CHANGE COMES FROM WITHIN (1 KINGS 14)
As Bill was approaching mid-life, physically he was a mess. Not only was he going bald, but years of office work had given him a large pot belly. The last straw came when he asked a woman co-worker out on a date, and she all but laughed at him. That does it, he decided. I'm going to start a whole new regimen. He began attending aerobics classes. He started working out with weights. He changed his diet. And he got an expensive hair transplant.
In six months, he was a different man. Again, he asked his female co-worker out, and this time she accepted. There he was, all dressed up for the date, looking better than he ever had. He stood poised to ring the woman's doorbell, when a bolt of lightning struck him and knocked him off his feet.
As he lay there dying, he turned his eyes toward the heavens and said, "Why, God, why now? After all I've been through, how could you do this to me?" From up above, there came a voice, "Sorry. I didn't recognize you."
Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom, Israel, had extraordinary help rising to the top. Initially, he was a warrior, a capable worker in charge of Joseph’s house (1 Kings 11:28), the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Josh 17:17). Because of Solomon’s idolatry, Ahijah the prophet announced to Jeroboam that
God would tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give him ten tribes
(1 Kings 11:31). Meeting the prophet did not stop him from making two golden calves to cause Israel to sin (1 Kings 12:26-33). Jeroboam turned idolatrous, ironically, when there was peace in the land (1 Kings 12:21-24). From there on, Jeroboam was the most idolatrous king in Israel’s history, the worst of the lot because of his powerful influence.
Why is idolatry odious to God? Why are people ungrateful despite God’s grace? How does God want us to respond when we sin? What lurks ahead for all unrepentant sinners?
Confess and Not Conceal Sin
1 At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam became ill, 2 and Jeroboam said to his wife, "Go, disguise yourself, so you won't be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam. Then go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet is there — the one who told me I would be king over this people. 3 Take ten loaves of bread with you, some cakes and a jar of honey, and go to him. He will tell you what will happen to the boy." 4 So Jeroboam's wife did what he said and went to Ahijah's house in Shiloh. Now Ahijah could not see; his sight was gone because of his age. 5 But the Lord had told Ahijah, "Jeroboam's wife is coming to ask you about her son, for he is ill, and you are to give her such and such an answer. When she arrives, she will pretend to be someone else." (1 Kings 14:1-5)
A lady is walking down the street to work and she sees a parrot in a pet store.
The parrot says to her, “Hey lady, you are really ugly.” Well, the lady is
furious! And she storms past the store to her work. On the way home she saw the
same parrot in the window and the parrot said to her, “Hey lady, you are really
ugly.” Well, she was incredibly ticked now. The next day see saw the same parrot
and the parrot said to her, “Hey lady, you are really ugly.”
The lady was so ticked that she went into the store and said that she would sue the store and kill the bird. The store manager said, “That's not good.” and promised he wouldn't say it again. When the lady walked past the store after work the parrot said to her, “Hey lady.” She paused and said, “Yes?” and the bird said, “You know.”
There is no hiding in sin. Note it was Jeroboam’s and not his wife’s idea to disguise herself, using an imperative “Go/Arise” to direct her. He was so sure the deception would work, adding “so you won't be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam.” The man was either infallible or ignorant. His plan was, of course, incomplete and ill-conceived, calling Ahijah a prophet (v 3) but nevertheless thinking he could fool him or God. The word “disguise” (v 2) is also translated as “change” (Mal 3:6).
Emphasizing in Hebrew, Jeroboam added “yourself” (disguise yourself) in Hithpael form, which was laughable. One can only disguise one’s behavior, with clothes but not the true self. Here was a man who was smart enough to know that Ahijah was a “prophet” but still was stupid enough to pull off a trick.
Jeroboam’s wife did her best to pretend (v 5) to be another but there was no pretense before the Lord (v 6). This chapter is about disguise (v 2) and pretense (vv 5, 6). In truth, Jeroboam was never really repentant of his sins. When his son was sick and dying, he did not get on his knees or turn from his sins, but sent his wife as substitute in camouflage, in costume, cloak and cover to inquire of the prophet if his son would recover. He was more interested his wife to “change herself” than himself to change. He coveted the cure but not the change. He sought for diagnosis but not deliverance. As it is said, “Change comes from within.” Worse, Jeroboam was shameless by preying on an old prophet who not only had trouble seeing, but could not see. Probably Jeroboam knew Ahijah could not see because of old age, even though we are not told if he did. We are not sure if Jeroboam did his homework. If he did, his wife would not need to pretend. Either way, he did not want to take the risk.
