Summary: Human reasoning is a God given ability, but it was never intended to be used contrary to the word of God.
The power of human reason is a wonderful thing, except when we rely on it to the point that we give it priority over the word of God. This is really at the heart of sin, is it not? Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, reasoned that God was holding out on them. Every transgression that you and I have ever committed is because we have reasoned that our lives would somehow be better, more complete, if we step away from what God has told us to do.
Jeroboam was an Ephraimite in whom Solomon had seen leadership ability, and had therefore put him in charge of a great deal of his labor force. In our text, we see Jeroboam going along, minding his own business, not politicking for anything, when all of a sudden he is met by Ahijah, the man of God, who told Jeroboam that God had chosen him to be king of Israel. Talk about promotion, this was it. Talk about divine favor, God’s sovereign grace, this was it. Then, look at the promise God made to him, in verses 35, 37-38. God said to Jeroboam, “I will give you ten of the twelve tribes, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it shall be if you heed all that I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as my servant David did, , then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.” Now, how could a fellow be more in the “cat-bird seat” than that?
The absolute worse thing Jeroboam could have done was exactly what he did do. Instead of saying, “Thank you, Lord! It is amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that made a king out of me,” 1 Kings 12:26 says, “Jeroboam said in his heart,” which means he started reasoning out his situation and disregarding the word of God. If he had simply determined himself to trust God in obedient faith, would he not have had absolute security in his throne? According to the promise of God, of whom Hebrews 6:18, not to mention plain old common sense, says, “...it is impossible for God to lie...,” he didn’t have a thing to worry about. Yet, he did worry. He worried to the point that he started taking action based on the power of human reasoning and discounting the word of God.
The following verses tell us that Jeroboam reasoned that if the people continued to go to Jerusalem to worship, which was in the kingdom of Judah, they would not continue giving their allegiance to him, but would give it to Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, king of Judah. So, with the help of some advisors, he had two golden calves built, and he placed one in Dan, the extreme northern part of his kingdom and the other at Bethel, the extreme southern boundary of his kingdom. Then, of all the dumb things he might have done, he told his people, “It’s too much trouble for you to go to Jerusalem to worship, here are the gods that brought you up out of Egypt!”
Now, I don’t want to labor this point, but Jeroboam knew he didn’t have any inherent right to the throne, and he knew that reason it had been given to him was because Solomon had built high places for pagan gods and had even sacrificed there, himself. He knew this false worship thing had cost Solomon’s son the kingdom, and here he was doing the same thing.
Before we become too critical of Jeroboam, however, let’s think about ourselves. Could it be that God’s people are physically weak and sickly for the same reason? Have we, like Jeroboam, become too smart for our own good? Perhaps, we have reasoned in our hearts that we can ignore biblical principles of health and not reap the consequences. Maybe our golden calves are the refrigerator and the couch, and we’ve said to ourselves, “It’s too much for you to direct your life by the word of God.” Could it be that God’s people live in financial bondage because they have reasoned in their hearts that it’s too much for them to obey God with their money, and they have set up golden calves of materialism, selfishness, and greed? Could it be that the family structure, even among Christians, is crumbling because they have reasoned in their hearts that’s it’s too much for them to obey the principles of God’s word and have set up the golden calves of I’ve got to work, on the one hand, and I need my pleasure, on the other? Proverbs 3:1-10 tells us that God has a better plan for us, but like Jeroboam, we have to trust God to make that plan ours.