Jeroboam’s Reign: a Hardened Heart Shaped by Fear

Photo by  Lou Batier  on  Unsplash

Photo by Lou Batier on Unsplash

We’ve spent four weeks looking at kings in Israel who “did right in the eyes of the Lord." Now we will spend another four weeks examining the narratives of four kings “who did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” As we begin, please note that, if David was the standard of godly kingship in Israel, then Jeroboam was the mark of wicked leadership. The chronicles of the kings are filled with statements like this: “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel sin” (2 Kings 13:2).

So who was Jeroboam?

Jeroboam was Solomon’s servant and was raised up in judgement of Solomon’s idolatry. While serving his master, the prophet Ahijah approaches Jeroboam one day with these words: “I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes... if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My 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 11:31-38).

God is faithful to His word and Jeroboam is king in 1 Kings 12:16-20. Sadly, instead of cherishing God’s promises to him 1 Kings 11:31-38, his heart dwells on these words instead: “If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me.” God had promised to build Jeroboam’s house, but choosing fear over faith, the king draws up his own building plans and places his kingship on the foundation of idolatry (the very sin for which Solomon was judged!).

In a strange repeat of Exodus 32:1-6, Jeroboam stirs up Israel’s lust for golden calves and carves idolatry deep into the heart of the northern kingdom (1 Kings 12:28-30). It’s easy to shake our heads at Jeroboam, but in so doing, let’s also examine our hearts for the decisions we make everyday born from our fears as opposed to our trust in God’s Word.

We can be faithless but God always remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). The Lord sees Jeroboam’s sin of idolatry and graciously sends a prophet to warn him with strong words and miraculous signs (1 Kings 13:1-10). Even still, the king does not turn from his evil ways. Instead, he burrows deeper into sin, appointing priests from among all the people, “any who would, he ordained, to be priests of the high places” (1 Kings 13:33). Claiming to honor the God of Israel (for the golden calves were credited with God’s salvation of His people from Egypt), Jeroboam abandones God’s Law (the levitical priestly order) and does whatever seems “right” in his own eyes (Deut 18:1-8; Judges 17:10-13).  Romans 1:24 speaks of a heart given over to its own cravings--the picture fits Jeroboam well.

I’ve heard people say that if they lived in Bible times and heard and saw God speak “powerfully and directly” to people with signs and wonders, they would certainly believe. God does exactly that for Jeroboam and yet He's met with a hardened--not a believing--heart. The truth is that, in the inspired and inerrant Scriptures, God continues to speak powerfully and directly to His people. May He find in us humble hearts that fear, believe, and obey Him.

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