The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
June 12, 2016 :: 1 Kings 12:1-33
Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings.”
And here’s my question for you as we get started:
Has 1 Kings been confusing and complicated to you yet?
Confusing and/or complicated?
We’ve gone through the first eleven chapters of this book, and the main character besides the Lord has been King Solomon.
His succession to the throne, his building a glorious temple (and dedicating it) and reigning over a breathtaking kingdom that was fulfilling the promises that God had made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David.
And also Solomon’s fall. How Solomon’s heart was turned to idolatry by his idolatrous love of many foreign wives and how God promised him that his glorious kingdom would be torn away from his descendants–at least 80% of it would be.
So has 1 Kings been confusing and complicated to you yet?
I ask because this book is about to get very complicated and quite weird.
Up till now, we’ve basically had one king at a time.
Yeah sure, Adonijah made his play for the throne back in chapter 1, but he was quickly defeated, and it’s been all Solomon all the time since then.
But today, we read about the tearing of the kingdom. The dividing of the kingdom that the LORD had promised Solomon that He would do as a consequence of Solomon’s failure to do his one job as king of Israel–to walk with God in covenant faithfulness leading the nation to do the same.
So now there’s going to be two kingdoms. And there’s going to be two kings.
From here to the end of 2 Kings there will be two kingdoms, and there will always be two kings in power. One over each part of the divided kingdom.
And some of those kings are going to do fairly well, at least for a time, and others are going to do very very poorly.
And there’s a lot of strange stuff that’s going to go down.
So, if you’ve been confused so far, hold onto your hat and buckle up your seatbelt, because it’s going to get very complicated from here on out.
And yet, it’s also very simple. The details may be abstruse, but the underlying theology is actually very simple.
The books of Kings explain theologically what went wrong in Israel.
Why did they go from the glorious golden kingdom of Solomon to a divided and disintegrated nation in exile?
It’s all about Israel’s failure to keep the covenant.
And it’s all about God’s severe yet merciful and faithful relationship with His unfaithful people.
And each king whispers to us about King Jesus.
When the kings are at their best, they remind us of King Jesus.
And when the kings are at their worst, they remind us why we still need King Jesus.
Today I’ve only have two points of application to share with you.
And I was really encouraged as I thought about them how perfectly they fit for Graduation Sunday. These two points of application are for all of us, but they are especially what I might want to give as counsel to our recent high school graduates as they move into this new phase of life.
So listen up closely, Bryce, Aspen, Josh, Nathan, Daniel, and Rachel!
I might be calling on you. I’m definitely talking to you!
Let’s get into it.
At the end of chapter 11, King Solomon died. He was buried in the city of David, and his son “Rehoboam” was named the king. Chapter 12, verse 1.
“Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king.”
So, Rehoboam is the king and he’s going to Shechem to become the king. What does that mean?
I think it means that he’s going up to Shechem to formalize his kingship especially with the northern tribes.
Shechem is where Joshua made his famous, “Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” speech.
And Rehoboam thinks that he should go up to Shechem perhaps to be crowned and also to receive the expression of fealty, loyalty from the heads of the northern tribes.
But it goes disastrously wrong.
I'm pretty sure that Rehoboam didn’t see this coming!
But Jeroboam probably did. Do you remember him?
In chapter 11, the prophet Ahijah ripped up his new cloak and handed 10 pieces of it to Jeroboam telling him, from the LORD, that he will one day rule over Israel and his kids will to, if he is a thumbs-up king.
Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon and went into exile in Egypt. But in verse 2, he stages a comeback. V.2
“When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this [that Rehoboam was headed to Shechem] (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt [and became a kind of spokesmen for the people v.3]. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him:
‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.’ Rehoboam answered, ‘Go away for three days and then come back to me.’ So the people went away.”
Now, normally, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
The people weren’t supposed to make demands on the king.
This shows that all was not well in the nation of Israel.
It had come to this. The people, through Jeroboam, were complaining and requesting a reduction of their labor and heavy taxation.
Now, we don’t know if the conditions were really that harsh. People weren’t complaining a couple decades ago when Solomon started his rule. Even though they worked a lot and paid taxes, folks were happy back then.
Maybe Solomon got worse as he went along and maybe these folks just didn’t like it and felt like complaining. We don’t know.
We do know that they brought these concerns to Rehoboam who was: the son of the wisest man who had ever lived.
But Rehoboam? Not so much.
He assumes too much and he surrounds himself with yes-men.
In verse 5, he stalled for more time. And in verse 6, he begins to seek counsel from some advisors, but I don’t think he’s really interested in getting wisdom. V.6
“Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. ‘How would you advise me to answer these people?’ he asked.
They replied, ‘If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.’”
What do you think? Good advice? Makes sense?
Yes, his older counselors advise him to become what we would call a servant leader.
That’s always a smart move!
And that’s not what Rehoboam does. V.8
“But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, ‘What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, 'Lighten the yoke your father put on us'?’
