Jeroboam was a rising star in Solomon’s kingdom. He was an Ephraimite who had been a valiant warrior in Solomon’s army, and his hard work had won him a position as overseer over the forced labor in Ephraim. Moreover, God found virtue in him and, through the prophet Ahijah, promised to give him the northern ten tribes of Israel after Solomon’s death. God even gave him a promise, one very much like the one he gave to David…
“I will take you, and you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” 1 Kings 11:37, 38, NAS95.
So, when Solomon died, Jeroboam was given the lion’s share of the great kingdom of Solomon—just the way that God had promised. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, reigned over only Judah and Benjamin.
But no sooner had Jeroboam settled into his new throne and kingdom than he began to worry.
“Jeroboam said in his heart, ‘Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.’ So the king consulted…” 1 Kings 12:26-28, NAS95.
Who you consult with makes a difference
We’re not told who he consulted with. If it were modern times, he might have consulted with a special political consulting firm, pollsters, cultural critics, a PR firm, or perhaps with the fastest growing kingdoms in the area to find out what they’re doing.
But whoever they were, they came in with some “whiz-bang” ideas:
- Bring in visuals (some golden calves to represent the LORD), because worshipping an invisible God is really weird — everyone likes to see what they’re praying to.
- If you really want better attendance, especially from the northern tribes, you need to put the place of worship closer to the people—at least two, one in Dan and one in Bethel.
- And a priesthood drawn exclusively from the Levites is really very narrow and out of step with the rest of the religious world. Let’s open up the priesthood to others.
- And lastly, the timing of the Day of Atonement is kind of inconvenient; if you really want attendance in Dan and Bethel, make this holy day about a month later than the old one.
That’s all; no big changes, just little tweaks to the pattern to be more relevant to the masses (see 1 Kings 12:28-33).
Now, although we don’t know for sure who Jeroboam consulted with; we do know that he didn’t consult with the one person he should have consulted with—God. As the inspired prophets wrote the rest of the history of the deepening corruption of the kingdom of Israel (1 & 2 Kings), the phrase “the sins of Jeroboam” is repeated over 22 times. Jeroboam’s kingdom did not last, and he became known as the origin of Israel’s fall from God and the poster-boy of disobedient kings.
But what if…
What if he’d just trusted the promise of God? I believe God would have kept His promises; He always does. I believe that Israel would have stayed with Jeroboam, the kingdom would have grown stronger, and Jeroboam would likely have lived a long life reigning over a glorious and influential kingdom. Instead of his name becoming a byword for idolatry, we’d be talking about Jeroboam like we talk about David.
There is also fear in the hearts of many of today’s preachers and elders—modern day leaders, contemporary Jeroboams, if you will. They are sometimes anxious over the reports that the church is shrinking, that young people are leaving, that the church isn’t reaching the lost, and that we’re becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the world. So they consult—often with the wrong advisors: pollsters, PR firms, denominational mega-church consultants, and the latest church growth fads. These consultants often suggest:
- Make worship more entertaining and appealing to people
- Let women lead the congregation in worship
- Introduce instruments and bands to the worship
- Talk less about sin and the Bible, and more about feelings and “relevant” issues of the day
- And don’t worry, we won’t touch “salvation issues” (yet)
But what if the modern, anxious Jeroboams just consulted with God instead. What if they just trusted God’s word and His pattern? What if church leaders just trusted that the Gospel is just as powerful today as it ever was? What if they accepted the tragic truth that sometimes men just reject the Gospel (just like some men did in the first century)? And what if they just refused to change the Biblical pattern? I believe that the church would continue to exist, to thrive, and to grow strong, glorious, and influential—even as the world opposes it. I believe that instead of being called to account for caving in to the world’s “wisdom”, that such leaders would be spoken of in Heaven like the other heroes of God’s people who stood firm with God’s “foolishness”.
It’s OK to be concerned about fulfilling the Lord’s mission about evangelism and the strength of the church; let’s just look for consultation in the right place, God’s word.