Chapter 14 of 1st Kings opens with Jeroboam sending his wife to enquire of the prophet Ahijah what will become of their son who had fallen sick. Ahijah had been the prophet who had spoken to Jeroboam when Jeroboam was just a humble servant of Solomon, and prophesied that God had ordained him to become king over 10 tribes of Israel on account of Solomon’s idolatry. Ahijah had also said “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, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David” (1 Kings 11:38). Now with his son sick, Jeroboam is no doubt concerned about his future dynasty, so wants to know from Ahijah if this offer of a ‘sure house’ still stands.
Jeroboam, mindful of his own idolatry, doesn’t have the courage to go directly to God, but in an act of spiritual cowardice, sends his wife to God’s man, in disguise, and with gifts, as if that might solicit a favourable response from the aging prophet!
Isn’t it interesting how people can be bold and defiant in their attitude toward God… right up until a crisis comes! When a situation occurs that is bigger that we are, that we cannot resolve, and particularly one that reminds us of our mortality, how quickly then people reach out – directly or indirectly – to God.
So now, confronted with the prospect of the death of his son, the realisation dawns that none of Jeroboam’s idols can offer any comfort or hope; his golden calves can give him no assurance for the future, so he sends his wife off seeking an answer. But why send her in disguise? Was it to hide her identity from other people? We have already seen that Jeroboam was afraid of losing control, and what would people think if they saw him or his wife ‘going to church’? Proverbs tells us “The fear of man brings a snare” (Proverbs 29:25); and Matthew tells us that we should not fear man or anything in this life, but rather fear God in whose hands is our eternal destiny (Matthew 10:28).
From the context, it would seem that the real reason for this disguise was so that Ahijah wouldn’t recognise Jeroboam’s wife, and just assume this was a casual enquirer who had heard about the sick child and was curious about his welfare. After all what would Ahijah think of Jeroboam – this man who had been ordained by God to be king, a man who had been given such a great opportunity, and yet in return had demonstrated such contempt for God? If Ahijah knew that it was Jeroboam enquiring would he even be willing to answer?
There are a number of lessons we can learn from this passage. Firstly, what about you and I? When we go to church, do we ‘go in disguise’, not wanting to be seen as we really are. Do we try to pretend we are another person, maybe a ‘better person’ than we actually are? Are we secretly ashamed of what we have become, particularly given the calling of God upon our lives? Like Jeroboam’s wife, do we think that by keeping up a façade we are more likely to be accepted by other believers, and even by God Himself? Yet no disguise can hide us from the face of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13). There is nothing God does not know, nothing hidden from His eyes, nothing that will surprise Him about us! If you have been wearing a disguise let me remind you that it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). You don’t have to be worthy to come to God, but humble. If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). Christ died and the wrath of God was placed upon him so that you can be declared ‘righteous’ When we come before God, we do not have to wear a poor disguise, but we can come clothed in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) .
But let’s now think for a moment about Ahijah. It’s interesting to note that Ahijah tells Jeroboam’s wife that (even though she had made the journey) he had actually been sent to her! Just a reminder that God knows the end from the beginning, and as we are told in Psalm 139:1-6
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it”.
Doesn’t the disguise now seem a little pointless?(!).
But there is another lesson we can learn here, and a challenge for you, if you are a Christian: Do you have the ‘Ahijah effect’ on others? Can you detect that people feel a little uncomfortable around you because you awaken their conscience? Do others see you as a ‘righteous’ person (simply someone who is right-with-God), and as such change their behaviour around you? In other words, do people put on a disguise – trying to justify to you (and themselves) that they’re not that bad? Do people try to stop sinning around you? Do others change their vocabulary when you walk in the room? Do people stop taking the LORD’s name in vain when you are in ear-shot? In short, have you become the very fragrance of Christ? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Are you being the salt and light we are called to be? (Matthew 5:13). We are told that as Christians we should shine as lights in this world (Philippians 2:15). We know that the light reveals things as they really are (Ephesians 5:13). The daylight allows us to see things that are concealed during the night. Unless people see themselves as sinners who have fallen short of God’s righteous standard, and are therefore deserving of his wrath, they will never cry out for a Saviour. This is why Jesus said he came to call the sinners and not the (self) righteous to repentance (Matthew 9:13). It is those who recognise their spiritual poverty who are on the right path ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). Hebrews 12:14 tells us that unless we are holy, people will not come to know the LORD.
So, pray that this week you have the ‘Ahijah Effect’ on someone!
Notes for further study:
Ahijah’s response to Jeroboam’s wife is actually a very significant moment in Israel’s history, for although God had warned of the punishment for disobedience (see Deuteronomy 28), this is the first time God actually states that Israel will now be taken from their land as a result of their sin, and specifically because of one man’s sin who’s life could have been so different if only he had not feared man and trusted and obeyed God!
We then see a continually changing dynasty in the northern kingdom – with a legacy of failure.
Kings records the key details of the events of the Northern kingdom, and gives just a cursory overview of the events of in the Southern kingdom. In contrast, Chronicles focuses primarily on the kings of Judah.