The young men [who are not dumb. It’s clear now what Rehoboam wants to be told, these younger guys] who had grown up with him replied, ‘Tell these people who have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'–tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist.
My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'’
Tell ‘em that!
Give ‘em that one, “Reho!”
Rehoboam has a chance here to make a wise choice. Or a foolish one.
The choices we make in life have real and lasting consequences.
And it really matters whom we are listening to when we go to make them.
Rehoboam chose poorly. V.12
“Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, ‘Come back to me in three days.’ The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, ‘My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’
So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
[And his choice made a big difference. V.16]
When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse's son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!’ So the Israelites went home.”
Do you hear that sound?
There goes the kingdom.
Torn in two. The nation will never be the same.
What went wrong?
Rehoboam failed to seek out and love true wisdom.
So the lesson we learn from the first of the two kings and the tearing of the kingdom is:
#1. GET TRUE WISDOM.
Solomon’s first act as king of the united kingdom of Israel was to pray for true wisdom.
His son’s first and only act as king of the united kingdom of Israel was to reject true wisdom.
How much better it would have been for Rehoboam if he had heeded his father’s words in the book of Proverbs chapter 4.
“Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”
Get true wisdom!
Bryce, Aspen, Josh, Nathan, Daniel, and Rachel, your search for wisdom should not end with your graduation from high school.
If anything, it’s going to be more important now than ever.
Because you’re heading out on your own.
Rehoboam was graduating from king school to actually being a king.
But he was a disaster at seeking out true wisdom.
Now, in this story, it is the older folks who are wiser. They have more experience to offer. I think there is something there for you, as well.
Seek out wise, mature, seasoned people to mentor you and give you wise counsel for the big decisions you’re going to be facing in the next few years.
Let me encourage you to consider your parents in that.
After I graduated from high school and went out on my own, my parents got a lot smarter!
Actually, they didn’t, but I woke up to just how smart they really were.
Get true wisdom.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
And this story isn’t teaching that the old folks have all of the wisdom and the young folks are just young and dumb.
But it is saying that it’s dumb to surround yourself with foolish people and especially with just your “friends” who are going to tell you only what you want to hear.
Get true wisdom.
My favorite people to counsel are those who tell me to give it to them straight. “Don’t tell me just what I want to hear. Tell me what I need to hear.”
But it’s better.
The wisdom from the older advisers was much better.
They told Rehoboam to become a servant leader.
Let’s do that. If we are in a position of authority, let’s not ask what our followers can do for us, let’s ask what we can do for our followers.
Husbands, serve your wives.
It’s so much easier to follow a man who serves.
Parents, serve your children.
Pastors, elders, church leaders, serve the flock.
That’s true wisdom.
And here’s another piece of true wisdom. Don’t miss this.
Trust in the mysterious sovereignty of God.
Did you catch the theology of verse 15?
I kind of read over it fast, let’s go back and look at it.
It’s really fascinating. V.15
“So the king did not listen to the people [because he was a dummy. No, that’s not what it says. He was and that’s true, but that’s not where the author goes], for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.”
Now, let’s get this right.
Rehoboam was fully responsible for his foolish decision. That’s clear.
And yet, God was in it, too, working out His sovereign plan.
Now, how did he do that?
Was it mind control?
No, it was universe control.
This is God’s mysterious sovereignty working EVERYTHING including (and especially!) the bad stuff to His all-wise purposes and ends.
The author says that this “turn of events,” this twist in the story of the world came from the LORD.
It didn’t take Him by surprise. It was actually part of His plan to use Rehoboam’s foolishness to fulfill Ahijah’s prophecy.
And it would be wise for us to try to understand this.
God is in control.
His sovereignty is mysterious, but it is true and good.
Rehoboam’s foolishness was sad but also controlled and served God’s greater purposes.
Can you think of some ways to apply that true wisdom to what’s going on in your life right now?
God’s always at work.
And what others have meant for evil (or have done in stupidity), God works for our good and His glory.
Get true wisdom.
“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.”
Because Rehoboam did not. And it cost him the kingdom.
At least the northern kingdom with its 10 tribes. V.17
“But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them. [And he tried to fix it. He sent out a band-aid. V.18] King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.”
That didn’t work.
They didn’t like the envoy that Rehoboam sent–I wonder why, I mean he was the guy who had used to force them into labor. Oh wait. That’s probably why.
But Rehoboam lives to rule and make foolish mistakes another day.
And Jeroboam who is NOT a son of David comes into power in Israel. V.20
“When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.
When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered the whole house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin–a hundred and eighty thousand fighting men–to make war against the house of Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.
But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: ‘Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to the whole house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 'This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.'’ So they obeyed the word of the LORD and went home again, as the LORD had ordered.”
That’s the wisest thing that Rehoboam ever does, right there.
He doesn’t go try to fight against God’s will.
He backs down from this fight, at least for now. And he sends the troops home.
So that leaves Jeroboam king in the north.