The irony is that the prophet did not lose his sense of hearing (v 6) or his relationship with God. Ahijah could not see, but he was not blind to Jeroboam’s sins. The prophet could hear and smell his sins a mile away. He could see there was no change in the king. The current episode fitted and represented the portrait of Jeroboam. Surprisingly, he never asked the prophet to heal his son; he only asked what would happen. Jeroboam was only concerned about the future, not about his son’s welfare. In fact, he never asked for healing. He wanted the facts, not the findings. So his plan was out of curiosity, not out of conviction that the Lord would heal.
Confront and Not Condone Sin
6 So when Ahijah heard the sound of her footsteps at the door, he said, "Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why this pretense? I have been sent to you with bad news. 7 Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'I raised you up from among the people and made you a leader over my people Israel. 8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back. 10 " 'Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel — slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. 11 Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!' (1 Kings 14:6-11)
A new convert declared his determination to give all that he had for the Master. He said, “Pastor, if I had fifty pigs, I'd give twenty-five of them to the Lord.” “That's very nice,” said the pastor. “If you had thirty would you give fifteen to the Lord?” “Of course I would,” said the new Christian.
“If you had ten would you give five of them?” asked the pastor again. “You know I would,” he answered.
Then the pastor said, “If you had two, would you give one to the Lord?” “Now Pastor, don't ask me that. You know I have only two pigs.”
Jeroboam was given all the advantage to make a difference as king, but he tossed it away without much thought or hesitation. Jeroboam was an ungrateful as it got. He was the first ruler who did not descend from David’s line. His rise was amazing, astonishing and alarming. In many ways he had a privileged, prestigious and powerful standing in Jewish history. God’s declaration “I raised you up/I lifted you up” (“I exalted thee” in KJV) is a new but transitional clause in the history of north and south. The phrase is used exclusively on the new northern kingdom kings, specifically the first two, Israel’s first king Jeroboam and the next king Baasha (1 Kings 16:2). He called himself king (v 2), but what did God call him? A leader over Israel (v 7).
Of 104 references to Jeroboam in Kings and Chronicles, only three refer to him as “King Jeroboam” (1 Kings 15:1, 2 Chron 13:1), but for a chronological point of reference”. Similarly, the northern kings are mostly identified as “King of Israel,” seldom King So-and-so. Out of more than 2,000 references to kings, only about 10 of them refer to a northern king by name, for example King Jeroboam or Jeroboam king of Israel (1 Kings 15:32, 2 Kings 8:16, 25, 14:1, 23, 15:29, 16:5, 2 Chron 16:1).
While none lived up to David’s commitment to God (v 8), none lived down to Jeroboam’s contempt for God. Jeroboam had a long list of sin and shame. Jeroboam was one of two kings, along with another dynastic founder, Ahab’s father Omri (1 Kings 16:25), who had “done more evil than all who lived before” him (v 9). Jeroboam was the only person unfavorably credited in the Bible with “making other gods” (v 9). True, Solomon “went after other gods” (1 Kings 11:10), but Jeroboam “made other gods.”
Jeroboam was one of five kings who provoked God to anger, the first to “provoke” the Lord to anger (1 Kings 14:9). Amazingly, provoking the Lord to anger is exclusive to the northern kingdom and her kings such as Baasha and son (1 Kings 16:2, 13) Omri and son Ahab (1 Kings 16:26, 33) until their exile, to be taken up by southern kings such as Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6) after Israel’s fall. He was the first king to introduce idols made of metals/ molten images (1 Kings 14:9), specifically two golden calves (1 Kings 12:28, 2 Kings 10:29, 17:16). “Thrust me behind your back” in other context has to do with being disobedient and rebelled (Neh 9:26) and forgetting God (Ezek 23:35).
For all their sins, Jeroboam and his house never repented. He wanted the title but not the task.
Conquer Sin and Not Continue Sin
12 "As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die. 13 All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the Lord, the God of Israel, has found anything good. 14 "The Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. This is the day! What? Yes, even now. 15 And the Lord will strike Israel, so that it will be like a reed swaying in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land that he gave to their forefathers and scatter them beyond the River, because they provoked the Lord to anger by making Asherah poles. 16 And he will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit." 17 Then Jeroboam's wife got up and left and went to Tirzah. As soon as she stepped over the threshold of the house, the boy died. 18 They buried him, and all Israel mourned for him, as the Lord had said through his servant the prophet Ahijah. (1 Kings 14:12-18)
On a crowded street of one of our large cities, a young man was snatched from
the path of a speeding truck, his life saved by a venerable-looking man. Still
breathless from fright, the youth thanked the one who saved his life and then
was lost in the crowd. Two weeks later in a crowded courtroom, an anxious young
man stood in the prisoner's box to be sentenced for murder.
