[The following is a complete excerpt of Day 12 from Feet to Follow, Eyes to See]
Solomon’s many building projects required a large labor force, so Solomon conscripted laborers from the foreign populations still living in Israel (1 Kings 9:20–22). Forced laborers require strong oversight, so Solomon appointed Israelite deputies to keep these conscripts working and in line (1 Kings 9:23). One of these deputies was Jeroboam, a young man who proved so capable Solomon “appointed him over the entire labor force of the house of Joseph” (1 Kings 11:28).
Solomon’s approval of Jeroboam came to an abrupt end when a prophet publicly declared that he would one day become king over the ten northern tribes of Israel!
“this is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand. I will give you 10 tribes, but one tribe will remain his because of my servant David and because of Jerusalem, the city I chose out of all the tribes of Israel.’” (1 Kings 11:31–32)
God was doing this to punish Solomon for engaging in idolatry, but rather than repent of his sin, Solomon tried to kill his new rival. Jeroboam escaped to Egypt and remained in exile until Solomon died.
When all the tribes gathered to ratify Solomon’s son Rehoboam as their king, the northern tribes summoned Jeroboam from exile to be their spokesman. Jeroboam approached the new king with an ultimatum: “Your father made our yoke difficult. You, therefore, lighten your father’s harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” (1 Kings 12:3–4)
Not wanting to look weak, Rehoboam boasted that he would be an even harsher task master than his father, and the northern tribes refused to be ruled by the house of David any longer:
“What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Israel, return to your tents; David, now look after your own house!” (1 Kings 12:16)
Thus the nation of Israel became divided between the southern kingdom of Judah, ruled by Rehoboam, and the northern kingdom of Israel, ruled by Jeroboam. Rehoboam tried briefly to subject the northern tribes by force, but he was ultimately unsuccessful. Both kings then began trying to adapt to the new political situation.
Jeroboam knew that to solidify his rule over the northern tribes, he had to sever the Israelites’ religious ties with Jerusalem:
Jeroboam said to himself, “The way things are going now, the kingdom might return to the house of David. If these people regularly go to offer sacrifices in the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem, the heart of these people will return to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah.” (1 Kings 12:26–27)
Jeroboam couldn’t build a temple as grand as Solomon’s, but he could build rival worship centers in his own territory. He built one “high place” at Bethel in the south, and another at Dan in the north.
Not only were these sanctuaries strategically located, they were associated with long-standing religious traditions. Abraham had built an altar at Bethel (Genesis 12:8) and Jacob had experienced a vision there (Genesis 28:10–22). Dan also had a patriarchal connection (Genesis 14:14) and had been an independent worship site since the days when the Danites first conquered it (Judges 18:27–31). By building his “high places” at sites already sacred to the Israelites, Jeroboam’s religious innovation didn’t seem quite so new. In fact, he could claim that these ancient worship centers were more legitimate than the LORD’s temple in Jerusalem, which was after all only a few decades old.
The LORD gave Jeroboam a kingdom, yet in his fear of losing it Jeroboam tried to use the LORD’s name to benefit himself. The Israelite kings perpetuated “the sin of Jeroboam” (1 Kings 16:31; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 11; 17:22) until the kingdom was finally destroyed.
Have you committed the sin of Jeroboam? Have you tried to use the LORD’s name to benefit yourself—to make a sale, land a job, gain a good reputation, or curry favor with someone? Remember to worship Him on His terms, and depend on Him to keep safe what He has clearly provided for you.
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