What kind of a king do you think he is going to be?
We’ve already seen that Rehoboam is a two-thumbs down guy.
He rejects true wisdom.
How about Jeroboam? God has handpicked him to lead the northern kingdom and promised him that if he is a thumbs-up king who walks with God and leads the nation to do it, too, then he will have a great dynasty and be blessed like David was.
Which way does he go?
Thumbs down, I’m afraid.
Two thumbs down.
In fact, he becomes like the quintessential thumbs-down guy.
The by-word. The poster boy for thumbs down kings.
And how does he do it?
He does it by rejecting true worship.
And inventing false worship. V.25
“Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel. [He’s smart. He’s got a kind of wisdom. He make Shechem where he stood up to the old king his headquarters. And he fortifies the border on the Easter. And then he uses his smarts to keep his own people from defecting. V.26]
Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.’”
You see what he’s worried about?
You can tell he’s worried because he’s talking to himself.
He’s worried that he’s got a bunch of Israelites on his hands.
And they worship, right?
And where do they worship? Jerusalem! At the big golden temple!
And what if they keep going down there to worship (like the Law says)?
Eventually their worship will lead them back to the house of David.
That makes some sense.
So what does Jeroboam do?
He asks God to continue to protect his new kingdom from the threats of true worship?
He sets up some false worship. He ignores God’s promises and follows his own understanding. V.28
“After seeking advice [but apparently not good advice], the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel [in the south], and the other in Dan [in the north].
And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.”
Does this sound familiar?
If you’ve been in our Sunday School classes, you’ve just recently finished Aaron setting up a golden calf.
Now, there are two!
And they are at places where worship has gone on before.
Isn’t that tricky?
Jacob worshiped at Bethel. It was the house of God!
And there was worship in Dan during the book of Judges.
But that’s not where true worship was supposed to be.
It’s great marketing!
But it’s terrible worship.
Jeroboam sells it great. “That’s too far. Here you go. I’m looking out for you.”
But it’s just to keep them loyal customers.
V.30 “And this thing became a sin.”
That’s the biggest understatement of the chapter 12.
I don’t know how many times the books of Kings does this one thing get repeated.
Jeroboam led Israel to sin with these golden calves.
He might have been pretending that they would only serve to enhance true worship of Yahweh. But that was not their true purpose nor their result.
He only had one job, but Jeroboam failed his one job.
Here’s application number two.
For our graduates and for all of us.
#2. GET TRUE WORSHIP.
Seek out what is true. And don’t worship what is false.
Jeroboam basically invented his own religion and customized his own god.
Look at verse 31.
“Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like [but not!] the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.”
Did you see what he did?
He just went out on his own and made it all up.
Jeroboam basically invented his own religion and customized his own god.
It would be genius if weren’t so wicked.
But don’t we do that today, as well?
Not that most people go out and start our own religions.
But some do.
It’s normally a little more subtle than that.
What we do is say, “Well, I like to think of God as...”
Or “I can’t imagine a god who would...”
Do you see?
Instead of saying, “The one true God is like this....” and worshiping Him as He is.
One time I was helping this one lady, and it’s always stuck with me, I’ve told this story before, and I was inviting her to church here with us.
And she said something like, “I prefer to worship God in my own way.”
And I didn’t think of it at the time, but later I thought I should have said, “Well, what if God prefers that we worship Him His way?”
We don’t get to invent our own religion.
We find out what is true and then worship God as He really is. Not as we would have Him to be.
It’s wonderful that He is wonderful in every way.
But He is who He is, and we don’t get to decide.
Jesus said in John 4, “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Get true worship.
I love that Jesus says that God is seeking true worshipers.
Has he found one in you?
Bryce, Aspen, Josh, Nathan, Daniel, and Rachel, have you come to know the One True God and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent?
If so, worship Him in truth!
And don’t stop.
Find out Who He is and worship Him as He is.
We just gave you a big honkin’ Bible.
It’s the NIV Zondervan Study Bible.
And it comes with a download code to get all of that this good stuff on your smartphone.
Use it. Dig into it. Find out what is true.
Don’t invent your own a god.
For example, a god who is not holy or angry at sin.
Or a god that tells you only what you want to hear.
That’s what the world does. The world customizes God and shrinks Him down to a manageable size.
But God will not be managed.
Get true worship.
That’s as far as we’re going to get today. We’ll learn more next week about where these golden calves take Jeroboam, but you know that it’s not going to be good.
Because God is god alone and He wants to be worshiped in spirit and in truth.
Bryce, Aspen, Josh, Nathan, Daniel, and Rachel, don’t stop going to church now that you’ve graduated.
It’s easy to start skipping out on biblical community and worship when nobody is making you, but it will hurt you.
Here’s where these two kings went wrong.
Rehoboam rejected true wisdom and Jeroboam rejected true worship.
And kingdom was tragically torn apart.
May we do the exact opposite and see Jesus’ kingdom built in us.
Messages in this Series:
01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom