God is revealing the spiritual problems in Israel that will lead to its demise. Even more, God is revealing the atmosphere in which he will send his prophet Elijah, who will be a monumental figure in Israel’s history and typologically. We have seen some staggering pictures about Jeroboam. Because he does not trust in God’s promises, he has established a false worship system to coax the people to not go to Jerusalem to worship. His marketing plan was to tell them that it was too hard to go to Jerusalem. Why do that when they can just stay where they are and worship? We have also seen Jeroboam receive a message of condemnation from a prophet. A man of God condemned this worship which is a condemnation of Jeroboam. As Jeroboam reaches out his hand with the command to seize this prophet, his hand withers and he is unable to pull his hand back. Jeroboam asks for the prophet to pray to the Lord for healing and he is healed. However, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways (13:33) and is the beginning of the downfall of the nation (13:34). But now it is time for a bit of irony. This irony reveals a lot about humans and will teach us much about ourselves.
Crisis God (14:1-20)
So Jeroboam has rejected the will of the Lord. But then his son becomes sick. This becomes a problem for Jeroboam. He wants to consult a prophet but he has rebelled against the Lord. So he tells his wife to disguise herself so that the prophet will not know that she is Jeroboam’s wife. Further, take a gift with you: ten loaves, some cakes, and a jar of honey (14:2-3). So Jeroboam’s wife follows the plan. Now we are given a bit of humor. Verse 4 tells us that Ahijah the prophet cannot see because of his old age. So Jeroboam and his wife are going through with this elaborate scheme for no reason. But this also tells us that Jeroboam has not consulted this prophet in a very long time since he does not know that the prophet cannot see.
So will Jeroboam succeed in his plan? The Lord told Ahijah the prophet that Jeroboam’s wife was coming to inquire about their son because he is sick. When she comes, she is going to pretend to be someone else. So Jeroboam’s wife walks in and the prophet immediately greets her. “Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why do you pretend to be another?” He further tells her that he has bad news for her. She is relay this message to Jeroboam. First, the Lord exalted him from among the people and made him leader of Israel, taking the kingdom away from David and giving it to Jeroboam. But you have not been like David, who kept the commandments and followed the Lord with all his heart. Listen to verse 9. “You have done more evil than all who lived before you.” You made other gods for yourself and cast me behind your back.
The resulting prophecy is severe message of doom and judgment. A violent death is declared against anyone who belongs to Jeroboam’s house (14:10-11). Further, when she returns to her city, the son that they are inquiring about will die. But the son will be the only one who will be buried because he is the only one in all of Jeroboam’s house that God can find anything pleasing. Not only this, the Lord will raise up a king over Israel who will wipe out the house of Jeroboam. Finally, the nation of Israel will be uprooted from this land and scattered beyond the Euphrates River because they made idols, angering the Lord. This is the legacy of Jeroboam. Verses 17-20 record that what the prophet said came to pass. Jeroboam reigned for 22 years and there is nothing good to say about what he did.
Now Jeroboam reigned for 22 years but this is the paragraph what God wants us to remember about him and learn from him. There are two things I want us to consider that is being taught to us through the life and reign of Jeroboam. First, I want us to see that the only reason Jeroboam wanted to hear a word from the Lord was because he was in a personal crisis. His son was sick and now he suddenly wants to know what God has to say. Jeroboam had no concern for God throughout his life. But once his son was about to die, he suddenly seeks a word from God. This is a huge warning that is given here as well as many other places in the scriptures. Do you turn to God only when you are in trouble? Do you live your life doing what you want to do until something bad happens? Do you only seek the Lord once you realize you are unable to control the events of your life? It is really a sad thing that the only time we might pray or care to seek God’s will is when something bad happens. Prayer came back when the pandemic struck. But now that things are somewhat returning to “normal,” will we return to ignoring God? Or when our life crisis is solved, do we return to ignoring God? It is very easy to turn God into a crisis God. We run to him only when things are going badly in life. Now it is important to know that God uses difficulties and suffering so that we will turn to him. But he does not use these things so that we will temporarily turn to him to get what we want. I hope we see the insulting nature of treating God like our crisis God. Imagine if your child only spoke with you when they wanted something and then never spoke to you again until they needed something else. God wants to hear our wants but because we have a deep relationship with him, not just for our selfish desires. This is what Jeroboam shows us. He only cares about God when life is hard and when a crisis strikes. We are being warned about having this kind of relationship with God.
Second, listen to how God describes what this relationship is. Look at verse 9. You have cast me behind your back. Basically, you have tossed me to the side. I am not leading you but you think you are leading me. You have put me behind you. This is the second problem picture for Israel. We can think that God has turned his back on us. But God’s point is always that you have turned your back on me first. We are the cause of the fractured relationship. God is repeatedly calling out to us to turn back to him. But we are the reason why God is not near us. We have thrown him behind us and then we wonder why we cannot find him. What is particularly troubling is that God is reminding us about all of his blessings and yet we still throw him behind our back! Jeroboam was taken from being Solomon’s servant to being a king over 10 tribes of Israel. Jeroboam was blessed with great promises of establishing his reign and his dynasty. But Jeroboam still threw the Lord behind his back. What I want us to see is that this relationship between God and Jeroboam is fake. Jeroboam acts like he cares about God’s word but he does not. He only cares about his sick son and has done more to violate God’s will than any before him. He looks like he cares but he has put God behind his back. This leads us to look at the rest of chapter 14.
The rest of the chapter turns to the southern kingdom called Judah and the reign of Rehoboam. Maybe things will go better for Rehoboam and his rule over the people. But we are immediately told something that tells us things are not going to go any better with Rehoboam. We are told in verse 21 that his mother’s name is Naamah the Ammonite. His mother is not an Israelite but an Ammonite. Rehoboam is the son of one of the foreign wives Solomon married. So we do not think that this is just a point of information you will notice that the end of the account tells this fact to us again. Look at verse 31. His mother’s name was Naaman and she was an Ammonite. Rehoboam’s story is couched between telling us that his mother is an Ammonite.
The negative lens on Rehoboam continues. In verse 22 we are told that the people of Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord. They also provoked the Lord to jealousy with their sins more than any who were before them. They also set up high places, altars, and idols on every high hill and under every green tree (14:23). They even set up temple prostitution where the worshipers were serviced at these fertility shrines (cf. Hosea 4:14). They are acting just like the nations that the Lord drove out of the land for their sins.
All of this is exemplified in verses 25-28. This scene is to be the memorable event for Rehoboam’s reign. In the fifth year, the temple was raided by the king of Egypt and he took everything. The gold shields that Solomon had made were taken. The clear message by Egypt attacking Judah and successfully plundering the temple is that God is gone and is not with these people. This is a reverse of the exodus. In the exodus, the people of Israel plundered the Egyptians and took everything. Now Shishak the king of Egypt attacks Jerusalem and takes everything. So what does Rehoboam do? Rehoboam makes bronze shields to replace the gold shields that were plundered. This is symbolic of the fading glory of the kingdom. The glory of Solomon’s kingdom is already gone. A facade is put up in the place of the golden era of the kingdom.
This becomes the application for the whole chapter. Rehoboam puts up bronze shields rather than seeking the Lord. He makes it look like God is with them, even though he clearly is not. He puts up a facade. The nation is being fake. They wear the name that they belong to God and they have a temple to the Lord, but they are worshiping idols. They are acting just like the world. In some ways, they are even acting worse than the world. The northern nation of Israel is fake and Jeroboam has a fake relationship with God. The southern nation of Judah is fake and Rehoboam has a fake relationship with God. All I want us to consider in this lesson is if we are fake or putting up a facade of Christianity but really do not have a relationship with God. God warned about this through the apostle Paul.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7–9 NIV)
God is not mocked. He knows if you treat him as a crisis God. He knows if you only look to him when you are trouble. He knows if you are casting him behind your back throughout the week as you fulfill your desires and wants. He knows if you are putting up a facade for certain people or on certain days. He knows what the desires of your heart are. God says that at the proper time we will reap a harvest for what we are sowing. So ask yourself what you are sowing to? Are your efforts toward God and heart toward him? Or are our efforts toward ourselves and our own desires?