We often get told that fear is a good thing, a natural inbuilt protection system; yet the Bible has a very different perspective. 1 John 4:18 says: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love”. If we know the love of God, we will not fear, “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:2). To fear is to not trust God; to not trust God is to enthrone oneself and say “I trust my own judgment about this situation; I must do something, before it’s too late”. A great example of this is found in 1 Samuel 13:5-14!
In this week’s study we continued to look at a man who was hard working and valiant, so much so that he got noticed by the king and promoted to be head over the house of Joseph. But it wasn’t just the king who noticed Jeroboam; for God had also noticed him! As we saw last week, God had sent the prophet Ahijah to reveal to young Jeroboam that God was going to make him king over 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel, and rend the kingdom away from Solomon because of his unfaithfulness. Solomon though had heard this on the ‘grapevine’, and subsequently Jeroboam was forced to flee into Egypt. But now the old king was gone, this was the dawning of a new era.
Rehoboam had gathered all Israel together at Shechem – the same place that Joshua had gathered the nation after their crossing the Jordan, the place where they had been reminded of God’s faithfulness, and the blessings and curses that God had spoken to Moses. This was a place of remembrance and Rehoboam wanted the beginning of his reign to be marked by remembering their common heritage. Clearly this was a shrewd political move to try and unite a nation that was unhappy with the excessive taxation imposed upon them by Rehoboam’s father, Solomon.
The stage was set for Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, to return from exile in Egypt and challenge the new king. Yet Jeroboam was not on some ego trip with delusions of grandeur, and would seemingly have been content for Rehoboam to be king on the condition he lighten the burden on the people.
Rehoboam asked for three days to consider Jeroboam’s request and consult with both his father’s counsellors and the young counsellors he had grown up with. The issue here is not age (see Jeremiah 1:7 & 1 Timothy 4:12). If the counsel is godly, it will be established (Proverbs 15:22), but if it is of the world, the LORD will bring it to nothing (Psalm 33:10). As an aside, there is no record of Rehoboam seeking God for an answer here! Instead he is swayed by his young advisors, and even threatens to put greater burdens on the people. For Jeroboam and the people this is enough; no long will they follow this king; so, as had been prophesied by Ahijah (1 Kings 11:30-39) the people make Jeroboam king over 10 of their 12 tribes, Rehoboam retained the allegiance of just Judah and Benjamin. From this point in history, Israel is a divided nation, with the kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), under various successive dynasties, and the kingdom of Judah (the Southern kingdom) being ruled by the Davidic dynasty. This divided nation was reunited as a single people on May 14th 1948 in fulfilment of Ezekiel 37:15-22.
So this young industrious man has been elevated to the rank of king! Moreover God had promised him a lasting house “if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments” (1 Kings 11:38). Jeroboam would have been all too aware that his ‘great fortune’ had only come about on account of Solomon’s unfaithfulness to God. What clearer example could you need to encourage you to live and walk a life in obedience to God?
Yet there was a problem, maybe one that God hadn’t considered when giving Jeroboam the throne?(!) The people would still want to return to Jerusalem for the feasts of the LORD, and this happened three times a year (see Exodus 23:14-17). But if they did that, they might then wish they were back under Rehoboam’s sovereignty, and then… what would become of Jeroboam?
“And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah”.
Proverbs 29:25 tells us: “The fear of man brings a snare: but whoso puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe”. Jeroboam had convinced himself that God had not allowed for this, and that the God who had given him the kingdom was now not able to sustain it. It was going to take all of Jeroboam’s ingenuity and industry to solve this problem (without God). Two golden calves later, plus a priesthood made up of anyone who fancied a go, a ‘house’ instead of a temple, and his very own feast, and Jeroboam had all he needed in his kingdom. All that is, except God. This man who showed so much promise, and had such a wonderful opportunity becomes a standard for failure that subsequent kings are measured against (see 1 Kings 16:3, 16:26, 16:31, 22:52, etc.).
“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him”. Luke 12:4-5
“The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else. “Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord.” – Oswald Chambers (Run Today’s Race)