Wow, there are so many massive shifts that take place in 1 Kings 11-13. First of all, Solomon, in the pride of his wealth and status, directly disobeys the Lord and His statutes and takes many wives for himself from among the surrounding nations. Over 1000 wives and concubines in total. Sure enough, after he had made himself wealthy in every way, he forgot the Lord and went after the gods and goddesses of the Sidonians, Ammonites, and Moabites. This understandably sparks the Lords ire, who promises Solomon that He will tear his kingdom away from the hands of his son, though not all of the kingdom for the sake of David.
God proceeded to raise up adversaries of Solomon, such as Jeroboam, about whom it was prophesied that he would tear apart the kingdom of Israel – the Lord was to give him ten tribes. Solomon tries to kill Jeroboam, but he escapes to Egypt until the time of Solomons death, at which point his son, Rehoboam, takes his place on the throne.
Rehoboam went to Shechem for his coronation and is met by the congregation of Israel who say that their burden of work was made far too heavy under Solomon, that they will serve Rehoboam if he lightens their burdens. Rehoboam consults with his elderly advisors who say that the king should make himself friendly to his people, then his people will serve him all their lives. Rehoboam things this advice is dumb and consults younger, more rash advisors who tell him to actually make life harder for the Israelites so as not to appear weak. Unfortunately, Rehoboam listens to the latter group. Upon hearing this, Israel rebels, saying they have no portion in David anymore.
The people of Israel hear of Jeroboam returning to the land and make him king over the ten tribes of Israel, their capital being in Shechem. At this point, Jeroboam rules Israel in the north and Rehoboam rules the cities of Judah (mainly Jerusalem) in the south. It is only Judah that still holds true to the house of David. Jeroboam then sets up two golden calves as a pseudo-temple, harkening back to Leviticus 32 and the sin of Israel at Sinai. After this comes a confusing story of a prophet declaring the destruction of these idols erected in Shechem, which comes to pass, but who then is tricked by another prophet who successfully tempts this man to break the commandment given him by the Lord. He ends up being torn apart by lions.
Where to begin! There is so much to unpack in each chapter, let alone each paragraph or verse. We would never be able to touch on everything given our limitations in these blogs. Suffice it to say that the root of all this chaos that ensues, the very ripping apart of Israel as a nation, came about by the steady decline of the loyalty of Solomon to the Lord. Just one more concubine, one more wife for political gain, one more great building, one my symbol of wealth, and this king of untold wisdom was reduced to being no better than the pharaohs of Egypt! His women, wealth, ships, tributes, and luxuries became his God before he ever bowed down to any idol. Solomon went from the height of wisdom, forsaking all else to know Her, to a wretched idolater who acted in rebellion to the very God who gave him all these things. Moses warned of the people going after foreign gods when they had become comfortable, fat, and sleek.
It was the sin of idolatry, the sin of putting self and possession before God Almighty, that led to the downfall of an entire kingdom. There have been character flaws in Saul and David that led to great calamity in the land of Israel, chaos through the reign of judges, but nothing that rivaled the consequences of the sin of Solomon who was supposed to be wisest of all men. Submission to God is not a one-time event, dying to self is not a one-time occurrence either. We all must give up our own way, pick up our cross, and follow Christ each day, as Jesus instructs us in Matthew 16:24. This requires our attention and discipline, and we must not become conceited, arrogant, or aloof of that which God commands us! We are God’s very temple, so let us remember Him in everything we do.
I would like to challenge each of us to take time out of each day to be face to face with God, to recall who He is, and to preach to our own stubborn hearts the beauty and joy of dying to ourselves and following Christ. Let us each continue to be mindful of those sins which cling so tightly so that we may walk the narrow path without stumbling! The Lord will keep and protect, though we must be vigilant at the gates of our hearts and minds to fight the tempter. We must dutifully don the armor of God and by doing so extinguish the flaming darts of the evil one. In our readings this evening or tomorrow morning, or whenever you may do them, let us acknowledge our sins and wickedness and seek the loving grace and forgiveness we have in Christ, so that we may always respond to His call with love and carry our cross with Him.
Application question –
What do you need to be on guard for today?
Thank you, Lord, that nothing can get in the way of your love. I pray that I might fight the good fight and put to death that which is evil in me. I pray that I might keep in step with the Spirit and offer myself as a vessel for honourable use. May I not cling to anything but Jesus Christ, who is my righteousness and hope and strength. Amen!
Song - Build My Life (Pat Barrett)
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.