I’ve been reading the book of 1 Kings in the Bible and came across an interesting event leading up to the division of the Israelite kingdom. Early in Solomon’s reign as king over the ancient Israelites God makes a covenant with him promising Solomon great wisdom, riches, a long life and a descendant on the throne of Israel forever if he follows God faithfully. God also issues a warning stating if Solomon doesn’t remain faithful Israel will be driven out of the promised land and the kingdom will fall. (1 Kings 3:10-14 and 9:1-9) Solomon honours this agreement for a large part of his life but towards the end of his reign his dedication to God becomes weak. Because of the influence of his many wives Solomon begins to worship other gods. Solomon’s unfaithfulness in following God effectively breaks the earlier covenant and a prophet is sent to deliver a message from God to a man by the name of Jeroboam. Jeroboam is told the twelve tribes of Israel will be split after Solomon’s death and God will make him ruler over ten of the tribes while Solomon’s son will retain rule over the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin. The prophet goes on to explain to Jeroboam the promise from God which states if he walks in God’s ways, following God’s commands he will be king of Israel and the kingdom will prosper (1 Kings 11:26-40).
Wow, what a promise! Jeroboam has just been guaranteed by God that he will be king of Israel. The reason for Solomon losing his kingship has been spelled out in black and white terms. Jeroboam has been a member of Solomon’s staff and has seen firsthand the “what not to do if you want to rule God’s people of Israel". The “how to’s of maintaining kingship of Israel” couldn’t be made any clearer. Jeroboam should have a bright future! Wouldn’t we if we were told by a prophet in no uncertain terms exactly what we had to do in order to secure God’s promise in our lives?
We don’t know anything about Jeroboam’s character or personality. All we know is that he was a servant to Solomon. I imagine life as a king is probably fairly stressful, especially when you’ve got an irate son of the previous king breathing down your neck, seeking retribution for stealing his throne. Perhaps Jeroboam lacked self-confidence as a leader, whatever the reason, not too long into his reign Jeroboam becomes a little paranoid about the control he has over Israel. The temple where people go to worship God is in Jerusalem which is still under the rule of Solomon’s son. We’re told that Jeroboam suddenly becomes fearful that the people going to worship God in the temple will pledge their allegiance to Solomon’s son. In his fear Jeroboam loses sight of God’s promise and fails to trust God. In 1 Kings 12:25-28 (the passages telling the story of Jeroboam’s downfall) there isn’t one word that even so much as hints Jeroboam took this fear to God in prayer, or turned to God for strength. In verse 28 he takes matters into his own hands and makes two gold calves, telling the people of Israel, “...It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt.” What!!!! Did he learn nothing from his people’s history as they journeyed with God in the wilderness? Surely the golden calf debacle of Aaron has been told over and over through generations, and yet here is Jeroboam repeating the same mistake almost word for word! Dare I be so blunt as to say...how stupid can you get?!?
I can say it but then I’d be forced to examine my own life and realize that perhaps I’m not quite as superior as I might like to think. How many times in my life have I repeated mistakes I’ve made or seen others make? We’ve all heard the popular definition of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I don’t know if this definition applies to repeating other people’s actions and expecting different results than they got but if so perhaps we’re all insane! As teenagers our parents try to save us from pain by sharing their experiences with us, but of course we know better than they do and must forge ahead, making the same painful mistakes they made. This behaviour doesn’t always end with our teenage years. Quite often it plagues us in our relationships as adults. We find ourselves trapped in patterns of behaviour we know are damaging and yet we persist in them. Human nature? Weakness? Insanity? Rebellion? Low self esteem?
What can we learn from the mistakes of Jeroboam? What can we learn from our own mistakes? We’re human. We continue to make mistakes as we navigate through life, but it’s crucial that we learn from them. We need to invite God into our lives, allowing Him to work in our hearts. We need to learn from our experiences. We need to humble ourselves, admit our mistakes, admit that we’re wrong and strive not to repeat the same mistakes. We need to learn from the lives of others – those around us and those we read about in history and in the bible. This isn’t to say we inflict judgment on these people (remember you may react in exactly the same manner if placed in a similar situation). It’s simply to say read and learn what not to do, what to avoid and how to live a Godly life. Are there mistakes in your life you’re repeating or a pattern of behaviour you know you need to break? Pray about it, ask God to identify it, seek counsel or guidance if you need help to change it and see what God can do in your life.