"Young man, have you anything to say before the sentence of death is passed upon you?" "Why! Yes! Yes, Judge," the youth responded, "you know me." A silence moved like a shock wave over the courtroom. "I'm sorry. I cannot place you."
"Yes. Surely you remember. Two weeks ago. At Main and Seventh Streets, you saved my life. Surely, Judge, you can do something to save me now." A silence pervaded the courtroom. "Young man, now I do remember you. But that day I was your savior. Today I am your judge."
There was no disguising Jeroboam’s problem, His problem is greater than the death of his boy; it is the sin of his heart. His problem was not his boy’s sickness, his sin. Frankly it is not about the child, but about the father. The Chinese have a saying to describe ineffective change: “Changing the soup but not the herbs (to boil the Chinese medicine).”
God’s disdain, denigration and dismissal of Jeroboam was far worse than Jeroboam’s disapproval, denial and defiance of God. The king will sink to new low. Dung is mentioned for the first time and only time in the Old Testament (v 10). Dogs (plural) are unclean animals. Burning (v 10), scattering (v 15) and “stirred up/provoked” (v 15) are in the intensive piel form (translated with a “surely”).
There was no king as rotten and evil as Jeroboam in the eyes of God during the period of the Kings because he continued, rallied and perpetuated sin besides sinning personally, like no one else before or after.
No one led Israel astray or down the slippery slope the same way as Jeroboam. In fact, his name was so odious that subsequent bad kings are labeled as walking “in the ways of Jeroboam” (1 Kings 15:34, 16:2, 16:19, 16:26) characterized. An astonishing 20 times the Bible uses the phrase “(Jeroboam) caused Israel to commit” to condemn Jeroboam’s influence on the northern kingdom Israel (1 Kings 14:16, 15:30,) and her subsequent kings and dynasties, and those who “walked in his ways” (1 Kings phrase) or “did not turn away from Jeroboam’s sins” (2 Kings phrase) include his son Nadab (1 Kings 15:26), the next dynasty king Baasha, (1 Kings 15:34), the succeeding dynasty Zimri (1 Kings 16:19), the subsequent dynasty of Omri (1 Kings 16:26), Ahab’s father, and the sons of Ahab (1 Kings 22:52, 2 Kings 3:3), and the dynasties of Jehu and his sons (2 Kings 10:29-31, 13:2, 13:11, 14:24, 15:9) and Menahem and his son (2 Kings 15:18, 24, 28).
Also the “sins of Jeroboam” are mentioned 12 times in the Bible (1 Kings 15:30, 16:31, 2 Kings 3:3, 10:29, 10:31, 13:2, 13:11, 14:24, 15:9, 15:18, 15:24, 15:28, 17:22), as compared to once for three other kings (1 Kings 16:13, 2 Kings 24:3). The phrase “walked in the ways of Jeroboam” in 1 Kings progressed to “did not turn away from his (Jeroboam) sins” in 2 Kings, ending with the integration of both phrases in a fitting conclusion announcing Israel’s exile: “For the children of Israel WALKED in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they DEPARTED NOT (did not turn) from them; Until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.” (2 Kings 17:22-23, KJV) From specific kings to collective responsibility: “they did not turn away” 2 Kings 17:22, 2 Kings 13:6, 17:22
Last but not the least is the part Jeroboam’s wife played. She is the nameless, speechless and clueless person in the account. His wife had no personality, passion or plan. She did not appeal to Ahijah for help, argue for his son’s sake, or ask the fundamental question: “What can I do?” The wife got up and left (v 17). Sadly, the three urgent imperatives in the text were from Jeroboam, not his wife: Go, disguise (v 2), take(v 3). Finally, neither parent offered his or her life in exchange for a loved one’s, a thought that crossed my mind when my wife had cancer. Though Jeroboam’s flaws were many, he had something in his favor, though not of his choice or merit. His sins were not passed, transferred or crossed to his dying child.
Conclusion: Repent before it’s too late. Sin cannot be disguised. It is worse than sickness because it is infectious. Are you indifferent to God? Do you stumble others? Have you squandered God’s warnings?