to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, they might eventually want to reunite with the southern tribe – and kill him.
So, Jeroboam acted not in the best interest of his people but in his own best interest by coming up with a plan.
1 Kings 12:28-30 (CSB): “28 … Then he made two golden calves, and he said to the people, ‘Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here are your gods who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ 29 He set up one in Bethel, and put the other in Dan. 30 This led to sin; the people walked in procession before one of the calves all the way to Dan.”
So, in order to save his own skin, Jeroboam led the people away from the Lord. Since taking the Israelites into paganism would spare his own life, he willfully did so.
This is not biblical leadership. Biblical leadership is servant leadership. It leads not for the betterment of the leader but for the well-being of those who are led.
One of the many places in Scripture that highlights this point is when Jesus said:
John 10:11-13 (CSB): “11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.”
So, according to the standard set forth by Jesus, Jeroboam’s self-centered leadership was utterly sinful. And as we read the final verses of this chapter, we observe Jeroboam actively creating new opportunities to worship as he led them deeper into paganism.
Friend, a leader who cares more for himself than those he leads, cannot be trusted.
1 Kings 13
As the nation of Israel split into Judah (in the south) and Israel (in the north), it once again became a time when speaking on behalf of the Lord was not safe. Calling out sin has never been safe but particular times were even more dangerous. First Kings 13 invites us into one of those times.
We are told that a “man of God,” a formal title for a prophet of the Lord, came to Bethel and prophecied against the altar. He foretold that a future king named Josiah would sacrifice the pagan priests upon the altar. Jereboam was there and heard this. He was infuritated that someone would so brazenly disrespect him and his kingdom.
1 Kings 13:4-5 (CSB): “4 When the king heard the message that the man of God had cried out against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar and said, ‘Arrest him!’ But the hand he stretched out against him withered, and he could not pull it back to himself. 5 The altar was ripped apart, and the ashes poured from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.”
Well, events like this have a way of changing someone’s mind. Jereboam was humbled and pled with the man of God to pray that his hand would be restored. The prophet prayed, and Jeroboam’s hand was returned to normal.
Then, Jereboam wanted to continue to gain the favor of this man who had demonstrated the power of God. He asked that the man of God would come to his home and eat. The prophet refused and said that the Lord had told him not to eat or drink but to prophecy and then go straight back home.
In verse 11, we are told of another older prophet who lived in Bethel. His son had told him of all that had happened between the man of God and Jeroboam. So the older prophet got on his donkey and went looking for the man of God.
When the older prophet found him, he said…
1 Kings 13:15-17 (CSB): “15 Then he said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat some food.’ 16 But he answered, ‘I cannot go back with you or accompany you; I will not eat food or drink water with you in this place. 17 For a message came to me by the word of the LORD: “You must not eat food or drink water there or go back by the way you came.”’ ”
Now, listen to what happens next. Listen as the older prophet tricks the man of God.
1 Kings 13:18-19 (CSB): “18 He said to him, ‘I am also a prophet like you. An angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD: “Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat food and drink water.” ‘The old prophet deceived him, 19 and the man of God went back with him, ate food in his house, and drank water.”
The older prophet flat out lied. He hadn’t heard from an angel. He was simply appealing to a higher authority so that he could trick the man of God.
Friend, I’ve been on the receiving end of this. My wife has been on the receiving end of this. You probably have, too. Someone comes to you and says, “The Lord told me to tell you…” or something of the sort. Unless they have their finger on a passage of Scripture, your default response should be to disbelieve them. If the Lord wants to reveal something to you, He can speak to you through His Word. I have discovered that a lot of folks just want to appear much more spiritual than they actually are and claim that the Lord revealed something to them, so they claim that the Lord speaks with them. Again, if their finger isn’t on Scripture as their authority, as THE Word of God, let your default position be to doubt what they say.
As we look back at the story in 1 Kings 13, the man of God goes back to eat at the prophet’s house. But as he is eating, the prophet tells him that he disobeyed the Lord by eating and drinking. The very man who deceived this man of God was now the one condemning his actions. Honestly, this makes me angry. This is completely unjust. The man of God should have stuck to what the Lord had told him, but he had trusted this prophet and was condemned for it. He was attacked by a lion on his way home and died.
It was little consolation that the older prophet sent for the body of the man of God and had it buried in his own grave. He also expressed his certainty that the things the man of God had said would come true.
So, as Jeroboam had a hand that became messed up and was restored, and then may have heard about what happened to the man of God afterward, what was his response?
1 Kings 13:33-34 (CSB): “33 Even after this, Jeroboam did not repent of his evil way but again made priests for the high places from the ranks of the people. He ordained whoever so desired it, and they became priests of the high places. 34 This was the sin that caused the house of Jeroboam to be cut off and obliterated from the face of the earth.”
I’m sure that you have noticed that when we read of Israel’s obedience and God’s blessings, it is such enjoyable and pleasant reading. But when they disobey and God moves in judgment, the reading can be heavy and discouraging.
With this in mind, let’s commit to obeying God’s Word and living in His blessings, however He chooses to define those blessings. Regardless of what difficulties we may experience in life, it is so much better to be in God’s favor because we are obeying Him than to experience His disfavor as we disobey Him.