The first half of 1 Kings 14 speaks about the condition of the northern nation, called Israel, under the reign of King Jeroboam. However, from 1 Kings 14:21-15:24 the narrator’s attention turns to the southern nation called Judah. The account records the first three kings of Judah.
Fading Glory, Fake Allegiance (14:21-24)
The story begins with the seventeen year reign of Rehoboam. Please notice the emphasis made in verse 21. He reigned in Jerusalem, “the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there.” While God had given ten tribes to Jeroboam, it was the city of Jerusalem, the place chosen by God, where God could place his name. This is where people could turn, look, and see the living God. Instead of finding the glory of God, verse 22 declares that the nation did what was evil in God’s sight. They provoked God to jealousy because of their sins, more than all that their fathers had done. Rather than being the light to the nations declaring the glory of God, the nation had become like the world. Notice verse 24: “They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.” (1 Kings 14:24 ESV) The nation is doing the very things that brought judgment on the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them. God drove out those people because of their abominations. Now the Israelites come into the land and commit the same abominations as those judged before them. What do we suppose is going to happen to these people? God shows no partiality which tells us that he will judge the world by the same standard that he judges those who claim to be his people.
These people are living in Zion, the city of God. But the name did not make them the people of God. They were no different than the world, acting like them in their idolatrous pursuits. Our actions reflect where our idol is. We defame and blaspheme the glory of God and the name of God when as Christians we seek after worldly pursuits. When we pursue what the world pursues, love what the world loves, focus on what the world focuses, and care about the world cares about then we reveal our fake allegiance. Have we forgotten the command that our citizenship is not of this world but in heaven (Philippians 3:20)? We are not even citizens of this earth, but we place our efforts into physical, material, and earthly things. The glory of the Lord is obscured by our worldly allegiance.
Fading Glory, False Satisfaction (14:25-31)
In Rehoboam’s fifth year of his reign, the king of Egypt came against Jerusalem and took all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the house of Rehoboam. Shishak took the gold shields that Solomon made. This passage contains a symbolic representation of Judah’s demise. Once the gold shields were plundered, Rehoboam has bronze shields made and put them in the place of the gold shields. The splendor of the nation is fading. But rather than turn to the Lord in worship and repentance, Rehoboam simply put on a facade. They pretend that everything is fine on the ship. Rehoboam is rearranging the furniture rather than repenting.
As crazy as this action seems, it is something that we also easily do. We fail to recognize that our lack of relationship with God is the cause of our suffering and lack of satisfaction. So we rearrange our lives, trying different things to figure out what is missing. On one end of the spectrum we might change careers or move to a new place. On a sinful end of the spectrum we divorce our spouse, have an affair, cast ourselves into wild, drunken living, or some other sinful activity. We are doing nothing more than rearranging the furniture in our lives, thinking some life modification is what we need to find joy, happiness, and satisfaction. Sin continues to devastate our lives and we fail to recognize that we need to turn to the Lord who can heal our broken lives. Instead we try finding our value in the world. We need to repent and seek the Lord rather than covering over the void in our hearts that is yearning for God.
Fading Glory, Fatherly Imitation (15:1-8)
Abijam, Rehoboam’s son, becomes king upon his father’s death. Very little is told to us about the reign of Abijam. The writer wants us to observe two key points. The first point is that he followed in the sins of his father (15:3). He walked in all the sins that his father did before him. We have seen this key lesson made repeatedly in this book. How often our children walk in the ways we walk, whether good or bad! But we need to take care what we think our children are learning. Too often we think that by coming to church that our children will also walk in our ways and also go to church. But going to church is not the priority. God tells us what the priority is in verse 3.
“His heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father.” Notice that God evaluated not only his actions, but where the king’s heart was. What is at stake is teaching our children to love the Lord with all of our heart. Do you see the condemnation? His heart was not wholly true to the Lord. He was not fully devoted to the Lord in his heart. We teach our children to have a divided heart when we have divided hearts. We teach our children to not be fully devoted to the Lord when we show our passions and desires to belong to other things besides the Lord. If we are not reading God’s word with our children, praying with them, teaching them to worship God, placing God above all else, then we cannot be surprised when their heart is not devoted to the Lord. If our lives appear to be mere externals to the Lord and we do not speak of our love for the Lord in word and in actions, our children will not develop the heart we want them to have. When the writer of Proverbs instructed us to train our children in the way they should go, he was not speaking about merely bringing them to church and teaching them what is right and wrong. The way they need to go is in a passionate pursuit of the Lord. That is the only way to show them. To show our children any other path is to not bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Fading Glory, Future Grace (15:4, 9-24)
When we read these events have you ever wondered why God did not simply say “Enough!” and wipe out everyone? Why doesn’t Go bury this wicked kingdom? Why doesn’t God put an end to this wicked dynasty? There is a second key point made about the reign of Abijam concerns what God was doing at this time.
“Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:4–5 ESV)
In spite of the sins of this dynasty, there is a beautiful word about the grace and glory of God. The word is “nevertheless.” Because of the promise God made to David (cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-16), God did not wipe out Jerusalem, the nation, and the dynasty. God’s faithfulness is the reason why the kingdom remained. The righteousness of God is what is being put on display through the evil being committed in Judah. This is an amazing picture of God’s grace. We are right to praise God and sing to God, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” It is by God’s grace and God’s righteousness that this kingdom is being spared from the judgment it deserves. God is offering hope to the people for the future.
In the short term, some hope did come. The next king to arise was Asa. He did not follow in his heart and actions in the ways of his father and grandfather. Rather he had the heart for the Lord like his great-great grandfather David. He begins to reform the nation, tearing out the idolatry found in the land. The passionate love and pursuit of the Lord rips out the idols from the land and from our hearts. If we love the Lord, we will shatter the idols in our lives quickly. God holds offers hope that in the next generation the children will repent and seek the Lord.
But there is a greater hope that God was offering to the people. The apostle Paul praised the righteousness of God in his letter to the Romans. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17 ESV) God’s righteousness is revealed in his faithfulness to his promises. Throughout history people are rebelling against him, even those who are supposed to be his chosen people. God’s grace, love, and faithfulness is seen is his righteousness. The hope that God was holding out for the people is seen in Jesus. The gospel message is the declaration to the world about the salvation available to all who will believe and live by faith in Jesus. God does not eradicate the dynasty. But for the love of the world and his promise to David, the king line of David continues so that the King of Kings could arrive and save us from our sins. In our fading glory we see the fuller, greater grace of God. Therefore Paul could praise God when he says, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). The heart of worship comes from seeing the righteousness of God. We teach our children to love the Lord by teaching them about the grace that abounds toward us. Stop rearranging the furniture in your life and give your life to the Lord. He wants to transform your life and fill the void so that you may have eternal life.